Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for FZ100_slant.jpg
  • 14.1-Megapixel imaging sensor
  • 24x optical zoom lens 35mm equivalent of 25-600mm
  • 3.0-inch, 460,000 dot Free Angle LCD
  • iAuto intelligent auto shooting mode
  • Full 1080i and 720p HD video recording with stereo sound 
  • HDMI output
  • External Mic/Remote Input
  • One Touch video recording button for any shooting mode
  • Hot Shoe for external Flash or Mic
  • Auto and Manual Focus
  • Power O.I.S. image stabilization system
  • Larger Li-ion battery
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC compatible

Pros
  • Solid build quality
  • Very good quality 14-megapixel photos
  • Smaller prints possible from ISO 800 and 1600 images
  • Full 1080i and 720p videos with excellent quality for a digicam
  • Video recording button works in any shooting mode
  • Stereo sound with an external MIC input
  • Excellent quality from iAuto shooting mode
  • Full control with manual mode and manual focus
  • Hot Shoe for external accessories
  • SDXC compatible
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • Lens hood blocks edges of images at wide end of zoom
  • Flash is not powerful enough for the lens range 
  • Large for a compact camera, even for a super-zoom camera
  • Burst mode tops out at 5fps not 11fps
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.0 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10 - 5/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 7/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.56 seconds
  • Continuous Mode 11 =  5.0fps @ 14m
  • Continuous Mode 5 = 2.94fps @ 14m
  • Continuous Mode 2 = 1.79fps @ 14m
  • Several higher burst rates with electronic shutters at speeds of up to 60fps @ 3.5m
  • Shooting with the camera in RAW+JPEG mode did not slow it down any, it just reduced the number of images that can be captured at a time
  • All tests taken using a Lexar Pro 133x 2GB SD card, iAuto, flash off, review on, and all other settings at default unless noted.
Bottom Line
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 is a powerful super-zoom camera featuring a 14-Megapixel imaging sensor and huge 24x optical zoom lens. With excellent image quality and performance, it has a lot to offer for the entire family.
Pick This Up If...
You want a powerful zoom lens, with enough versatility that anyone in the family can have fun shooting with it.
Panasonic's Lumix FZ100 is a 14-Megapixel super-zoom featuring a huge 24x optical zoom lens with Power O.I.S. This lens provides an amazing amount of versatility, giving a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 25-600mm. The FZ100 also features their Intelligent Auto shooting mode, which analyzes and selects the correct scene mode for the current shooting situation. With these features alone, anyone can pick up the camera and capture great images, both near and far. For the more advanced users, you have the option to choose program, aperture and shutter priority, several scene modes or full manual; depending on how much control you would like to have over the camera. Last but not least, the FZ100 has the ability to capture full 1080i video with stereo sound, for those situations when a single image just isn't enough.

Built to have the feel of a dSLR, it has the same shape and control layout of the more expensive cameras. An electronic view finder (EVF) allows you to shoot at eye-level, giving the feel of a dSLR. The FZ100's main controls are well placed and easy to change on the fly while shooting. The menus are also easy to navigate, but lengthy due to the camera's versatility. If the EVF is not for you, then the 3.0-inch Free-Angle LCD will be. Its 460,000 dots provide a clear, sharp image and the combination of the anti-glare coating and ability to tilt the screen allow you to see it in any lighting condition, or even around objects.

With a newly designed Venus Engine powering the FZ100, it has some pretty outstanding performance features. It uses advanced signal processing to reduce image noise and controls the camera's intelligent features. A button on top of the camera allows you to quickly choose the burst rate that is right for your shooting situation. They range from full 14-Megapixel images at speeds of up to 11fps and 3.5-Megapixel images at 60fps. Unfortunately we were only able to reach 5fps with a class 10 SD card, even at the highest burst setting. This is a bit of a let down when you are looking for one of the fastest rates on the market. This engine also allows for the capture of full 1080i HD videos at 60fps. If you are into slow motion movies, you can also capture QVGA (320x240) sized videos at an astounding 220fps.

Capturing our outdoor image samples using the iAuto shooting mode provided us with very high image quality. The images are well exposed, vibrant and sharp, showing us extensive amounts of fine details within the photos. Noise and chromatic aberrations are controlled very well, but there are slight instances throughout our outdoor samples. You will also see some very distinct barrel distortion when shooting at the 25mm wide end. We also noticed that when shooting at the wide end of the zoom with the included lens hood, you will see the hood on the outside edges of your images, which you might not notice when you are shooting.

Our indoor sample images were taken using both iAuto and Aperture priority modes. Both modes produced excellent quality, capturing very sharp images whether at f/3.3 or f/8. Noise is also controlled very well, allowing you to make prints when shooting at any of the ISO settings. ISO 100 - 400 will allow you to make large clear images. While ISO 800 and 1600 are not as clear, they can still be used to make smaller prints. Assisting with your indoor and low-light shooting is a pop-up flash unit. This flash has a range of up to 31 feet (9.5m) at wide angle using ISO auto, but the range becomes very limited if you want to keep the ISO down for higher quality images. This can be seen in our portrait sample, as the ISO quickly went to 400 with the subject only being about 6ft. away. On the bright side, the flash did provide us with natural looking skin tones and no redness in the eyes.

Helping with your portrait shots, Panasonic has included Face Detection and Face Recognition software. This allows you to store your favorite faces in the camera, allowing it to give them priority over the rest of the image when they are detected. The Face Detection works very quickly, finding and then easily following any faces within the frame. It is also one of the best that we have used at finding and following faces while using the full telephoto zoom.

Shooting video with the FZ100 is very easy and almost instantaneous thanks to the dedicated video recording button located right behind the shutter release. This allows you to capture 1080i or 720p HD videos with stereo sound, depending on what the camera is set for. This button allows you to capture these videos no matter what shooting mode the camera is in. The FZ100's video quality is very good for a compact camera, with movies that are bright with vivid colors and play back smoothly. On the computer the videos look very sharp, and when viewing on an HDTV through the HDMI port, we did see a little bit of noise, increasing quickly with faster motion, but overall it provides a good viewing experience.

The FZ100's 7.2V 895mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery provided us with enough power on a single charge to complete all of our tests including approx. 200 images and videos, without the battery coming close to running out. This fits well with Panasonic's claims of capturing up to 410 images on a single charge. To quickly charge the battery, Panasonic has included a portable quick charger, which travels easily, so you can take it with you anywhere anytime. While battery life is quite sufficient for a long day of shooting, we still recommend you add a second battery pack to your purchase is the budget allows. It's cheap insurance that could save you from missing that once in a lifetime shot!

Bottom Line - Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FZ100 is a powerful compact super-zoom camera that is packed with impressive features and controls. With excellent image quality and performance, there isn't much that this camera struggles with. Just be warned, do not buy this camera specifically for the burst rates, which we were not able to achieve. With a street price of $499.95 US or less, this is an excellent choice if you are in the market for a powerful digital camera.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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