The Lumix TZ20 is the latest 16x (24-384mm) megazoom compact camera from Panasonic. Packed with 14.1 megapixel MOS sensor, it supports full HD video recording in AVCHD format and comes with some serious high-speed shooting capabilities.
Like the other recently-launched Lumix FX78, TZ20 offers touchscreen control shooting features, where you can zoom, focus, and trigger the shutter at the touch of the screen. During playback, you can also scroll the images by swiping. Unlike the FX78 where the interface is driven by the touchscreen, he TZ20 still possesses plenty of hardware keys to operate the camera, which I certainly prefer over the touchscreen.
The point about TZ20 is of course the long zoom range. Having a camera that can zoom 16 times - up to 21 times with intelligent zoom - opens a new world of imaging to me. I can capture what is otherwise out of my visual range. Faraway objects suddenly appear within reach on the photos. Despite the long zoom, I have no problems getting steady shots, thanks to the Mega OIS feature.
Check out the antenna!
Despite being an ultra-zoom, the TZ20 starts up in under 3 seconds. Once the camera is switched on, the lens extend outwards for 3cm. At the maximum zoom end, the lens extend further to 4.5cm. AF speed is snappy, and although it could get slightly slow at the long-end, this is quite common for cameras with such zoom range. Equally impressive are the silent AF and zoom motors, which are critical for video recording.
Another special set of functions on the TZ20 is the ability to capture high-speed still and moving images by selecting one of the fps settings - from 2 to 60 fps! The best thing is that when you playback the images, the camera shows them as a single set of images, so you don't have to scroll say 60 images before seeing the next photo. You can even playback the set of images in animation. (This grouping only applies to burst modes higher than 10fps)
Burst Mode captures the low-flying aircraft in full 14mp.
Want something even faster? Well, try 220fps! Select High-Speed Movie mode and the camera captures in MOV format. Just check out the below clip of my ceiling fan at home!
Besides the fancy slow-mo video effect, the Lumix TZ20 records video in Dolby Digital Stereo with a pair of stereo mics. You can choose to record in full HD 1080i or in 720p, in AVCHD or in Motion JPEG.
Panasonic does not forget to include the GPS module, completing the setup of the TZ20 as the full-featured travel camera. You can choose to either set the GPS as always on even when the camera is off (this is to allow GPS data to be always ready but drains battery), or in airplane mode (i.e. on when the camera is powered up). Geo-tag is possible on both photo and video files.
And there is more - a lot more in fact! The TZ20 has 30 different SCENE modes! I won't go into the details but you get the idea: never a dull moment with this shutter bugger! And to top the fun factor, you can use some of the SCENE modes for your video recording. That means, I can choose a Film Grain or Pinhole effects and create arty-looking movies! Groovy, yeah!
Touching on advanced shooting modes, the TZ20 offers the PASM modes for the serious photographers who desire to manually control the aperture and shutter settings. Panasonic provides a dedicated "Exposure" button that needs to be pressed before the user can adjust the aperture or shutter using the navigation buttons. In terms of customisation, the mode dial on top of the camera offers 2 additional slots (MS1/MS2) to allow you to quickly access your preset SCENE modes. There is also another slot (CUST) to let you save 3 custom shoot settings. With so many custom modes, I can easily switch them around to capture images using my preferred settings without having to re-set the shoot values every time.
Features aside, the most important aspect of a camera is of course the image quality. Due to the variable aperture of f/3.3 - 5.9, the TZ20 lens is not as "bright" as other compact cameras. As a result, while outdoor images look fine, indoor shots suffer from image noise and slow shutter. I wasn't too impressed with the indoor shots that I took. The images have the characteristics of a compact camera: soft, grainy, noisy. It doesn't look bad, but I certainly will not use it for print enlargements. I also wasn't able to freeze actions when taking photos indoors without flash (I like to shoot with ambient lighting). Not that the camera operation is slow, but just that with the smaller f/3.3 aperture, the shutter speed is simply not fast enough to capture subjects that constantly move - like children.
During playback mode, one interesting feature is the Filtering Play option, where you can filter the images to view: by picture-only, video-only, 3D, GPS-tagged, travel, category (SCENE modes), or favourites. I find the "Category" filter useful, as I can view by the SCENE modes I have captured, e.g. only images captured under "Portrait" mode.
Surprisingly, the TZ20 offers no post-processing capability - not even adjusting brightness and saturation - which is quite rare for a consumer camera.
The Lumix TZ20 offers so many features and functions that will satisfy most casual users who desires a camera with huge zoom range. Panasonic throws in lots of shooting effects and high-speed modes to capture fun moments. Camera interface speed is also a notch above average. Due to the average-spec aperture lens, indoor shots are not as good. There is also no post-processing capability, though most people would probably not mind (myself included).
Advantages over other standard-zoom compact cameras (like Lumix FX78)
- Huge zoom range
- Full manual controls
- More hardware buttons for ease of accessing shooting controls
- A lot of customised modes, endless fun
- Size: though not as bulky as many cameras of similar specs, it's still not pocketable
- Slower lenses - f/3.3 to f/5.9
- Average image quality when shooting indoors
- No post-processing features