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Conclusion - Pros

  • Very high resolution and detail capture throughout the zoom range
  • Sharp results
  • Good, natural color
  • Superb 12x optical zoom
  • Very effective image stabilization
  • Excellent handling - more compact than a DSLR but very stable
  • Comprehensive range of controls
  • Very fast operation
  • Well designed menu system
  • Nice handling and control layout
  • Easy to use
  • Excellent screen
  • Usable EVF
  • Autofocus illuminator
  • Powerful flash
  • Good battery life
  • Good value for money
  • Program shift
  • TIFF mode

Conclusion - Cons

  • Visible noise at ISOs above 100
  • Very occasional exposure problems
  • Focus at extreme telephoto sometimes hunts, occasionally misses
  • Low resolution movie mode
  • Some red fringing at 12x/wide apertures (rarely seen in prints)
  • Mode dial too easy to knock in use, changing modes
  • Images can look a little soft viewed at 100% - sharpen up well though

Overall conclusion

Sitting at the top of Panasonic's deservedly popular super zoom range, the FZ20 gets as close to the handling, versatility and quality of a digital SLR as any compact yet; offering superb, responsive handling, masses of control, a stunning 12x F2.8 lens and very high resolution results that produce beautiful prints. The image stabilization system allows you to hand-hold at the 12x end of the zoom range at speeds as low as 1/30th second (if you've got a steady hand), which transforms the experience of using a big zoom absolutely; and the short end (36mm equiv.) is wider than many 3x zoom cameras, which is an additional bonus. Throw in the ability to use add-on converter lenses, external flash compatibility, an excellent screen and good battery life and you've got a very capable system camera that offers excellent value for money.

Of course it's not all a bed of roses. I'd love to see this camera with a larger CCD, as noise at higher ISO's basically restricts its serious use to ISO 80-200, and even at ISO 200 the noise is visible in darker areas on larger prints. You also need to play around with exposure a little to eke the maximum dynamic range out of a scene, but this is common to all 5MP cameras.

However, given the high resolution, sharp results produced, the excellent overall performance, lack of optical problems in 99.9% of shooting situations and keen pricing, it's impossible not to recommend the FZ20 - take a look at the samples gallery and decide for yourself if the level of noise is acceptable; we certainly think it's a small price to pay for such an impressive camera.

Highly Recommended

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