Panasonic ZS100 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly below average mean saturation and hue accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Click for a larger image.

Saturation. Overall, mean saturation levels are a little lower than average from the Panasonic ZS100 using default settings, at 7.4% oversaturated. The ZS100 pushes dark blues and greens quite a bit, but only oversaturates red and orange by small amounts, and it undersaturates yellow and aqua tones moderately. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, the Panasonic ZS100 did fairly well, producing reasonably natural-looking Caucasian skin tones, but they were a bit warm and yellow with both manual and auto white balance settings under simulated daylight. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Panasonic ZS100 shifts cyan toward blue by quite a bit, but most other shifts like red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green are small. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) The ZS100's handling of yellows is one of its weaknesses and is typical of Panasonics: Yellows are undersaturated, and shifted slightly toward green which can make them look dingy. With a mean "delta-C" color error of 6.19 after correction for saturation, hue accuracy is slightly below average at base ISO, but still pretty good overall since there are no major shifts in one particular color except for cyan (which as mentioned is quite common). Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
The Auto white balance setting produced somewhat cool results and Incandescent was quite warm. Manual was pretty accurate, just slightly warm. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was a touch cool with the Auto white balance setting, while results with the Incandescent setting were very warm and orange. The Manual setting was by far the most accurate, just slightly on the warm side with a very slight yellow tint. (Note: The ZS100 also has a Kelvin Temperature White Balance option, however we did not test that mode.) The Panasonic ZS100 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation which is about average for this scene. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Decent color and exposure accuracy under harsh lighting, though with high contrast.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Panasonic ZS100 struggled a little for its class. +0.7 EV exposure compensation was required to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, which is about average among cameras we've tested. However default contrast is a quite high and the camera ended up clipping some highlights in the white shirt and flowers, and also produced some very dark, discolored shadows as well, though they are fairly clean. Auto color balance performed well in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, though skin tones are a little yellow. Manual and Daylight white balance produced slightly warmer skin tones. The Far-field shot with Auto white balance looks a bit cool, and default exposure is slightly underexposed producing some very deep shadows that are heavily posterized and flattened.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~2,500 to ~2,600 lines of strong detail.

In-camera JPEG:
Strong detail to
~2,600 lines horizontal
In-camera JPEG:
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~2,600 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW:
Strong detail to
~2,500 lines vertical

An in-camera JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,600 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,500 lines per picture height in the vertical direction. Some may argue for more, but lines begin to merge at that point. Complete extinction of the pattern didn't occur until about 3,000 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw conversion produced similar results, but complete extinction of the pattern was extended to about 3,200 lines and color moiré is more visible. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See thumbnails of all test images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images but with good detail; some sharpening artifacts are visible. Moderate noise reduction at base ISO.

High-contrast edges
have moderate sharpening halos.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The ZS100 produces slightly soft-looking images at base ISO due to somewhat conservative default sharpening combined with a less than tack-sharp lens, however obvious sharpening halos can still be seen around high contrast transitions, such as the lines and text in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows good detail for the class of camera, with moderate levels noise suppression in the darkest areas of the mannequins's hair, and almost no chroma noise. Some individual strands are smudged together in areas of low contrast at base ISO, but performance here is actually quite good considering the size and resolution of the sensor. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Panasonic ZS100 produces slightly soft images with noticeable sharpening halos. Let's see how an Adobe Camera Raw conversion at base ISO compares.

Base ISO (125)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to a matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.5 using default noise reduction, then sharpened in Photoshop.

As you can see, ACR produced additional detail that isn't present in the JPEG from the camera. The biggest increase in detail is in the fabric crop, where ACR was able to resolve much of the thread pattern in the red-leaf swatch which the camera's JPEG engine presumably treats as noise, and ACR also did a bit better reproducing fine detail in the pink fabric, as well as producing more accurate color. But as is usually the case, much higher levels of luminance noise can be seen in the RAW conversion particularly in flat areas as shown in the bottle crop, thanks to ACR's light default noise reduction and the relatively strong sharpening required to keep the somewhat soft RAW images crisp-looking (we used 300% USM with a radius of 0.5 pixels and a threshold of 0). You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Bottom line: As is almost always the case, you can do noticeably better than the camera with a good RAW converter, provided you're willing to apply your own noise reduction and sharpening to taste.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance for its class.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 80 ISO 125 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600

ISOs 80 through 200 produce similar results, with detailed images containing low levels of fine-grained luma noise and almost no chroma noise. ISO 400 shows a more noticeable drop in image quality as noise reduction ramps, but fine detail is still quite good. ISO 800 shows another step down in image quality with additional blurring of fine detail and stronger luminance noise, but is still pretty good. ISO 1600 is noticeably softer thanks to stronger noise reduction and more visible luma noise, but chroma noise is still fairly low. At ISO 3200, image quality takes a larger hit with higher noise, both luma and chroma, and the camera's processing produces images with a somewhat crystalline look. Image quality drops off very quickly from here, with ISOs 6400 through 25,600 being quite noisy with strong luma noise and chroma blotching.

Overall, though, high ISO performance is good and much better than average for a travel zoom thanks to its relatively large 1"-type sensor, but the ZS100's image quality isn't quite as good as some other 1" models. We're of course pixel-peeping to an extraordinary extent here, since 1:1 images on an LCD screen often have little to do with how those same images will appear when printed. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

Note: We used to shoot this series at f/4 because of the relatively low light, but we now shoot it at f/5.6 or f/8 for 1"-type and larger sensors, as lens performance well away from center where we take the above crops is often not optimal at wider apertures. The added depth of field for a scene with this depth is also a better compromise than the potentially slightly sharper but shallower focus depth that a larger aperture would produce.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Poor dynamic range for its class in JPEGs. Good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic ZS100 struggled under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above. To keep facial tones reasonably bright, +0.7V compensation was required, which led to quite a few clipped highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers. Detail is quite good in moderate shadows at +0.7 EV, though very deep shadows are plugged, discolored and posterized.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

Face Detection
Aperture Priority,
f/5.6, 0 EV
Face Detection Off
Aperture Priority,
f/5.6, 0 EV,
Face Detection On
iAuto,
f/5.0, 0 EV

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Panasonic ZS100 has the ability to detect faces (up to 15 in a scene), and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, face detection improved exposure in both Aperture Priority at f/5.6, and in iAuto mode where the camera had control over aperture and automatically applied Intelligent D-Range to reduce overall contrast.


Far-field Intelligent D-Range Examples
Off
Low

Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range
The above shots are examples of Panasonic's Intelligent Dynamic Range Control (or iD-Range) at work, with no exposure compensation. Note that the camera does not take multiple shots and merge them as HDR mode does (see below). It's a system that adjusts local contrast and exposure more akin to Nikon's Active D-lighting, Canon's Automatic Lighting Optimization or Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization.

There are three levels of iD-Range available on the Panasonic ZS100: Low, Standard and High, plus Auto and Off. It's automatically invoked in iAuto and some scene modes and manually selectable in PASM modes. Interestingly, i-D-Range didn't work as well as expected for this scene, attenuating highlights in an already somewhat underexposed shot, while only slightly boosting darker midtones and shadows as well as generating a subtle halo effect around darker subject matter.


Far-field HDR Examples
Off

HDR mode
Here, you can see the Panasonic ZS100's High Dynamic Range mode at work with our Far-field shot. HDR mode takes three images at different exposures and combines them to increase dynamic range. Mouse over the links, and click on them the view the full resolution files.

Auto did a decent job, producing results identical to +/-2 EV which was the best for this scene, while +/-3 dimmed the entire image. Notice the double images and ghosting of the flag, leaves or people moving between frames. Also notice the angle of view is narrower in the HDR images, likely because the images have been cropped and upsized during the optional auto alignment process. Oddly, the +/-1 and +/-3 settings show more noise than the +/-2 and Auto settings.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
125
Click to see ZS100LL001253.JPG
1.6s, f2.8
Click to see ZS100LL001257.JPG
25s, f2.8
Click to see ZS100LL001257XNR.JPG
25s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see ZS100LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see ZS100LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see ZS100LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
25600
Click to see ZS100LL256003.JPG
1/125s, f2.8
Click to see ZS100LL256007.JPG
1/8s, f2.8
Click to see ZS100LL256007XNR.JPG
1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Panasonic ZS100 performed well in our low-light tests thanks to its relatively fast lens at wide angle coupled to a 1"-type sensor, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even at the lowest native sensitivity setting (ISO 125). As expected for a 1"-type sensor, luma noise is a little high at ISO 3200, but fairly fine-grained, while chroma noise is well-controlled. The ZS100's highest ISO of 25,600 is quite grainy with noticeable noise reduction artifacts, but that's no surprise.

Color balance is pretty good with Panasonic ZS100's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool, even at highest ISO and lowest light level. We didn't notice any significant issues with pattern noise or heat blooming, however a few bright pixels can be seen at base ISO (default noise reduction at the higher ISOs takes care of them).

The camera's AF system was able to focus on our low-contrast target unassisted to below the 1/16 foot-candle (-2.0 EV) light level in our tests, which is excellent. And with the AF assist lamp enabled, the ZS100 could focus in almost complete darkness. This of course will vary with subject and distance, though.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Output Quality

Print Quality

A good 20 x 30 inch print up to ISO 200; a good 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 1600 and a nice 4 x 6 at ISO 6400.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 80/125/200 prints look good at 20 x 30 inches. An increase in size to 24 x 36 inches is fine for wall display purposes and less critical applications, but for important prints we advise remaining at 20 x 30 inches and below.

ISO 400 requires a reduction in size to 16 x 20 inches. Contrast detail is now somewhat low in our tricky Still Life target red-leaf swatch, a common phenomenon at slightly higher ISOs, but generally not so low at this sensitivity. But otherwise this size print looks good at this ISO.

ISO 800 shots almost pass our "good" seal of approval at 13 x 19 inches, and are fine for less critical purposes. In order to pass our good grade you'll need to stick with 11 x 14 inches and smaller at this gain setting.

ISO 1600 images look good at 8 x 10 inches. All contrast detail is now lost in our red-leaf swatch, and there's a trace of mild noise apparent in a few flatter areas of our target such as in the shadows, but saturation, fine detail and contrast are still fairly good at this size.

ISO 3200 yields a good 5 x 7 inch print, suffering only similar minor issues such as the ones seen in the 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 1600, but otherwise produces a usable print. Anything larger simply looks too muted and lacks "pop" here.

ISO 6400 delivers a good 4 x 6 inch print. Larger prints are a bit too flat and muted to be usable for anything but less critical applications.

ISO 12,800/25,600 produce prints that are simply too flat and scorched looking to pass our good grade, and these gain settings are not recommended for printing purposes.

The Panasonic ZS100 does a fair job in the print quality department, but it's not quite in the same league as some of the other popular 1-inch sensored cameras. The Panasonic FZ1000 performs better at base ISO up to ISO 400, and both the Sony RX10 II and the RX100 IV perform better by roughly a print size across most of the available ISO spectrum. It appears that in order to achieve a 10x lens in such a small package, some optical performance was sacrificed in the trade-off. But with all that said, if you keep the gain setting to ISO 1600 and below you'll still be assured of good 8 x 10 inch prints across the board. Like most smaller cameras that can grant so much zoom range, compromises are inevitable, so it's up to your own needs to determine if zoom range is more important than the ability to print larger prints.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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