Panasonic has well and truly been the leader in the travel zoom camera segment for some time. The Editors' Choice winning camera, the Lumix TZ10, was the culmination of years of work put into improving this line to include pretty much everything that you could want in a camera like this.
There were things that could be improved upon though, including the GPS and continuous shooting speeds. Now that the TZ20 has been released, does it improve on an already-winning formula?
Design and features
While stylistically things haven't changed significantly, the TZ20 looks quite a bit boxier than its predecessor. This camera weighs about 219 grams, which is on par with the TZ10, and it certainly feels sturdy enough in the hand even with its plastic exterior.
The big change to the camera comes in the form of its 14.1-megapixel MOS sensor, similar to that used on the compact FX700. This also means the TZ20 is capable of shooting up to 10 frames per second in continuous shooting mode, with a range of additional burst shooting options for slightly slower speeds and continual focusing on the moving subject. Also new is the 3-inch touchscreen, though there are still plenty of physical buttons to cater to most shooting preferences. It's still relatively low resolution at 460,000 dots, an area that the next camera in this series can surely improve upon. However, it's been fitted with an anti-reflection coating, which makes it easier to see in bright situations.
Click through to see images taken on the FT3 and TZ20. (Credit: CBSi)
Controls are standard Panasonic, which means reasonably small buttons, a mode dial at the top of the camera to switch between shooting modes (with full PASM controls), a shutter button and zoom rocker, as well as a dedicated record button at the top as well.
As is the way with trends, 3D has reared its head once again. The TZ20 features a 3D mode, accessed from the mode dial. It takes 10 photos across a horizontal axis and selects the best two in order to piece together a 3D image in MPO format. Unfortunately, you can't view the effect on the 3D screen, so looking at images is limited to their display on a 3D TV or photo frame.
The optical zoom is now 16x, up from the 12x, which appeared on the TZ10. Again, like the older camera, the optical zoom is augmented by "Intelligent resolution" and zoom, which increases the range to 21x. The lens is also wide-angle at 24mm. Nikon lenses have been using Nano coating on its pro lenses for a while now, and Panasonic has come to the party with the technology too. It's designed to reduce ghosting and flare on images.
Built-in software, stored on the camera, automatically launches when the camera is connected to a computer which allows for Facebook or YouTube uploading. HD video (AVCHD) is now at full 1920x1080 resolution at 50i and, fortunately, the optical zoom is enabled while filming. Panasonic also launched the companion camera, the Lumix TZ18, at the same time which shares similar features but misses out on the touchscreen and GPS.
Connectivity is provided via mini-HDMI and AV out. In the box you also get standard AV cables, a battery charger, camera strap and a mini stylus for the touchscreen.GPS tagging
GPS makes a welcome return and it feels a lot quicker than the version found on the older camera. The version on the TZ20 has a wider range of locations to reference. As well as appending location information to the EXIF data, when a location is matched in the database of over 1 million landmarks, the information is also displayed on screen. You can also tag videos with GPS data.
An example of viewing GPS location information from TZ20 images in Picasa. (Credit: CBSi)
Once images have been tagged by the camera, you can easily plot the location of your travel photos on a map. We like Picasa for its ease of use, but there are plenty of other programs available that will do the same thing. The TZ20 also comes with software (on disc).
The GPS does continue to update while the camera is switched off (indicated by the green LED light at the top of the camera) so do remember to switch it off manually or activate the aeroplane mode if you need to conserve battery.
|Sony Cyber-shot HX9V||Panasonic Lumix TZ20||Canon PowerShot SX230|
|16.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS||14.1-megapixel MOS||12.1-megapixel CMOS|
|3-inch LCD (920,000-dot)||3-inch touchscreen (460,000-dot)||3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)|
|16x optical zoom||16x optical zoom||14x optical zoom|
|24mm wide-angle||24mm wide-angle||28mm wide-angle|
|GPS tagging||GPS tagging||GPS tagging|
|HD video (1080p)||HD video (1080i)||HD video (1080p)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Panasonic Lumix TZ18.104.22.168
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Panasonic Lumix TZ2010
The TZ20 has a range of burst shooting options, including a 2 or 5fps AF mode, which will also continuously focus when taking pictures. The other options are 10, 40 or 60fps, with the last two taking a burst of images at reduced 5-megapixel or 2.5-megapixel resolution.
An example of the continuous shooting mode on the TZ20. (Credit: CBSi)
While the addition of a touchscreen would suggest an improvement in usability, in practice it just seems out of place. As with other Panasonic cameras in the past that have coupled a touchscreen with the full range of physical buttons, we find ourselves using the buttons as it's quicker, easier and ultimately more responsive than trying to navigate using the touchscreen.
Panasonic rates the battery for the TZ20 at 260 pictures.
While the new sensor has given a significant performance boost, it's also taken away one of the real strengths of this range — image quality. Overall, we don't think the images from the TZ20 are better than those from the TZ10. In particular, there is an increase in digital noise and artefacts when looking at images at full magnification.
However, if you are the sort of photographer who will be using the photos from the TZ20 for web display, it will find no issue with the quality as images look great at a reduced resolution on screen. Those looking to enlarge and crop areas of photos will find the TZ20 a tad limiting due to the noise and processing detail. Images at higher ISO levels, particularly above 400, are plagued by noise issues.
Images are mostly sharp from edge to edge and the lens doesn't display many distortions at all which is pleasing. Like the TZ10, the TZ20 allows photographers to adjust the exposure in manual modes using the dedicated button at the back. The TZ20 also produces punchier colours on default settings than we've seen before on a Lumix compact. There are also a range of colour modes available to augment these defaults, such as happy mode to increase saturation, black-and-white, as well as sepia. Scene mode also provides options for simulated HDR, film grain and pinhole among many others.
Fortunately, Panasonic has invested in the video quality of this camera, with smooth motion and good colour rendition as well. The stereo microphone does a great job of picking up clear sound and the TZ20 also supports continuous autofocus while filming. The autofocus is a little twitchy when zooming in, so we advise setting your focal length and sticking to it before you hit record.
Click each image for full-sized samples from the Lumix TZ20. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/400, f/4.8, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/80, f/4.1, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/400, f/3.9, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/250, f/4, ISO 100
Travel photographers who prefer a feature-packed camera will love the TZ20 with its GPS, long lens and HD video. Unfortunately, it doesn't produce better images than the earlier, award-winning TZ10 and the addition of the touchscreen hinders rather than helps the shooting experience.