Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 review
One of the most comprehensively featured super zooms available is also the priciest. The 14.1-megapixel Panasonic TZ20 sports a 16x optical zoom, with equivalent 24-384mm focal range, placing it second only to the Nikon S9100 in terms of lens power (and it can be boosted to an equivalent 33.8x at 3 megapixels). The TZ20 also features GPS geotagging with coordinates automatically embedded in the image file’s Exif data.
Full HD video comes with stereo sound via top-mounted mics, and with the choice of shooting in highly compressed AVCHD format or more widely compatible Motion JPEG. HDMI output sits under a side flap and you get a dedicated video record button. However, because flipping between capture mode and playback requires flicking a physical switch, you can’t instantly hit record unless you have the capture option already selected.
For more hands-on photographers, the TZ20 offers program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual modes. On the same dial is a user-customisable mode, three scene modes, and a reliable intelligent Auto. The biggest surprise on the dial is 3D mode – a first for a Panasonic snapshot – via which the camera composites a stereoscopic image using a sequence of up to 20 frames. With this mode selected, the user fires the shutter release as normal and pans with the camera in the direction of the indicator arrow. Following a machine gun-like patter of shot taking, the camera automatically generates an MPO file viewable on a 3D TV.
The TZ20’s 3in, 460k-dot resolution LCD is also a touch screen, but there’s also a smattering of physical controls. Using a combination of real buttons and virtual ones makes for best practice, though it’s fairly easy to take a shot accidentally if a thumb strays onto screen (fortunately the ability to fire the shutter button this way can be deactivated).
The TZ20 delivers good results, colours veering between natural and warm depending on selected settings. Exposures are even, metering mostly spot on, and detail is maintained from edge to edge, even at maximum wide angle. Familiar bugbears such as pixel fringing and occasional loss of highlights rear their heads. Ultimately, the TZ20 is all about compositional versatility, but the higher price may put off those it’s trying to convert.