Panasonic ZS200 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Panasonic Cameras / Lumix Point & Shoot i Hands-On Preview
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Lens: 15.00x zoom
(24-360mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 125 - 12,800
Extended ISO: 80 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/16000 - 60 seconds
Max Aperture: 3.3
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 in.
(111 x 66 x 45 mm)
Weight: 12.0 oz (340 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 03/2018
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic ZS200 specifications
20.10
Megapixels
15.00x zoom 1 inch
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200
Front side of Panasonic ZS200 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS200 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS200 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS200 digital camera  

Panasonic ZS200 Hands-on Preview

by
Preview posted:

Introduction

It really wasn't all that long ago that Panasonic released their ZS100 travel compact camera. In fact, it was March of 2016. However, in compact camera segments, upgrades often come quite quickly. It's a category that is often refreshed on a near annual basis. The new Panasonic ZS200 improves upon its predecessor in numerous ways, not the least of which is with its 15x optical zoom, making it the first camera with a 1"-type sensor to include a built-in lens which can reach a 360mm equivalent focal length in such a compact body. There are a lot of new features with this camera, so let's take a closer look at the ZS200.

The ZS200 now includes a front grip, something the ZS100 was sorely missing.

Key Features and Specifications

  • 24-360mm (35mm equivalent) built-in lens delivers 15x optical zoom
  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch MOS sensor
  • New larger and higher-resolution viewfinder
  • 3-inch touchscreen display
  • Native ISO range of 125 to 12,800
  • 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer Plus
  • Up to 10 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 4K video recording at up to 30 fps
  • 120 fps high speed Full HD video recording
  • Many Creative and Scene shooting modes
  • 4K Photo modes
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy

Camera Body and Design

When looking at the ZS200, it's immediately apparent that while the camera shares the same general shape and size as its predecessor, it's been upgraded ergonomically. One of our biggest issues with the ZS100's body was that it had a very slippery finish and no "grippy" surfaces. The ZS200 solves this by adding a vertical rubber grip on the front of the camera and a thumb grip on the back of the camera. The ZS200 remains very sleek and stylish, but these changes should make the camera much easier to hold.

With these additions, the ZS200 does weigh a bit more than the ZS100. The ZS200 is heavier by 31 grams (just over an ounce) so it's a small change. The new camera is a bit taller and deeper, but the general form is similar and even with the new lens, more on that in a bit, the camera is quite compact when powered off.

The control dial on the lens is still gripped although its design has changed slightly. The top and rear of the camera looks essentially the same and the button layout is the same on the new camera. The viewfinder is still on the far left side of the back of the camera.

Speaking of the viewfinder, another upgraded aspect of the ZS200 is its electronic viewfinder, dubbed a Live View Finder (LVF) by Panasonic. The ZS100 was equipped with a 0.2-inch viewfinder with 1,160K-dots (equivalent) and 35mm-equivalent magnification of 0.46x. The ZS200 ups the size, resolution and magnification. The ZS200 is equipped with a 0.21-inch, 2,330K-dot-eq. EVF with 0.53x magnification (35mm equivalent). That's a substantial increase. The display on the back of the camera remains a fixed 3-inch touchscreen LCD, but resolution has increased from 1,040K-dots to 1,240K-dots.

Inside the ZS200 is a 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer Plus, which in our brief hands-on with the ZS200 appeared to be quite impressive, even when zoomed in to 360mm with the new 15x zoom lens.

The electronic viewfinder has been upgraded with a larger, higher resolution display.

There have been numerous small, but significant, changes to the ZS200's body and design and adding in the new lens and is a substantial upgrade in a camera segment that doesn't always see big changes between models.

New 15x built-in zoom is the headlining new feature

The new built-in lens is the star of the show when it comes to the ZS200. While there are other improvements, going from a 10x zoom to a 15x zoom, the first of its kind for a travelzoom camera with a 1-inch sensor, is certainly the most noteworthy change. The ZS100's lens was a 9.1-91mm optic, which had a 35mm equivalent focal length of 25-250mm. The ZS200 not only ups the zoom, but it's also a bit wider, starting at a 24mm equivalent focal length. In total, the 8.8-132mm lens delivers an equivalent focal length of 24-360mm.

There's a new optical formula at work in the ZS200 as well, which shouldn't come as a shock. The Leica-branded zoom has 13 elements across 11 groups, including a total of 11 aspherical surfaces, which is an additional element, group and pair of aspherical surfaces compared to the ZS100. More specifically, the ZS200 has 1 aspherical ED lens, 5 aspherical lenses and 3 ED lenses.

With its new 15x zoom built-in lens, the ZS200 offers the most zoom for any camera with a 1-inch sensor.

With this larger zoom, the ZS200's lens is a bit slower than its predecessor, delivering an f/3.3-6.4 maximum aperture range whereas the ZS100 went as fast as f/2.8 and managed f/5.9 at the telephoto end. The slower telephoto end is not surprising, but it is disappointing that the ZS200 loses some light-gathering ability at the wide (albeit wider) end. Back in favor of the ZS200, its lens can close focus as close as 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) with its macro focus mode, which is just over three-quarters of an inch closer than the ZS100.

Ultimately, it's a hugely impressive feat to squeeze a 15x zoom into a compact travel zoom camera, particularly one with a 1-inch sensor. However, we need to see how the lens performs at its new extremes as the ZS100 actually was a bit soft at the longer end of its shorter lens.

Shooting Specifications

Equipped with the same 20.1-megapixel 1-inch MOS sensor, the ZS200 delivers a native ISO range from 125 to 12,800, although it can be extended as low as 80 and as high as 25,600. The sensor in the ZS200 performed quite well with DxO's sensor analysis and its predecessor produced nice images during our own testing, so we expect much the same from the ZS200. The big question mark with respect to image quality will be the new lens rather than the sensor.

The ZS200 has a contrast detect based autofocus system with 49 autofocus points and Panasonic's own Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology. There's nothing new of note here with the ZS200 compared to its predecessor, but its bevy of autofocus features is still nice. The camera offers face/eye detection, subject tracking, custom multi, pinpoint autofocus and allows for the use of the touchscreen to move the AF point throughout the frame. In our review for the ZS100, we found that the autofocus was fast during real-world shooting, so we expect much of the same from the new camera.

When using AF-S, you can shoot at up to 10 frames per second with the ZS200. By dropping the speed down to medium (7 fps) you can shoot with live view. If you want to use AF-F or AF-C, the maximum speed is 6 fps, which also includes live view. We don't have information regarding buffer depths. Regarding the shutter speeds available on the ZS200, you can shoot as fast as 1/2,000s with the mechanical shutter and 1/16,000s with the electronic shutter.

Video

Panasonic cameras have long been known for their very good video features and specifications. The ZS200 is no different. Like its predecessor, this compact camera can record 3840 x 2160 resolution video (4K UHD) at up to 30 frames per second. The camera can also record Full HD video at up to 60 frames per second in normal modes and 120 fps (played back at 30 fps) in a special high speed recording mode. The ZS200 can record 4K clips for up to 45 minutes and Full HD clips for 50 minutes and bit rates top out at 100 Mbps. It is worth noting that the camera's 5-axis image stabilization does not work when recording 4K video. Further, the camera can record in AVCHD and MP4 file formats.

Shooting Features

There are a few new shooting modes in the ZS200. There's a new L.Monochrome Photo Style which is designed to deliver black and white images with a film-like gradation. Further, in addition to the existing exposure and white balance bracketing modes, the ZS200 now has bracketing options for focus (up to 999 frames) and aperture settings. There is also new in-camera RAW processing functionality.

For users who want a distinct, creative look for their images straight from the camera, there are Creative Control and Scene Guide modes which offer a wide range of special filters including Expressive, Retro, Toy Camera, High Dynamic Range, Portrait, Nightscape and much more. In total, there are 22 Creative Control filters and 24 Scene modes. Some of the filters and modes are exclusive to still images, but many of them can be used when recording video as well.

Just as many Panasonic cameras offer 4K video recording, they typically also include 4K Photo modes. The ZS200 follows the trend and allows bursts of 4K images (8 megapixels) at up to 30 frames per second and includes Panasonic's neat "Post Focus" feature, which allows the user to capture a burst of images with different focus points and then decide which focus point they want to utilize after the fact. You can also stack all the images to have a 4K image with everything in focus.

For photographers looking to connect their smartphone to the ZS200, either for remote control or image transfer, the ZS200 still comes equipped with built-in Wi-Fi, but now includes Bluetooth Low Energy (4.2) which allows for a constant connection and instant transfer of images as you shoot them.

Power and Ports

The ZS200 may not boast a new imaging pipeline, but it is more power-efficient than its predecessor. The ZS100 was rated for 300 shots when using the rear display and 260 when using the EVF. The ZS200 adds 70 shots when using the display and includes a new Eco Mode for the viewfinder, which reduces the viewfinder frame rate to 30 frames per second but allows up to 350 shots. Without eco mode, the higher-resolution viewfinder actually offers 10 less shots than the ZS100 did, but overall, the battery life has been considerably improved. Further, like the ZS100, the ZS200 offers internal charging via USB.

The USB port on the ZS200 is Micro-B USB 2.0 and it also includes a Micro HDMI (Type D) port. The camera records to SD cards and is UHS-I compatible.

ZS200 versus ZS100

There are a few important differences between the old ZS100 and the new ZS200, which we have discussed in depth but will summarize below.

  • New grips added to the camera body
  • Higher-resolution, higher-magnification electronic viewfinder
  • 15x built-in lens has a wider and longer focal length than its predecessor
  • The ZS200 has a slower lens than the ZS100
  • New L.Monochrome Picture Style
  • Additional bracketing modes including focus and aperture
  • Bluetooth Low Energy included for a consistent connection between your smartphone and ZS200
  • Focus peaking

Our preliminary thoughts

The Panasonic ZS200's new built-in lens is very intriguing within the compact zoom camera segment. It is the first 1-inch sensor with a 15x optical zoom lens, so it's hard not to be excited by the potential. However, given that the 10x zoom in the ZS100 was somewhat underwhelming, particularly as you increased the focal length, and the ZS200 has a slower lens, our expectations are tempered.

We look forward to having more time with the ZS200 and its impressive zoom capabilities.

With that said, Panasonic's 4K video and 4K Photo features are great and their ZS200 packs a lot of interesting features into its pocketable form factor. If the lens can perform well, then the ZS200 will be a very attractive option within its class.

Panasonic ZS200 Price and Availability

The Panasonic ZS200 will be available starting in mid-March and will come in black and silver colorways. The camera has a suggested retail price of US$799.99, which is $100 more than its predecessor launched at in March 2016.

 

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