Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 Review
- Main Features
- Cost & Where to Buy
- Panasonic FZ100 vs FZ38
- Video Review
- Further Reading
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.
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.
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.
Tele 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
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.
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.
The 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.
3.0-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.
Another one of the main advantages of a SuperZoom camera like the FZ100 versus a digital SLR is the much lower cost:
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
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38
Zoom tele (T): 600mm (24x)
Zoom tele (T): 486mm (18x)
Max Res: 4320 x 3240
Max Res: 4000 x 3000
Max Movie: 1920 x 1080 (FSH: 17Mbps / FH:13Mbps)
Max Movie: 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps
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.
Below is Panasonics official video for the Lumix DMC-FZ100, that mentions most of the camera's highlights.
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:
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.
Other options also include the more powerful Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR full on bridge camera and the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS.
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.
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.
Below are some more articles that you may also find useful:
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)
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
What to Take on Safari
This page is part of a series of posts on what to take on safari, for further reading try:
Search the Safari Holiday Guide
Best Cameras for Safari
My guide to the best digital cameras for travel and wildlife photography. Including the best camera to take on Safari, bird photography and where you can buy cheap digital cameras >> more
Telephoto Conversion Lenses
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
Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR Review
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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After 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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