For those who like more control, the FZ100 does offer aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual shooting modes. Apertures are f2.8-8 wide and 5.2-8 telephoto. Shutter speeds go from 60 seconds to 1/2,000 second. There is a manual mode for shooting movies. There's a Program mode, too, should you want to adjust aspects like ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation, but not worry about shutter speed and aperture settings.
For those who like to shoot close-ups, the FZ100 can focus as close as 0.4 inch to a subject. A switch on the lens barrel lets you quickly switch to macro autofocus or manual focus.
If you shoot a lot of moving subjects, namely children, pets, and sports, the FZ100's multiple burst shooting options give you a lot of flexibility and a fighting chance of getting a good photo. Its fastest burst modes--40 and 60 frames per second--are at reduced resolutions, but Panasonic packed in three at full resolution. There's one that captures up to 15 shots at 11fps, but that sets focus, exposure, and white balance with the first shot. What's better are the 2fps and 5fps options that set those things with each shot so you're able to get a subject moving moderately fast in focus and properly exposed. The camera's high-speed shooting also allows for a few handy bracketing options. You can shoot in three different white balances, flash intensities, and exposures.
Other aspects of the FZ100's shooting performance are excellent as well. Shutter lag is low at 0.4 second and 0.8 second in bright and dim lighting, respectively. From shot to shot without the flash you're waiting only 0.9 second; adding the flash drags that time to 4 seconds and is really the only slowdown you'll find. The time from off to first shot is 1.5 seconds, which is above average for the camera's class, too. And again, shooting in raw or raw+JPEG had very little effect on performance.
On top of everything I've mentioned, the camera is well designed and generally nice to use. There's an ample hand grip so you can comfortably handle its 1.2-pound weight. The grip houses a memory card and a large rechargeable battery CIPA-rated for up to 410 shots. That's great, but don't expect to hit that number if you're doing a lot of burst shooting, zooming, capturing movies, or a combination thereof. On top along with the shutter release/zoom lever, power switch, and Mode dial is a one-touch record button for movies and one for quickly setting a burst mode.
On back below the small but serviceable electronic viewfinder is a flip-out, rotating 3-inch LCD. To its left are the main controls for menu navigation and shooting. They're all well spaced and easy to press, and there's a jog dial for quickly changing things like aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. However, because of the abundant feature set it's all too easy to get lost trying to find a setting in Panasonic's menu systems. It's not insurmountable, but if you frequently make changes it can quickly become frustrating.
It seems you get a lot of extras with the FZ100, too. The rotating LCD is nice, but there's also the hot shoe on top for adding different flash units. There are conversion lenses and filters available for it, and a mic/remote socket on the left allows you to add those accessories as well. Panasonic even includes a lens hood. All in all, it's just a solid package.
It's been difficult to find a full-size megazoom worth recommending this year--mostly because expectations seem to be different from one user to the next. Those most concerned about how the photos look directly from the camera at all ISOs, and less about shooting speed, should go with the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. But the most complete package is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100. It just takes a bit more effort to get very good photos from it above ISO 200.
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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