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
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).