Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 Gordon Laing, April 2012

Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 image quality

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To compare real-life quality I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 using its best quality JPEG settings and lowest sensitivity - in this case, 100 ISO.

As the first of the 2012 pocket super-zooms, I have decided to share results here from the ZS20 / TZ30 alone and to discuss how it compares against previous results for the ZS10 / TZ20.

As we review the ZS20 / TZ30's main rivals, we'll update these pages with more comparisons.

In the meantime, I shot this scene first in program to see what the camera would have chosen, then again at all aperture settings to see if there was a preferable result.
  Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 results
1 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Quality
2 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Noise
3 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Handheld Night Shot
4 Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 Sample images

The image above was taken with the Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 with the lens set to 6.1mm (34mm equivalent). In Program mode, the camera opted for its maximum aperture of f3.7, which would seem sensible given the issues of diffraction seen on earlier models, but to be certain I reshot the scene in Aperture Priority at every f-number and discovered detail didn't begin to really deteriorate until f5.6 and beyond. But crucially the camera delivered higher contrast and sharper details at f5.0 than at larger apertures (smaller f-numbers), so that's what I've used for the crops below.

Panasonic has kept the total number of Megapixels the same on the ZS20 / TZ30 as its predecessor, but claims lower noise levels. Unfortunately I didn't have access to the ZS10 / TZ20 for my latest tests for a direct comparison, but looking at my results for that model, the real-life detail is as you'd expect, at a similar level.

But while the earlier ZS10 / TZ20 suffered from a veil of noise textures across its images when viewed at 100% - even at 100 ISO - the output from the new ZS20 / TZ30 looks much cleaner. The details also look crisper and more pleasing under close inspection, confirming Panasonic's claims.

Now don't get me wrong: these are not the best-looking images I've seen from a small sensor camera, but they are an improvement over its predecessor, and that's even with a longer lens squeezed into a thinner body. That's a great result from Panasonic, and it sets the benchmark for other 2012 pocket super-zooms to beat.

Now let's see how Panasonic's claims of lower noise measure-up across the entire sensitivity range in my Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 noise results.

Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
100 ISO, f5
100 ISO, f5
100 ISO, f5
100 ISO, f5

Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 results : ZS20 / TZ30 quality / ZS20 / TZ30 Noise
/ ZS20 / TZ30 Handheld Night Shot

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