Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 Review
The ZS20 has can now record AVCHD Progressive video. What that means is that video is recorded at 1920 x 1080 at true 60p, so there will be no interlacing artifacts in your movies. If you still want interlaced video, that's available at 60i, there's a 720/60p mode, too. For all three of the resolutions I just mentioned, the camera uses the AVCHD codec -- which allows for recording time of up to 30 minutes and easy viewing on your HDTV -- and sound is recorded in Dolby Digital Stereo. You also have the option of having your location tagged in the movie's metadata.
PhotoFunStudio (supplied) can work with the movies produced by the ZS20. You can trim unwanted footage from a clip, overlay titles or "stamps", and convert AVCHD footage to the easier-to-edit MPEG-4 format. If you want to use something else to edit your videos, most modern Windows video editing suites can work with the AVCHD files produced by the ZS20. However, some of them may not support the AVCHD Progressive format, so check with your software manufacturer first. Mac users are in the same boat. You cannot currently edit AVCHD Progressive videos in either iMovie or Final Cut Pro. However, if you download the free Media Converter software (and its associated rewrap for QuickTime plug-in), you will be able to import them. Movies recorded in MPEG-4 (MP4) format will be much easier to edit in the software of your choice.
If you want to avoid AVCHD entirely -- which you might, since it's difficult to edit and share -- then you can also use MPEG-4 (a step up from Motion JPEG used on previous models). You can record video at 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 and 640 x 480, all at 30 frames/second. Do note that recording stops when the file size reaches 4GB, which takes about 23 minutes at the 1080/30p setting.
As with its predecessor, the ZS20 lets you use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie. The lens moves slowly, so the noise from the motor is not picked up by the microphone. The optical image stabilization system works, as well, with an "active" mode that helps suppress severe camera shake. The camera can focus continuously while recording a movie, to help keep your subjects in focus, whereever they are.
Video recording is a point-and-shoot experience on the ZS20, with no manual controls. You can take up to fifteen still photos while you're recording a movie, albeit at 3.5 Megapixel resolution. I've included two video files here, from the ZS20 - both seem a little overexposed, so bear that in mind if you're considering buying one for video use.
Video Sample 1
|Download original AVCHD Progressive file (49.8 MB, 1920 x 1080, 60 fps, MTS format)|
Video Sample 2
|Download original AVCHD Progressive file (46.3 MB, 1920 x 1080, 60 fps, MTS format)|