Panasonic may not be one of the major names traditionally associated with photography, but a shrewd partnership with Leica and commitment to accessibility has given us a number of excellent cameras. The 10-megapixel, £190 DMC-FS20 is the latest Lumix compact to cross our desk, and on previous form we had high hopes of this point-and-shoot.
The metal body comes in silver and black. Panasonic can be relied on for attention to detail, such as a hinged door to protect the USB socket, and a metal tripod bush. The design is classic rather than inspiring, with a bland-looking silver bar where the right hand grips. It is raised enough to grip solidly, however.
The screen is a large 76mm (3-inch) LCD. A power-boosting feature makes the screen visible even when the camera is held at near right angles to your eye.
Controls include an easy zoom button, which makes the zoom telescope out to its full extent in around 2 seconds. Other controls are accessed via a flat joystick nipple, which we found very easy to use. A quick menu button calls up handy shooting options. Our only gripe with the controls was the switch to transfer between playback and shooting mode, as we prefer a button to toggle between the two.
Panasonic uses Leica technology in its lenses. The FS20 has a wider-than-average 30mm lens. It also sports a 4x zoom, with a 35mm film camera equivalent maximum focal length of 120mm. The extra zoom range is great for taking wider pictures, or zooming in for portraits and close-ups.
Panasonic's mega OIS is one of the better image stabilisation systems around, to combat the blurry effects of camera shake. Other features include the intelligent auto mode, which selects all the shooting options for you.
As accessibility and ease-of-use appears to be Panasonic's watchword here, we were puzzled by the decision to only make slow sync flash mode available in night portrait, party and candlelight scene modes. We'd have preferred the option to use slow sync with the settings of our choice, and didn't even discover slow sync until we'd had a good long play with the camera. This, at least, is a reminder that it always pays to read the manual.
Playback mode features a wealth of options, such as cropping and resizing an image, or viewing thumbnails in a calendar. There isn't a histogram included, but the target market for this accessible point-and-shoot probably won't miss it.