In our Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 review (it’s ZS in the USA, and TZ everywhere else), we’re going to take a look at what might be the best travel camera you can buy. The Lumix ZS200 represents a winning combination for the travel photographer, offering the image quality of a 1-inch sensor, and big zoom range, in a small, pocketable body.
The Lumix ZS200 was announced in 2018, and, four years later, there’s still no other combination quite like it on the market. There are other cameras with big zooms, like the Nikon Coolpix P1000, and there are other premium compacts with larger sensors, like the Sony RX100 series. But very few cameras offer all of that at once.
In fact, the biggest “competition” for the Lumix ZS200, for those thinking of buying one, would likely be Panasonic’s own predecessor to it, Lumix ZS100, which has the same sensor but a shorter zoom range. There's a reason the Panasonic Lumix ZS200 tops our guide to the best point-and-shoot cameras. Its 1-inch sensor puts it ahead of even the best camera phones in terms of image quality.
But packing all this imaging tech into a small body is inevitably going to come with compromises. The best cameras tend to have larger sensors, better high-ISO performance, more sophisticated autofocus systems – all the luxuries you can pack into a bigger body.
So does the Lumix ZS200 manage to thread the needle, or fall under the weight of its own ambitions? I’ve used a Lumix ZS200 for travel and day-to-day photography, and I've always been impressed by what a useful little Swiss army knife of a camera it is. But time marches on, and 2018 was a while ago. Does the Panasonic Lumix ZS200 still hold up? Let's find out in our revisited Panasonic Lumix ZS200 review.
• 20.1MP 1-inch CMOS sensor
• 24-360mm equivalent f/ 3.3-6.4 Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens
• 49-area contrast-detect autofocus system,
• 10fps continuous shooting (30fps at 8MP with 4K Burst mode)
• 3-inch, 1,240k-dot fixed LCD
• Electronic viewfinder with 2,330k dots and approx. 100% coverage
• 111 x 66 x 45 mm
• 349g (with battery and memory card)
Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 review: build and handling
The previous Lumix ZS100 was lauded for its slim, pocketable body, but it wasn’t (and isn’t) the easiest camera to hold. There’s not a whole lot to grip onto, and it’s hard to shake a feeling of dread that you’re about to drop it. In response, the Lumix ZS200 adds a small but extremely welcome protruding handgrip to the right-hand side of the camera. It doesn’t stick out too much, and doesn’t have an enormous impact on how easy the camera is to stow in a bag or pocket, but it’s amazing what a difference it makes.
The Lumix ZS200 is a lot more comfortable to use and hold for long periods. The trade-off is that it’s a little heavier than some other point-and-shoots, but 349g is hardly going to spark many complaints.
Control-wise, the Lumix ZS200 handles well. The customisable control ring on the lens continues to be a lovely inclusion – I religiously keep mine set to aperture control, but other settings are available. The touch LCD is bright and high-quality – though it’s a shame it’s fixed in place, as a moveable screen can be handy for getting shots from unusual angles. The electronic viewfinder is a nice inclusion, but it’s a little small. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably gravitate towards composing via the screen without consciously deciding to do so.
Panasonic Lumix ZS200/TZ200 review: performance
When using the Lumix ZS200, it’s easy to feel like the world is your oyster. That lovely long zoom range means you can go from a wide perspective to a super-telephoto in the work of moments, and image quality impresses across the range. There’s a little softness at the very longest end of the lens, but only enough to worry about if you’re making prints or doing anything else with images other than posting them online – which you probably aren’t with a camera like this.
Panasonic has done the work of addressing complaints with previous Lumix ZS cameras, and it shows. The battery life of the Lumix ZS200 is much better than it was on the Lumix ZS100 – CIPA-rated to 370 shots (when using the screen rather than the viewfinder) as opposed to the previously rather meagre 300, which is much better for a day spent sightseeing.
Image quality from the 1-inch sensor is good in both JPEG and RAW formats, with punchy colours and a good level of detail. However, that longer lens had to come with some form of trade-off, and in this case it’s a slower maximum aperture of f/3.3, compared to f/2.8 on the Lumix ZS100. This makes the camera less capable in low light, forcing you to nudge up the ISO more often, and its high-ISO performance is about as okay-ish as you’d expect for a compact of this class; it’s fine up until about ISO 6400, and beyond that gets murky quite quickly. To be honest, you’re better off shooting at a low ISO in RAW and then lightening the image in post.
Panasonic Lumix ZS200/TZ200 review: video
As is standard on contemporary Lumix cameras, the ZS200 has an abundance of 4K video modes and capabilities, and these synergise well with the photography modes to make for a true hybrid camera. There’s the 4K Photo mode, which allows you to extract 8MP stills from 4K 30p footage, effectively giving you a 30fps burst mode. Plus, there’s the futuristically trippy 4K Post Focus mode, which allows you to select the focus point of a shot after it has been taken (it does this by recording a second of 4K video with a rapidly shifting focus point, if you’re curious).
Quality wise, the video is… fine. It’s fine. There’s a pretty nasty 1.5x crop when you’re shooting in 4K, and the footage is noisier than comparable compacts like Sony’s RX100 cameras, but for quick clips to share on Instagram or wherever else, it’ll do the job well enough. It’s not really one of the best vlogging cameras – there’s no mic port, for one thing – but the video is adequate.
Panasonic Lumix ZS200/TZ200 review: verdict
When the ZS200 first arrived, a lot of the chat around it was focused on the pricing. A few people said that with an RRP of $799/£729, it was priced a little too steeply. With some reservations, I’d have to agree. It’s a great little camera, as we’ve seen, with loads of neat features and the capacity to create fantastic images, but $800 can buy you a decent amount of hardware in the camera world if you know what you’re looking for.
A few years down the line, $100 or so has come off the street price, and suddenly the Lumix ZS200 looks like a much more enticing prospect. It does everything you want in a travel zoom, and does so in a body that’s perfect for slipping into a bag or pocket and taking on an adventure.
As we've seen, the only comparable alternative to the Lumix ZS200 – i.e., something with this long a lens in this small a body – is the Lumix ZS100, which is still widely available. Which one you go for is really more about preference than one being materially “better” than the other. If you want a wider aperture for low-light work, or would like to save $100 (and who wouldn't), go the Lumix ZS100. If you want a longer lens, a better battery and more comfortable grip, the Lumix ZS200 is your buy.
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