The Panasonic ZS20 isn't the perfect compact ultrazoom, but it's an excellent travel companion with a 20x lens, on-board GPS and manual exposure controls for enthusiasts.
Panasonic's new Lumix ZS20 compact ultrazoom offers a 20x optical zoom lens spanning the 24 to 480mm focal range in 35mm equivalents. Despite that generous focal range, the ZS20 is readily shirt pocket portable (Panasonic describes it as the world's slimmest digital camera with a 20x zoom).
The camera also features a newly developed 14.1 megapixel high sensitivity CMOS sensor teamed up with an advanced Venus Engine image processor which, according to Panasonic, produces high-speed and high sensitivity image recording. High-speed burst shooting at 10 frames per second (fps) with full resolution is possible; burst shooting with continuous autofocus is a still-credible 5 fps.
Elsewhere, the ZS20 includes a built-in GPS functionality, full HD video in either AVCHD or MP4 formats along with automatic, scene and creative control shooting effect options for still images. Full manual controls are also on board, but for folks content to let the camera do the heavy lifting, intelligent auto mode can utilize a range of technologies to enhance photos - such as AF tracking, intelligent ISO control, face recognition, intelligent scene selector, intelligent handheld night shot and motion deblur.
There's a 3.0-inch LCD monitor that offers touch autofocus, zoom or shutter during recording and various playback functions, while battery charging in camera may be accomplished via USB or conventional AC adapter methods. The camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and there is approximately 12MB of built-in memory. Panasonic includes a battery pack and AC adapter, USB connection cable, hand strap, basic printed owner's manual and CD-ROM with each camera. The CD-ROM contains a full owner's manual and the camera is slated to sell for $350.
Along with the ZS20, Panasonic also announced the ZS15, a lower resolution/ less fully featured model that, along with the ZS20, will supersede the ZS10 and ZS8, respectively. Back in April of 2010, I reviewed the ZS7 for this website and found it to be a delightful compact digital. In fact, I found it so good that when an acquaintance asked for a suggestion on a compact digital to take on her world travels I immediately suggested the ZS7. That camera has since been all over the western United States, on safari in Africa, and just returned from a month-long junket to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates with its owner continuing to rave about image quality. I didn't have the chance to get hands-on with the ZS8 or 10, but if the ZS20 compares favorably to the ZS7, it will be in pretty good company. Let's find out. But before we do, here's a quick look at both ends of that 20x zoom:
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