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 $1,199 Lumix TS200 comes in. It features a 20.1 megapixel 3cm sensor, 5-axis image stabilisation, and a price tag that's almost $300 less than it's biggest competition, the Sony RX100 Mark V. Unlike the Sony, the TS200 sports a touch-enabled 8cm 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 TS100.
Yet where the TS200 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 travelling and hoping to snap pics of a bird or monkey in the distance.
Not bad view for such a small cam shooting something across the street.
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 new GX9 should be available around the same time as the ZS200 too.
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 recently, featuring the same 20.1-MP resolution but with an interchangeable micro four thirds lens system.