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Review PANASONIC TZ200

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The Panasonic TZ200 is a compact camera with a large, 1-inch sensor. These types of cameras are very popular and are also marketed by Canon and Sony. What makes the TZ200 different from the other 1" models is the big zoom range and built-in viewfinder in an extremely compact body. For travel photographers or just for anyone looking for a good almost-all-in-one camera that fits in a pocket, this is probably the ideal camera.

P1010399The Panasonic TZ200 is the successor to the still available TZ100. That was the first compact camera with a 1" sensor, a big zoom range and a built-in viewfinder. The TZ200 has an even bigger zoom range and a slightly larger viewfinder. With the TZ100 and the TZ200, Panasonic had this class almost entirely to itself. The arrival of the Sony RX100 VI certainly creates some competition. The Sony is more expensive, but also faster and has a brighter lens. But the zoom range of the Panasonic TZ200 is almost twice as big, and for the price difference, you can easily spend one or two weeks on holiday to get beautiful pictures in a nice location.

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Panasonic TZ200 versus TZ100

The Panasonic TZ100 was the first compact camera that seemed to have everything: a large 1" sensor, a lens with a large range in the telephoto area and a (little) viewfinder. The TZ200 retains the compact dimensions, but adds a cherry on top. The zoom range of the TZ100 of 25-250mm (equivalent) has been increased to 24-360mm. As a result, the brightness has also decreased by about half a stop (from f/2.8-5.9 to f/3.3-6.4), but the good news is that the optical quality of the lens has remained about the same. The electronic viewfinder is a bit bigger, the resolution is slightly higher, and you get about 20% more pictures per battery charge according to CIPA standards. The TZ200 is a millimeter taller and thicker and less than 30 grams heavier. The price difference between the TZ100 and the TZ200 is not very big either. We would therefore always opt for the TZ200, unless you are really on a tight budget.

Panasonic TZ200 versus FZ2000

A comparison between the TZ200 and the FZ2000 seems strange at first. The FZ2000, which we also tested , is much larger. Yet both cameras have the same 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor. The difference in size is mainly due to the lens. The range of the FZ2000 is just a bit longer at 480mm (equivalent) than that of the TZ200. The big difference is mainly in the brightness. That is much higher on the FZ2000. This allows you to get better shots with the FZ2000 in low light, and you are bothered less from sharpness loss due to diffraction. The image quality of the FZ2000 is therefore somewhat higher. And as a bonus, you also get more extensive video options and built-in gray filters. The FZ2000, however, cannot simply be stuffed in your pocket anymore. So if that is really important, the FZ2000 is automatically off the list.

Panasonic TZ200 versus Sony RX100 VI

With the introduction of the Sony RX100 VI, there has been some competition from Sony in this segment. Of course, with the RX10 models, Sony also had a camera with a 1" sensor, a viewfinder and a non-interchangeable lens. But a lot of TZ200's fit into an RX10. The RX10 is compared to the TZ200 or RX100 is just a very hefty camera and falls into a whole different class. Sony has made a number of different choices with the RX100 VI than Panasonic. The zoom range of the RX100 VI is almost twice as large at 24-200 mm as on the first generations of RX100s, but in telephoto it is still only half of what the TZ200 achieves. On the other hand, the RX100 VI in the wide-angle position is half a stop brighter, and in the telephoto, even one and a half stops. We do not have a review of the RX100 VI yet, but it is almost unavoidable that the RX100 VI will suffer less from diffraction and will therefore achieve a slightly better image quality. Furthermore, the RX100 has a larger, non-sequential viewfinder with a higher resolution. You have to manually fold out that viewfinder. For all that beauty, you pay a hefty price with Sony. The camera is just under twice as expensive as the TZ200. The TZ200 performs well, has a much larger zoom range and a very good price-to-quality ratio. Anyone who is just looking for a nice camera that needs to fit in a pocket, jacket pocket or handbag and yet offers a big range and good quality has a good camera with the TZ200. We see the Sony RX100 VI more as a model for the advanced photographer who wants to get the most out of a camera and understands that this is only possible if you give up part of the zoom range of the TZ200.

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Panasonic TZ200: LITTLE CAMERA, BIG sensor

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At the longest focal length, the TZ200 looks impressively different than during transport.

The Panasonic TZ200 looks almost like the twin of the TZ100. It is one millimeter taller and one millimeter thicker and has a better grip. It's good that the zoom lens, despite the increased zoom range, still disappears completely into the body. That keeps the Panasonic TZ200 so compact and ensures that you can still put it in your pocket in the off-position. The lens itself consists of 13 lens elements in 11 groups with a whole range of aspherical and extra-low dispersion elements for the best possible image quality. The viewfinder is built-in. It does not have to be folded out separately like on the Sonys and does not protrude. The camera has a built-in flash, which of course only works well at short distances. As said before, the TZ200 is a compact camera, and you notice that in the small buttons. For someone with big fingers, they are not easy to operate. Fortunately, there is the great touch-screen interface from Panasonic, so you can do a lot of the operation via the screen. This is often also more intuitive and faster than via push buttons. You can change the most important settings of the camera with the dials on the top and the ring around the lens. The latter gives the TZ200 a very classic feeling. The TZ200 has two ports on the side: an HDMI port for connecting the camera to a television or monitor and a USB port that you can also use to charge the camera. That's great when you're on the go and your battery is almost empty. Compact cameras also have compact batteries. Surprisingly enough, you can get 370 shots with the TZ200, and that's 70 more than with the TZ100.

SCREEN AND VIEWFINDER

Compared to its predecessor, the TZ200 has a slightly larger viewfinder image, and the resolution has doubled. That is not to say that it has suddenly become a big viewfinder. The TZ200 is a small camera, and that is also reflected in the viewfinder image. But a small viewfinder also has big advantages. You can, for example, adjust the diopter to your eye, so that you also have a sharp image without (reading) glasses, even if you only want to adjust the menus or view photos. That is not possible with the rear screen. Furthermore, a viewfinder is actually indispensable for photographing well in full sunlight. And with the viewfinder against your face, you also hold the camera better than when you use the screen. As a result, you are less affected by motion blur, and that is what you need on a camera with so much zoom range. The viewfinder is the sequential type, which means that it does not show the three colors of which the image is built up - red, green and blue - simultaneously, but next to each other. Some people do not like this. If possible, try the camera to find out if you belong to that group. The screen is fixed and therefore cannot rotate or tilt. The TZ200 is therefore not an ideal camera for vlogging or selfies. The screen is touch-sensitive. You can thus easily set the menu with it, and it is also useful for browsing through the photos you have taken.

Menus AND functiON BUTTONS

DC TZ200EG K USBYou charge the Panasonic TZ200 without an external battery charger, by connecting the camera to a charger or computer with a USB connection.

Panasonic has had a reasonably clear menu system for years, and it can also be operated very easily via the touchscreen. With the screen, you can scroll through the tabs easier and faster than with the buttons. The camera has a number of programmable function keys so that you can assign options that you use a lot to a button. A nice addition to this system are the function buttons that you can call up on the side of the screen. Via the touchscreen, you can quickly connect to your smartphone in this way without having to really enter the menu. Once you have connected the camera to a phone, making a second connection is really easy. Via the app on your phone, you can then easily send photos or operate the camera. And in this way, you can even do vlogging or take selfies with the TZ200, if you want to.

IMAGE QUALITY

The image quality of the Panasonic TZ200 is a combination of the excellent performance of the big 1" sensor and the reasonably performing zoom lens. To keep a lens with such a huge zoom range so compact, you will have to make some compromises here and there, and that is reflected in the image quality. This is reasonable and will be more than sufficient for the average user who is mainly looking for the ease of use and the flexibility that the TZ200 offers. If you want to get the most out of this sensor, Panasonic offers the FZ2000. That camera has an even bigger range and a good lens, but is also bigger, heavier and more expensive. Read the review here of the FZ2000.  You can buy the TZ200 if you want a really compact camera. The sharpness of the TZ200 remains, in particular the telephoto, despite the big sensor, not much above that of the better compacts with a smaller sensor, and it lags slightly behind that of the FZ2000. Because the lens is not very bright, you will soon suffer from diffraction, making the image softer. Actually, you will immediately lose sharpness as a result of diffraction from full aperture as soon as you close the aperture. And that certainly applies for the longest zoom position. A 1" sensor has a conversion factor of approximately 2.8. The full aperture of the TZ200 at its longest zoom position is f/6.4. That corresponds approximately to f/17 on a full-frame camera, and that is usually one stop too far on full-frame cameras when it comes to optimum image quality. You will experience less trouble with this in the wide-angle position and the shorter telephotos. So try to use that longest zoom position only if it really cannot be avoided. That is not to say that the bigger sensor offers no advantages. With sufficient light, you will have less noise, and the dynamic range is better than that of cameras with a smaller sensor. And that certainly gives you some extra leeway when photographing in RAW and editing the images yourself.

COLOR REPRODUCTION, DYNAMIC RANGE AND NOISE

One of the big advantages of compact cameras with a large sensor, and 1" for this type of camera is very large, is that the dynamic range is usually better than with cameras with a smaller sensor. That is also the case with the TZ200. Thanks to the bigger sensor and the corresponding dynamic range, you can handle situations with high contrast more easily than with competing cameras with a small sensor. Shadows are more recoverable in post-processing, and, with careful exposure, highlights bleach out less quickly. Panasonic has recently worked a lot on the color reproduction. You can see that in the shots from, for example, the Panasonic G9. And you can also see that with the TZ200. The colors are more natural and show less incorrect tinting than the aforementioned models. Those who shoot mostly in jpeg will certainly appreciate that. In addition to a better dynamic range, a lower noise level is one of the major advantages of the 1" sensor compared to conventional smaller sensors in compact cameras. The sensor of the TZ200 is a model that is used not only in the TZ100 but also in other bridge cameras from Panasonic. It is a great sensor with indeed little noise. You only have to take into account that you will have to increase your ISO values faster because of the fairly low brightness of the lens. And that in turn has a negative influence on the noise. If you shoot on a nice sunny day and you can use the lowest sensitivity, then the performance of the TZ200 is excellent. Despite the large sensor, it is not the best camera for low-light shots because of the slightly lower brightness. If you photograph indoors, then opt for the wide-angle position and avoid zooming in too much.

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VIDEO

The Panasonic TZ200 can film in 4K and full HD. We expect no less now, at least not from Panasonic. The image quality of the 4K recordings looks good, but cannot match the recordings that you can make with the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Panasonic. The image is comparatively less clean and also less sharp. Of course, that is especially noticeable when comparing the shots directly next to each other; those who only film with the TZ200 get a perfectly usable image that you can play full screen on a 4K television. What you have to take into account as a TZ200 user is that you do not use the entire sensor in 4K. The TZ200 has a 1.5x crop in 4K, so you have very little wide angle left. Those who want to zoom in on animals in the distance, for example, will see this as an advantage. If you want to be able to use the extreme wide angle, you will have to film in full HD. That's not a punishment, because the quality is excellent. Another advantage of filming in full HD is that you can also use the slow-motion mode. The camera then films at 120 frames per second and can display that 4x delayed. For the real filmmakers, the lack of a separate microphone and headphone input is a loss. Especially the fact that you cannot mount a separate microphone with a wind cap is a shame. When the wind blows, you will soon pick up wind noise with the built-in microphone. This is a choice that Panasonic has made to keep the camera compact and it is also somewhat logical. If you opt for a small camera, you will not soon take along an almost equally large microphone.

Autofocus

The Panasonic TZ200 makes use of Panasonic's DFD system, like all other new Panasonic cameras. This is a contrast-detection system that uses information from the lens to predict as well as possible the direction in which it needs to focus. In this respect, it looks a bit like phase detection. The autofocus works quickly and - as we are used to with contrast detection systems - very accurately. That does not make the TZ200 a real sports camera, despite the long zoom lens. If your subject moves fast in a fixed direction, the TZ200 has little difficulty with focusing. If the movements are unpredictable, the percentage of perfectly sharp images drops. The TZ00 also meets the requirements for photographing your children from the sidelines quite well. Just take a lot of pictures for safety and just throw away the less good shoots.

4K CAPABILITIES

Panasonic has been firmly committed to 4K Photo for years. With 4K Photo, you get an 8-megapixel jpeg file. You can make very fast series shots with which you can immediately review the images to see which one best captures the moment or shoot a series where the focus changes a little. It's also fun to take a photo that is composed of several shots where your subject keeps changing places. Preferably choose a background that is as neutral as possible. With these kind of images, sports photographers surprised the world a few years ago; now you can shoot them easily with a compact camera.

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ConclusiON: panasonic TZ200 REVIEW

PROS

  • Extended zoom range
  • Good image quality
  • Usable viewfinder
  • Light and compact
  • Good autofocus
  • Nice touch interface
  • Charge via USB

CONS

  • High resolution
  • Low brightness
  • Sequential viewfinder
  • No rotatable screen
  • No microphone or headphone connection
  • Crop when filming in 4K
  • Small buttons

Until the arrival of the Sony RX100 VI, the Panasonic TZ100 and TZ200 were a class unto themselves. The only really compact cameras with a large sensor, a big zoom range and a built-in viewfinder. On some points, the Sony trumps the Panasonic, but the zoom range of the TZ200 is still unrivaled, and the camera costs a lot less. For the difference, you can easily buy airline tickets for the whole family for a medium-length flight. If you really want that long telephoto and price is also important, and for those for whom that is not true, then the TZ200 is still on top in this segment.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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