A very capable travel zoom - it's a keeper!

Started Aug 3, 2018 | User reviews thread
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Tom K.
Tom K. Senior Member • Posts: 1,728
A very capable travel zoom - it's a keeper!

Full disclosure -  I bought this camera used from B&H, for $200 under the list price of a new one. And I am reviewing the camera itself, rather than giving a rating of Panasonic's customer service, like several bogus one-star reviews on Amazon. This is also the second camera that I received - the first one was defective. But of course that is not a factor in the review because B&H (like Amazon) has a reasonable return policy, so it cost me nothing to replace the original camera. Again, the source of several bogus one-star reviews on Amazon.

I have owned several other Panasonic travel zooms, starting with the ZS3, then the ZS19, ZS40 and then ZS50. My latest camera in this category is the ZS200. I like having a camera that I can drop into a jacket pocket. I also use it with a simple neck lanyard (like for an ID badge) and can slip it into my shirt pocket. As a group they are all approximately the same size, although each generation seems to get a bit larger and a bit heavier. The ZS200 is the chunkiest and heaviest yet and makes a shirt pocket sag pretty significantly, but in a jacket pocket the difference is negligible.

Part of my reason for upgrading in the past has been the search for a bigger and better viewfinder. The ZS3 and ZS19 had no EVF, just the screen on the back which I hate using. The ZS40 was one of the first cameras in this category that had an EVF and the ZS50 had one with higher resolution. The ZS200's EVF is much better than any of its predecessors, nicely large and clear with high resolution. It is not the equal of the EVF on my much larger Panasonic FZ1000, but it's great for a pocket camera. I have the rear screen turned off by default and use the EVF almost eclusively.

I can't testify to the utility of the ZS200's touch screen. As I am left-eye dominant, my face will touch the screen while I'm using the EVF so I have that feature turned off. I am accustomed to using the buttons on the back anyway for menu navigation, and using the touch screen for selecting a focus point seems more trouble than it's worth to me.

There were complaints about its predecessor, the ZS100, being too slick. The ZS200 has a nice rubber strip along the front that acts has a handgrip, and a small thumb rest on the back, so the camera sits well in the hand. I did bobble it one time when using it at the zoo, but as I had it on the lanyard around my neck it was no problem. If someone wanted a larger handgrip on the front, there is a seller on Etsy that makes one for this camera and others - only $12 plus shipping. I ordered one and have kind of tried it out without sticking it in place, and haven't yet decided whether or not to put it on.

Besides being comfortable in the hand, the controls are well placed and easy to use. I love the fact that this camera has a real on-off lever just like on my FZ1000, so the motion is the same. I never liked the on-off type of button that you have to press and hold, they are too much like the shutter and video buttons. The video button is placed near the edge of the camera top, so that you are unlikely to press it by mistake instead of the shutter button. The shutter button is smooth - it would have been nice if it were knurled on the top to make your finger position more secure. The mode selector dial has knurling around the edge and solid detents so that it is easy to change settings, but won't move by accident. Conversely the adjustment dial is knurled but has less aggressive detents, so that is easy to roll with your thumb when you want to. The buttons on the back are a little close together and it is possible to hit them by accident sometimes, but that is simply a price of having such a small camera. I personally would rather see a smaller rear screen and more room given to the buttons, but that ain't never gonna happen!

The popup flash is a nice feature. My previous pocket cams had the flash built into the front of the body and it was all too easy to block it with a finger. This one sticks up from the top of the camera when released by a small button on the back, and is easily pressed back down when you're done with it. The position above the camera's lens should reduce redeye. Another benefit of this feature is that you won't use the flash accidentally in a museum or other place where it would be unwelcome - you have to deliberately deploy it before it will flash.

Feature-wise, the camera has more gewgaw and bells and whistles than I will ever use, but almost any camera made today will. They're there if you want them and can be ignored if you don't.

The ZS200 has a 24-360mm (equivalent) zoom range, which is just what I like. Even though my previous ZS50 would zoom out to 720mm I rarely used it, because it's difficult for me to hold such a small camera steady. Yet 360mm is enough to make a very noticeable difference when compared even to its predecessor the ZS100, which zoomed only to 250mm. Some grouse about the lens being restricted to smaller apertures than the ZS100, but I don't see that as significant. Like the ZS100 (and my FZ1000), this camera has a 1" sensor. While not as large in area as that found in interchangeable lens cameras, it is a considerable step above the usual 1/2.3 or smaller sensors usually found in a pocket camera. Much higher ISO values can be used, which helps offset the smaller aperture settings inherent to the camera's lens. I find it a completely acceptable tradeoff to get a 24-360mm zoom range.

What about image quality? I did an informal comparison in my backyard of the ZS200 and the FZ1000 (which is often lauded for its image quality). Aside from depth of field, the images were pretty much comparable. The ZS200 would not throw the background out of focus for subject isolation as much as the FZ1000 could. I posted the images on dpreview.com and can be seen here: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4299745

I also did an outing at the zoo with just the ZS200. Some of the images were shot indoors, which helps illustrate its low light capability. Those images are here: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4303271

This camera is nearly as capable as the FZ1000 (which I love) but in a much smaller package. Great for travel and events when a big camera is an inconvenience. My bottom line - the ZS200 is a keeper.

 Tom K.'s gear list:Tom K.'s gear list
Panasonic FZ1000 Panasonic ZS200
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200 (Lumix DC-TZ200)
20 megapixels • 3 screen • 24 – 360 mm (15×)
Announced: Feb 13, 2018
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