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The tiny Panasonic ZS200 reaches farther, shoots closer with updated lens

Panasonic’s compact, long-zoom camera is reaching farther — literally. The new Lumix ZS200, announced on Feb. 13, is an advanced camera that uses a large (for a compact camera) one-inch sensor. It’s a successor to the ZS100, but expands the zoom lens from 10x to 15x. Other improvements include both higher-resolution LCD and viewfinder, increased battery life, Bluetooth, and new menus and shooting modes.

The larger the sensor is, the harder it is for manufacturers to add a significant amount of zoom — a challenge exemplified in a compact body. The ZS200 retains the 20.1-megapixel one-inch sensor of its predecessor, but expands the zoom with a 15x Leica DC Vario lens that’s equivalent to a 24-360mm on a 35mm camera. The lens is also more capable in shooting close-ups with a 3cm minimum focus, compared to the 5cm of the ZS100 lens. The new lens has 13 elements in 11 groups, with a design that Panasonic says minimizes distortion and flare. With that longer zoom, however, the aperture is a slightly narrower — f/3.3-6.4 lens versus the ZS100’s f/2.5-5.9.

The ZS200’s also has an updated processor that expands the ISO range up to 12,800 and increases the burst speed to 6 frames per second (fps) in continuous autofocus or 10 fps in single. Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus autofocus system offers performance as quick as 0.1 second, the company says.

Panasonic is using its five-axis Hybrid O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) system in the ZS200, similar to the ZS100. The stabilization works in both stills and video, and in all resolutions except 4K.

In addition to shooting 4K video at 30 fps, the ZS200 has 4K Photo modes. Users can pull high-res images from a 4K video, or shoot 1080p videos with effects. Like the Panasonic GX9 also announced today, the ZS200 adds a sequence composition mode that recreates the stromotion effect in-camera, up to 40 frames. Stromotion (also called action shot) combines a moving figure at different points in the motion across the same image.

Another new option in 4K Photo is Auto Marking, which chooses the images from a 4K sequence that are the most different from each other — a tool designed to simplify the process of choosing an image from the 4K photo burst. The ZS200 also includes the post focus and focus stacking introduced on earlier models, and like other 4K photo modes, the resolution is equivalent to about eight megapixels because the stills are pulled from 4K video.

On the outside, Panasonic updated the electronic viewfinder with a 2,330k-dot-equivalent resolution and a 1.45x magnification. Like the touchscreen, the electronic viewfinder offers a 100 percent field of view and focus peaking for manual focus. The 3-inch LCD also got an upgrade, and is now a 1,240k-dot touchscreen. A control ring around the lens offers quick access to frequently accessed controls. Besides Wi-Fi, the camera now has Bluetooth for constant pairing with a smartphone and low-level functions that don’t require Wi-Fi, such as remote shutter and video start/stop. A new eco mode extends the camera’s battery life to 370 shots on a full charge.

Available beginning March 20, the Panasonic ZS200 will list for $800. While the price is high for a compact camera, it’s less expensive than the newer Sony RX100 models and it has a longer lens.

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