With the summer holidays on the horizon, I conducted a straw poll last week amongst some friends. I asked, how many of them would be bringing a digital camera on holiday this year versus how many would be relying on their smartphones? All except one said they’d be using smartphone cameras to capture the memories of summer. Smartphones are convenient as cameras as most of us carry one but for those special images of a family holiday, a first step or a gold medal we really do should be using something better.
Panasonic introduced the first TZ series compact camera ten years ago, and their latest upgrade, the TZ100 could change how we perceive compact cameras. Unpacking the Lumix reveals a stylish, metal camera that fits in the hand. Available in black or silver, it’s just over four inches across and weighs in at only 10 ounces. There’s little to setting up the TZ100. After an initial charge, which thankfully, is done with the battery in the camera I inserted a SD memory card in to the camera and I was ready to go.
On the top of the camera there’s a few dials and buttons. There’s a straightforward on/off button and a dedicated button for movie recording. There’s also a zoom lever, a dial to change modes and of course a simple shutter button. The camera also has a built in stereo microphone for recording audio with your movies.
On the back of the camera there’s a large colour touchscreen where you can see the camera view but also there’s a traditional viewfinder. Viewfinders that you place your eye against are making a comeback to digital cameras and if you’re getting enthusiastic about photography they provide a natural way to frame the photograph.
The TZ100 is intuitive to use. Snapping a photo is simple and the autofocus seems remarkably quick. Zooming is achieved through the small lever on the top of the camera and it protrudes just enough to let you feel it rather than having to look up to use it.
Despite the slim body of the camera it packs an impressive 10x optical zoom as well as a 20x intelligent zoom. Image stabilisation is a feature that owners if higher-end cameras will be used to but it’s ideal for travel cameras. The TZ100 has a 5-axis image stabilization that can take the shake out of your videos even while filming whilst holding the camera.
Image quality is the crux of the matter though and the TZ100 performed exceptionally well. It’s 20 megapixel specification coupled with its one inch sensor means it produces wonderfully bright, vivid images. There’s a 4K photo setting with a burst mode which allows you to shoot up to 30 frames per second. Also there’s a continuous shooting mode which is ideal for sports matches and makes sure you don’t miss the magic on the pitch.
I used the camera mostly in its Intelligent Auto mode but there is a manual mode that gives serious amateur photographers control over all the settings. There’s also a fun Creative Control mode that has twenty-two different filters, from Toy Effect to Retro.
I took the time to also shoot images with my smartphone for comparison. Many of those I took of close up subjects in good lighting conditions were comparable. However, photos I took on the Lumix had more detail, particularly those shots with low light. Landscape shots and action photos made my smartphone photos pale into pixelated insignificance.
The auto-focus is a noteworthy feature and the focus sets almost instantly but in low light it performs a little slower. The hand-grip could be a little chunkier, but I added a shoulder strap just to be safe while out and about.