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Panasonic DMC-FZ20 hands-on Preview

By dpreview staff on Jul 22, 2004 at 19:52 GMT

Announced yesterday Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-FZ20 is a step-change upgrade to the popular DMC-FZ10. On paper the FZ20 looks very good, a five megapixel CCD, twelve times optically stabilized zoom lens with an F2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range, a range of manual controls wrapped up in a relatively compact body (compared to a digital SLR). We have received a pre-production camera and have produced a very brief hands-on preview with more product images and menu captures. Unfortunately no sample images are available at this stage.

Phil: Panasonic has asked us not to post sample images from this pre-production camera, we will be reviewing the FZ20 in full once production models are available and the (soon to be discontinued) FZ10 for which our review has already been started.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 hands-on Preview

The FZ20 has what we would coin an SLR-like appearance, although in this case the lens portion is fairly oversized compared to the body. The body itself is made from a very tough plastic material, the lens barrel is metal. The lens is the key to this camera, it provides a huge 36 to 432 mm equiv. zoom range with a very fast F2.8 maximum aperture even at full telephoto. In addition the lens has optical stabilization which will improve both telephoto and low light performance. This is coupled to a 1/2.5" Type five megapixel CCD. Panasonic have implemented their new 'Venus Engine II' in the FZ20 which promises faster performance, higher quality images and better image stabilization.

Side by side

Here you can see the FZ20 beside the camera it replaces, the four megapixel FZ10. As you can see the changes to the body design are quite subtle, mostly a rounding of edges and an increase and re-shaping of the hand grip (which is a surprising improvement). Other changes are less obvious, the storage compartment door now opens to the center of the camera instead of forward, all connectors are now found on the right side of the camera (from the front) and the dioptre adjustment on the EVF is on the left side of the eyepiece. FZ10 owners will feel immediately at home with the FZ20.

In your hand

The combination of the new deeper hand grip, more rubber and the molded rear thumb grip make the FZ20 a fairly comfortable camera to hold (although having used the camera for a while I personally would have liked an even larger grip). The large lens barrel automatically becomes the grip position for your left hand. Most of the camera's weight is in the lens and metal lens barrel and hence it can sometimes feel as though it is pulling you to the left.

Operation

On top of the camera the mode dial has change slightly from the FZ10 but still performs the same functions. The zoom lever is single speed, it would have been nice (considering the range) if this had been multi-speed. It would have also been good to have the option to use the lens barrel ring to zoom. The rear controls haven't changed from the FZ10, the menu system has had a 'make over' although has approximately the same layout. Everything is fairly logical and Panasonic has stuck with its simple on/off switch (sometimes simple solutions are the best).

Design elements

As mentioned above the battery / storage compartment now opens towards the center of the camera instead of downwards. The battery is a 7.2 V 680 mAh Lithium-Ion unit and is charged by the dedicated charger / AC adapter. On the right side of the camera (from the rear) is a proper compartment cover with a sprung metal hinge (rejoyce!) which covers the wired remote, AV/USB and DC-IN connectors.
The FZ20's pop-up flash provides plenty of power, according Panasonic's specification sheets enough for a 7.0 m (23 ft) range (in Auto ISO mode). Note that there's also a flash hot-shoe for mounting and triggering third party flash units. The design of the hood has also changed, it's now a two part setup, the first part screws onto the lens barrel, the second flower petal hood clips onto the first and can be locked into position with a small metal thumb screw.

Screen captures

Record view display with the new live histogram, this is one of five display modes. Another display mode is this 'control panel' view which provides an summary of camera settings as well as a reduced size live view.
The FZ20 also has a 'thirds grid' record view display. In manual focus mode the center portion of the display is magnified to help to see the focus point.
Record menu Setup menu
 
Play menu  

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