Panasonic pioneered the travel zoom and its 14-megapixel Lumix DMC-TZ20 pocket camera, in replacing the TZ10, shoehorns in its largest to date with a 16x variety. This provides a very flexible focal range equivalent to a wideangle 24mm to 384mm in 35mm terms. Additionally included are a top plate mounted GPS antenna, 3D shooting mode generating MPO files that are only viewable on a 3D TV, plus Full HD video recording with stereo sound.
Even given the comprehensiveness and relative future proofing provided by the above, a street price of up to £350 is on the high side for a pocket compact. So let’s take a closer look and see whether it’s justified.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: Controls
Photos and video are composed and reviewed via a 3-inch, 460k dot resolution LCD screen. The larger size comes in handy as touch panel operation is offered. There’s the ability to control what the camera focuses on by tapping an intended subject on screen. Users can also take a picture with a screen tap, and, as it’s relatively easy to do accidentally when merely handling the camera, this feature can be deactivated.
Physical buttons are included to the right of the screen too, so the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 offers a best of both worlds operation. Although this means that you can avoid using the screen controls entirely, we found ourselves using both in tandem as it was quicker to get the desired result.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: Features
Like the rest of the point-and-shoot Lumix range, this Panasonic features a reliable intelligent Auto (iA) mode that ‘recognises’ common subjects and adjusts settings to theoretically deliver optimal results. It’s a useful fallback feature when you want to concentrate on subject rather than camera settings.
If the provided optical zoom isn’t quite enough, the TZ20’s lens reach can be extended to 21x equivalent via a digital zoom option. Plus, if you don't mind resolution dropping to three megapixels, it can boosted to an equivalent 33.8x via Panasonic's Extra Optical Zoom option. The resolution drop is because only the central part of the sensor is being used. In effect the camera is making a crop so although it's an impressive number to stick on the box, there is a caveat.
Also worth noting is the TZ20’s GPS facility that automatically embeds longitude and latitude coordinates in the image file's Exif data. Location info is provided for 203 countries and more than a million landmarks. The other draw is the TZ20's Full HD video comes with stereo sound via top-mounted microphones, with the choice of the highly compressed AVCHD or more widely compatible Motion JPEG video formats. HDMI output is also provided under a side flap for connection to a flat panel TV.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: Image quality
At maximum zoom we did get occasional soft focus due to camera shake, as the Panasonic lacks a decent handgrip, but generally colours were attractively warm, depending on which setting was selected, and detail was sharp.
Exposures are also even, metering mostly on the money, and detail is maintained from edge to edge of frame, even at maximum wideangle, which isn’t always the case with super zooms. Familiar bugbears such as pixel fringing and clipped highlights do rear their heads, but these are par for the course on a camera which is, at the end of the day, a simple-to-use point and shoot bulked out with some cool gimmickry and a bigger than average zoom. If you want a jack of all trades camera that will fit in a pocket the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 comes recommended, but if you don’t need GPS nor 3D shooting, there are broader travel zooms that will also make your cash stretch further
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 launch date: Out now, link Panasonic
Panasonic Lumix TZ20 price: £249-£329 online