Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20
- Big zoom, comfortable control layout, great pictures
- Nothing noticeable
A great advanced camera that offers enthusiasts everything they could want.
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
The Panasonic FZ20 has been accurately described as "SLR-like". It's an advanced point-and-shoot model that offers many of the features of an SLR, without actually utilising that technology.
It is a large camera, with a massive 12x optical zoom lens. The good-looking body is cased in speckled black plastic with a rubber grip and it feels very solid. The exception to this is the popup flash, which feels thin and poorly mounted. The camera also has a hot shoe to mount another flash.
The controls are a great improvement over Panasonic's other point-and-shoot models. They tend to have controls that are packed too closely together, which makes navigation difficult and clumsy sometimes. Thankfully, on the DMC-FZ20 there's a single pad rather than four directional buttons, and there isn't a button in the middle to get in the way. We loved the control layout on this camera; everything was within reach.
The FZ20 has a full set of manual controls, ranging from aperture and shutter priority modes as well as a full manual shooting mode. Aperture can be set to anywhere between f/2.8 and f/8, and shutter speed stretches from 8 seconds to 1/2000th.
There are also ten preset shooting modes covering the basics such as night mode, portrait and landscape. The ISO options come up a little lacking, only going as high as 400, but we really can't complain about the overall amount of control offered. You can even alter the image in terms of sharpness, saturation, contrast and colour mode (with four options available including sepia and black and white).
No matter how many features a camera has, however, it has to take good photos to be worth buying - and the DMC-FZ20 takes some brilliant photos. Despite only being five megapixels, the sharpness and clarity of its photos are easily comparable to those of photos from a seven or eight megapixel camera. The colour saturation was a little weak in some parts of our test photos, but generally it is better to understate than overstate powerful shades like reds and blues, and ultimately the pictures didn't really suffer.
Assisting image quality is Panasonic's Image Stabiliser technology. This helps compensate for movement during photography and may help explain why the images we took were so sharp.
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