The Good Versatile 16x zoom lens; tonnes of useful features, including GPS; 1080i video recording; attractive design.
The Bad Touchscreen controls take some getting used to; battery life could be better.
The Bottom Line The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 compact superzoom is expensive. But its high-quality images, long zoom range, HD movie features, GPS, and touchscreen mean you certainly get plenty of camera for your money.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 was one of our favourite compact superzoomsof last year. Beef up the resolution by a couple of megapixels, increase the zoom range, add yet more clever gadgetry, and what have you got? The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20. It’s not cheap, at around £300, so let’s find out if it’s worth saving up for.
Tough act to follow
Put the TZ20 next to its predecessor, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart. In fact, there’s only one design change that makes any real practical difference — the dedicated video button has moved from the rear of the unit to a slightly more convenient position on the top edge.
The TZ20’s colours are rich but realistic. There’s plenty of detail in this shot too (click image to enlarge).
In terms of specs, though, the TZ20 is quite a significant improvement on the TZ10. For a start, there’s a new 24mm ultra-wide-angle Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens with a staggering 16x optical zoom. The new lens goes further width- and length-wise than the 12x zoom lens on the TZ10.
The image sensor’s resolution, too, has been increased from 12.1 megapixels to 14.1 megapixels. It’s also interesting to see that Panasonic has decided to switch from a CCD-type chip to a CMOS sensor instead, which should improve the picture quality, particularly when it comes to filming video clips.
Movie quality has been ramped up to 1080i at 50 frames per second. The TZ20 uses the same AVCHD format to record video as proper, grown-up camcorders, and the camera’s zoom and image-stabilisation features are both available during filming. Stereo sound recording and an HDMI output make this an attractive package for film makers.
Built-in GPS is, once again, a notable feature, allowing you to record the co-ordinates where a shot was taken, for example. Panasonic rounds out the TZ20’s abilities with a 3-inch touch-sensitive LCD panel and 3D photo-capture capability. All in all, the TZ20 is a highly impressive assemblage of cutting-edge technology.
The shape of things
Available in blue, red, black and silver, the TZ20 isn’t the slimmest or lightest camera in the universe. But it’s still quite an achievement to cram so much into such a relatively small space.
In terms of its interface, the TZ20 is a curious blend of the traditional and modern. Despite the touchscreen, Panasonic has left most of the physical controls intact. The on-screen menus are navigated by scrolling and selecting using an old-fashioned five-way pad, for example. You can tap the screen to focus, however, and — if you really want to — you can zoom using an on-screen control rather than the top-mounted rocker. It’s by no means an awful control scheme but it certainly takes some getting used to and the touch element doesn’t have the instantly intuitive qualities of, say, the iPhone.
Ten different shooting modes are available, including ‘intelligent auto’, program AE, 3D, and aperture or shutter priority. There are also customisable scene modes and a full manual setting. These can all be selected via the top-mounted mode dial. Once you’ve chosen your mode, you can change other settings via the touchscreen, as required.
There are plenty of useful automatic features, such as face detection, red-eye correction, scene selection and so on. The autofocus and other automated settings are quick to adapt too, allowing the device to operate effectively as a shoot-from-the-hip camera. Conversely, enthusiasts will appreciate the wide range of manual settings, effects and tweaks that can be employed and adjusted with relative ease.