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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic FS20

Panasonic Digital Cameras

   

Panasonic FS20 Review

Review Date: Apr 29, 2008

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Panasonic FS20

IMAGE QUALITY

The Panasonic FS20 is a digital camera targeted to point-and-shoot photographers. It has 10.1 megapixel resolution on a 1/2.33 in. CCD image sensor, and a 5.2-20.8mm (30-120mm, 35 mm equivalent) 4x wide-angle optical zoom lens, with a maximum aperture of F3.3(W)-F5.8(T).

We find the overall image quality of the Panasonic FS20 to be good at ISO 100 with good detail and low noise for a digital camera in this category. As is usual with cameras in this category, images at higher ISOs suffer from noise and detail loss.

3.6x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 30mm Telephoto 120mm
Wide-angle 5.2mm
(30mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 20.8mm
(120mm, 35mm equivalent)

The Panasonic FS20 has a 4x wide-angle optical zoom lens with Panasonic's famous MEGA Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.) which helps to reduce camera shake. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 30mm and 120mm. We love the 30mm wide-angle coverage that allows us to capture wide landscapes! The O.I.S. ensures that images do not suffer from camera shake even at the long end of the telephoto.

Macro
Macro
5.2mm, iA, Multi-Pattern, 1/640 sec., F5.6, ISO 100
Vivid, Macro

Macro can be as close as 5 cm (2 in.) at wide-angle.

AF is fast (especially when using the 1-area High Speed AF), works very well in good light and even in low-light as long as your subject has enough contrast to allow focus lock.

There is only one metering mode: Intelligent Multiple (i.e., Multi-Pattern).

White Balance Indoors
AWB Custom WB
AWB Custom WB

As the above two pictures show, the Auto White Balance (AWB) is not quite accurate indoors under artificial lighting [I have two ordinary household tungsten light bulbs on the ceiling]. Fortunately, the Panasonic FS20 allows WB to also be set manually and bring out the real colours. Most P&S digital camera does not provide manual WB, so this is a real bonus! AWB works very well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 100
ISO 100
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 800 ISO 1600

You can set the ISO on the Panasonic FS20 from 100 to 1600, plus a high ISO of 6400 in High Sensitivity scene mode. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 100 and 200 is under control. Noise starts to be more visible at ISO 400 but is still usable. At ISO 800 to 1600, the presence of noise is clearly visible at full image size and with visible loss of detail.

High Sensitivity - 100% Crops
ISO 3200 ISO 6400
ISO 3200 ISO 6400

The High Sensitivity scene mode boosts the sensitivity to ISO 3200 and 6400, both at 3M resolution only (3M at aspect ratio 4:3; 2.5M at 3:2 and 2M at 16:9). It looks very noisy and splotchy with loss of image detail when the image is viewed at full resolution.

High Sensitivity - Resized 450x338 Pixels
ISO 3200
ISO 3200

If you care only to print 4x6 in. or display for Web use, as in your blog, the ISO 3200 image can be quite acceptable.

Chromatic Aberrations
CA

CA is not really a problem in everyday shots. In the above photo, the area delimited by the red square, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom left, shows negligible purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
5.2mm, Starry Sky, Multi-Pattern, 60 sec., F3.3, ISO 100
Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used

The Panasonic FS20 allows the use of a long shutter speed of 15 sec, 30 sec. or 60 sec. in Starry Sky Scene Mode (only up to 1 sec. only in P). This allows you to take some very nice Night Shots. Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds. The Panasonic FS20 has special noise reduction (NR) that automatically kicks in at shutter speeds of 1 sec. and slower and you'll notice aprox. twice the processing time before the next picture can be taken. I like that there is a countdown of the long shutter speed as well as of the "signal processing" (noise reduction) time displayed on screen. Some digital cameras leave you "in the dark" forcing you to do your own mental countdown.

To test this noise reduction algorithm, we take a low-light indoors shot using a long shutter speed of 60 sec. The NR works quite well. The AF works well in low-light, and the AF-assist Lamp helps to obtain precise and fast focus lock.

There is no Histogram either Live or in Playback.

Overall, good image quality for this category of entry-level point-and-shoot digicams. Just set the shooting mode to iA and Color Mode to Vivid to obtain sharp and saturated colors right out of the camera.

The pictures in the Panasonic FS20 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 3648 x 2736 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version). Note that depending on the shooting mode and ISO used, some pictures are smaller.

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod (due to the effective image stabilization, the use of a tripod was restricted to the long shutter speeds). Any image that is adjusted for levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name (though the original sized image is, of course, not adjusted).

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!

 

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