At the beginning of January, I was among the first journalists to bring you quick preview of the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100. The camera looked very promising and finally I got a production sample for a week to play with. I was very anxious to check if the camera lived to its expectations and to find out if this might be the best travel camera of 2016.
Recently I had the chance to try the new pre-production Panasonic Leica 100-400mm F/4-6.3 lens. Now it’s officially announced and I can give you a quick hands-on preview. This lens covers 200-800mm range in 35mm equivalent, weighs just under a kilogram and is only 17cm long – good luck finding a lens like this on full frame. This will be a perfect sports, wildlife and birds lens for micro 4/3 users.
Panasonic just announced the new pocket ultra-zoom: the Lumix DMC-TZ100. I had the chance to try the pre-production model and it looks quite promising. Main selling point of this camera will be large 1″ type sensor combined with the 10x optical zoom. Sensors of this size are found in Sony RX100, RX10, Canon G7X and Panasonic TZ1000 cameras. It has 20 megapixels and because of its size will offer superior low light performance compared to compact cameras with smaller sensors. Until now all compact cameras with a sensor as big as this one had limited zoom range – 3 or 4 times. Panasonic TZ100 has 10x optical zoom – 25-250mm in 35 mm terms and this might just be the reason to buy it for many photographers. This is more versatile zoom range than the one found on Sony RX100 and the camera is still small enough to fit in a pocket.
It’s the time of year when a lot of people get new gear, so it’s time for a shopping guide. What makes this article different from most of similar ones is that I will recommend gear I have reviewed personally and liked it enough that I would consider buying it myself. That means I will skip a lot of good cameras because they have something that would bother me if I had them; it doesn’t mean cameras not listed here suck: they are just not to my personal taste. If for some camera category I think there are no good cameras I will simply recommend avoiding purchase and saving the money towards something better.
I will focus down to what is available on the market right now and at current price points. That means some good but currently in my opinion overpriced cameras might not be recommended at all. Sorry but for most of us money dictates what we can afford.
Panasonic GX8 is the latest and beside GH4 the most advanced Panasonic mirrorless to date. With the current price of around 1200 USD without the lens it is not what one might call affordable, but in return offers a rather unique set of features some of which are not found anywhere else. It is still the only camera with tilting electronic viewfinder what turned out be a great feature I used all the time. Build qulity is superb and includes weather sealed magnesium body with a wide range of manual controls most of which are fully customizable. Fully articulated LCD has touch control and uses OLED technology just like EVF. GX8 offer 4k video straigh out of the camera as well as full range of manual video controls. A detail that might be most interesting is the fact it has on sensor stabilization which can work together with in lens stabilization. If you allready have Olympus micro 4/3 lenses (which are not stabilized – Olympus uses only on-sensor stabilization) or a huge set of old manual legacy lenses, GX8 can stabilize all of them. The camera is extremely fast in operation – both in terms of auto focus and overall response and can operate in full silent mode – essential for street photography. Anyway, take a look at my detailed video review:
And click continue reading to see some image samples:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 (ZS40 in North America) is what I like to call compact ultra-zoom. Inside its thin body there is a 30x optical zoom (24-720mm) and 18 megapixel sensor. Besides a 3-inch LCD, TZ60 has an electronic viewfinder what is still a rare detail in this camera category. You can use it in full automatic exposure mode, but it still offers complete manual controls, RAW file format and 1080/60p video mode. Built-in GPS will appeal to travelers as is the case with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Please allow me a spoiler from the very start. Every few months I get a camera for a review which I would rather not return afterwards and Panasonic GH4 is one of those. If you owned at least several cameras, you probably know the feeling when you take new camera for the first time and simply fall in love with it from the very start. That’s how I felt about the GH4. Pretty much everything on GH4 feels and works just the way I like. GH4′s key features include 16 megapixel sensor, 4K video recording, 2.36 million dot electronic viewfinder and 12 fps burst rate inside a light weather sealed magnesium alloy body.
What now seems a really long time ago (~ 10 years) there was a type of digital cameras called “prosumer”. Models like Canon Pro1, Olympus C8080 or Sony F828 were typical representatives of this category. These were relatively big and expensive cameras packed with advanced features, excellent optics and above average image quality. But still all of them used really small 1/2.3 image sensors what was responsible for not-that-great image quality compared to DSLR cameras with APS-C sensors. As soon as affordable DSLR cameras ($1000 or less) appeared, prosumer cameras silently disappeared from the market. After all, who would want to buy a big camera with the small sensor when there are far better DSLR options for the same or even lower price?
Times change and Smartphone cameras gradually became better and better. For most people, image quality delivered by 8 megapixel Smartphone is more than enough and the whole digital cameras market rapidly decreased. Camera manufacturers found themselves in a problem; nobody was buying compacts anymore and they finally realized there is still a small but constant demand for prosumer cameras: the ones that deliver high image quality but can’t exchange lenses. A lot of amateurs are afraid of interchangeable lens cameras since they feel obligated to buy more and more gear they do not understand or want.
True prosumer revival started last year with the Sony DSC-RX10. But this time, small 1/2.3 sensor would not suffice and Sony used large 1″ (13.2 x 8.8 mm) sensor with 20 megapixels. Image quality delivered by this camera was comparable to DSLR for many amateur users and there was only one lens with perfect focal range (24-200) and constant aperture of F/2.8. RX10 can work in full AUTO mode, or you can take control over numerous advanced features. RX10 was an instant hit and was only the question of time someone would produce something similar or even better.
So now we have the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000. It uses the same 1″ 20 megapixels sensor, has even more optical zoom: 25-400mm F/2.8-4, 4K video and all the bells and whistles you can pack in a digital cameras these days. And oh yes; it is cheaper from the start so Sony had to reduce RX10 price to around $1000 to make them both cost around the same.
So if you are wondering is there a particular reason why I wrote the longest intro to a review on my blog… yes there is. FZ1000 deserves it since this is one of the best products this year. I’ve gone into details about FZ1000 on the next pages and even if you have no interest in reading all of it, skip to page 4 to see direct comparison and image samples from both FZ1000 and RX10.
Lumix DMC-GM1 is the smallest mirrorless camera on the market, especially when used with collapsible 12-32mm kit lens or with Panasonic and Olympus pancake prime lenses. Despite that, it is a full featured interchangeable lens camera stuffed with loads of features and some of them are really unique like 1/16000 shutter speed, completely silent operation, time-lapse and stop-motion video and many more. It uses micro 4/3 lens mount what means it accept around 40 lenses from Panasonic and Olympus with full auto-focus support.