Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 Review
In addition to the auto white balance mode the FZ20 offers four presets (daylight, cloudy, incandescent and flash). There is no preset for fluorescent lights (unfortunate given the rather mediocre performance of the AWB in such situations), but there is a manual white balance mode that allows you to point the camera at a white or gray card and create a custom setting.
In use - especially outdoors - the FZ20 delivers consistently accurate color. Under artificial lighting the results are more patchy. You'll need to use manual white balance under mixed lighting (especially fluorescents), though the results from auto white balance under incandescent (tungsten) lighting are good - as long as it's bright enough. When light levels drop (indoors at night) you'll get very orange results unless you switch to manual WB.
Outdoor - Auto WB
|Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red -0.7%, Blue -5.2%
|Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 0.0%, Blue -0.9%,
The FZ20's powerful built-in flash, along with the bright F2.8 lens, gets a lot further than most - it's good for at least 7.0m (23 feet), and it works very well at close distances too, throttling down well until you get to about 25cm (2 feet) or so. Exposures are generally excellent, as is white balance, and of course you can add an external flash or use studio lighting easily thanks to the hot shoe.
Very slight blue cast, slight underexposure
Very slight blue cast, slight underexposure
The FZ20 has a rather unusual approach to macro focusing. There is no macro button, and in A, S and M modes the full focus range (from 5cm to infinity at the wide end of the zoom) is available all the time, whereas in P (fully automatic) mode you can only focus down to 30cm; presumably to speed up focusing in everyday snap shooting situations. Then there is a separate macro mode (on the main mode dial) that offers fully automatic exposure - just like the P mode - but focuses down to 5cm (again at the wide end of the zoom). As is common in zoom cameras the FZ20's macro capabilities are much better at the wide end of the zoom (5cm subject distance capturing an area around 43mm across), and there is inevitably some barrel distortion (and some color fringing). At the full 12x zoom position the close focus ability is less impressive - a subject distance of 200cm capturing an area around 12cm across, but there is no distortion at all.
Barrel and Pincushion Distortion
The wide end of the FZ20's zoom is marginally wider (36mm equiv.) than most of its competitors (though not quite as wide as the FZ3's 35mm), and the range - 12x - is greater. So it is a tribute to the designers at Leica (who presumably had some say in the design of the lens) that distortion is kept fairly low. The 1.35% barrel distortion is only just enough to be visible in wideangle shots, but not enough to be a problem, whilst there is no measurable distortion once you start to move into the middle and long end of the zoom.
|Barrel distortion - 1.35% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 35 mm
|Pincushion distortion - 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 420 mm
Specific image quality issues
It is hard not to be impressed with the images produced by the FZ20 - sharp, full of detail and with admirably natural (i.e. not over-saturated) colors. In our extensive real-world testing we only found a few minor problems - the occasional focus error when shooting quickly at full zoom, some mild exposure problems, and some flare in very bright light (mostly solved by the use of the supplied hood). It should be noted, however, that the 'hit rate' is very high; I would guess only 1 in 100 shots had a problem serious enough to ruin the shot. The images have more detail than the 3MP FZ3, and we saw far fewer blown highlights. Noise is an ever-present problem at higher ISOs (a 'feature' of this sensor), but is perfectly acceptable at ISO 80 and 100 - the F2.8 lens and effective image stabilization also mean you don't need to go to ISO 200 or 400 as often as you might normally. The images also need only the tiniest amount of unsharp masking, meaning noise is not exacerbated. It is also worth noting that we found none of the vignetting seen on the FZ3.
We found virtually none of the purple fringing we've come to expect from long zooms and small sensors - perhaps because one of the functions of the new Venus II engine is the removal of 'purple fringing'. Even in areas of extreme overexposure the only problem was a little blooming - no fringing at all. Excellent.
What we did find on rare occasions was what appears to be a little lens-produced CA (chromatic aberration) at the extreme telephoto end of the zoom when shooting at wider apertures. This takes the form of a slight red fringe around areas of very high contrast. It's only visible in a few shots and is best illustrated by this hand-held shot of the moon. I suspect also that the fringing may be something to do with the moving elements used in the image stabilization system (see the soccer shot below for an example where the IS has been pushed to the limit).
|100% crop||432 mm equiv., F3.3, 1/500th sec|
|100% crop||432 mm equiv., F2.8, 1/100th sec|
The MEGA O.I.S image Stabilization system used on the FZ20 (and many other recent Panasonic models) works, and it works well. There are two modes: Mode 1 (IS on all the time) and Mode 2 (IS is activated at the moment the exposure is made). Mode 1 makes framing easier - the IS system steadies the preview image (in the same way as, for example, the Canon S1 IS), but is less than 100% effective when it comes to actually taking the pictures. Mode 2, which minimizes the amount of movement needed by waiting until the actual moment you press the shutter, is considerably more effective. I certainly found the 3 or 4 shutter speed steps gain claimed by Panasonic to be justified - and was able to shoot at 420mm equiv. at speeds as low as 1/60th second successfully. Impressive stuff. The 100% crops below show the effectiveness of the IS system - especially in Mode 2 - when shooting at 420mm equiv. handheld at fairly low shutter speeds. It's by no means foolproof (and sometimes Mode 1 works better than Mode 2), but it's the best optical system we've seen yet. If anything the effectiveness is slightly less than the FZ3, though this is undoubtedly due to the higher pixel count, which means any blur in the scene is more visible when viewed on-screen at 100%.
|IS off||IS mode 1||IS mode 2|
|1/50 sec, 432mm equiv.|
|IS off||IS mode 1||IS mode 2|
|1/15 sec, 432mm equiv.|
|Waffles with fruits by Coolinarka|
from Food photography (desserts)
|Vestrahorn Frozen Reflection by Will B Milner|
from Ice cold
Google has updated its Photos mobile apps to support the recently announced service for creating and printing physical photo books.
Europeana Photography is a new online image archive that includes more than 2 million historical photographs from European collections in 34 countries, covering the first 100 years of photography. Read more
Manufacturers love to state CRI (color rendering index) numbers to prove that their LED lights will provide great color, but a single CRI score doesn't tell the whole story.
NASA's Juno spacecraft is sending back its first images from Jovean orbit, and they're beautiful. Read more
We got our hands on the first zoom lens available for Fujifim's new digital medium format system. Check out the samples
As summer really gets going over here in the Northern hemisphere, the team at Imaging Resource has put together a list of the best cameras for backpacking.
The Ukrainian Parliament banned statues of Lenin in 2015. Two years later, the monuments no longer adorn public buildings or stand watch over town squares, but they're still there.
If you had to choose one camera to bring along for the ultimate West coast road trip, what would it be? DPR's Sam Spencer choose the X100F. Read more
The a9 boasts impressive capability. As more examples of it in practice pour in, Sony's claims hold up. Watch the a9 track and maintain focus on a rapidly approaching basketball.
Last week, more than a million tonnes of Californian coastline slid into the ocean, taking part of Highway 1 with it. Check out the remodeling in photos taken before and after the landslide.
Even after eighteen months of reviewing the latest, greatest, shiniest and must-buy-me-est new gear, DPReview staffer Carey Rose has continued to use older DSLR cameras for his freelance work. But now, that might be changing. Read more
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.