The Panasonic Lumix TZ20 updates the incredibly popular Panasonic DMC-TZ10. Now with a a 16x optical zoom, Full HD video and even a 3D mode. Just how does the TZ20 weigh up? The What Digital Camera Panasonic DMC-TZ20 review finds out...
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 review – Features
Although the Lumix TZ20’s body shape hasn’t especially changed over its previous model, it’s what’s on the inside that’s interesting: gone is the 12.1MP CCD, now replaced by a newly-adopted 14.1MP MOS sensor.
The TZ20’s 16x optical zoom (24-384mm equiv.) lens offers Panasonic’s ‘Power’ Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) system, as per the TZ10, although on this occasion an ‘Active Mode’ has been added to minimise motion shake during movie recording. And speaking of movie capture, the TZ20 now offers AVCHD, as opposed to the previously utilised ‘AVCHD Lite’ of the TZ10.
This means Full HD 1080i recording is possible and, given the improvements of the new sensor, this should be much higher quality too. Zoom can also be employed while capturing, and continuous auto focus is also possible.
On the camera’s rear is a 3in, 460k-dot LCD screen that now has a touch panel for touchscreen control. Like the TZ10, the Lumix TZ20 also includes Global Positioning Satellite technology (GPS).
This allows for geotagging – i.e. metadata information to be tagged on to your images as ‘hidden’ data that records the location of where shots are taken. This can then be used for a variety of purpuses, such as cataloguing or interacting with websites to automatically place images on a mapped area, for example.
One major addition Panasonic has been grabbing the headlines with is the addition of 3D to many of its product lines. The TZ-series isn’t one to miss out, as the TZ20 now offers a mode that can be used much in much the same way as real time panorama capture. By physically moving the camera and capturing two separate images in one motion the TZ20 can compile this into a single MPO file for 3D playback on your 3D TV or 3D-capable device.
The time taken to process images and execute the 3D creation is surprisingly straightforward and quick, as long as the camera is moved in the desired direction rapidly enough (otherwise it won’t work!).
Like the TZ10, the Lumix TZ20 continues to offer full manual controls. The relatively DSLR-style of controls makes them easy to access and adjust.
Similarly two My Scene modes are available to set up a personalised shooting mode – this allows for rapid switching between your favourite capture settings as opposed to trawling through menus.
Custom mode goes a step further, in that it can customise the ISO and a plethora of other settings for immediate access via three Custom menu options.
There’s also intelligent Auto (iA) mode that adapts to subject or lighting condition, taking on board the scene at hand and selecting the various options accordingly – a great option for the point-and-shoot user.
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 review – Design
The Panasonic TZ20’s body shape is, much like any compact with such a large optical zoom, relatively chunky in terms of its width. Sitting at 219g in weight makes the Lumix TZ20 one of the heavier compact cameras on the market, although at just over a fifth of a kilo it’s certainly not going to break any backs and hardly adds a huge amount of bulk over the the likes of the Canon S95, for example. The weight is inherent given such a significant zoom range, as there aren’t that many compacts that can offer a 24-384mm equivalent in such a body size. However, due to the size of the lens when extended, the flash does sit further toward the grip side of the body, making it possible to block it with a finger on occasion.
Elsewhere the TZ20’s controls are well laid out. Playback and record can be toggled between via a small switch, rather than simply pressing the shutter release to begin taking images again. Activating the manual modes is achieved via a rather small, recessed button labeled Exposure. As confusing as this may be, especially when the Exposure does far more than purely access that particular element of the manual modes, it’s even more frustrating to have to press it each time you wish to adjust either shutter speed or aperture settings.
As the TZ20’s d-pad is brimming with secondary controls it’s fairly easy to accidentally alter the wrong settings, such as timed exposure settings rather than the aperture, but once you get to grips with where things are it’s fairly plain sailing from there on in. A function dial or better use of the touch screen could have been a better layout.
When the TZ20 is set to any of its automatic modes it’s perfectly straightforward to operate, and the touchscreen is useful when limited to focus-based tasks, but can become a little annoying for the more involved menu controls that are often too cumbersome to adjust with accuracy.
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 review – Performance
The TZ20’s LCD screen, with its 460k-dot resolution, is reasonably sharp and bright. It’s a shame the resolution isn’t higher still as a number of cameras are now employing 920k-dot or 1040k-dot LCD screens, or even using better technology such as OLED. However, the TZ20’s Power LCD setting does ramp up the screen’s brightness somewhat, making the screen easier to see in direct light.
However there’s a large exposure meter that sits in the centre of the display that can obstruct the full viewing potential – a shame this wasn’t moved or downscaled. Admittedly the meter only appears when the camera is required to focus, making it only an occasional annoyance but an annoyance nonetheless.
The TZ20’s touchscreen allows for access to focus, hands-on use of all menu options or even the option to fire the shutter. The latter means a simple press on the screen will focus on that subject area and fire a shot with little more than the press of a finger. It makes greater connectivity with snapping images although, it has to be said, isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes. A good job, then, that it’s possible to use the camera’s other physical buttons to adjust any and all controls – something that Panasonic has certainly got right here. There’s no reason to shy away from the fact it’s a touchscreen, but if you prefer not to need to use it then you’re certainly not forced to.
The TZ20’s autofocus is rapid and accurate throughout the zoom range. A range that, it has to be said, is particularly broad. 24mm wideangle means you can squeeze plenty into your shots from a close-up scenario, whereas the full extension of 384mm is a really rather long telephoto option to pick off subjects at distance. Holding the camera steady at this full extension isn’t always ideal, particularly in low light, but the Power OIS certainly assists in keeping things more steady.
The Lumix TZ20 also has a separate one-touch movie record button for direct access to capturing your moving images. Although the camera has the AVCHD capture (H.264 compression), it’s worth pointing out that this is 50i (interlaced) rather than fully progressive (p) capture and output. However, the quality is far beyond previous TZ-series models, owed to the new MOS sensor, and touches like being able to utilise the zoom control switch while capturing are admirable. Good though this quality is, it’s still a little bit of a let down that full progressive capture wasn’t made possible, and it’s worth noting that to use AVCHD files (MTS) on your PC or Mac you’ll need software to decode them into a different format prior to use (they’ll play fine on the rear of the camera’s screen however). Windows Movie Maker or iMovie will do this without problems, though it can take rather a long time. It’s also worth noting that non-formatted SD cards can potentially throw up issues when atempting to locate the movie files. Switch to Quicktime Motion-JPEG capture and you won’t have such issues, though the larger file sizes and lower quality are the compromise to pay here.
And then of course there’s the new 3D mode to think about too: 3D certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, plus you’ll need the relevant 3D TV or device to display the MPO files in their full form too (this generally means more expense and having to don active shutter glasses). As the TZ20’s 3D mode is based on physically moving the camera it also won’t lend itself well to action shots and the like. Furthermore shooting in 3D doesn’t work in the same way as with standard stills – you need to avoid subjects towards the edge of the frame, consider the point of convergence and so on. Currently active shutter glasses lose around a full f/stop of light too, so images are darkened (an ongoing issue with 3D movies at the cinema too).
We do like the fact that the TZ20 takes two shots to render ‘proper’ 3D rather than the ‘fake’ ‘3D conversion’ solution that’s possible from a single frame, but we’re not fully convinced of its application in all scenarios. That partly rests on the laurels of ‘will 3D be the next big thing’ as much as whether you like stills images in 3D, wearing ‘3D glasses’ or the current limitations of display. That’s not to entirely doubt the TZ20’s actual 3D mode, however, as when it’s right the shots really can work. But, for the time being at least, it’s not a fully realised solution and shouldn’t be your focus on buying this camera – twin-lens cameras such as the Fuji 3D W3 do a better job (though even that’s not without its own troubles).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 review – Image Quality
Images at the top end of the TZ20’s 16x zoom were more often than not sharp, even when handheld thanks to the Power OIS – the TZ20’s focus speed is also quick enough to avoid prolonged periods of holding the camera at full magnification which can help in snapping that sharp shot. At the wide 24mm end of the magnification results were more impressive, returning some pin-sharp images at relatively close distances and close-to-middle-distance zoom results were the best of the bunch. At the edge of the images a touch of softness can be present, but only relatively marginally.
Impressively the Lumix TZ20 manages to keep the amount of visible processing results down to a minimum, even in environments of vastly opposing light levels. On a grey day clouds still kept an admirable amount of detail, despite the camera favouring the darker tones, and only at extremely close quarters could any issues with edging be detected. With colour quality generally more toward the darker tones the likes of reds have plenty of depth, but perhaps lacked quite the vibrancy of some other models as a result.
The TZ20’s ISO performance is impressive up to the 400 mark, where beyond processing does start to become more noticeable. It’s also worth mentioning that the 3200 – 6400 ISO settings aren’t selectable through the menu system, being left purely to specific low light scene modes – but this is probably for the best as the truly high ISO settings aren’t particularly spectacular. That’s not to write the TZ20 off by any means however – for day to day shots we’re more than happy and for a compact camera with a sensor of its size it certainly holds its weight.
File-wise and the TZ20 is capable of capturing JPEG files, or MPO files in its 3D mode. However there’s no Raw capture to be found here.
Value & Verdict
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 review – Value
The Panasonic Lumix TZ20 does have a £349 recommended asking price. This is similar to the TZ10 that came before it and, based on how prices will slide over time, it’s unlikely the TZ20 will stay at such a high asking price for too long.
For the money you’re picking up rather a lot of kit though. Sure, we’d like it to be some £50 cheaper to have a more attractive price, but even then it’s certainly towards the upper ends of the price spectrum. Weighed up against something likes the Sony HX9 and it’s much the same in terms of price and spec similarities.
With the amount of features on offer, such as the manual modes, decent movie capture, and the big, rangey 16x zoom, the
Lumix TZ20 is well within the realms of expected price for a compact of its ilk.
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 review – Verdict
The TZ20 is certainly packed out with features. Whether a point-and-shoot user looking for the potential for more control, or just someone who wants a decent zoom range in a relatively small package, the TZ20 has plenty of ground covered. intelligent Auto (iA), full manual controls and the 16x zoom certainly see to that.
Image quality is good, if not fairly standard for a compact camera, and high ISO settings aren’t the camera’s forte. However, results are impressively sharp and well exposed and once experimenting with exposure you’ll certainly pull some quality results out of the bag. It’s a bit of a shame there’s no Raw capture option though.
It’s with the updated movie mode that we’re really impressed. The Full HD 1080i capture is noticably improved over its TZ10 predecessor and, despite still not being fully progressive capture, is a big step forward that adds big ticks in the features and performance boxes.
Trying to ignore the rather tall asking price for one moment and it’s clear to see that the TZ20 rolls together plenty of desireable features. This latest release is certainly better than its TZ10 predecessor across the board – and based on how good that model already was, the TZ20 is certainly a winner in our books. Recommended.