The FS20 has a high-sensitivity mode that takes the camera's ISO speed as high as ISO 6,400. We're not sold on such high ISO speeds in compact cameras with small image sensors. Here the high-sensitivity mode requires a drop in resolution to 3 megapixels. We don't really see the point in taking noisy, low-resolution images, but at least the option is there.
Noise isn't too apparent until ISO 800, which shows the noise-reduction system is taking care of unsightly speckles. Unfortunately it throws the detail baby out with the noise bathwater, smearing fine detail and giving detailed textures like hair an unnatural look. Combined with the relatively laissez-faire sharpening applied by the camera, this leaves some images looking a little soft. Colour is natural and well reproduced, however. Images generally look great, with the intelligent auto mode coping with everyday situations with aplomb.
Low-light focussing is quick, thanks to a brisk focus assist lamp. The flash is rather overzealous, but the mega OIS system does allow for the braver photographer to dispense with the flash in all but the darkest environments.
Burst mode is only a disappointment as this is an otherwise excellent camera, but the ability to take 2.5 frames per second for only 3 frames is actually par for the digital compact course. Start-up is quick at just over 2 seconds, while zooming speed benefits from the easy zoom button.
We struggled to find fault with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS20. We generally lament the lack of manual control, but the automatic mode is so capable and the FS20 so versatile we were happy to let it do all the work.
If manual controls are essential alongside a longer zoom, we'd suggest the Canon Digital IXUS range. But you'd be hard pressed to find a more competent point-and-shoot than the FS20.. If the bland styling isn't glamorous enough, there's always the
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide