The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 has an attractive front side that borrows features from the other entry-level pocket cameras in the LX and FX series. Constructed of a sleek exterior, a significant portion of the front is taken up by the extending Leica barrel lens. The lens expands into multiple tiers with the text "MEGA O.I.S. / 30 mm WIDE" on its rim and other specs included: 'LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR 1:3.3 – 5.8 / 5.2 – 20.8 ASPH.' To the right of the lens is the circular auto assist lamp, flush almost to the edge of the body. The location of the assist beam might be frequently blocked by the left hand for users who don’t keep that ill-conceived location in mind.
To the left of the lens is the embossed LUMIX logo at the horizon. Toward the top is the off-center, rectangular flash. Below the logo is the 10 megapixel count in dark text. Almost to edge of the camera is the thin sliver of a platform that supposedly acts as a hand grip. Although ineffective, the grip adds to the general aesthetics of the camera.
It’s hard to miss the large 3-inch LCD that takes up the space on the back of the Panasonic Lumix FS20. The LCD is flush to the edge of the camera’s left and top edge, leaving little room for additional hand support. The right side contains the control panel. To accommodate the size of the monitor, the buttons were shrunk in favor of the screen, which takes up most of the real estate. The right corner includes a Playback and Record/iA switch. Underneath the switch are six Braille-like dots to act as a tiny thumb grip. Below the thumb grip is the small mode button that replaces the traditional mode dial other Panasonic cameras include.
Halfway down is the square display button, again in a miniature size that makes it difficult to control. Below that is a lamp indicator and a menu joystick control, laid on top of a square plateau with four icons for exposure, self-timer, flash, and macro focus. At the bottom is the q. menu and trash button.
**Right Side **
The FS20 contains the port system. Underneath a hinged door is the compartment for the AV Out/Digital and DC In ports. On top of the jack compartment is the embedded eyelet for the wrist strap.
The Lumix FS20 has a bare left side. With the controls and the ports concentrated on the right side of the camera, the left side only contains two tiny screws and a seam that vertically runs down the camera, indicating the two plates of the camera’s construction.
Like the rest of the camera design, the camera is control-heavy on the right side of the top’s surface. The right side contains the tiny off/on switch, followed by the shutter release with surrounding zoom toggle for wide and telephoto shooting. To the edge of the camera is the extra zoom button for expanded digital zoom. On the left side of the top surface are the Panasonic DMC-FS20 model name, four microphone ports, and a speaker hole.
The bottom of the Lumix point-and-shoot is modeled like other Panasonic pocket cameras. The left side houses the memory card and battery under a hinged door. To the right is an off-center tripod socket. Lining the edge of the camera is the Panasonic model number and serial information.
The Panasonic Lumix DSC-FS20 has no optical viewfinder. The 3-inch LCD takes the place of an optical viewfinder for framing photos.
The Lumix FS20 is equipped with a generous 3-inch TFT LCD screen. The FS20’s LCD is one of the few differences between it and its sister, the FS5, which possesses a smaller 2.5-inch LCD. The FS20 has a screen resolution of 230,000 pixels. The 230,000-pixel count is the basic standard for most modern cameras, and the LCD displays images quite well with lots of detail. Users can change the monitor settings to Power LCD Mode at normal brightness or Auto Power LCD Mode, which dims the screen to conserve energy. The camera also includes a High Angle Mode that dims the brightness of the LCD with a fog-like overlay so users can still view the screen for Hail Mary shots or low-angle shots of concerts or other crowded events. The LCD offers advantages with good resolution and a healthy size.
The built-in flash can be turned on or off with red-eye reduction. Users can access flash control through the east directional on the multi-selector with the following four options: Auto, Auto/Red-Eye, Forced Flash On, and Forced Off. The flash is effective for a reported distance of 1.97 to 20.67 feet (0.6 to 6.3 meters) zoomed out or 0.98 to 10.17 feet (0.3 to 3.1 meters) zoomed in. To assist the flash, the camera has an assist beam that can be turned on or off. It is located at the very tip of the corner and may be prone to being blocked by the left hand.
The Panasonic FS20 is fitted with a 4x optical zoom lens, the Leica DC Vario-Elmar 1:3.3 – 5.8/ 5.2-20.8 ASPH. The lens on the Lumix FS20 uses an optical image stabilization system called the MEGA O.I.S., a lens-shifting technology that compensates for hand shake. Many other point-and-shoots skimp on this crucial feature; luckily, the FS20 has it.
It has a focal length of 30-120mm in 35mm film terms, which is a standard range on a point-and-shoot. Users can extend zoom with a dedicated Extra Zoom button for a total of 28.4x zoom. Buyers beware, though, that extra zoom is a digital zoom that downgrades the quality of the image to anywhere from 2 to 7 megapixels depending on focal length, reduced from a possible 10.1 effective megapixels.
Users can control zoom via the toggle that surrounds the shutter release. Zooming is smooth with minimal noise. The placement of the shutter relative to the extra zoom button isn’t laid out as well as it should be. The shutter release/zoom toggle and extra zoom locations should be inverted for easier control.
With the 4x optical zoom and optical image stabilization, the lens is one of the better features of this point-and-shoot - it out-specs competitor pocket cameras.
Model Design / Appearance
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 is a handsome digital camera with a uniform, sleek design. Just on looks alone, the Lumix FS20 is tempting for point-and-shooters seeking an eye-pleasing camera. The camera is available in pink, black, and silver color options.
Size / Portability
Portability is certainly one of the FS20’s strong suits. The Lumix camera weighs less than a third of a pound at 5.1 ounces. Users can easily slip this digital camera into a pocket for transport. All the ports are properly covered for safekeeping.
Panasonic has a history of giving its point-and-shooters a comfortable, easy-to-handle body. Unfortunately, the DMC-FS20 lacks the hand grip and the larger, accessible controls of its predecessors. Instead, the FS20 replaces those key components with a tiny sliver of a right hand grip, itty bitty buttons, and an ineffective joystick. The large LCD takes the place of would-be available real estate for left hand control. Overall, handling is poor for extended shooting, but should suffice for an occasional snapshot here and there.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size
There is no worse control on a digital camera than the joystick. Guess what the Panasonic Lumix FS20 uses? Panasonic replaces the traditional four-way controller (also called multi-selector) with a joystick control, more akin to some Kodak pocket cameras. While the joystick, on first sight, might appeal to gamers, the joystick is difficult to control. The joystick is much too sensitive and oftentimes inappropriately selects the wrong menu function if held down a second too long or shifted slightly. Not only is the joystick ineffective, it can be infuriating to use. Bring back the four-way controller, please, Panasonic. Most of the controls on the back of the camera have been shrunk down to Alice-in-Wonderland proportions to accommodate the large 3-inch LCD monitor. While everyone loves a healthy-sized screen, the tiny buttons are a hassle to use. The FS20 replaces the main mode dial, typically located on the top of the camera, with an itty bitty mode button on the back of the camera, which requires the user to select the mode via the internal menu. **Menu**
Panasonic has one of the most easy-to-use menu systems out there for digital cameras. The Lumix FS20 keeps that tradition alive. The font is large and easy to read, targeted for beginner shooters. The menus are divided into only two tabbed submenus, Record and Setup. Instead of the red, white, and blue scheme of previous Panasonics, the FS20 simplifies that background to all white and uses colored accent tabs. Most items are properly labeled. There are some icons that might need deciphering for first-time users, including the white balance, compression, LCD mode, and autofocus settings. In general, though, the menu system is simple and helpful for first-time users.
**Ease of Use**The Panasonic Lumix FS20 is a strange mix of exceptional and infuriating. The camera has a strong menu system and convenient portability. The unsuccessful control system, however, is so terribly convoluted that is hinders usability. Although it gains some brownie points for looks, those tiny buttons and awful joystick control would steer away both novice and advanced point-and-shooters.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 has an automatic shooting mode called "Intelligent Auto," represented by a red iA switch. Intelligent Auto combines image stabilization, face detection, continuous AF, and the Intelligent Scene Selector as a one-touch capture mode. In this automatic mode, certain functions are turned off for simplicity. Menu options include Picture Size (reduced to only a few: 10M, 5M, 3M, and 0.3 M), Aspect Ratio, Burst, Color, and Stabilizer. Flash options are reduced to Auto and Forced Off. For the most part, the iA mode works well, although users might want to consider turning off the flash for close-up objects that can get overexposed.** ****Movie Mode**
Called "Motion Picture," the Movie mode records at 30 or 10 frames per second (fps) at QVGA quality (320 x 240) at 4:3 ratio in QuickTime Motion JPEG. The QVGA quality is ideal for low-res posting to the Web, but most digital cameras have higher quality video modes at VGA quality.
The Panasonic FS20 spec sheet reports the camera is also capable of VGA quality (640 x 480) and wide 16:9 movie capture, but the pre-production unit we looked at didn’t have those features. When asked about the missing movie features, Panasonic representatives took note and said they would get back to us about VGA and 16:9 video shooting. At the time of publication, we had not heard back; we'll update this section when we do.** **Because the FS20 lacks a main mode dial like some other Panasonic point-and-shoots, users have to access the Movie mode through the tiny "mode" button. That makes the Movie mode a bit hidden, but once users know where to access the feature, it isn’t difficult to find.
Drive / Burst Mode
For full resolution photos, the FS20 captures at 2.5 fps for up to four photos in fine compression mode or up to seven photos in standard compression mode.
The camera can capture at a faster burst called High Speed for up to 10 frames per second, but like Barry Bonds’ home run record, the fast burst rate comes with an asterisked footnote. That 10 fps rate is only applicable when resolution is cut to 2 MB (for 4:3 and 16:9) or 2.5 MB (for 3:2). Users can adjust burst shooting through the main Record menu for 4-Image Burst or High-Speed Burst. High-Speed burst is accessed through first the mode button, then either Scene mode 1 or 2. It’s a bit hidden whereas other Panasonic cameras have a dedicated button for the burst. Like most burst shooting, flash is disabled to save time that would otherwise be wasted on recharging the flash. Therefore, burst is only useful in properly lit situations. The self-timer operates on a 2- or 10-second delay. **Playback Mode**Users can access playback functions via the "display" button. Users can view their images as 12- or 20-thumbnail indexes, calendar view, or as single frames. As single images, users can zoom up to 16x and make edits such as rotate, resize, and trimming. The LCD displays the following EXIF data with each image: aperture, shutter speed, flash setting, white balance, ISO, date and time, file name, resolution, compression, and storage location (internal memory or memory card). There is additional Setup menu that can also be accessed through the Record mode. Overall, the Playback menu offers a standard feature set for built-in editing and viewing. That should make it easy for users to carry around their FS20 as a portable photo album or for direct printing with PictBridge-compatible printers.** ****Custom Image Presets**The Lumix DMC-FS20 has 21 Scene modes. That’s a pretty healthy dose of scene options without overwhelming the user with too many choices for automatic shooting modes. The FS20 has plenty of presets for different outdoor and indoor, day and night conditions. The FS20 includes an Intelligent Scene Selector. It’s the most auto of the automatic modes. Bless Panasonic for its overuse of the word "Intelligent" – Intelligent Auto, Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Scene Selector. The scene selector detects ambient light and automatically chooses from six of the existing 21 Scene modes: Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait, or Night Scenery. The Intelligent Scene Selector is only really useful for those who can’t figure out how to change the custom image presets.
Manual Control OptionsThe Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 has barebones manual functions. This is mostly an automatic camera with little room to change much else besides ISO and white balance. It caters to users who simply want to point and shoot.
There are multiple autofocus modes: Normal, Quick AF, and Macro. In general, the autofocus works surprisingly well. Call us skeptical, but when manufacturers make claims about newly updated AF systems, we tend to be a little pessimistic. Like previous Panasonic cameras, the autofocus slows down in low light or with distant objects that require the zoom. On initial show-floor testing, the Panasonic FS20 has excellent reaction time in most conditions. When users point the camera at a subject, the system focuses in a split second. A green box will appear to give the go sign of proper focus. Red bracketed corners indicate that the picture is out of focus, at which point, users should activate the stabilization modes or Macro focus. The FS20 is equipped with face detection technology that recognizes a reported 15 faces in a given scene. Like most face detection systems, though, the Panasonic FS20’s face detection is limited; we'll know more about this when we get it into the lab and do more testing. *Manual Focus*The FS20 does not come equipped with manual focus. At the near-$300 original MSRP, that’s disappointing. Panasonic includes manual focus on its higher-end point-and-shoots. Manual focus is only slightly missed on the FS20. But the autofocus seems to work so well that the lack of manual control may be forgivable.
ExposureExposure is decided automatically by the camera through a Program AE setting. Users can adjust exposure compensation in up to 2 full stops in 1/3 EV increments. Exposure is accessed by the north directional on the joystick. Overall, that’s pretty limited, but most novice point-and-shooters won’t mind.** ****Metering
There is no manual control for metering. The Panasonic FS20 engages a light metering system called "Intelligent Multiple" that makes metering selections on its own. Most novice point-and-shooters will find the automatic selection adequate, but advanced shooters shopping in the $300 range will want the manual metering functions, such as spot metering. ****White Balance**
The Panasonic Lumix FS20 has the standard set of white balance controls that include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, and Halogen for varied shooting conditions, from indoor to out. Each comes with a live preview so users can view the white balance change before making a selection. Users can also manually change white balance with "White Set," a customizable mode users can test by first shooting a white card. **ISO
Sensitivity ranges from Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. Users who are worried about grainy noise typically associated with high ISO settings can turn on the Intelligent ISO mode. Intelligent ISO disables ISO selection and limits how far the sensitivity reaches at ISO Max 400, ISO Max 800, or ISO Max 1600. Currently in its fourth-generation, the Venus Engine IV LSI image processor promises improved noise reduction, particularly at high ISO settings that typically produce grain. We can more thoroughly test noise results once we put the camera through our testing labs back home. Keep an eye out for a full review on DigitalCameraInfo.com in the coming months. Shutter Speed**
Like most of the settings, shutter speed cannot be manually selected. Shutter speed is controlled through the custom image presets such as Portrait or Landscape mode and ranges from 1/2000 of a second to a full 8 seconds. In the night mode called Starry Sky, long exposure extends to 15, 30, or 60 seconds to be used in conjunction with a tripod. ** ****Aperture
Like shutter speed and metering, FS20 users cannot control aperture manually. The camera automatically selects f-stop, depending on the scene mode. Aperture ranges from f/3.3 to f/8.0 in wide shooting and f/5.8 to f/8 in telephoto shooting.
**Picture Quality / Size Options
**The 10.7-megapixel (10.1 effective MP) sensor measures 1/2.33 inches and records in JPEG stills. Users can easily select Picture Size and Quality (Standard or Fine) through the menu. Unfortunately, the Panasonic FS20 does not spell out the resolution in pixels in the menu. For that information, users have to turn to the spec sheet. Resolution varies depending on shooting ratio. The picture sizes are as follows: **** **** **** ****Picture Effects Mode**The Lumix DMC-FS20 has color modes that record in Standard, Vivid, Cool, Warm, Natural, Black-and-White, and Sepia. Each color effect has a live preview so users can view the frame before selecting it. The color mode is effective for creatively capturing a subject in a color besides faithful color rendering. There are, however, no post-capture color effects, so once the user records in say, black-and-white, the photo is stuck in black-and-white and cannot be reversed to color. This sort of feature should be approached with some caution; if you use an imsge editing program on a PC, you can go back to the origional if you don't like the effect. But doing it while shooting means you are stuck with it, like it or not.
The Panasonic FS20 comes with the following assortment of programs: PhotofunStudio –viewer- for browsing photos, ArcSoft MediaImpression, ArcSoft Panorama Maker to compose wide photos, QuickTime for video, Adobe Reader, and a USB Driver. **Jacks, Ports, Plugs*The Lumix camera has two ports to connect the camera to a computer or display monitor such as a television set: AV Out/Digital, and DC In. *Direct Print Options*Users can print photos without using a computer. Users can connect the camera to a PictBridge-compatible printer with options to select the number of printed copies and date information. *Battery***The Panasonic FS20 includes a lithium-ion battery, as opposed to AA batteries that some point-and-shoots use. Lithium-ion batteries arguably last longer, but they lose points in convenience and widespread availability associated with AA batteries. Unless consumers are traveling without access to a power outlet, the lithium-ion battery is usually preferable.
Memory*The Panasonic Lumix FS20 has 50 MB of internal memory. That’s pretty good for most point-and-shoots, although Sony ranks the highest with 2 GB of built-in storage space. Users of the Lumix will certainly need to purchase an additional memory card of the compatible SD, SDHC, or MMC media. *Other Features***Internal Keypad* – The Panasonic FS20 has an internal keyboard, accessed through the Playback menu. Users can label their images through Title Edit and Text Stamp to help organize pictures before viewing on a computer.
ValueAt a near-$300 price point, the Panasonic Lumix FS20 is certainly not the least expensive camera around. Consumers can find digital cameras for as low as $150 new, including Panasonic’s LS-series and Fuji’s newly-launched budget J-series. At this value, the FS20 has some strong features, including wide shooting and optical image stabilization that is key for reducing blur. At the same price, though, consumers can find more attention-grabbing features such as more color options or the waterproof or shockproof abilities found on Olympus or Pentax cameras. **Who’s this Camera For?***Point and Shooters* – Chock-full of automatic modes in a portable body, the Panasonic Lumix FS20 certainly caters to this demographic. *Budget Consumers* – Not so much. The $299.95 price tag is on the higher end of pocket cameras. Thrifty shoppers can find cameras for about $150 with budget series cameras. *Gadget Freaks* – Techies prefer touch screen, waterproofing, or Wi-Fi capabilities that other, oftentimes more expensive cameras offer. None of those features are present in the Panasonic FS20. *Manual Control Freaks* – Not really. Users can’t control aperture or shutter speed, which are key components that advanced point-and-shooters might crave for absolute creative control. *Pros / Serious Amateurs* - No way. Professional photographers typically are attracted to SLRs and sometimes compact cameras with manual control to use as backup or vacation cameras. **Comparisons**
The Panasonic Lumix FS20 will likely draw comparisons with other point-and-shoots announced at PMA 2008. New similarly-priced cameras include the Olympus Stylus 850 SW ($299.99), Nikon Coolpix S600 ($300), Sony Cyber-shot W170 ($299), and the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS ($249.99).
**Conclusion**Our first impressions of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20 are that it makes an unexciting entry into the pocket digital camera market. It does, though, earn some major points for looks and a generous 3-inch LCD, optical image stabilization, wide 16:9 shooting, and an impressively easy menu system. The FS20, however, needs more attention-grabbing features to compete with other cameras at this price point, such as the Canon SD1100 IS and the Olympus Stylus 1020. It lacks the comfortable handling associated with past Panasonic cameras. There are limited manual controls that most advanced point-and-shooters at this price point would desire. It might be worth it at a lower price, but at $299.95, it’s simply not enough to win over customers.
Meet the tester
Karen M. Cheung
Karen M. Cheung is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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