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I have a real soft spot for the Panasonic FZ series of cameras and have been using them for a long time now. With every new model they just keep getting better and better, which enables me to get closer to the action and take better quality photos. Judging by the initial look of their latest version, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100, it seems that this trend is set to continue.

The DMC-FZ100 is the top of the line of the FZ series and adds a number of improvements and refinements to the very popular FZ38 (FZ35), which was one of my favorite cameras to take on safari... or pretty much anywhere else for that matter! So lets take a look and see what is now available on the FZ100 and decide if it is the best digital super zoom camera for safaris.

Main Features

Obviously the main feature of any "superzoom" digital camera is it's zoom. Well you are not going to be disappointed as the new Panasonic Lumix FZ100 has an even more powerful optical zoom than ever before.

24x Zoom (35mm camera equivalent: 25-600mm)

The newly developed LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens in the DMC-FZ100 further extends its optical zoom range from 27mm to 25mm at wide end and the zoom power from 18x to 24x to be even more powerful and versatile compared with the DMC-FZ38. The 24x optical zoom is now equivalent to 600mm on a 35mm camera.

Panasonic DMC-FZ100 24x Optical Zoom Example

32x Intelligent Zoom
Another interesting feature is that thanks to the new Intelligent Resolution technology on the Panasonic DMC-FZ100 that extends the zoom ratio by about 1.3x but maintains the picture quality even though it is using the digital zoom. This means the 24x optical can now virtually and realistically extend to 32x!

... but wait there is more, the "Extra Optical Zoom" function further extends the camera's zoom power to a massive 50.6x by using the center part of the large MOS sensor to bring subjects even closer. This setting unfortunately reduces the resolution to 3 megapixels (3MP), which could be useful for identification purposes.

Panasonic DMC-FZ100 32x Intelligent Zoom Example


Panasonic FZ18 and the Raynox DCR-2025PRO Telephoto Conversion LensTele Conversion Lens

You can get MUCH closer to the action and this time not by using the digital zoom which can reduce image quality as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 digital camera is compatible with their DMW-LT55 1.7x teleconverter lens which will give you zooming ability equivalent to an epic 1020mm (35mm camera equivalent). You will need a Lens Adaptor (DMW-LA5) to attach the telephoto conversion lens to the camera.

For more, read my article on Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ100 Digital Camera

2.2x Teleconverter Lens

For an ever larger focal length, read my review of the Raynox DCR-2025PRO 2.2x Super Telephoto Conversion Lens, which can also be attached to the FZ100.


25mm Ultra Wide-Angle

The beauty of a superzoom is the versatility, one moment you can be taking zoomed photos of a Lion in the distance and then switch to the herd of Zebra near the vehicle without having to change lenses. The 25mm ultra wide-angle lens has about twice the shooting area as a standard 35mm lens. This wide angle enhances all kinds of shooting situations, like when you're photographing herds of animals, groups of people at the lodge or a large structure or stunning African landscape.

Full HD Movie Recording

View Example Movies Made with the DMC-FZ100Another excellent feature of the Panasonic FZ100 and is a big reason why as a safari camera it is ideal is that not only does it take great photos, but it can also record full-HD movies.

The movie above is an example made by Panasonic themselves with the FZ100 and has been optimized (reduced in size) for viewing on the web.

>> View More Example Videos made with the FZ100

As well as the standard Motion JPEG images, the Lumix DMC-FZ100 can record high-resolution full-HD 1920x1080 60i movies in AVCHD (MPEG-4/H.264) format. Full-HD (1920 x 1080) movies are recorded at 60i. HD (1280 x 720) movies are output and recorded by the image sensor at 60p.

Panasonic DMC-FZ100 with microphoneThe AVCHD format works best for viewing on a VIERA TV, HDTVs or with a DIGA recorder or Blu-ray player and features almost twice the recording time in HD quality than the conventional Motion JPEG.

The Motion JPEG format works best for viewing or editing on a computer.

Another big improvement on the older FZ cameras is that there is now a special, separate button on the top of the camera that lets you instantly start recording movies while shooting photos without any having to make any setting changes. The 24x optical zoom is also available in movie recording and the mechanism has been designed to minimize the noise of auto focusing or even zooming.

Panasonic DMC-FZ100 LCD Screen Positions3.0-inch Free-angle LCD

For me one of the biggest drawbacks to the older FZ cameras from Panasonic when compared to many of the other superzooms on the market was that the LCD screen was always exposed, which made it easy to damage or scratch and it was fixed, so in certain light conditions, it was unable to use.

Not any more: The DMC-FZ100 has a 3.0-inch "free-angle" LCD that rotates 180° to the side and tilts 270° up and down, and gives you almost the full field of view. This is a highly useful feature for taking self shots and high-angle shots, like when you need to shoot over the heads of people. It also helps with framing for artistic low-angle shots, like when shooting a dungbeetle at ground level! It's extremely convenient when shooting with a tripod too and you can store it in the closed position, protecting it from damage.

Cost & Where to Buy

Another one of the main advantages of a SuperZoom camera like the FZ100 versus a digital SLR is the much lower cost:

UK Shoppers UK Shoppers
Buy this camera in the UK:

US Shoppers US Shoppers
Buy this camera in the USA:

 

Panasonic FZ100 vs FZ38 (FZ35)

At first glance the Panasonic FZ100 camera looks very similar to the older FZ38 (FZ35). But the main differences are important ones: more powerful optical zoom, much higher resolution image capture, a rotating LCD screen, movie recording in full HD, wider aperture range and a 25mm ultra wide angle lens.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 14.1 MP Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38

Zoom tele (T): 600mm (24x)
Wide-angle: 25mm
Aperture range: F2.8 - F5.4
Continuous Drive: 11fps & 60fps in burst mode
ISO rating:
Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, Intelligent ISO

Zoom tele (T): 486mm (18x)
Wide-angle: 27mm
Aperture range: F2.8 - F4.4
Continuous Drive: 2.3 fps 5 images

ISO rating:

Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

Max Res: 4320 x 3240
Effective pixels: 14.1 million

Max Res: 4000 x 3000
Effective pixels: 12.1 million

Max Movie: 1920 x 1080 (FSH: 17Mbps / FH:13Mbps)

Max Movie: 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps

Dimensions: 124x82x95mm
Weight (+ batteries): 540g (19 oz)

Dimensions: 118x76x89mm
Weight (+ batteries): 397g (14 oz)


In Conclusion

I have already spoken at length what I believe makes the best digital camera to take on safari as well as the pros and cons of a Digital SLR camera vs a Compact Superzoom, so I won't go into it in detail here, but if you do decide on purchasing a superzoom, I highly recommend this latest offering from Panasonic: In my opinion it is currently the best digital superzoom camera on the market and is ideal as a travel and safari camera.


Video Review of the Lumix DMC-FZ100

Below is Panasonics official video for the Lumix DMC-FZ100, that mentions most of the camera's highlights.


Alternatives

If you are looking for a cheaper option I highly recommend looking at the Panasonic FZ45 (FZ40) that has many of the features of the FZ100, including the 24x zoom, yet is about £100 / $100 cheaper. See link below:


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 (FZ40)

The successor to the very popular FZ38 (FZ35) from Panasonic, comes with a more powerful 24x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent 600mm), much higher 14.1 MP image resolution, faster auto focus and movie recording in full HD. Cheaper than the FZ100, yet with many of it's features it makes the ideal superzoom camera for those on a budget.

>> Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 (FZ40) Digital Camera


Other options also include the more powerful Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR full on bridge camera and the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS.

Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXRFujifilm FinePix HS20EXR

The successor to the very popular FinePix HS10 from Fujifilm, comes very powerful Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR with it's 30x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent 720mm), much higher 16 MP image resolution, faster auto focus and movie recording in full 1080p HD. This camera has to be one of the very best for taking with you on any safari holiday.

>> Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR Camera Review


Canon PowerShot SX30 ISCanon PowerShot SX30 IS

This superzoom bridge camera from Canon, the PowerShot SX30 IS features a massive 35x zoom (35mm equivalent of a 24-840mm lens) and loads of other features including full 720p HD video recording, excellent image stabilization and a vari-angle 2.7 inch LCD display.

>> Canon PowerShot SX30 IS Digital Camera


Related Articles

Below are some more articles that you may also find useful:

The Best Digital Superzoom cameras for SafarisThe Best Compact Superzoom Cameras for Safari

If you do decide that a superzoom compact camera, rather than a digital SLR, here is our guide to the best compact super zoom safari cameras. Includes features to look out for and review of the top two cameras with a side by side comparison.

>> Best Safari Camera (compact superzooms)



Telephoto Conversion LensesTelephoto Conversion Lenses

Turn your Turn your SuperZoom Camera into a MegaZoom Camera, a guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ100, DMC-FZ38 (FZ35), DMC-FZ28 & DMC-FZ18 Digital Cameras. Including what telephoto lenses fit the Panasonic cameras, which ones to get and example photographs

>> Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ



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Telephoto Conversion Lenses Telephoto Lenses for Panasonic Digital Cameras

Guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses like the 2.2x Raynox DCR-2025PRO for superzoom bridge cameras like the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR and the Panasonic DMC-FZ100, FZ45 (FZ40), & FZ38 Digital Cameras. Learn how a telephoto lense can turn your SuperZoom camera into a MegaZoom camera, bringing the action ever closer to you. >> more


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The very powerful Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR with it's 42x optical zoom (1000mm equivalent), very high quality 16 MP image resolution, super fast auto focus and movie recording in full 1080p HD at 60fps. This camera has to be one of the very best safari holiday cameras on the market.

For more information read the full review of the Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR Bridge Camera >>


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Steiner Safari BinocularsAfter your camera, a good pair of binoculars is crucial in getting the most out of your Safari Holiday. So what is a good pair of binoculars? Here is my binocular guide and recommendations >> Binocular Reviews

 

 

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