Previous page Next page

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 Review

April 2012 | By Jeff Keller
Buy on Amazon.com From $423.89

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 is a compact travel zoom camera with a pretty elaborate GPS setup. Not only does the ZS20 log your location, it also has a database of a million landmarks and maps of ninety countries. The ZS20 also packs a new 20X zoom lens, 14.1 Megapixel MOS sensor (which Panasonic says has less noise than the CCD used in the ZS10), super-fast autofocus, 10 frame/second continuous shooting, a great auto mode, in-camera panorama stitching, and Full HD 1080/60p video recording.

Compared to ZS10 and ZS15

As with all of Panasonic's recent travel zooms, the ZS20 has a little brother known as the DMC-ZS15. The ZS15 shares much in common with the ZS20, except for its lens (same as the ZS10), sensor (which is the same as the one on the DMC-FZ150 super zoom), and movie mode. It also lacks the touchscreen LCD and GPS functionality found on both the ZS10 and ZS20.

  Lumix DMC-ZS10 Lumix DMC-ZS15 Lumix DMC-ZS20
MSRP N/A $279 $349
Sensor resolution / type 14.1 MP (MOS) 12.1 MP (MOS) 14.1 MP (MOS) *
Lens focal range (zoom) 24 - 384 mm (16X) 24 - 480 mm (20X)
Lens max aperture F3.3 - F5.9 F3.3 - F6.4
AF system Sonic Speed AF Light Speed AF
LCD size/resolution 3.0" / 460,000 pixel
Touchscreen LCD Yes No Yes
ISO range (full resolution) 100 - 1600 100 - 3200
Burst rate (full resolution) 15 shots @ 10 fps 4 shots @ 10 fps 10 shots @ 10 fps
GPS receiver Yes No Yes
Built-in maps No No Yes
Intelligent HDR No Yes Yes
In-camera panorama stitch No Yes Yes
Movie resolution 1920 x 1080 / 60i ** 1920 x 1080 / 60p
Stereo sound Yes No Yes
High speed movies Yes No Yes
Built-in memory 18 MB 70 MB 12 MB
Battery life (CIPA) 260 shots ***
In-camera battery charging No Yes Yes
Dimensions 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.1 in.
Weight (body only, empty) 197 g 185 g 184 g

* Different sensor than the one used on the ZS10
** Sensor output is 30p
*** With GPS disabled (if available)

If you read last year's GPS-equipped Compact Ultra Zoom comparison, you may recall that I was quite disappointed with the DMC-ZS10, mostly due to its image quality. Panasonic says they've taken care of that on the ZS20. Did they? Find out now in our review!

Note that the DMC-ZS20 is known as the DMC-TZ30 in some countries. The DMC-ZS15 is also known as the DMC-TZ25.

What's in the Box?

The DMC-ZS20 has a rather unremarkable bundle. Then again, so do most cameras these days. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 14.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-ZS20 digital camera
  • DMW-BCG10 lithium-ion battery
  • AC-to-USB adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • DVD featuring PhotoFunStudio 8.1 Premium Edition, Map Tool, and LoiLoScope trial
  • 34 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)

Despite being their flagship travel zoom camera, Panasonic has built just 18MB of memory into the DMC-ZS20. Needless to say, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, unless you have one sitting around already. The ZS20 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend a 4GB card for most folks, and an 8GB or 16GB card for movie enthusiasts. You'll want a card rated Class 6 or faster for best performance, especially when it comes to movies.

The DMC-ZS20 uses the same DMW-BCG10 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. This battery packs just 3.2 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, but thankfully Panasonic manages to squeeze pretty good battery life out of it, as you can see in this table. Note that battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer, and are calculated with the GPS turned off.

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS * 230 shots NB-6L
Fuji FinePix F770EXR * 300 shots NP-50A (1)
Nikon Coolpix S9300 * 200 shots EN-EL12
Olympus SZ-31MR iHS 200 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 * 260 shots DMW-BCG10
Pentax Optio VS20 200 shots D-LI122
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V * 320 shots NP-BG1

* Camera features built-in GPS

The ZS20's battery life is a bit above the group average. That said, you might want to pick up a spare battery, as that GPS is power-hungry, especially if it's on all the time (more on that later). An extra battery will set you back around $32.

Panasonic has changed the way in which batteries are charged on their 2012 models. Batteries are now charged internally via the USB connector, which can be plugged into the wall or your PC. The reason why manufacturers are using this method more and more is pretty obvious to me: it costs a lot less to include a small AC-to-USB adapter than a full external charger. The bad news is that internal charging is a lot slower -- it takes a whopping 260 minutes to fully charge the ZS20's battery. Thankfully, Panasonic still sells the external charger (model DE-A65BA), which can be yours for about $25. It's more convenient than internal charging, allows you to charge a spare, and it's 100 minutes faster, too.

Something else about the included charger: while it's an AC adapter, you cannot use it to power the camera -- it's for charging only. If you want to use the ZS20 on "shore power", then you'll need to buy the hard-to-find AC adapter listed below.

Optional Accessories

Accessory Model # Price* Description
Underwater housing DMW-MCTZ30 $299 Take the ZS20 up to 40 meters underwater.
External battery charger DE-A65BA $24 An old-fashioned external charger, which is considerably faster than in-camera charging. Also allows for charging of a spare battery.
AC adapter DMW-AC5
DMW-DCC5
$60
$13
While not an official ZS20 accessory, the combination of these parts will let you power the camera without draining the battery. These can be very hard to find.
A/V cable DMW-AVC1 $9 Composite audio/video cable for connecting to a standard television.
Leather case

DMW-CT3-K
DMW-CT3-T

$49 A leather case which comes in black and tan. Includes a battery case.
*Prices accurate at time of publication

A pretty short list, yes, but then again, the ZS20 is a compact camera. As I've hinted at several times, Panasonic accessories can be very hard to find - I don't even have prices for half of the stuff!

Panasonic includes PhotoFunStudio 8.1 Professional Edition software with the Lumix DMC-ZS20. This Windows-only software handles basic tasks fairly well, though the whole "wizard" system gets tired quickly. On the main screen you'll see the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos by folders, date, or by things as specific as scene mode. The software can learn to recognize faces (much like the camera itself), which offers you another way to browse through your pictures. Available editing features give you the ability to crop, rotate, or change the aspect ratio of your photos, as well as adjusting color, brightness, saturation, and more. You can apply special effects to photos, overlay text, or remove redeye. Something else that's nice is that the software maintains a history of the changes you've made to a photo, so you can go back in time if you don't like something you've done.

Another included program is Lumix Map Tool (for Mac and Windows), which lets you choose which maps of the world you want to load onto your memory card. The North/Central America map is 1.88 GB, so maybe getting that 8 GB SDHC card isn't such a bad idea, after all. Another important application, known as GPSASIST, is actually built into the camera itself. When you attach it to your Mac or PC via USB, select "GPS Assist Data" on the camera, and you'll find the software on the virtual disk mounted by the camera. Loading the GPS Assist Data can reduce satellite acquisition times.

As with other recent Panasonic cameras, the ZS20's manuals are split into two parts. In the box is a leaflet that will get you up and running, but not much further. For more information about the camera, you'll have to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on the DVD that comes with the camera. The full manual certainly won't win any awards for user-friendliness, but it should answer most questions you'll have about the ZS20. Instructions for using the included software is installed onto your PC.

This review was first published at www.dcresource.com, and is presented here with minimal changes, notably the inclusion of a full set of product images, our usual studio comparisons and an expanded samples gallery, plus the addition of a standard dpreview score.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

Previous page Next page
60
I own it
17
I want it
12
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments