Product Type: Panasonic digital cameras
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Panasonic Lumix DMC LZ20
Member Name: Huomenna
Panasonic Lumix DMC LZ20
Advantages: easy to use, well laid out, big screen, easy to hold, feels well built
Disadvantages: no viewfinder, terrible quality screen, zoom barely bigger than large zoom compact, AA batteries
Panasonic's range of bridge cameras have been quite popular and well respected since their first introduction, however compared to some of the other options available on the market they're not exactly the cheapest available - that crown usually falls to a number of the Fuji's. Panasonic seem to have decided they're missing out and have introduced this new camera to fill the void.
The current line up goes: LZ20 (this model) - entry level, FZ62 - mid range, FZ200 - top end. Rough comparisons in price range from £140 for this camera up to about £460 for the FZ200 - obviously for a rough total difference of £320 between the cameras you should expect some vast differences in quality. The LZ20 has 16 megapixels which is actually more than the higher end models (catering to the people who think more is always better - it isn't) and a 21x optical zoom whereas the other models have 24x.
What is a bridge camera?
For those of you who've never heard of this type of camera before a bridge camera is quite literally what it is called - they are designed to bridge the gap between a compact camera and an SLR. This is in terms of physical size and functions. These cameras are also sometimes known as superzooms as they generally have larger zooms that compacts and a greater range than you will get in any single SLR lens. The lens is not interchangeable.
What are the features of this model and what sets it apart from the other current Panasonic models?
Unlike the FZ62/200 the LZ20 is a AA battery model, taking 4 of these batteries which fit underneath inside a large hand grip area. The lens has a 21x zoom which seems fairly impressive and to be honest it is rather large - however it is only 1x larger than Panasonic's TZ30 and Sony's HX20 compact cameras which are significantly smaller in physical size. The LCD screen comes in a a well sized 3" and there is a distinct lack of any kind of viewfinder.
How easy is it to use?
The mode dial on the top of the camera is not as extensive as on the higher end models which in theory makes it simpler and easier to use, there are also minimal buttons so you shouldn't be able to press too many things by accident! There is a rubberised thumb rest on the rear although personally I find this is positioned too far to the right to be comfortable to use - maybe this is because I have quite large hands. It's also useful to note there is no dedicated video button - this must be selected on the mode dial, again good for not doing something accidentally, not so good from a speed perspective. Everything is well laid out in general and easy to understand so shouldn't be too difficult for a child/technophobe etc to get used to.
I did notice a lack of scroll wheels which are generally placed on cameras to enable quick adjustments of various manual settings - as these are absent the central pad controls functions such as shutter and aperture instead.
One downside I found is that the flash has to be popped up by hand to activate the auto flash function - otherwise it will never fire. I wouldn't have thought it would have been to difficult for Panasonic to have put in a mechanism that flips up the flash by itself when required.
What is the build quality like?
Although made from plastic, it's quite a nice feeling, fairly matte plastic that makes it feel quite well made. The large hand grip sits well in the contours of your hand so the camera almost feels like an extension of your body and the battery door is as sturdy as can be expected.
The rear LCD screen is of very poor resolution - honestly my vision is 20/20 but looking through this screen I was none the wiser as to whether the camera was adequately focused on the subject I was pointing it at, this problem only gets worse in sunlight and there's no viewfinder to use as an alternative - it is truly shocking.
Is the picture/video quality any good?
Yes and no, but heading more towards the latter! The image stabilization is not brilliant so I'd stay away if you have rather shaky hands. Furthermore the camera has 'sweep panorama' which in theory should be the easiest way to produce a panoramic image, but in this camera it is anything but - it's far more complicated that the same feature in any other camera I've tried and is impossible to do hand held.
In terms of the finished image I found the colours ever so slightly cold toned and a bit insipid looking, a bit more boost to the contrast levels would be beneficial too. I'd say it seems the camera is over processing the results as they look like they've had a bit too much in camera 'noise' reduction applied leading to images that are on the soft side and yet still fairly grainy looking.
The movie quality is quite frankly shocking - it's not any kind of HD, but that's not the problem. You cannot zoom while recording, can't refocus and everything looks a bit fuzzy in general.
As far as the manual options are concerned, they are quite restrictive - you can pick a shutter speed between 2000/1 and 15 seconds, but you can only choose between 2 apertures of f3.17 and 8.9.
Minimum focus for macro work is around the 4cm mark - not bad, but there are a lot of other bridge cameras that can get closer than this and focusing in general can be very slow.
Would I recommend this camera?
In a word - no. There are pros - it has a large screen, is generally easy to use and feels well made, but pretty much everything else classes as a con. I could forgive most of the faults, but the quality of the screen really kills it for me - almost doesn't matter how good the rest of a camera is if you can't adequately see what you're doing! If I was looking at a cheap bridge camera then I'd be more likely to consider the Fuji options (even though I'm not generally a fan of the brand).
Summary: Not one I'd buy
|Ease of use:|
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