The FZ100 is, to say the least, packed with features, although it does share many of them with the FZ45. Like the FZ45 it has a control interface that is mid-way between that of an SLR and a compact camera. It has a large mode dial on the top panel offering a full range of manual exposure controls as well as a comprehensive selection of scene modes and a user-defined custom setting. Exposure adjustment is made via a DSLR-style data wheel on the back panel, while menu selection and navigation is via a conventional D-pad next to the monitor.
As well as its 24x zoom lens and large, sharp articulated monitor it also features a new sensor, a high-speed 14.1-megapixel MOS chip with a maximum resolution of 4320 x 3240 pixels, coupled to Panasonic’s advanced Venus Engine FHD processor. This gives the FZ100 faster performance than the FZ45, shooting 15 frames at 11fps and full resolution, as well as other high-speed continuous shooting options at lower resolution settings. The FZ100 also features Panasonic’s Intelligent Resolution technology, which sharpens up edges and improves detail under digital zoom. This can be used in both still and video mode to extend the zoom range to 32x with minimal loss of quality.
The FZ100 has the same manual control options as the FZ45, including full tone control with selectable film type pre-sets, each of which can be customised for saturation, contrast, sharpness and noise reduction. Shutter speeds from 60 seconds to 1/2000th of a second are available, as well as up to three stops of aperture control, with a minimum aperture of f/8.0.
In addition to its manual options the FZ100 has a wide range of automatic settings, with multiple scene modes available on the mode dial. Each of these has several sub-settings, so for example the Sports mode has settings for indoor, outdoor and “creative”, which allows manual shutter speed control. As well as this the camera has Panasonic’s usual iAuto mode, which uses a wide array of advanced systems to ensure the best possible picture with minimum input. Menu options in this mode are very limited, and the is no manual control.
The main feature that sets the FZ100 apart from the FZ45 is its video recording mode, activated by a dedicated button on the top panel just behind the shutter button. It can shoot in full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution at 50 interlaced frames per second (50i, or 60i for the NTSC version), recording the results in the high-quality AVCHD format. Sound is recorded in stereo via twin microphones mounted on top of the flash housing. Autofocus can be used while recording, as can full optical zoom. The optical image stabilisation also works in video mode. Both video and audio quality are excellent, although the zoom motor can be heard quite clearly on the soundtrack.