Body and Design
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 is a compact ultra zoom camera that packs a 20X zoom lens (how engineers manage to fit big lenses into small packages always amazes me). The body made almost entirely of metal, and it feels quite solid. As usual, the plastic door over the memory card/battery compartment is on the flimsy side. The mode dial feels cheap, and is too small (as are several other buttons on the camera). The ZS20'sstabilized lens isn't terribly 'fast' (in terms of maximum aperture), but then again, neither are lenses found on the ZS20's competitors. The focal range isn't the lens' only new feature - it also has a nano surface coating, which aims to reduce flare and ghosting. Lens zooming is multi-speed, depending on how hard you push/pull the zoom toggle. At full speed, the lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.8 seconds. I counted over forty steps in the ZS20's 20X zoom range.
To the upper-right of the lens is the built-in flash, which has a working range of 0.6 - 6.4 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 3.3 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO). The ZS20 does not support an external flash.The only other thing to see on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp, which also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
The main event on the back of the camera is its 3-inch touchscreen LCD, which appears to be the same as the one on the DMC-ZS10. This screen has 460,000 pixels, so everything's nice and sharp. Its outdoor visibility is excellent, and in low light the screen brightens up well, so you can still see your subject. To the right is the ZS20's four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation, adjusting settings, and replaying photos. There are also direct buttons for exposure compensation/bracketing, self-timer, flash, and macro mode.
The last two buttons on the back of the ZS20 are for toggling the information shown on the LCD, as well as opening the Quick (shortcut) menu. The Q. Menu button is also used for deleting photos and backing out of menus. There's a lot to see on the top of the ZS20. Let me first point out the stereo microphones, which have the speaker located just to their right. Under the left mic is an indicator light that shows when the GPS is being used. Since by default the camera will keep checking your location every few minutes, don't be surprised if you set his lamp lit up when the camera is off.
Now let's take a look at how the DMC-ZS20 compares to other compact travel zooms in terms of size and weight:
|Camera||Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions)||Volume (bulk)||Mass (empty)|
|Canon PowerShot SX260 HS||4.2 x 2.4 x 1.3 in.||13.1 cu in.||208 g|
|Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR||4.1 x 2.4 x 1.4 in.||13.8 cu in.||209 g|
|Nikon Coolpix S9300||4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.||14 cu in.||215 g|
|Olympus SZ-31MR iHS||4.2 x 2.7 x 1.6 in.||18.1 cu in.||226 g|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20||4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.||12.3 cu in.||185 g|
|Pentax Optio VS20||4.4 x 2.4 x 1.5 in.||15.8 cu in.||213 g|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V||4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in||15.1 cu in.||221 g|
Well look at that - the ZS20 is the smallest and lightest compact ultra zoom in the group! It fits pretty well in jeans pockets (mine, at least), and is easy to carry around with just the wrist strap, as well.