Customer Review

568 of 612 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I wanted so badly to love this camera, May 27, 2012
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This review is from: Panasonic Lumix ZS20 14.1 MP High Sensitivity MOS Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom (Black) (OLD MODEL) (Electronics)
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: [...]
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Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 62 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 27, 2012 9:43:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 27, 2012 9:48:20 PM PDT
You must have gotten a bad copy. I am reading all kinds of 5 star reviews on this camera, and mine is producing excellent sharp as a tack pictures. I could not be happier with it.

Here are a few of my photos taken with the ZS20.!i=1801385478&k=zMWgVH5

In reply to an earlier post on May 27, 2012 10:58:11 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 28, 2012 9:16:08 AM PDT
Sierratango says:
Yes, your photos are much better than I was able to achieve. I hope you're right and mine was an isolated incident. I have a Sony WX-150 on the way, otherwise I would consider trying another ZS20. The WX-150 doesn't have all the features of the ZS20 or the 20x zoom, but it's $40 cheaper and the photo-quality is getting great reviews. Hopefully it's a keeper.

Also, how is your camera doing with moving subjects? Especially in "Intelligent auto" mode?

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 8:01:46 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 13, 2012 8:29:04 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 8:03:39 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 6, 2012 8:48:43 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 9:48:47 AM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 4:04:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2012 4:05:50 PM PDT
Sierratango says:
Yes, they are better. Not perfect - but better than the camera I received.

Posted on May 29, 2012 7:38:05 PM PDT
a2b1c3z1 says:
thanks for your review. im cross shopping the sony hx20v and the canon sx260 against the zs20.
im leaning towards the sony, given canon's lens error issues.

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 8:17:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2012 8:17:52 PM PDT
Hi a2b! I didn't like the Sony as it is another $100 more than the Panasonic ZS20 and the Canon SX260, and the Manual mode sucks. It has no Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority and only Shutter speed can be controlled in Manual. Basically all you have is iA (intelligent auto) and iA+ and the camera controls the shutter speed and aperture in those modes. All three cameras are good ones and it comes down to a personal choice. I have the Sony HX9V and have made picture by picture comparisons between the Pany ZS20 and the Sony. In pictures they are about even, both in low light and in daylight. In video the Sony does a little better in low light. Good luck with your choice!

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 8:19:04 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 6, 2012 8:49:20 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 29, 2012 9:19:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2012 10:10:01 PM PDT
Atomic, I am not the only one who has this opinion. I must admit I did not blow the images up at 200% like you seem to do, but at a normal size in my computer they look very sharp to my eye. I don't know how they look on the Smugmug website, but they look really good on my computer, which is what I am using to judge the images. I also am comparing them to the Sony HX9V camera I have, and they look sharper and more detailed than the Sony images do on my computer. I will also say that how an image looks on a web site like Smugmug may not be nearly as good as they do live on a computer or printed out. I would like to see some of your great images on Smugbug or on Flickr so I can look at them in the original size and see if they pass the smell test. I doubt that they will.

I am not the only one that thinks this camera takes great pictures. A guy named Graham Houghton in England does many camera tests and he says the images from this camera look "Stunning." He test all kinds of cameras and I value his opinion as well. He has included many photos and videos in this video. If I were you I would look at it and see for yourself. I think you are just trolling anyhow. You are entitled to your opinion but don't knock mine. I have 4 other Panasonic cameras and this ZS20 looks as good if not better than any of them.

Watch the video and read his comments. Judge for yourself. Be sure to look at it in 1080P.

And as for your Sony A230L. You call that a DSLR? It is a $300 camera on Amazon with the lens.

I did look at those photos on Smugbug and you have a valid point on some of them. They don't look real good close up, but I have no idea what I had for settings in the camera and they were just quick shots. I will take more pictures in one of the priority modes to see if they are better.
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