Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic ZS100
The Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 (labelled Panasonic TZ100 in some countries) are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2010 and January 2016. The D3100 is a DSLR, while the ZS100 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D3100) and an one-inch (ZS100) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 14.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 20 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic ZS100 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the ZS100 is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, silver).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic ZS100 is considerably smaller (39 percent) than the Nikon D3100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3100 nor the ZS100 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the ZS100 has a lens built in, whereas the D3100 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D3100 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the D3100 gets 550 shots out of its EN-EL14 battery, while the ZS100 can take 300 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLG10 power pack. The power pack in the ZS100 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|2.||Panasonic ZS100||111 mm||65 mm||44 mm||312 g||300||n||Jan 2016||699|
|3.||Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|4.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|5.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|6.||Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|7.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|8.||Nikon D60||126 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|9.||Nikon D40X||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|10.||Nikon D40||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||n||Nov 2006||499|
|11.||Panasonic ZS200||111 mm||65 mm||45 mm||340 g||370||n||Feb 2018||799|
|12.||Panasonic LX10||106 mm||60 mm||42 mm||310 g||260||n||Sep 2016||699|
|13.||Sony RX100 V||102 mm||58 mm||41 mm||299 g||220||n||Oct 2016||999|
|14.||Sony RX100 III||102 mm||58 mm||41 mm||290 g||320||n||May 2014||799|
|15.||Sony RX100 II||102 mm||58 mm||38 mm||281 g||350||n||Jun 2013||749|
|16.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|17.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3100 features an APS-C sensor and the Panasonic ZS100 an one-inch sensor. The sensor area in the ZS100 is 67 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.7. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the ZS100 offers a higher resolution of 20 megapixels, compared with 14.2 MP of the D3100. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 2.41μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). However, it should be noted that the ZS100 is much more recent (by 5 years and 4 months) than the D3100, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Panasonic ZS100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the ZS100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 27.4 x 18.2 inches or 69.5 x 46.3 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 21.9 x 14.6 inches or 55.6 x 37.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 18.2 x 12.2 inches or 46.3 x 30.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3100 are 23 x 15.4 inches or 58.5 x 39 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 12.3 inches or 46.8 x 31.2 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 10.2 inches or 39 x 26 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D3100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 are ISO 125 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 80-25600.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|13.||Sony RX100 V||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||22.8||12.4||586||70|
|14.||Sony RX100 III||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.4||12.3||495||67|
|15.||Sony RX100 II||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.5||12.4||483||67|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the ZS100 provides a better video resolution than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the ZS100 has an electronic viewfinder (1166k dots), while the D3100 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the ZS100 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D3100 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the D3100 has a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3100 and Panasonic ZS100 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|13.||Sony RX100 V||2359||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/2000s||24.0||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony RX100 III||1440||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/2000s||10.0||Y||Y|
|15.||Sony RX100 II||optional||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/2000s||10.0||Y||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The ZS100 has a touchscreen, while the D3100 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the ZS100 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Panasonic ZS100 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D3100 and the ZS100 write their files to SDXC cards. The ZS100 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the D3100 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|13.||Sony RX100 V||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony RX100 III||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|15.||Sony RX100 II||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the D3100 has a hotshoe, while the ZS100 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.
Both the D3100 and the ZS100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3100 was replaced by the Nikon D3200, while the ZS100 was followed by the Panasonic ZS200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Panasonic websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3100 or the Panasonic ZS100 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D3100:
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.46x).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- More flexible: Can take a variety of interchangeable lenses, including specialty optics.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (550 versus 300) on a single battery charge.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2010).
Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (20 vs 14.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 19%.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/24p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Ready to shoot: Comes with an integrated lens, while the D3100 requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (111x65mm vs 124x96mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the D3100).
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 4 months of technical progress since the D3100 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the ZS100 is the clear winner of the contest (18 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic ZS100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Superzoom Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D3100 or the ZS100 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Nikon D3100||5/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|2.||Panasonic ZS100||4.5/5||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2016||699|
|3.||Nikon D3200||5/5||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|4.||Nikon D5100||5/5||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|5.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|6.||Nikon D3000||..||+||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|7.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|8.||Nikon D60||..||80/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|9.||Nikon D40X||..||79/100||+ +||4/5||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|10.||Nikon D40||..||81/100||+ +||o||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499|
|11.||Panasonic ZS200||..||+ +||81/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||799|
|12.||Panasonic LX10||..||+ +||81/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||699|
|13.||Sony RX100 V||4.5/5||+ +||83/100||4/5||4.5/5||Oct 2016||999|
|14.||Sony RX100 III||5/5||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2014||799|
|15.||Sony RX100 II||5/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||749|
|16.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|17.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic ZS100
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D3100||Panasonic ZS100|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Fixed lens compact camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||25-250mm f/2.8-5.9|
|Launch Date||August 2010||January 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 699|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic ZS100|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||1" Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.1 x 15.4 mm||13.2 x 8.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||355.74 mm2||116.16 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27.8 mm||15.9 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||14.2 Megapixels||20 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3072 pixels||5472 x 3648 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.01 μm||2.41 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.98 MP/cm2||17.18 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/24p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||125 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||80 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 2||Venus|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||67||70|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||22.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.3||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||919||559|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic ZS100|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||1166k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic ZS100|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/2000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic ZS100|
|External Flash||Hotshoe||no Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic ZS100|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||550 shots per charge||300 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
124 x 96 x 75 mm
(4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
111 x 65 x 44 mm
(4.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 in)
|Camera Weight||505 g (17.8 oz)||312 g (11.0 oz)|
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