Panasonic’s ZS20 is a very attractive compact digital for a variety of reasons, first of which is that big zoom lens that can telescope all the way from 24mm up to 480mm yet travel around in a shirt pocket (power off, of course). Add in good still image and video quality, manual exposure controls, a responsive shutter, quick autofocus acquisition time and a capable stabilization system for shooting at long focal lengths and it’s pretty clear the ZS20 oozes versatility.
The LCD monitor can be a bit difficult to use in outdoor light, and while this may truly be said of almost any monitor, the ZS20 might be a little bit worse than average. Having to charge batteries in the camera (and the camera being unavailable for any other function such as post processing images during battery charging periods) is not optimal for a camera whose 260 shot battery life will require multiple batteries for all day shoots – unless, of course, you think waking every two or three hours through the night so you can have a fresh set of batteries in the morning is the way to go. And while we’re at it, Panasonic, please give us a formatting command in the intelligent auto menu.
ISO performance is average for the compact digital class, but don’t construe this as damning with faint praise but rather as a precursor to what could be. Take a ZS20, add a physically larger sensor like the Canon G1X while holding resolution at the present 14 megapixels, toss in a RAW shooting capability and Panasonic would not be able to make them fast enough. Until then, the ZS20 is just around the corner and if you’re in the market for compact digital that can go wide and long take a good look at this one.
- Good image and video quality
- Good shutter lag and AF acquisition times
- Good lens focal range in a compact package
- Manual controls and dedicated movie capture button
- In-camera battery charging
- Monitor a bit worse than average in bright outdoor conditions
- Can’t format memory cards while in intelligent auto mode