The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 camera can produce clear and vibrant images, has a great zoom range, and it's absolutely feature-packed. Updated, 6 June 2011

This is one of the most comprehensively featured travel zooms available but also one of the priciest. The 14.1 effective megapixel TZ20 updates the TZ10, its 16x optical zoom with equivalent 24mm to 384mm focal range placing it second only to the Nikon S9100 in terms of lens power. There's the ability to boost this to an equivalent 33.8x at 3Mp plus the Panasonic features GPS geo-tagging with longitude and latitude coordinates automatically embedded in the image file's Exif data.

Full HD video comes with stereo sound via top mounted microphones, and with the choice of shooting in highly compressed AVCHD format or more widely compatible Mpeg4. HDMI output features under a side flap and again we get a dedicated video record button. However, because here flipping between capture mode and playback requires flicking a physical switch, you can’t instantly hit ‘record’ unless you happen to have the capture option already selected.

Photo Advisor

For more 'hands on' photographers, as with the Canon and Casio models the Lumix offers program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual modes. On the same dial is a user customisable mode, three scene mode options, plus the prominently marked and reliable intelligent Auto.

The biggest surprise on the dial is 3D mode - the first such appearance on a Panasonic snapshot, via which the camera composites a stereoscopic image using a sequence of up to 20 frames. With this mode selected, the user simply fires the shutter release as normal and pans with the camera in the direction of the indicator arrow. Following a machine gun-like patter of shot taking, the camera automatically generates an MPO file viewable only on a 3D TV.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20

The TZ20’s 3in, 460k-dot resolution backplate LCD is also a touchscreen. Thoughtfully, Panasonic has also a smattering of physical controls you aren't wholly reliant on the touch-interface. Using a combination of real buttons and virtual ones makes for best practice, though it's fairly easy to take a shot accidentally if a thumb strays onto screen (fortunately the ability to fire the shutter button this way can be deactivated).

The TZ20 delivers a reliably consistent output, colours veering between natural and warm depending on selected settings and whether you're allowing the camera to choose for itself, which generally favours the warmer option. Exposures are even, metering mostly spot on, and detail is maintained from edge to edge, even at maximum wide-angle. Familiar bugbears such as pixel fringing and occasional loss of highlights rear their heads. 

Next page: Our original review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, by PC World Australia's Elias Plastiras, from March 2011 >>

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 camera can produce clear and vibrant images, has a great zoom range, and it's absolutely feature-packed. What follows is our original review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, by PC World Australia's Elias Plastiras, from March 2011

We've found Panasonic's Lumix Travel Zoom range of cameras to be a little hit and miss over the last few years, but with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, the company definitely has a hit on its hands.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20's image sensor is capable of capturing wonderfully clear images (even at maximum zoom), its video quality is excellent, and it's packed with features. Even the menu system is easier to use.

The Lumix DMC-TZ20 is the successor to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10, which we thought was a good camera overall, but it was plagued by soft and somewhat noisy images. Compared to the TZ10, the TZ20 has a 14Mp sensor instead of 12Mp, along with a 16x optical zoom lens (24-384mm) instead of a 12x optical zoom lens (25-300mm). With these improvements, the TZ20's image quality fares much better when scrutinised.

Panasonic DMC-TZ20

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: Image quality

The Lumix DMC-TZ20's images are clear and well defined, even when viewed at their original size, and noise at ISO 400 is barely an issue. Furthermore, the quality of images is high when using the camera's maximum zoom; you can obtain clear images at full zoom even without the use of a tripod.

There isn't any noticeable feathering around images when they are viewed at their maximum resolution - with the TZ10, this was an issue. However, you still won't want to use too high an ISO speed as anything above ISO 400 will result in images being tarnished by noticeable noise and speckling. This will be noticeable even when viewing the images at a small size. For this reason, it's a good idea to use the ISO limiting feature when shooting in auto mode.

Panasonic DMC-TZ20 test shots

The ISO performance of the Lumix DMC-TZ20 deteriorates noticeably after ISO 400

The colour reproduction of the Lumix DMC-TZ20 is very good, and you can customise it to your liking through the menu system. If you want the colours to have more 'oomph', simply select 'Vivid' rather than 'Standard' or 'Natural'. Additionally, you can select from a wealth of scene modes and art filters - there are 25 regular scene modes and five art modes, including grainy film, which is a little dramatic.

Panasonic DMC-TZ20 test shots

The colour reproduction is natural, but you can set it to Vivid if you want more saturation. You can see some lens barrel distortion in this photo

Panasonic DMC-TZ20 test shots

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 can capture high-quality images at its maximum zoom point

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: New features

A new high-speed recording mode has been added, too, which allows you to capture slow motion video. We're fans of this mode as it can be a lot of fun to capture all sorts of motion at a slowed-down pace, but Panasonic's high speed mode is a little fuzzier than we've seen from other cameras with a similar feature, such as the Casio Exilim EX-FH100 and the Samsung WB2000.

You can't select the frame rate; the Panasonic shoots at 240fps, but this isn't a drawback because shooting at higher speeds would degrade the image quality further and creates video sizes that are too small for people to enjoy.

Another new feature in the TZ20 is its touchscreen. It's a weird implementation: it will only let you select a focus point on the screen with your finger, and 'tap to shoot'. However, you can't access any of the menu features with your finger. To us, this isn't much of a problem as we prefer using buttons to change menu settings, and having the ability to choose a focus point by tapping the screen is a bonus.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: GPS feature and video mode

The TZ20 retains the GPS feature that was also found in the TZ10, but it adds the ability to geo-tag videos with latitude and longitude (or country and city). And speaking of video mode, the TZ20 definitely does a great job of capturing clear and smooth video at 1920x1080 in AVCHD format; you can zoom slowly in video mode and in turn the camera will autofocus slowly but accurately. Like most digital cameras that record video, though, copious amounts of camera movement can cause jittery footage.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: 3D images

You can also use the DMC-TZ20 to shoot 3D images, which are recorded as an MPO file with two stereo JPEG images inside. You'll have to view these images through the supplied image viewer and through a pair of anaglyph glasses if you want to see the results on a 2D monitor; if you have a 3D TV that supports MPO files (such as a Panasonic VIERA 3D TV), you can simply plug the camera into the TV to view them. To shoot a 3D image, you have to hold down the shutter while panning the camera slightly. It takes a bunch of images and selects the best two to form the 3D image.

Panasonic DMC-TZ20

Lumix DMC-TZ20 red version

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 is available in black, red, silver and blue versions

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 is jam-packed with features, many of which are useful. Most importantly, it takes clear and vibrant images and its video mode is very good. We recommend it to anyone who wants a highly versatile compact camera that can be used in just about any photographic situation, be it shooting macros or landscapes, portraits or close-ups of distant details. A couple of down sides are its screen, which can be a pain to view in bright outdoor conditions, and its battery life, which will be used up quicker than usual if you leave the GPS function enabled (it works even while the camera is off).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20: Specs

  • 14Mp sensor
  • 16x optical zoom
  • f/3.3-5.9
  • 3in resistive LCD touchscreen
  • GPS geotagging
  • 3D mode
  • ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • rechargeable battery
  • video recording at 1920x1080
  • supports SD card
  • Jpeg image files
  • AVCHD/MOV video files
  • 100x21x55mm
  • 142g
  • 14Mp sensor
  • 16x optical zoom
  • f/3.3-5.9
  • 3in resistive LCD touchscreen
  • GPS geotagging
  • 3D mode
  • ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • rechargeable battery
  • video recording at 1920x1080
  • supports SD card
  • Jpeg image files
  • AVCHD/MOV video files
  • 100x21x55mm
  • 142g

OUR VERDICT

We found a lot to like in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, in particular the choice of AVCHD and Mpeg4 video capture modes. It's a decent, feature-laden camera, even without extras such as the intriguing 3D option. We were pleased to find Panasonic hasn't sacrificed any compositional versatility, but we think this camera's high price may put off those it is trying to convert.

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