Panasonic is taking a swing at the extremely young 4K point-and-shoot market with a new $699 camera called the Lumix ZS100, which was announced today at CES.
The new Lumix ZS100 is a welcome and generous improvement on the ZS50, which Panasonic debuted at last year's show. It has a 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor (the ZS50 used a 12.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor), and a new, brighter f2.8-5.9 Leica lens.
But the flashiest feature is the addition of 4K video recording. It's not something everyone needs or wants, but finding it in a package as small as this is a selling point for those who are looking. Panasonic has tough competition in the Sony RX100, which gained the ability to shoot in 4K earlier this year. Plus, Sony's been making these cameras for a few years; the version released this summer was the company's fourth iteration, so Sony's been refining the formula for a while.
It's not easy to find 4K in cameras this small
Where Panasonic might have a slight advantage is that the Lumix ZS100 has five-axis optical image stabilization. Not only does that reduce camera shake, but it also makes it easier to shoot both photos and video in low light without the help of a tripod. Making a camera easier to use with just your hands is important when a camera's main selling points is that it's pocket-sized and portable. Sony's camera does have optical image stabilization, but it's not available when shooting 4K.
The ZS100's $699 price tag will undercut Sony's shooter by a few hundred dollars when it hits retail shelves in March. But that affordability comes at a price. For one, the electronic viewfinder is half the resolution of Sony's (1.1 million dots versus 2.36 million), and it's physically smaller too. (I found it tricky to line my eye up just right to the EVF during my brief time with it.) The RX100 also has a brighter f1.8-2.8 lens.
One of the biggest differences between the two cameras is that Panasonic's 3-inch touchscreen is fixed. Sony's can flip out and even up 180 degrees, which is part of why it's become so popular with YouTube users and vloggers.
The ability to shoot 4K video is still a pretty niche feature, but there is a definite hunger for it, even more so when it comes to pocket-sized cameras. And as a still camera, the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 should also measure up nicely. Panasonic showed some sample images during the company's briefing that registered impressive dynamic range, color reproduction, and detail — especially for a 1-inch sensor. It's powerful, too, offering a burst mode of 10 frames per second, a 10X optical zoom (for a 35mm equivalent range of 25mm-250mm), and in-camera RAW editing.