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Panasonic DMC-ZS20 Digital Camera Review$349.99
The major change in design from the ZS10 last year to this year's DMC-ZS20 is the addition of a smooth rubberized material that now covers the large part of the front protrusion. This provides considerably greater grip for the user to hold onto, though the material doesn't provide much in the way of friction. It's ultimately more comfortable to hold, with the shape of the grip remaining largely unchanged. The back of the camera features a small section of raised dots in the body of the camera, providing just enough purchase that you feel secure when shooting the camera with a single hand.
The buttons on the ZS20 have remained almost completely unchanged from the previous model, which is both a gift and a curse. The keys each give off a nice, audible click sound when depressed indicating that they've been engaged. The rear four-way control pad has had slight indentations applied to the four corners, better separating four possible directions you can push on.
The major disappointment is the return of etched labels on the keys themselves, as they are nearly impossible to read except in very specific light. This leads to plenty of mistaken key presses and time spent staring at the back of your camera rather than taking photos. Altogether the camera handles quite well for a compact body, though you'll definitely want to use two hands and stabilize the camera against something solid whenever utilizing the full effect of the 20x optical zoom range.
Buttons & Dials
The ZS20, despite having a 3-inch touchscreen LCD panel, does not require the user to use anything but the physical hardware keys on the camera itself. There aren't a great deal of these keys, as Panasonic has elected to keep things simple as they did on the ZS10, with just a shooting/playback mode switch, four-way control panel, center OK button, and menu, display, and exposure buttons rounding out the back panel of the camera. The top plate of the camera is similarly unchanged, with just a mode dial, shutter release/zoom toggle, power switch, and dedicated video record button.
The keys themselves offer a very nice response, with an easy-to-detect click sensation indicating they've been activated. The keys are spaced out appropriately, and each has a slightly different shape so you can easily differentiate between them. The lack of clear labelling on the rear control panel is a bit of a nightmare when you want to make adjustments in a dark setting, because their etched-in symbols are impossible to read without proper lighting. Despite this, the camera is quite simple to use in many situations, but you'll want to familiarize yourself with the control layout quickly, or else you may miss a crucial moment squinting closely at the back of your camera.
The rear display on the ZS20 is a 3-inch touchscreen LCD, with a resolution of 460k dots. The screen is as responsive as we saw on the ZS10, which was the same size and resolution. The LCD has an auto power function, but can be adjusted by the user depending on conditions. It features an anti-reflective coating, but we didn't notice it to be any easier to read in direct sunlight than similar screens from Canon's travel zoom model, the SX230 HS.
At 1/30th of a second the ZS20 did not return particularly sharp images with a standard, repeatable low shake applied, typical of holding a camera hand-held. The stabilization system did improve sharpness significantly (by around 50%), but it was mostly the result of improving on an already poor result.