Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 Review
Performance & Image Quality
In general, the DMC-ZS20 performs very well, especially when it comes to autofocus performance. The table below summarizes what you can expect from it:
|Timing||Measured Performance||How it Compares|
|2.0 sec||Below average|
|0.1 - 0.3 secs||Above average|
|0.8 - 1.0 secs||Above average|
|~ 1 sec||Average|
|Shutter lag||Not noticeable||Above Average|
|~ 1 sec||Above average|
|~ 2 sec||Above average|
As you can see, except for the startup time, the ZS20 is pretty 'smokin!
The DMC-ZS20 has a huge selection of burst modes, including an automatic mode (for Intelligent Auto only) whose frame rate varies depending on the scene, two modes where the camera refocuses between each shot (at 2 or 5 fps), three fixed-focus modes (10, 40, and 60 fps, though only the first one is at full resolution), and a 5-shot flash burst feature. The following chart summarizes the performance of the four burst modes you'll most likely use (and that I can measure):
|2 fps (w/autofocus)||Unlimited @ 2.0 frames/sec|
|5 fps (w/autofocus)||12 shots @ 4.8 frames/sec|
|10 fps (fixed focus)||10 shots @ 10.0 frames/sec|
|Flash burst (2.5 MP)||5 shots @ 1.7 frames/sec|
|Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 SDHC card|
Not too shabby, eh? The 2 fps AF mode will just keep on shooting, while the 5 fps mode will slow down considerably when the buffer fills up. Both the 10 fps and flash modes will stop after they've completely their burst.
It's time for some photo quality discussion!
|Photos are taken under indirect lighting provided by two Smith-Victor Q80 lamps at a focal length of 40mm (equivalent) and an aperture of f/3.9.|
Now it's time to see how the ZS20 performed in our studio ISO test, taken under consistant artificial lighting, indoors. Keep in mind that the crops only show a small portion of the test scene, so you might want to click to see the full size original images too. And with that, let's take a journey from ISO 100 to 3200:
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1600||ISO 3200|
Things look pretty clean at ISO 100 and 200, with just a slight increase in noise at ISO 400. Noise is lot more obvious at ISO 800, and color saturation drops slightly, but it's still usable for small and midsize prints. Things start to go downhill at ISO 1600, so I'd save that setting for emergencies only. You're better off avoiding ISO 3200 completely.
Compared to ZS10
Again, there's no RAW on the ZS20, so I can't do any RAW vs. JPEG comparisons. One comparison I can do is between the DMC-ZS10 and the ZS20. Noise was a big problem on the ZS10 (enough for me to not recommend it), and Panasonic promised better results on the ZS20. Let's find out:
|Panasonic DMC-ZS10 (100% crop)||Panasonic DMC-ZS20 (100% crop)|
I think I can unequivocally say that the ZS20's noise levels are at least 1-2 stops better than the ZS10. Not only is there less noise - colors look a lot better, too. The ZS20 isn't going to win any awards for its noise levels, but Panasonic has improved things considerably. Turn to our image quality compared page to see how the ZS20 fares against a wider range of competitors.
|This scene was shot from a fixed position using a tripod at at a focal length of 130mm (equivalent). Exposure was automatic in aperture priority mode at f/5.4, and image stabilization was turned off.|
Now we're going to use this night scene to see how the ZS20 performs as its sensitivity increases:
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1600||ISO 3200|
At base ISO (100) the night shot is decent, but there is room for improvement. The camera took in plenty of light, though there's a moderate amount of highlight clipping. The buildings are fairly sharp, but if you look closely you'll see mottled details from noise reduction. As far as color goes, the image is a bit more yellow that I'd like, which is a common issue with Panasonic cameras and artificial light. I was surprised to see purple fringing in the photo. While it's not major, Panasonic cameras usually have no problems with it.
The ISO 200 shot is just a bit noisier than the one at ISO 100, so it's just as usable. Noise and detail loss become a lot more obvious at ISO 400, so this is a good place to stop in low light. At ISO 800 you can observe quite a bit of detail loss, so that setting is for desperation (and small prints) only. Everything about that is too noisy to be usable. And, since the ZS20 lacks a RAW mode, this is as good as you're going to get.
The DMC-ZS20 did a nice job with our macro test subject. As is usually the case with Panasonic cameras, there's a slight yellow color cast here, but you mostly notice this on the white background. The subject is nice and sharp, and plenty of detail is captured. While there is some noise reduction artifacting here, you won't notice in the real world.
There are two macro modes on the ZS20, though I'd only bother with the standard one. In this mode, the minimum focus distance is 3 cm at wide-angle and 1 m at telephoto. The macro zoom feature locks the lens at full wide-angle and lets you use the digital zoom to get closer. This, of course, will reduce the quality of your photo, so it's best avoided.
The DMC-ZS20 takes a two-pronged approach to reducing redeye. First, it'll fire the flash a few times (before the photo is taken) to shrink your subject's pupils, which tends not to work on compact cameras. If the camera detects any redeye after the photo is taken, it'll attempt to remove that digitally.
I've found Panasonic's digital removal system to be pretty finicky - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In the ZS20's case, it never got rid of the redeye, in repeated tests. And, since there's no way to remove it in playback mode, you'll have to fix this annoyance on your PC.
The more complex the lens, the greater the likelihood of issues like distortion making an appearance in your photos.The ZS20 features an optical zoom that spans 24-480mm (equivalent). This photo was taken at the wide end.
There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the ZS20's 24 - 480 mm lens. If you look at the building on the right side of this photo, you can see what this distortion does in the real world. There are small amounts of corner blurring at full wide-angle, though you'll only notice when closely inspecting the photos on your PC. Vignetting (dark corners) were not a problem.
Overall Image Quality
Overall, the Lumix DMC-ZS20's image quality is good, but not fantastic. Is it better than the ZS10? Absolutely. Is there room for improvement? Quite a bit. Let's start with exposure which, while generally accurate, tends to clip highlights easily. My suggestion is to bracket (or use HDR) in high contrast situations. Colors are nice and saturated -- no complaints there. Photos are a bit on the soft side, but turning on Intelligent Resolution makes them a lot more pleasant to look at.
While photos aren't as noisy as on last year's model, the ZS20's pictures still have noise and noise reduction artifacting, even at ISO 100. This gives low contrast areas a fuzzy, mushy, and sometimes mottled appearance. While it'll blend away when you downsize for the web or make small prints, other cameras do better in this area. As the previous tests showed, taking the ISO over 400 in low light or ISO 800 in good light is not recommended. Purple fringing is rarely a problem on Panasonic cameras, and that is the case on the ZS20, as well.
As always, don't just take my word for all this. Have a look at our ZS20 photo gallery and decide if the image quality meets your standards!
Apr 27, 2012
Jan 31, 2012
Apr 22, 2015
Apr 13, 2015
Images have appeared which claim to show Nikon's forthcoming D850 DSLR, the development of which was announced this week. If genuine, the pictures indicate that the D850 will offer illuminated controls and a tilting LCD screen, but no built-in flash.
To celebrate the Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 lens' successful Kickstarter campaign, Lomography has announced a chrome-plated version of the lens in Nikon and Canon DSLR mounts.
Nikon just released four new firmware updates, adding features and fixing bugs in the D600, D610, D750 and the KeyMission 80.
It probably hasn't made your landscape photography bucket list just yet, but there's a good reason to visit Idaho. Here are 9 must-visit locations in this beautiful state.
Oops... Adobe accidentally leaked their unfinished Lightroom-powered cloud-based photo editor 'Project Nimbus' to some Creative Cloud users yesterday.
Storm chaser and award-winning photographer Mike Oblinski just released his latest time-lapse, and it is absolutely stunning.
Looking to level up your video capture capabilities without buying a whole new camera? Blackmagic's Video Assist 4K is well worth considering, despite a few flaws and its lack of 4K/60p support.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's fast-growing GFX system, and the GF 110mm F2 lens is no exception. Positioned as the system's classic portrait lens, its optics are just as impressive with non-human subjects as well.
Nikon turns 100 years old today, and the company is celebrating with a wacky music video, some tributes to its history, and a new vision presented by president Kazuo Ushida.
Phottix just released the Premio Parabolic Umbrellas series, replacing their Para-Pro line with a stronger, deeper and better made set of parabolic umbrellas.
The Moto Z2 is Motorola's first dual-camera smartphone and, compared to its predecessor, comes with a number of improvements and new camera features.
Researchers at Stanford have revealed a new '4D camera system' built for robots. The system is based on the same light field tech that allowed Lytro cameras to refocus images after they were taken.
If you want 'beautiful rendition' from your lenses, follow this simple rule: only buy classic low-element prime lenses with lead glass elements—everything else is junk.
In an interview with CNBC, Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann said he dreams of a 'true Leica phone,' and hinted at what's next for the Leica and Huawei partnership.
Wildlife and nature photographer Peter Mather tells the story behind this exceptional shot of a mama grizzly and her cub searching for salmon in Yukon, Canada.
Popular YouTube channel TastyTuts has put together this 33-video Beginner's Guide to Adobe Photoshop—a godsend for anybody who wants to learn Photoshop from scratch.
The long anticipated replacement for the popular Rode VideoMic Pro is almost ready for shipping. The price of the upgraded VideoMic Pro+ will be £290/$300 when it goes on sale in mid-August.
A new iOS app called Explorest wants to help you find new locations to shoot. It's limited to Singapore for now, but the app is packed full of useful location scouting features.
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.
Nikon has announced the development of the long-awaited replacement to its full-frame D810: the D850. Nikon says that the D850 will build on the strengths of its predecessor and offer 'new technologies, features and performance enhancements.'
Lens manufacturer Voigtlander has introduced a 65mm F2 macro lens for Sony E-mount that it says "rates as one of the finest in the history of Voigtländer."
The UK released a preview of their upcoming drone safety regulations, and it looks like drone pilots will have to both register their device and pass safety awareness tests.
National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes talks about light, and why you need to learn how to 'see' and not just 'look' at your subject.
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.