on September 27, 2012
I couldn't decide between these three cameras (and their variants, the Sony HX30 and the Panasonic ZX20) because many of the reviews of each made the cameras sound very similar. So, I went out and bought (from merchants who accepted returns) one of each of these three cameras (I didn't need WI-FI or GPS, so that's how I settled on these less expensive variants). And then I took photos and videos in various conditions. I am not a professional photographer, and I didn't do Imatest or any other specific tests on the images (you can read C/net for that), but this is an experience of a regular person who was taking pictures and videos with these three cameras side by side, which is a comparison that you do not often see.
The bottom line is that these three cameras are very similar with a few minor differences, but those differences set them apart and may make you decide that you like one more than the other.
Generally speaking, NONE of these cameras is a DSLR replacement. Whomever writes that the pictures are as good as a DSLR is not speaking accurately. Also, none of the cameras is a replacement for a high end camcorder.
If you are taking pictures outside on a sunny day all of these cameras will take very nice pictures for small to medium enlargements (no bigger than 8 x 10). The cameras all produce nice fairly sharp images that would be well suited for that purpose. And, like most people, I don't remember ever enlarging a picture more than 8 x 10, so it is not a common problem.
What might be an issue is if you are zoomed in all the way and wanted to crop a photo (which sometimes happens), the differences in the way the cameras' photos look when you "pixel peep" might make a difference. In good light outside, the cameras were close, but the best photos were from the CANON with the SONY and the PANASONIC a close second.
INSIDE PICTURES - GOOD LIGHT
If you are inside and you are taking pictures in low light, you will see a different story. Again, at smaller sized prints 4x6, 5x7, most people will see almost no difference between the pictures of the three cameras other than the PANASONIC's colors are a little less vibrant than those in the CANON and the SONY. I am not sure whether those colors are less accurate, they are just a little less vivid.
If you pixel peep at these pictures, the CANON's photos are clearly the best with the PANASONIC's being second. The CANON's remain very sharp through a good amount of enlargement while the PANASONIC's, although close, get softer a little faster. The SONY's pictures inside with good light became soft rather quickly and, I'm not sure if this is because the SONY has 18MP on a small chip (as some of the tech reviewers write), but there is a "watercolor" effect where after you enlarge it a little bit, it looks like a Claude Manet painting.
INSIDE PICTURES - LOW LIGHT
In poor light, the hierarchy between the cameras remains the same, but there is less of a gap between the CANON and the PANASONIC. It seems as if the CANON takes somewhat worse pictures in low light, and the PANASONIC just doesn't get that much worse. As a result, the gap between these two becomes somewhat closer. The SONY's pictures remain the poorest of the three in low light.
VIDEO - OUTSIDE GOOD LIGHT
All three cameras take very nice video outside in good light. If you are editing or nitpicky, you will note that the SONY and the PANASONIC take 60 frames per second, which is somewhat easier to edit, than the 24 frames per second that the CANON records. While you have to look for it, the CANON's outside video does have a couple of instances where it seems to be a tad jerky compared to the SONY and PANASONIC's video. But you really have to look for it and most people won't notice if you don't have another video outside for comparison.
While all the outdoor video is close, I would give the edge to the SONY in video, with the PANASONIC second and the CANON third. But they are close for outside video.
VIDEO - INSIDE
Taking video inside is a different story. Inside, the SONY shines and clearly has the best video. The video from this camera is actually good. It is not professional level by any stretch, but it is good solid quite viewable video from a camera that takes still pictures.
There is a noticeable difference on indoor video between the SONY and the PANASONIC. This difference was perhaps most noticeable to me because I had both videos from both cameras and watched them over and over again looking for differences. While the difference is noticeable, it is not a tremendous difference. The SONY video is super smooth and seems to get as much out of the light as it can. The PANASONIC video also is smooth and gets a good contrast tone and color out of the available light, but is slightly less smooth than the SONY. The PANASONIC video is still very viewable and looks good, but not as good as the SONY.
The CANON will take decent indoor video in good light, but in poor light, it just seems to struggle. The CANON's video had many shadows and dark areas that simply were not present in the SONY and PANASONIC videos. I did not notice any hissing in the CANON video as some of the other reviewers have mentioned. This may be an issue that varies from camera to camera.
HANDLING AND SPEED
This was a fairly subjective comparison between the three cameras as to how they felt in the hand and how quickly the camera did what I wanted it to do because if the camera doesn't take the shot when you want to, it doesn't really matter how sharp the picture or video might be.
Based on my experience, the PANASONIC had the best handling of the three. While the PANASONIC and the SONY were both quick to take a picture, for some reason the SONY that I had would take a much longer time (seconds) to record the picture onto the card. This was despite the fact that both cameras had comparable cards with comparable write speeds. Both the SONY and the PANASONIC had rather quick autofocus which also made them seem to react faster. The PANASONIC is noticeably thinner and lighter than the SONY while maintaining a similar full raised rubber grip on the front which made the camera easier to handle. While both the SONY and the PANASONIC were quick, the blazingly fast (by comparison) write speeds on the PANASONIC compared with its almost non-existent shutter lag made this the best handling camera of the three by far.
Even though it consistently took the best pictures, the CANON was the worst handling camera. The autofocus often had issues focusing and there was a constant shutter lag while it was searching for its focus. We did miss some shots because the CANON was so slow to react. Also, the CANON is somewhere in weight between the SONY and the PANASONIC, but has the worst grip of the three. That little rubber strip on the front is not as effective a grip as the fuller grip that appears on the SONY and the PANASONIC.
With respect to handling, I've read many reviews and each of them seems to state different things about each of the cameras. Many of these reviews seem to indicate that the SONY is a very fast camera, and that might be the case, but the write speed of the 18 MP pictures (which are 50% larger than the CANON's photos and almost the same for the PANASONIC) was so slow, it was distracting and detracted from the experience of using the camera.
VERDICT AND CONCLUSIONS
None of these cameras is the best at everything. The CANON has the best pictures, but is slow to focus, somewhat awkward to handle and has the worst video of the three. The SONY handles okay but is heavy and has noticeably slow write speeds, its picture quality varies greatly with the light (and will deteriorate rapidly with any significant cropping) but the SONY has the best video, and it is noticeable.
In the end I decided to go with the PANASONIC. While it only was the best in handling, to me that was a significant portion of the photographic experience. It is not DSLR fast (instantaneous), but it is a zippy camera for a superzoom, is light in weight and has a good grip which makes it easier to hold. Also, it does not have a pop-up flash which I found always seemed to come up under my fingers where I was holding the left side camera. As noted above, the PANASONIC's videos were good, perhaps not as good as the SONY, but the PANASONIC was certainly capable of capturing some nice video, even in low light. The photos also were not as good as the CANON's, but they were close and very close in low light. With respect to the vibrancy of the colors, if you set the photo vibrancy on the PANASONIC to "happy" (which I guess is their "vivid") it is less of a noticeable difference. The photos look very nice and certainly are competitive in quality for this type of camera.
Hopefully this comparison and these observations will help you decide between these three similar cameras so you can choose the best one for your needs. Good luck.
on May 31, 2012
I tried the models that directly compete with this camera from Canon, Sony, and Nikon and much to my surprise, overall, this camera was superior in almost all areas that matter most to me. That would be the quality and flexibility of the video, the quality of the optical image stabilization, and the overall quality of the still pictures it takes. I didn't care about the GPS as it is largely a gimmick in my opinion and all the major competitors have it now or they feel they won't be able to compete.
You should realize that the GPS built into this camera (and most cameras) is NOT the same GPS you may be used to in your car or smart phone. It does not have detailed maps, does not have a large database of places or landmarks, and is not as accurate. It is basically for tagging your photos and videos with the latitude and longitude of where you took the image so you don't have to take notes manually to sort out what you shot and where later. That's why I consider it largely a gimmick.
Briefly then, this camera had by far, the best video quality and flexibility. You can select AVCHD video in several quality levels including full HD at 1920 x 1080 @ 60 fps (if your computer can handle it--many can't), MP4 video in several quality settings including full HD 1920 x 1080 @ 30 fps, and even a (not too useful) 320 x 240 setting for high-speed video at 240 fps.
FOR TECHIES ONLY: Note that most of these video settings output progressive video but one of them outputs interlaced (can't remember which AVCHD setting). This makes me suspicious that the internal video circuitry may be interlaced and not progressive and they simply convert (deinterlace) the video when they create the progressive video file on the memory card. I could not find confirmation on this anywhere and calling Panasonic support is utterly useless for something this technical--they just aren't trained to know such things. I must say though that I didn't notice any interlaced artifacts or sharpness/quality issues with the video so I'm satisfied with the video either way.
The optical image stabilization is absolutely amazing and was so far superior to the Nikon for example, that I had to keep checking that I actually had the image stabilization in the Nikon turned on! You can literally hand-hold the camera at full 20x zoom (being very deliberate and careful) and shoot acceptable video, which is almost unheard of in a small camera like this.
The still images are very high quality and have relatively low noise for a camera that has this many pixels in the sensor. Most consumers don't realize that it's mostly the marketing departments that want to keep pushing the number of pixels in these small cameras. The engineers know that when you put this many pixels on a small sensor, you get more noise artifacts and you can do only so much about that. This camera is no different in that regard than all the others that are 14 or higher megapixels, regardless of what they claim in their marketing hype.
And the final selling point over some of the competitors for me was that this camera, even with all its consumer "presets" to make this a "point-and-shoot" camera (actually almost too many--confusing!) still has FULL MANUAL CONTROLS and aperture or shutter priority settings for "real" photographers.
Note that like most other pocket cameras, this one does not support RAW files but that's not what it is intended for. Furthermore, with single images files as large as almost 13 MB in size from the 14.1 megapixel sensor, you have more than enough pixels to do some serious Photoshop work even without having RAW files to work with.
This will now be my "take everywhere" camera when I don't need to do "serious" photography and don't want to lug around my full sized Canon DSLR and lenses.
on April 6, 2012
I had the original ZS-3 which served me well until it broke down. I purchased the ZS-10 and was disappointed with the low-light performance to the extent of returning it. The ZS-20 is a major improvement over the ZS-10.
I have taken only 100-200 pictures but the low light performance is much better and comparable (or slightly better) to the ZS-3. I don't have hands on experience with the other supercompacts but the panasonic worked well for my needs
-The Zoom is phenomenal (but comparable to other super compact out there)
- AF speed is very good.
- Low light performance is ok (major improvement but still just ok)
- Flash works surprisingly well to improve overall picture quality
- Small, easy to carry around
- Same battery as previous model, so if upgrading, you can re-use old peripherals
- Menus could be better, 2-3 clicks to get somewhere, too many buttons and dials *** see update below
- Touch screen is confusing - unclear when it's used vs. the navigation buttons *** See update below
- Preliminary but I feel that the OS can do a better job. Might be because of the extended zoom
Great compact superzoom, small, light and produce great pictures. Does well what its intended to do.
UPDATE: April 9
- Learning curve for touch screen is faster than I originally felt
- Video looks great at good light, low light performance for video is not great compared to my panasonic camcoder
- HDR works great with minor caveat - do not shoot moving objects as the processing gets confused and the blended picture includes multiple fragments of the moving object (in my case kids). I believe this is an issue on all HDR's - general recommendation, always take an extra pic on no HDR since a garbled HDR picture is useless
- Macro works great
- I played with custom setting on the dial which mitigates the multiple switches and dials this to some extend. For example, relatively easy managed to setup custom scene for HDR so to switch from HDR to iA is just a turn of dial
Still very positive on the camera, great buy. Easily fits into my pocket
UPDATE: April 22
- Zooming on video adds a slight humm noise to the soundtrack
- Touch screen is great! - I love the fact that you can just touch the specific object you want to focus on and have the camera focus on it and immediately take a picture. No more half way press, turn and then full press to "tell" the camera where to focus
on May 27, 2012
Where do I start? The features on this camera are amazing. The burst shooting modes, the 1080p video, the 20x zoom, the manual controls, scene modes, handling, and menus, are stunning and as close to perfect as you can get - at any price point for a camera that easily fits into a pocket. This camera seemed a bargain for the features.
So why two stars? Poor picture quality. I have a camera with $400-camera features and $125-camera photo quality. Maybe I got a bad copy, but I'm reading other reviews saying the same thing so either production isn't consistent or perhaps some people are less discerning regarding photo quality. Several professional reviews (CNET, digitalcamerainfo, and others) have stated that though this model is vastly improved over the previous top of the line Panasonic compact offering it is still sub-par. The guy from CNET said that "Depending on what your plans are for its photos, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20's shots are either very good to excellent or unusable". I have to agree. If you never plan on going bigger than 4x6 or maybe 5x7s you'll probably be fine. Comparing the photos from my five-year old Kodak Easyshare C875 showed only marginal improvements in some pictures, but most were about the same - some were worse and the colors seemed washed out and duller than reality. The softness and noise of the photos is noticeable upon close inspection even at regular viewing sizes. Oh, and yes, I did the half-press to allow the camera to focus - so that's not the problem.
Using the "Intelligent Auto" feature was frustrating at best. Images rarely turned out nicely and I constantly found myself going into the manual modes to try to make the camera take a better picture. As a father my primary purpose for this camera was taking photos of the kids. When they're doing something cute or funny I don't want to mess around with settings. I want to turn the camera on and capture the moment. With this camera many moments were lost. Also, I had many images blurred from movement while using the intelligent auto mode and I would think a truly intelligent auto should adjust shutter speed for detected motion. The camera seemed to do okay when shooting subjects without a lot of detail and that were not moving.
Then there are the burst pictures. The concept is great, but usually people using this feature would be using them in action-type shots. Unfortunately the intelligent auto feature doesn't know how to handle this and the pictures all turned out blurry. All - even with the "Motion Deblur" on and the "iHDR" turned off. Trust me I monkeyed and monkeyed with this thing to figure out what I was doing wrong. In the end I had to conclude it was the camera. The other problem with the burst mode is that, while the 2AF and 5AF photos were okay (though still sub-par), the 10, 40, and 60 fps shots looked like something taken with a prehistoric first-generation cell-phone camera. Horrible and unusable for anything other than having. Even the manual mode shots were mostly unusable at 10, 40, and 60fps.
Other quibbles are the FLIMSY battery/SD door and the weird crunching sound from the lens when adjusting zoom - though they're definitely not deal-breakers.
Some Amazon reviewers have loved this camera. One said they dropped it from a five-story building and it survived. Impressive. Others have said they're seeing near DSLR quality photos. Good for them. Me? I took well over a thousand pictures with this camera and spent hours adjusting settings to no avail. I'm sending mine back and looking for a different model. Though I'd like to give a different ZS20 another chance in hopes of achieving the type of success some reviewers here at Amazon are claiming, I really think these sorts of quality control issues are unacceptable in 2012. I'm not even sure mine is an isolated incident considering the comments from professional camera reviewing websites. A camera can have all the greatest features but if it can't deliver beautiful photos what good are the features? I was mostly happy with the photos from my five-year old 8MP Kodak C875 so I don't think I'm being too picky. I expected better quality than my C875 - what I got I'm not sure is even up to the level of the C875.
By the way, I'm seeing on camera forums that Panasonic is rushing out a firmware update to improve the ZS20 photo-quality. It's not out yet, and it may just be a rumor, but keep on the lookout. While it's too late for me as mine is going back, maybe it will be useful for you.
UPDATE: The Panasonic Firmware update for improving night handheld shots is here: [...]
on April 3, 2012
Just got this camera, and have owned its three previous models. One thing for all to note if you are familiar with this series is that the battery must now be charged in camera with a short USB cable to a Panasonic wall charger. For me, this is a disadvantage, since I have enjoyed the flexibility of the previous arrangement -- a dedicated charger into which the battery is placed outside of the camera. I found this "old" setup to be more convenient and easier to use when traveling, and easier to pack. Maybe this is not a problem for you, but it was an unpleasant surprise for me. As others have noted, though, the old charger works with this battery (same battery as before), so you can easily purchase a stand-alone charger.
I have now taken some representative shots with the camera and have some observations. Like the previous three models, the display on this one is not ideal in bright sunlight, although it is acceptable. To my eye, the photos are really good for the category, and an improvement on the previous models. Having the extra zoom is quite nice. I have always enjoyed the Lumix menu system, which is fairly intuitive in this segment.
Since many of you are interested in the low light issues, I have taken some extremely low light shots and looked at them closely after enlarging. I find them quite good, and remarkable with a small sensor. I took a shot today, in one of our classrooms with no lights on, only illumination from an outside door half panel over 50 feet away. I cannot imagine better results with a camera this size with such challenging light.
I also took some photos outside with both bright sunlight and deep shadows in the shot. The photos were excellent, rendering detail in both the sunlit elements (as expected) and in the deep, dark shadows (pleasant surprise).
I have not made use of the touchscreen features yet, so I cannot comment on their usefulness. I assume they will be helpful in some situations.
All in all, this is an nice update to the previous models and I am sure will serve me well in my travels. It remains easily pocketable, easy to use and full of features to experiment with and explore. The compromises are few and the benefits are many.
on May 27, 2012
I have had this camera for a short while now and it is time for a review. I have several Panasonic Cameras to include the FZ100 and FZ150, the FZ35 and the ZS3. I also have the Sony HX9V and will make a comparison with it. The ZS20 is an outstanding camera that takes sharp detailed pictures with low noise. I have compared it with the Sony HX9V in low light and the ZS20 is just as good in low light with pictures. I did notice the Sony does better in low light with video.
I would like to say something negative about the ZS20, and the only thing negative I can say about it is I wish the f/stop would go lower than f/3.3. It does go from f/3.3 to f/8, which is better than the Sony which goes to f/5.9. It also does not come with a battery charger, but they are cheap on Amazon. The batteries are cheap as well on Amazon. The battery life does seem to be fairly long between charges.
The Panasonic works great in Manual, giving full control of the f/stop, the shutter speed, and the ISO. The Sony Manual controls basically suck. The only mode you can control is the shutter speed in Manual.
The menus are Panasonic and if you have any other Panasonic camera the menus will feel right at home. The camera has 4 Priority Modes of Aperture, Shutter, Program, and Manual.
The Shutter Speed is controllable from 1/2000 to 8 seconds in Shutter Priority and 1/2000 second to 15 seconds in Manual.
Burst Mode: The camera has 6 burst modes. 2 fps (frames per second) Auto focus, 5 fps Auto focus, 10 fps, 40 fps, 60 fps, and Flash Burst. In the 2 and 5 AF modes the camera will focus in between each shot. In the 10 fps mode, the camera will take 10 shots in a row. wait one second and it will take 8 more. Wait one second and it will take 8 more. In the 5 fps AF mode it will take 100 pictures straight without stopping! I assume it will do it in the 2 fps mode as well but did not check that. In Flash Burst it will take 5 flash burst pictures in quick succession.
The ZS20 will zoom to 20X in the 14mp picture mode. If the camera is set to 10mp picture size and I-Zoom is turned on it will zoom to 47.3X. This is with digital zoom turned off.
I have found that picture quality is extremely good and detailed.
Macro works great and there are two modes. The mode with AF beside the Macro Symbol is good for taking a shot of something at a distance of 3 to 4 feet. Zoom in as much as needed and the camera will focus on the object. If it does not focus you are too close. The mode with the Macro symbol and the magnifying glass is for close up macro work. The camera will only zoom to 3X, but will focus up close and personal.
The camera has GPS Tagging. I tried it and it works. My photo software picked up the tracking and showed the place taken on a map. I tried turning on GPS tracking and left it on for 5 hours while I turned the camera off and it showed no signs of battery usage. I would recommend if you are going to use it to turn it on way before taking a picture as it takes a while to find itself the first time. I was able to shorten the time it takes to find itself by hooking the camera to my computer the first time to tell the camera where I was located.
The LCD can be seen in bright daylight. I set the LCD to auto adjust by going to Menu Set in any program mode, such as Aperture, Setup Menu, page 3, LCD Mode and set it for A (auto power LCD). Press Menu Set again and it will show the A with a square and a star on it in the picture mode. To get out of the Menu Modes press the return button on the bottom of the camera below the Menu Set rocker on the right lower side of the camera.
A still photo 3.5mp picture can be taken while taking video by pressing the shutter button. A still photo can also be captured in playback video by playing the video back on the camera and pressing the button on top of Menu Set to pause the video and then press Menu Set and it will ask you if you want to "Save this image?". To save it highlight YES and push Menu Set. In AVCHD progressing HD video the camera will record for 30 minutes. In the GPH mode of AVCHD video GPS information is also added to the video. I don't know how the GPS information is then pulled out of the video. In the MP4 mode of video my camera goes 27 minutes.
The SCN modes on the main dial work outstanding. I really like the HDR mode that takes three pictures at different exposure levels and combines them into one picture. The Night Portrait works great for taking a portrait with a building or night scene behind the subject. Night Scenery works great and holds the shutter open for up to 8 seconds. Handheld Night Shot is outstanding with no tripod and has saved me many times at night with no tripod. The camera takes several pictures and combines them into one shot. I also like it if you are in the SCN mode and turn the camera off. When the camera is turned back on, press Menu Set and SCN mode is highlighted. No reason to turn the main dial off of SCN and then back on SCN like you have to do on my FZ150. The best mode in SCN is Panorama. Just set the camera to Panorama, press and hold the shutter button and swing the camera for a Panoramic Shot. You will have to play with that mode to get the hang of it. At first I kept going too slow and it did not take the full Panorama. The speed of panning has to be fairly brisk. It makes one wonder how in the heck the camera can capture a shot panning that fast but it does.
I especially like Zoom Resume. The camera remembers how it was zoomed on your last shots before turning the camera off and when the camera is turned back on it zooms back to the same setting. It has saved me many times in getting a quick shot off and not having to zoom the camera again. To set Zoom Resume, go to any priority mode, such as A, and press Menu Set. Go to the Setup Menu, page 4, Zoom Resume on top and press the Menu Set button and turn it on. Another really nice thing is to turn on the grid. The grid will help you to take a picture in the Rule of Thirds and throws a grid on the screen to help you take a properly aligned shot. Put any of the intersecting lines on the grid on your subject and instantly your pictures will be better and more enjoyable to view. To turn it on, go to any of the priority modes, such as A, and go to the Setup Menu, page 3, second one down to Guide Line and turn it on. The Histogram is also nice to see what the picture will look like, exposure wise, by looking at the Histogram on the LCD before you take the shot. To turn it on, go to the Setup Menu on page 3, and select the third one down, Histogram and turn it on.
The camera will Auto Bracket at 0, -1, and +1 maximum. You can Auto Bracket at less with 1/3 exposure stop increments. To turn Auto Bracket on press the button above Menu Set two times in the shooting mode. Move the brackets by pressing the button on the right of Menu Set. You can adjust exposure for all pictures by pressing the button above Menu Set one time.
Manual Mode. The shutter is adjustable from 1/2000 to 15 seconds. The f/stop is adjustable from f/3.3 to f/8. I really like how it works. After selecting Manual, push the button above the Menu Set toggle called Exposure/Map. Then pushing the button above and below Menu Set adjusts the shutter speed and the button on the left and right of Menu Set adjusts the f/stop. To bring up the metering dial just half press the shutter button.
That concludes my review at this time. I am really enjoying this little camera and it takes some really great pictures. I am amazed that they were able to cram so many features into such a little camera. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am.
on May 13, 2012
Friends who lug around heavy DSLR kits (like I used to do) turn green with envy at what this little shirtpocket wonder can accomplish. The ZS20's zoom range from 24mm wide open to 480mm fully optical at 14 mpx has to be seen to be believed. You can start with a broad view of a landscape and then zoom in to capture a single bird on a tree so far away that you don't even see the bird in the landscape view. The images are sharp, well saturated, with none of the blurriness and occasional purple fringing that troubled the ZS10. The updated lenses also seem have shortened the depth of field so that I can now get the bird in sharp focus but the background some distance away is soft and blurry. They've also vastly improved the digital zoom so that you can now take useful pictures at the equivalent of a 1013mm zoom range, and even longer at reduced MPx. Those digitally assisted pix may not win photo contests but they'll tell you whether that distant shorebird was an avocet or a killdeer. Carrying this camera is like having a telescope in your pocket. But the amazing zoom is only the beginning. Equally useful are the burst modes. Lots of subjects -- from talking heads to grandkids to puppies to birds to flowers in the wind -- are in constant motion, and if you take just one shot, you're playing roulette. The grandkid jumping over a log -- you really wanted him in midair, not on the landing. In burst mode, you'll get two, or five, or 10 or even more shots during the leap, and back home on your computer you can pick the one you like best and discard the rest. I now routinely take dozens or even hundreds of images of moving objects, and back at home at the computer I pick out the one or two keepers, and discard the rest. The camera also has an intelligent burst mode that takes just one shot of a static object but automatically takes a burst if the object is moving. This camera is smart! Although it has manual adjustments for aperture and shutter speed, I hardly ever need them. The IA (Intelligent Auto) setting handles ISO, white balance, aperture, shutter speed, and everything else instantly and with reliably excellent results in a wide range of conditions. The ZS20 also automatically performs some operations that previously took a fair amount of effort in Photoshop, with plugins. I was very skeptical of the hand-held night shot scene mode until I happened to be out in the evening of "supermoon" without a tripod. The orange moon had partly cleared the hills when I clicked the shutter. The camera took a burst of exposures and then internally sifted and merged them, and in a second or two gave me as clear and sharp an image as if I had used a tripod. It made a believer of me. Equally good is the HDR setting for high-contrast and backlit subjects. The camera takes a burst of exposures, bracketing the aperture, and then automatically combines them to produce a single image with a well-lit foreground. It used to take a lot of work and luck in Photoshop to achieve this. Totally amazing is the in-camera panorama scene mode. Without a tripod, you stand in a spot, hold down the shutter and make a complete circle in about 8 seconds (the camera shows you a progress bar). A few seconds later you've got, in the camera ready for downloading, a perfectly merged super-wide panorama image with no, or only very faintly perceptible, visual seams. No further processing necessary. There are a number of other scene modes and creative preset modes, and you can save custom settings for quick access. The video on the ZS10 was already very good, and the 20 has only improved on it, performing in full 1080p HD, with better placement for the stereo microphones.
I also like the fact that the same batteries used on the previous models work in this one. I prefer to remove the battery and charge it in a wall charger (supplied with the older models), and I can still do that, but the 20 comes with a cable that lets the battery be charged in the camera from a wall plug or a USB port.
The one annoyance with this little gem is the touch-screen controls on the digital display. These controls let you set the focus and the zoom, and click the shutter, by touching the screen. I can't imagine any situation where this would be useful. I unwittingly activated these controls by touching the screen and as I handled the camera I unknowingly took dozens of shots of my hand, the inside of my pocket, the ground, the side of my pants, and like that. You can't turn this obnoxious "feature" off! I've learned not to touch the screen when handling the camera, so it isn't a problem any more, but it still diminishes my esteem for the otherwise admirable engineering job that Panasonic did on this camera.
This camera -- actually, already its predecessor -- convinced me to dump the 50-lb DSLR outfit I had been lugging around for several years. I don't need it. For me, the ZS series has disrupted the DSLR market much in the same way that DSLRs disrupted the film SLR market. Who needs all that heavy clunky expensive gear? I can do 95% of what I did with the DSLR, and a great many things I couldn't, with this little gem that fits in my shirtpocket.
on April 19, 2012
First, I consider myself a serious hobbyist when it comes to photography. I've been shooting with Nikon DSLR's for several years (currently using a D300s). I shoot RAW images only and process everything in Lightroom. You can visit my website and have a look. I live in Miami, FL, so there's a lot of local stuff, but also travel galleries. I love birding and I'm often in the Everglades. [...]
That being said, I always carry a P&S camera. I have a young daughter and I like to have more than a cell phone camera handy. I also do not like lugging the heavy gear to kids events, etc. For years, it's always been a Canon P&S for me. I had a very hard time finding just the right upgrade this time, with all the new mega zooms now entering the market. However, I didn't see anything out there that beats the Panasonic in price and features.
Overall, I really like the ZS20. It's full of features and includes an HDR setting and Pano mode (which is amazing I might add). I keep GPS turned off to save battery. Keep in mind, this battery drains quickly if you are like me and you take pictures, videos, go in and out of the menus and are constantly reviewing your images. I purchased a couple of spare batteries and the external battery charger. Sorry, but the USB to camera charging system sucks and the cable couldn't be any shorter! Keep with the Panasonic original batteries only and keep a few charged and on hand when shooting.
Picture quality outside in good lighting is excellent. Shooting 1080p video on this camera is awesome and iMovie recognizes my clips and brings them right into the program. Indoors, I'm still struggling to get a crisp shot. I do find the images noisy, just as I have read online in other reviews. I haven't played around enough with the settings to try to do better, which I do believe I can do. I love that this camera has A, P and M mode, plus 2 custom functions. I find the placement of buttons to be comfortable and love the grip.
I will keep experimenting and will update my review if I encounter something worth updating. Keep checking my Flickr galleries, as I will continue to add test shots. The images on Flickr are straight out of the camera images (no editing). Please visit the site if you want to check out what the camera can do. Also check out the gallery of our new puppy, which were also test shots taken with this camera with no editing. [...]
on April 4, 2012
I had the Panasonic zs7 which was a 12x Zoom. I took pictures with both cameras side by side and the quality of the picture id much better and the extra zoom is great. I like how they have a button right on top for Manual control and you do no have to go though the menu as much as the other model.Once you play with all the feature and read through the book it is pretty easy to use. It has GPS but I do not use it and I have not gone through the 3D mode. It is the smallest camera I've seen with 20x zoom. Width is smaller than my Smart phone and its about an inch thick. Full charged I used the camera for the whole day. I like how the charger is USB or wall.
on April 14, 2012
Video is smooth and high quality. Control and button placement is good and easy to use especially for video with its own button on top. You can take still photos while recording videos. Telephoto works while shooting videos. Single photo 20x and extended 40x telephoto works well and focus stays sharp. GPS tagging works well for me with Map Flickr and Flickr and will make for a nice trip display for photos taken in the same trip. The map data downloaded to the SD chip without a problem and the maps make for a nice on-camera display of the locations the photos were taken. GPS tagging with the actual name of the location and not just coordinates is a feature I wasn't finding in other cameras. It's easy to burn through the battery in 1 to 2 hours while trying out all the features. I've ordered two more batteries to ensure more picture and video taking time. I like the up to 60 picture per second bursts and the more controlled 2 to 10 fps bursts. Reviewing and deleting photos is intuitive and easy. The ability to touch the screen to tell the camera the focus of the photo is useful on a moving object like wildlife. The up to 14M photos are the best I've taken with a digital camera. USB charging is very useful. I've ordered an AC wall charger to be used charging back-up batteries while the camera is in use. I'm glad I waited for the ZS20 to be released and didn't get the new Nicon or Canon telephoto versions. Smallest of the 20X cameras I was interested in. A great buy for less than $300.