Panasonic DMC-FZ20 Review

Panasonic DMC-FZ20 Review

The Panasonic DMC-FZ20, dressed in silver or black, succeeds the FZ10. It is aimed at ambitious digital photographers who want to make use of comprehensive manual intervention options.

Short evaluation


  • Expandability (flash, optical accessories)
  • powerful electronics/signal processing
  • AF auxiliary light
  • significantly faster autofocus (compared to previous model)
  • built-in image stabilizer
  • continuous luminous intensity of F2.8
  • enormous zoom


  • LC color viewfinder in need of further improvement (Ocular size, resolution)
  • z. T. Clear image noise
  • no TTL flash system
  • low-capacity battery
  • low video resolution
  • Operation in need of further improvement
  • Macro mode as scene mode

The powerful 12x DC Vario Elmarit zoom lens known from the FZ10 has been retained and delivers a focal length range of 36-432 mm (corresponding to KB) with a continuous speed of F2.8 before the new 5 megapixel sensor. The Venus Engine II processor provides a minimum shutter release delay of 0.008 s and a frame rate (without autofocus) of about 0.4 s. In highest resolution image series with up to three images per second and a maximum of four images in best quality or seven images in a row in “standard” quality are possible. Panasonic has improved the autofocus functions. In addition to 1-point and spot autofocus, two methods with 3 or 9 measuring fields are also available. The 3-point mode is intended to allow a particularly high AF speed. An AF auxiliary light is also new. Manual focusing can still be performed on the lens ring. The operating concept has changed slightly. For example, the extensive scene mode selection has been banned from the control dial to the new menu in favor of manual exposure modes (Aperture Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual). The LCD colour viewfinder with 114,000 pixels has a magnification increased to 11x, the monitor remains the same with a size of 5 cm and 130,000 pixels. External flashes are still performed using a simple center contact flash shoe. As usual, Panasonic uses SD or MMC cards to store the photos, on which they can now also be stored in TIFF format.


The FZ10 already generated a great deal of visitor interest – simply because of its then unique 12x zoom optics, which were paired with an optical image stabilizer. Although the FZ10 has lost its unique character to the Konica Minolta Dimage Z3 in the meantime, the FZ20 is catching up to the counterattack and stands out from the Dimage Z3 at least in terms of resolution. We wanted to see if Panasonic’s little zoom “monster” can show the competition off in any other way and have our impressions in the following text as well as in the accompanying profile, in the table “Measured values” at the end of the test.

Ergonomics and workmanship

You have to take a closer look, but the FZ20 actually looks a bit more attractive than the FZ10. The basic features have remained largely the same and the disproportionality between the powerful metal lens tube and the delicate plastic camera body is still as pronounced as in the predecessor model, but the FZ20 has become more rounded in some places – which not only helps it to have a more streamlined figure, but also partly improves ergonomics. One example is the small recess on the handle, which significantly improves the hand position of the camera. Panasonic has also improved the operation, which is no longer as menu-heavy as with the FZ10. For example, there are now separate positions on the program dial for Aperture and Aperture Control and Manual Exposure Control, and the exposure-compensation function can now be called directly from the controller. Panasonic has made things very easy for itself and has only slightly changed the assignment of the existing control elements. For example, in order to make room for the A, S and M modes, you have simply divided the scene modes into two main groups (SCN 1 and SCN 2); the number of positions on the selector wheel has remained the same with 9 positions.






The whole thing looks a bit like an improvisation solution after all. Thus, for example, one still has to press the “Exposure” key before one can enter the exposure values, and many important settings (e.g. white balance, ISO levels, image stabilizer, choice of the exposure metering mode) still have to be found in the graphically newly designed and colorful (from 7 to 126 colors) menu. This is where the FZ20 reveals itself to be an entry-level camera, and Panasonic will have no choice in the long run but to take more radical redesign measures. And when the time comes, you should finally donate a new LC finder to the successor of the FZ20. Even though the “tunnel vision” effect is not as pronounced as with the FZ10 thanks to eleven times stronger magnification of the viewfinder image, the extremely left-aligned and narrow eyepiece, the modest resolution (114,000 pixels) and the manual switching between viewfinder and screen remain on the list of points in need of improvement. On the LC colour screen on the back of the camera (2″ at 130,000 pixels), however, nothing needed and still needs to be improved; except perhaps the ability to pan and/or rotate it. The other imaging features (noise, pulling effects, contrast management, colour neutrality, legibility in direct sunlight, image field coverage) of the two LCDs have always been unobjectionable, and the button for displaying the design aids (grid and histogram display) as well as the diopter setting can be found in the usual place. Unfortunately, this also applies to the tripod thread. The metal thread, which was already not in the optical axis on the FZ10 and blocked access to the battery slot (which also accommodates the memory card slot) when the tripod quick-release plate was mounted, did not move at all. It’s easy to see that the design changes don’t go far enough and Panasonic is a little more challenged.


For a long time, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 with its 35-420 mm zoom was the undisputed record holder when it came to the zoom strength of its lens. The FZ20 can still hold the title of record holder with its Leica signed DC-Vario-Elmarit zoom, but since the Konica Minolta Dimage Z3 was launched, it has had to rely on its continuous F2.8 luminous intensity to continue to enjoy exclusivity status. By tapping on the ring-shaped zoom switch on the shutter release, you can almost noiselessly move through a focal length range from the equivalent of 36 to 432 mm (non-stop in 2.8 seconds or almost infinitely variable with intermediate stops) – without reducing the aperture at the transition from the wide-angle to the telephoto range. This allows you to benefit from shutter speeds that are as short as possible, even when the tele is full, which increases camera shake protection.

The built-in image stabilizer provides additional protection against camera shake. The Mega-O.I.S. technology (where O.I.S. stands for “Optical Image Stabilizer”), already introduced with the FZ10, first perceives the shivering movements of the photographer through two gyro sensors. This does not mean doner kebab detectors, but tiny sensors which – on the functional principle of a gyro – can register the camera movements around the horizontal and vertical axis. Gyroscopes are used, for example, in rockets or in aircraft navigation systems.






The measurement data is analyzed by a special chip and the camera’s Venus Engine II signal processor, and as soon as the camera or its electronics “knows” in which direction(s) the lens is moving, a lens system is moved in the opposite direction to compensate for most of the camera shake. Thanks to the Venus Engine II signal processor, the FZ20 does this more effectively than the FZ10, by the way, since the camera shake compensation in the critical frequency range between 7 and 10 Hz has been improved. The entire process takes place in fractions of a second, and all the user notices is a viewfinder image that no longer jolts but “glides” gently. With the stabilizer on, hands-free shooting is possible even with the zoom fully extended to the telephoto range and the shutter speed relatively slow (usually two to three stops below the inverse value of the 35 mm equivalent focal length) and sensitivity low; the FZ10 and FZ20 even allow the photographer to specify in the menu whether the stabilizer will take effect when the subject is aimed at, when the shutter is released, or not at all.

One of the most important innovations compared to the FZ10 is the autofocus of the FZ20. If the FZ10 only focused on a wide field in the center of the image that could be narrowed to point size, the FZ20 also has a 3- or 9-field measurement available. In this way, the FZ20 can also focus on people or parts of the image that are outside the center of the image. Unfortunately, manual selection of the AF fields is not permitted. You have to let the camera do the work and watch on the screen or in the viewfinder where the camera has put the focus point. At least she does that quite reliably, but takes some time to decide which AF field(s) to take. If only the middle AF field is switched on, the autofocus of the FZ20 – thanks to the Venus Engine II signal processor – is much faster (see measurement table). So you have to choose between comfort and speed. Fortunately, the FZ20 now has an AF auxiliary light to support automatic focusing in low light conditions/objective contrasts; the FZ10 is already known for its switchable focus tracking.

Manual focusing is very polyvalent. Once the focus mode switch on the lens barrel has been set from AF to MF, it is sufficient to turn the focus ring (fly-by-wire principle) to activate a 4x magnifier instantly. And when you push the switch down slightly from the MF position, the autofocus does the preparatory work. Last but not least, it should be mentioned in this section that the focus range of the FZ20 is 30 cm or 2 m in normal operation, depending on the focal length, and the macro mode (5 cm minimum distance in WW position) is annoyingly only available as scene mode – which makes setting the aperture and/or shutter speed for close-ups not quite impossible, but cumbersome (using the shift function or other “detours”).


The built-in miniature flash of the FZ20 got a small “power shot”. Doped to a guide number of 8, the small light dispenser has a greater effective range than the FZ10 (LZ 6). Otherwise, not much changes. The flash is still “ejected” manually at the push of a button, and the precaution of removing the sun visor and adapter when using the flash, if you do not want to be punished with shadowing effects, is still valid. In addition to new power, the on-board flash also provides better illumination. While the FZ10 was expected to lose up to an aperture at the edges of the picture, the flash of the FZ20 illuminates much more evenly. What has remained, however, is a slight tendency to cause red eyes in flashed persons. The remedy is – as usual – the pre-flash function; but you can’t always avoid retouching the rabbit eyes on the PC. Flash effects and color casts, on the other hand, are rather rare thanks to the measuring pre-flash. If in the few exceptional cases, however, some occur, you can counteract them with the flash exposure correction function (+/- 2 f-stops in third steps) or the white balance preset for flash light. The flash modes complete a flash long time sync setting.








If you want to shoot with a sun visor and/or optical accessories or just need a little more flash power, mount an external flash on the flash shoe of the FZ20. What is amazing is that the Lumix DMC-LC1 has a TTL flash shoe and the DMC-FZ20 does not. Thus, with the FZ20 one has to do without any comfort of controlling the flash unit by the camera, as only a simple central contact is available; a fully automatic operation is only possible with the built-in flash, as long as it is unfolded and set to automatic. The external flash must therefore be able to dose the amount of light to be emitted itself. This requires some manual work, basic knowledge of flash photography and a flash unit with its own automatic function (so-called computer diaphragms) – something that the advanced user can still live with, but which can overwhelm the total layman.

Picture quality

With the FZ20, Panasonic slowly “feels” its way to the next higher resolution level. The FZ20 thus achieves a resolution of 5 megapixels – at a time when competitors are launching the first entry-level cameras with 6 and 7 megapixels, respectively, and 8 megapixels are standard in the prosumer class. However, while the majority of competitors are dependent on the supplier Sony, most Lumix cameras use CCDs from Panasonic’s own production. Even if Sony CCDs are a few megapixel generations ahead of Panasonic CCDs, this has the advantage that the expertise is in one house and you can benefit from the “synergy effects”. Thus, nobody knows better than Panasonic itself the peculiarities of its CCDs; which is very helpful for the camera development. The Venus Engine II proves this, for example, because the highly integrated LSI signal processing component is optimally adapted to the CCD of the FZ20. In contrast to conventional signal processors, a special feature of this chip is that the luminance signal is not only obtained from the green component of the image information, but also from the red and blue components. According to Panasonic, this will improve diagonal resolution by up to 50 percent and overall resolution in general.

The resolution depends primarily on the resolution of the lens. But what is the use of the best optics if the electronics do not exhaust the full performance potential?! With the FZ20, the electronics and optics seem to be performing at their best – even though the lens on the FZ20 is most likely the same as the one on the FZ10. However, the FZ20 doesn’t show the typical weaknesses of super zoom lenses in the telephoto range in terms of resolution, and even considering the resolution reducing effect of optical image stabilizers, the resolution remains at a higher level. Thus, the resolution decreases in the telephoto range from the center of the image to the edge, but in the center the resolution values are significantly higher than with other superzooms in telephoto position. With the other focal lengths the resolution never reaches bad values – be it in the center or at the edges of the image. This obviously proves that the lens was developed for the future back then and that there are enough resolution reserves to survive at least the 5 megapixel era with flying colors.







As you can figure out, the high resolution is not only due to the powerful Venus Engine II, but also due to the lens. The subsequent signal processing causes the reproduction of fine image details to be medium to strongly accentuated. Unfortunately, this also leads to moiré effects, which are most pronounced in diagonal structures. The effects of sharpening, on the other hand, are limited or at a medium level and can be observed mainly in the brighter areas of the image on freestanding horizontal and vertical edges. Otherwise, when you take a closer look at various images, you will still find color errors and color fringes that are caused by low-pass filtering (chromatic aberrations, on the other hand, are very effectively eliminated by the camera’s internal signal processing); the relatively strong compression in the best quality level has only a minor effect on the image quality. But that is not enough with the picture disturbances. The image noise is clear and particularly noticeable in the area of the medium to brighter parts of the image, which also contain the sensitive skin tones. Light and dark pixel stripes appear, for which the eye is very sensitive. With the ISO-100 setting, the color noise also comes to the fore, and the double microlens layer (for bundling the incident light rays or for optimal utilization of the pixels) on the CCD of the FZ20 may have only a limited effect. Demanding FZ20 owners will inevitably have to resort to more effective or additional noise reduction with programs such as Neat Image, Noise Ninja & Co. to fine-tune their images.

In the default setting, the FZ20 produces largely color-neutral images. The color neutrality is due to the Venus Engine II signal processing processor, as the color matching takes place in twelve independent axes compared to the previous customary matching in four axes (standard colors: red, green, yellow and blue). However, not everyone may like the high color saturation. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust the color saturation in the camera menu, but only give the images a warmer (i.e. redder) or cooler (i.e. bluer) tone. Multi-field metering does not achieve the precision of the best systems on the market, but misexposures are the exception rather than the rule. By the way, a precise exposure maximizes the exposure latitude and keeps the risk of eroding lights and/or shadows to a minimum. The FZ20 can handle brightness differences of up to 8.1 f-stops and gradates them nicely and evenly in 249 gradations.

If the lens marked Leica DC Vario-Elmarit impresses with good resolution, it does not perform quite as well in vignetting and distortion. All focal lengths show a visible and spontaneously increasing edge darkening, which is often found with lenses with optical image stabilizer. The greatest loss of light towards the edges of the image occurs at the tele-end and is just over half an aperture. The barrel distortion in the wide-angle position is also clearly visible. Halfway (zoomed), the line distortion mutates into a visible cushion distortion in order to lose strength only in the outer telephoto range. However, neither the distortion nor the vignetting reach critical values, so that the optical imaging performance is less to criticize than the electronic signal processing.

Miscellaneous And Special Functions

Panasonic, also a renowned manufacturer of camcorders, apparently has a hard time giving the FZ20 a powerful video function. In the video mode of the FZ20, one can indeed fall back on frame rates of up to 30 frames per second (optionally also 15 frames/s) and – together with sound – film for as long as the memory card capacity allows, but the resolution of 320 x 240 pixels is no longer up to date. If autofocus works during video recording (you only need to turn on the focus adjustment function in the menu to do this), you cannot zoom in during video shooting. All this doesn’t give a particularly flattering picture for a company that doesn’t really need to learn anything from the competition when it comes to video filming.

The FZ20 makes up for this with a continuous shooting mode in which you can take pictures in full resolution until you run out of memory at a frame rate of up to 2 frames per second. This of course requires a not too “lame” memory card, but the manual only points out that MMC (Multi Media Card) memory cards are not fast enough to take full advantage of this continuous shooting mode. If you want to be on the safe side, you should preferably buy an SD card with a data throughput of at least 10 MByte per second; such high-speed cards are not much more expensive than the standard versions. As an alternative to this “continuous shooting” setting, the FZ20 also offers two conventional continuous shooting modes with a limited number of frames (max. 4 or 7 frames in a row depending on compression). In high-speed mode 3 frames per second are possible, while in low-speed mode the frame rate drops to 2 frames per second.







The FZ20 offers special functions in shooting mode, such as in the form of an exposure bracketing function, scene modes (portrait, sports/action, landscape, night landscape, night portrait, panning mode for pull-along effects, fireworks, party, snow, macro/close up), a white balance fine correction (in addition to auto, presets and manual white balance), a digital zoom (4x), color effects (warm, cold, b/w, sepia) and parameterization options for sharpening, image contrast and color saturation. In some of these points, the FZ20 has been upgraded compared to the FZ10, and the exposure metering also benefits from some innovations. In addition to multi-field and spot metering, the center-weighted integral metering is now also available, and the camera now warns you of overexposure. New is also the possibility of remote triggering with the optional electric cable remote trigger DMW-RS1, and even if the FZ20 does not offer a RAW mode, the images can at least be stored in lossless TIFF format – which was not possible with the FZ10. Otherwise, you’ll be pleased that you can “clean up” the recording screen at the touch of a button so that all the recording information is displayed next to and below the image; a new function that greatly contributes to clarity.

In playback mode, there is also a voice memo function (max. 10 s per photo), an image rotation function, a DPOF image ordering option, a subsequent image size change (resolution/cutout) and a slide show function as well as menu navigation in various common languages. The camera also supports the PTP image transfer protocol (no driver installation required on computers with modern operating systems) and USB direct printing; in addition to Epson’s proprietary USB Direct Print process, the cross-brand direct printing standard PictBridge is also supported. The latter has been extended since the FZ10 in the command range, and in addition to image printing (with or without date) the selection of the print size or the paper format and the page layout (for printing several images on one page) are now added.

Bottom line

“Form follows function,” they say so beautifully. With the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20, the form of the function lags behind and limits its suitability for advanced users. Panasonic’s superzoom flagship would have what it takes to move up into the lower half of the prosumer league, given the satisfying image quality, good equipment and high performance (especially in terms of speed). But the simple reassignment of the key functions doesn’t go far enough. In addition to an upscale equipment, a TTL flash system and perhaps also a rotatable and swivelling screen are missing. The cumbersome operation is especially noticeable when you leave the beginner-friendly automatic mode. That’s why the FZ20 is recommended for beginners without any restrictions, but only barely misses the entry into the next higher league because of the aforementioned limitations.

Short evaluation


  • Expandability (flash, optical accessories)
  • powerful electronics/signal processing
  • AF auxiliary light
  • significantly faster autofocus (compared to previous model)
  • built-in image stabilizer
  • continuous luminous intensity of F2.8
  • enormous zoom


  • LC color viewfinder in need of further improvement (Ocular size, resolution)
  • z. T. Clear image noise
  • no TTL flash system
  • low-capacity battery
  • low video resolution
  • Operation in need of further improvement
  • Macro mode as scene mode

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 Datasheet


Sensor CCD sensor 1/2.5″ 5.8 x 4.3 mm (crop factor 6.0
)5.4 megapixels (physical), 5.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 2.2 µm
Photo resolution
2.560 x 1.440 pixels (16:9)
2.048 x 1.536 pixels (4:3)
1.600 x 1.200 pixels (4:3)
1.280 x 960 pixels (4:3)
640 x 480 pixels (4:3)
Picture formats JPG, TIF
Color depth k. A.
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard
Video resolution
320 x 240 (4:3) 30 p
Video format
MOV (Codec n.a.)


Focal length 36 to 432 mm (35mm equivalent
)12x ZoomDigital zoom
Focus range 30 cm to infinity (wide-angle
)200 cm to infinity (telephoto)
Macro sector 5 cm (wide-angle
)200 cm (telephoto)
Apertures F2.8 to F8 (wide angle)
Autofocus yes
Autofocus Functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Filter threads 72 mm

Viewfinder and Monitor

Monitor 2.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 130,000 pixels
Video viewfinder Video viewfinder available, diopter compensation


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/2,000 to 8 s (automatic)
Exposure control Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1 EV
Exposure compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 80 to ISO 400 (manual)
Remote access non-existent
Scene modes Automatic, various scene modes available, fireworks, landscape, night landscape, night portrait, party, portrait, sports/action, beach/snow, scene modes
Picture effects Color saturation and noise reduction in 3 steps each, color reproduction (natural, standard, strong), contrast, sharpness, two-step hue adjustment (warm/cold)
White balance Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Fine Tuning, Fluorescent Lamp, Incandescent Light, Manual
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 4 fps at highest resolution and max. 4 stored photos, 7 fps in standard quality; max. number of images in continuous mode limited only by the capacity of the memory card, whereby the frame rate depends on its speed
Self-timer Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Shooting functions Live histogram


Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: standard centre contact
Flash range 0.3 to 7.0 m at wide angle
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction


Image stabilizer optical image stabilizer
Multi Media Card
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Panasonic CGA-S002E (lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 680 mAh)
Playback Functions Image index, slide show function, zoom out
Grid can be faded in during recording yes
Ports Data interfaces: USB video output
: yes (HDMI output Micro (type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous optical image stabilizer “MEGA O.I.S.
“1-3-9-point AF spot AFfunction and AF sharpness tracking High
AF speed in 3-point modePre-focus function camera-internalcorrection of vignetting and chromatic aberration Targeted
blurring of skin tones in portrait program Video duration
limited only by memory card capacityPlayback zoom
(max. 8-fold)
Audio dubbing (10 sec.)
Multilingual menu navigation (EN/DE/FR/IT/ES/CN/JP)

Size and weight

Weight 555 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 128 x 87 x 106 mm


included accessories PIXO CGA-S002 Special battery charger16

MByte removable memory cardUSB connection cableAudio/Video cableLens coverSun visor

with 72mm filter threadRigid strapPicture editing software

ArcSoft PhotoImpression for Windows (98/2000/Me/XP) and for Macintosh (System 9.0/X)
Utility software SD Viewer for DSC for Windows (98/2000/Me/XP) and for Macintosh (System 9.


Image management software ArcSoft PhotoBase for Windows (98/2000/Me/XP) and for Macintosh (System 9.0/X)
Image management software ArcSoft Panorama Maker for Windows (98/2000/Me/XP) and for Macintosh (System 9.0/X)
USB Mass Storage Class device driver for Windows 98/98SE (no driver installation required under Windows 2000/Me/XP and MacOS 9.0 or higher)

optional accessory Power supply/chargerDMW-CAC1PC Card adapter

(for notebook)
Wide angle converter DMW-LWZ10Tele converter
DMW-LTZ10Flash unit
DMW-FL28ND Neutral density filter
DMW-LND72MC Protective filter

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *