What’s In The Box
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 comes with a neck strap, lens hood, lens cap with attaching string, battery, plug-in charger, USB and A/V cables. You also get a 44-page basic manual while the full 240-page guide is on a CD-ROM. A second CD-ROM has SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE for handling RAW files and PhotoFun Studio 5.2 HD edition for AVCHD movies. It’s a solid package.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 is the company’s first digicam to use a 14.1-megapixel MOS sensor. It’s still a smaller size (1/2.33-inch) than Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds chips which are even smaller than APS-C sensors found in DSLRs and competing compact interchangeable lens cameras. Cramming more pixels on a smaller piece of silicon can be an invitation for trouble (i.e. digital noise). Bear with us and we’ll let you know shortly if the camera succumbs to this.
Fall is here and that means it’s not too difficult taking good, colorful shots with any decent camera. How can a combination of turning leaves, blooming mums, pumpkins, along with other primary-colored plants and sunny, blue skies be bad? The critical tests were indoors and in dim light. As always, we started in iA at 4320 x 3240 pixel resolution for stills and Full HD AVCHD for videos. We moved to RAW where appropriate. When done 8×10 full-bleed prints with no post processing were made, videos watched on a 50-inch plasma and files were closely examined on the monitor (100%+).
Before answering the $500 question, we will state that the Lumix FZ100 is a good camera to shoot with. Controls are in the right spots, the pistol grip is comfortable and the jog wheel above the right-hand thumb rest on the back is perfectly positioned. This is a very personal take and you should handle this or any other camera before you pull the trigger. Another plus? When you connect it via HDMI to a compatible Panasonic HDTV, the set powers up and switches to the proper input when you turn the digicam on. Thank goodness for small favors…
Sample picture courtesy of Panasonic (full resolution)
Panasonic cameras have had problems in the past with too much digital noise. The company spent years improving this situation but with the FZ100, we’re back in the “bad old days.” Noise is under control at 100 and 200 but hit 400 and the speckles return. Beyond that (it reaches 1600), you’re in deep trouble. We can live with digital noise if the camera delivered excellent, crisp photos. Sad to say, the FZ100 is not even in same league as the Nikon P100 or Canon SX30 IS, two even less expensive, but far superior mega-zooms. You would think color flowers on a crisp, Fall days would get some sparkling shots but not with this baby. And forget comparing this to a DSLR like the recently reviewed Nikon D3100. The FZ100 does have very good responsiveness and frame rates but it doesn’t do you much good if basic image quality is poor.
The Lumix FZ100 also shoots AVCHD videos (1920×1080/60I). Quality here is decent with little digital blocking. Focusing was O.K. but again the videos weren’t crisp and had little pop. You’ll appreciate the fact the zoom works while shooting but you won’t be too thrilled to hear the zoom motor which gets picked up by the mic.
On paper the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 is impressive—14MP, a 24x wide-angle zoom, up to 11 fps, AVCHD videos. Sounds cool, right? Too bad the image and video quality doesn’t measure up—especially with a hefty list price. You can do a lot better.
- 24x wide-angle zoom
- High burst rates
- AVCHD video
- Underwhelming video and picture quality
- Not worth $499