Panasonic ZS100 First Shots: See how well the latest long-zooming compact holds up in our test lab


posted Monday, February 29, 2016 at 4:28 PM EDT


Quick: What do you get when you marry a premium 1-inch sensored pocket camera with a premium 1-inch sensored long-zooming bridge camera? The Panasonic ZS100, of course! Almost as svelte in size as the popular Sony RX100 line of pocket cameras, the ZS100 can zoom 3.5 times farther than the latest RX100 IV. That's a total of 10x with this Leica-branded lens to be exact, or 25-250mm in 35-mm equivalent terms.

The closest competitor to this bridge-hybrid would then be the Olympus Stylus 1 and 1s models, which both sport a 10.7x zoom reach of 28-300mm equivalent range, making them just a bit farther at the tele end and a bit less wide when zoomed out. The Stylus 1/s both have a constant f/2.8 aperture across the full zoom range, where the ZS100 is variable from f/2.8 to f/5.9. And yet the ZS100's sensor is more than twice the size as the 1/1.7" type sensor found in the Stylus 1/1s, even though it's a good bit smaller in size. (The trade-offs never end!)

So, where does this leave discerning fans of these interesting hybrid models in their decision-making? In need of more information regarding image quality, for starters, and we're just the squad to bring it to you. Do-it-yourself investigators can dive right into our ZS100 First Shots sample page to pixel-peep our Still Life test target images, and also bring them up in our Comparometer beside any competitors you're interested in and view them side-by-side across the available ISO spectrum.

Does it hold up to the similarly-sensored Sony RX100 IV at base ISO? Or how about the other hybrid-bridge Olympus Stylus 1/1s models? These questions and more are awaiting your inspection in the Comparometer, and to get you started below are a few side-by-side 1:1 crops comparing the ZS100 to the RX100 IV and the Stylus 1.

Panasonic ZS100 vs Sony RX100 IV

Panasonic ZS100                   base ISO 125                    Sony RX100 IV

Sporting similar 20.1mp sensors and the same base ISO 125 ISO, we'd expect similar performances from these two 1-inch sensored models here, assuming similarly good fixed lenses at our typical test focal length. The ZS100 appears capable of extracting just a tad bit more fine detail from the image, as evident in the smaller bottle label writing near the image bottom, but for the most part the images are very similar.

Panasonic ZS100                     ISO 1600                      Sony RX100 IV

Moving now to ISO 1600, which is about the high limit we've found for this sensor size before noise starts to take a big toll, we find two interesting directions taken with in-camera JPEGs from these two. While the ZS100 default is choosing aggressive noise reduction that results in less evident noise in the flatter area at the top left of this 1:1 crop, the heavy-handed approach is robbing the image of a good bit of fine detail as compared to the RX100 IV. Processing from RAW will allow you to make your own choice on detail vs noise, but if you prefer more detail you'll want to be aware of these default results when shooting JPEG-only.

Panasonic ZS100 vs Olympus Stylus 1

 Panasonic ZS100 • ISO 125               base ISO                Olympus Stylus 1 • ISO 100

The Stylus 1 has a smaller sensor and also lower resolution at 12mp, and therefore can't compete with the ZS100 here at base ISO for performance in rendering fine detail. The smaller sensor though allows for a constant f/2.8 throughout the zoom range, so that is the single largest trade-off.

Panasonic ZS100                     ISO 1600                     Olympus Stylus 1

While this is about the best performance we've seen from a 1/1.7" type sensor at ISO 1600, the Stylus 1 still can't compete with the ZS100, although as mentioned in the comparison against the RX100 IV, the ZS100 is very aggressive in its default noise reducing algorithms, something to bear in mind. Also, as you zoom farther out, the Stylus 1 and its constant aperture will allow the ISO to remain lower given the same shutter speed, therefore somewhat leveling the playing field.

Upon initial inspection of our Still Life test target images, the Panasonic ZS100 is off to a good start. Intriguing Panasonic models have inspired us to create new categories in our Camera of the Year awards on more than one occasion (Pocket ILC, anyone?) and if the ZS100 holds up through the rest of our testing it wouldn't be at all surprising to see a new "Compact Bridge" category in our future.

As always, stay tuned for more review information to come!

Panasonic ZS100Lab Samples • Comparometer

Sony RX100 IV vs Panasonic ZS100

Olympus Stylus 1 vs Panasonic ZS100

More A vs B comparisons with the ZS100