Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100/TZ100 Review
The ZS100 is a very video-centric camera, and not just for recording. The camera uses its video functions for two unique (and helpful) features: 4K Photo and Post Focus. But first, video.
Like its big brother, the FZ1000, the ZS100 has the ability to capture 4K video at 30p or 24p, with a top bit rate of 100 Mbps. At Full HD (1920 x 1080), 30p and 60p frame rates are also available, with bit rates of 20 and 28 Mbps, respectively. A high speed, 1080p/120 option is also available. Switching to the AVCHD codec gives you the option of 1080/60p, 60i, 30p and 24p.
Do note that the difference crops change the effective focal lengths in movie mode to 37-370mm at 4K and 26-260mm at 1080p, so plan accordingly.
While you can shoot video in any mode, you'll want to switch to the camera's dedicated movie mode to gain full control. The main thing you'll gain access to is the ability to select your exposure mode (P/A/S/M) but there are a few other things, too, including the high speed video and snap movie features.
The majority of the features in still shooting mode can be used here as well plus focus peaking, zebra pattern, a wind filter and a zoom mic. The ZS100 lacks a mic input port - you'll need to get the FZ1000 if you want that - as well as audio level monitoring.
In any video mode you can take full advantage of the camera's touchscreen LCD, which allows for easy rack focusing as well as changing settings, without having to press any physical controls which could bump the camera. Our ZS100 was able to switch from a near to distant subject smoothly and with virtually no 'wobble' from its CDAF system.
If you're shooting at Full HD (1920 x 1080) or below you can take advantage of the camera's Hybrid 5-Axis OIS system, which adds digital rotation shake reduction to the camera's existing 3-axis IS system. While your field-of-view will be cropped, the video below, taken at the long end of the lens, shows that it's works very well but, as shown above, it struggles when panning the camera.
One other feature related to camera's ability to correct for rotation is Level Shot. Simply put, this levels the horizon in videos taken at Full HD and smaller.
Below are two 'supercuts,' taken in daylight and low light. We've provided the ISO sensitivity whenever possible. Enjoy!
Video quality is excellent in the daylight clip, with just a bit of detail smudging on the tree trunks at the back-right side. You'll also see a little focus hunting in the very last clip. There's quite a bit of wind noise outdoors, but in-camera digital wind reduction can't work miracles.
The ZS100 did a great job in low light, as well. There's some noise but, even at 4K, it's not bothersome. You will notice the camera going in and out of focus at around 0:40 seconds, as it struggles with the silhouettes in the foreground and the brightly lit musicians in the background.
4K Photo / Live Cropping
You can tell that Panasonic is excited about its 4K Photo feature when it puts a dedicated button for it on the back of the ZS100. Simply put, the camera will use its 4K capability to capture short clips (though not necessarily in the 16:9 aspect ratio of its video footage) from which you easily extract 8 Megapixel stills, which makes reduces the amount of 'luck' needed to capture that perfect moment. The interface for selecting the photo you want is clever, involving just a slight drag of your finger.
|This shot was grabbed using 4K Photo and brightened slightly. You can view the original image here.|
The example above was 'grabbed' from a short 4K video clip using the 4K photo start/stop mode. In order to use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze motion we did need to crank up the ISO to 400, so it's a bit noisy, but you can still see how the feature lets you capture the shot you're looking for.
4K Live Cropping allows you to pan or zoom in or out in a video without actually moving the camera. As its name implies, the camera crops a 4K clip to capture that area you've chosen in advance, and produces a 1080p video with the panning and/or zooming effect you requested. To do this you select a start and end point in the frame, which can be different areas of the frame, the size of the area cropped, or both. You must also set a duration of the clip, which can be 20 or a lengthy 40 seconds. After that, just press the video recording button to get started.
As you can see above, the results are pretty good. You'll want to use a tripod to avoid any camera shake.
This somewhat hidden feature lets you capture short 2-8 second clips with pull focus and fade in/out effects which can be slotted into longer videos, if you wish. The pull focus feature is clever: you set the beginning and the end point with the touchscreen and the camera will slowly shift focus from one subject to the other as you record. Click here to see a very short example that we took with the DMC-GX8.
The fade feature, which can be used in conjunction with focus pull, offers white-in/white-out, black-in/black-out, and color-in/color-out (where it fades to or from black-and-white) options. Do note that snap movies are recorded at 1080/30p (or 25p in PAL countries).
A very cool feature, which even has a dedicated button on the ZS100, is post focus. While not nearly as high-tech as what Lytro has done with its Light Field camera, the results aren't that different. After recording a very short video clip during which the camera racks focus across the depth of the scene, users can then tap the area on which they wish to focus with the rear screen, and then save that frame. Ideally you want to keep as still as possible during capture, which takes a second or two, but even with slight motion, post focus still works very well.
|By using the clever interface, I was able to simply tap the area on which I wanted to focus to get just the shot I wanted. The lighting conditions required a high ISO (1600 in this case), hence the noise.|
You can see another example of this feature in our review of the Panasonic GX8 mirrorless camera. As you might expect from a video-derived feature, Raw shooting is disabled and output is limited to 8MP when using Post Focus.
The ZS100 offers two Auto ISO modes: Auto and Intelligent. Auto ISO is a very simple implementation: it doesn't let you specify a shutter speed (or relationship to focal length) at which the camera will increase the ISO setting but does let you choose an upper ISO limit. Intelligent ISO is a little more clever: it doesn't allow any user input beyond setting the upper limit, instead trying to detect movement in the scene and increases the ISO to ensure a suitable shutter speed is used.
Auto ISO is available in manual exposure mode but the camera won't let you use exposure comp to specify how bright the image should be. Auto ISO is only available for video when shooting in P, A or S modes (so there's no way of setting your shutter speed and aperture, then getting the camera to maintain brightness).
The ZS100's Wi-Fi features aren't appreciably different than those from other recent Lumix cameras. Since the camera inexplicably lacks NFC, you must pair the camera using a QR code or by selecting its ad hoc network manually.
The app has been refined considerably since earlier versions, meaning that you no longer have to use the awkward 'drag an image to side of the screen' in order to share it (though you can, if you really want). On Android, sharing an image is just like it is in any other app.
iPhone and iPad users have a slightly different setup. When viewing an image in the app, choosing 'share' requires a Lumix Club account. However, if you just transfer the image to your phone or tablet, you can then send photos 'normally.'
|Remote Capture in Panasonic Image App for Android. Behind that tab are the controls for zooming the lens.|
The remote capture portion of the app is quite robust, giving you access to all of the important camera settings. You can record stills and videos with tap-to-focus (and shoot) and control over white balance, ISO, drive mode and AF mode. All AF modes are available, though in many cases (such as with tracking), you need to watch the camera's rear screen to actually see what happens. Since you cannot switch exposure mode in the app, you'll need to do so using the camera's mode dial.
The app also lets you record video at resolutions of up to 4K and you can even watch it on your phone after it's been recorded. You cannot, however, transfer videos to your mobile device. Finally, a 'jump shot' feature lets you stuff your phone in a pocket, put the camera on a tripod, and have it take a photo when you're at the top of your leap, based on the phone's accelerometer.
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