The photos from most smartphones have gotten so good nowadays, they have basically killed the market for point-and-shoot cameras. That said sometimes you need a zoom. For people wanting to push image quality a little higher, there’s still value in a small, compact camera with a (relatively) big sensor and a long reach.
That’s exactly where Panasonic’s new $800 Lumix ZS200 comes in. It features a 20.1 megapixel 1-inch sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, and a price tag that’s $150 less than it’s biggest competition, the Sony RX100 Mark V. Unlike the Sony, the ZS200 sports a touch-enabled 3-inch rear LCD, while also adding a new handy control ring up front and retaining the built-in live view finder found on its predecessor, the ZS100.
Yet where the ZS200 really shines is with its f/3.3-6.4 Leica lens with a 15x zoom. That converts to a 35mm equivalent of 24-360mm, which is way longer than the 24-70mm zoom on the RX100. This makes the ZS200, on paper, a much better option for a people traveling and hoping to snap pics of a bird or monkey in the distance.
However, as a pure video cam, while both can record 4K footage at 30 fps, the ZS200 lags slightly behind the Sony as it’s limited to slow motion capture at 120fps at 1080p versus the Sony’s crazy 960 fps. The RX100 also has higher burst speeds and can shoot 24 frames per second, while the ZS200 tops out at 10fps full-res shots. Though if you don’t mind switching over to the ZS200's lower resolution 4K photo mode, you can bump the camera’s speed up to 30 fps.
One last feature Panasonic is touting on the ZS200 is the addition of the company’s new L.monochrome filter which supposedly adds truly random speckling to produce the closest thing to real film grain you can get on a digital camera. The effect was enough to have some of the older photo journalists at Panasonic’s demo oohing and awwing over some sample prints, but as someone who doesn’t have the same nostalgia for a bygone era, my reaction was a bit more muted.
The specs are impressive, but we won’t know more about how good a potential shooter it is until it’s available March 20 in either black or silver. And just in case Panasonic’s revamped travel cam doesn’t suit your fancy, the company also announced the GX9 today, featuring the same 20.1-MP resolution but with an interchangeable micro four thirds lens system for $1000 (not including lense).