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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC20S review:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC20S

  • 1
MSRP: $299.95
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The Good Compact, handsome, functional design; high-quality pictures; video-clip recording with sound.

The Bad Tendency to underexpose; slow shot-to-shot time; poky autofocus.

The Bottom Line It's portable, attractive, and a great choice for snapshooting on the road, but sadly, its all-automatic feature set doesn't satisfy.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

Panasonic's 2-megapixel Lumix DMC-LC20S may make you do a double take. That's right, the lens bears the hallowed name of Leica, the German optics legend, but the marriage turns out to be a good one, producing mostly top-notch pictures from a compact, well-designed, and competitively priced digicam that's ideal for family and travel snapshots. This compact, well-designed, and competitively priced digicam produces decent shots, and with a street price of $299, the LC20S compares well to even the best of its 2-megapixel competition. However, it's a little slow on the uptake, so if fast performance is a must, consider Canon's speedy . Panasonic's 2-megapixel Lumix DMC-LC20S may make you do a double take. That's right, the lens bears the hallowed name of Leica, the German optics legend, but the marriage turns out to be a good one, producing mostly top-notch pictures from a compact, well-designed, and competitively priced digicam that's ideal for family and travel snapshots. This compact, well-designed, and competitively priced digicam produces decent shots, and with a street price of $299, the LC20S compares well to even the best of its 2-megapixel competition. However, it's a little slow on the uptake, so if fast performance is a must, consider Canon's speedy .

Classic looks; logical controls
Though not groundbreaking, the LC20S's black-on-silver styling is handsome. (An version is also available.) Despite its almost entirely plastic construction, the camera feels well assembled, and it weighs only 8.7 ounces with the batteries and the Secure Digital/MultiMedia Card media installed. Plus, the LC20S fits easily in a coat pocket, so it's a breeze to carry around all day. Even more welcome, the LC20S's control and menu layout is among the best in its class. You select shooting modes on the main control dial, and you can easily access exposure compensation and continuous shooting without diving into the camera's menu system. The menu system itself is also logical and consistent, with the most important functions listed first and nearly everything properly labeled.

This Lumix's most prominent feature is, of course, its Leica 3X zoom lens. In the quirky German tradition, it has its very own technopoetic name: the DC Vario-Elmarit. It is, in fact, a good lens, and it helps the LC20S take crisp and detailed pictures with few color aberrations and lower-than-average barrel distortion (a lens defect that makes straight lines appear curved). It can also focus fairly close--six inches at its most telephoto focal length--which gives the LC20S unusually good macro capability. The rest of the feature set is designed for automatic snapshooting with few manual overrides, but there are two useful exceptions: the LC20S's adjustable light sensitivity (from ISO 100 to ISO 400) and manual white balance. There's also a continuous-shooting mode that captures three shots per second at the camera's highest resolution setting, and you can record 20-second QuickTime video clips with sound.

Lackadaisical Lumix; lucid Leica
Unfortunately, the LC20S's performance is neither as sharp nor intelligent as its lens and design. Although the camera starts up very quickly, its shot-to-shot time is an irritating five seconds. Further delays are often caused by the camera's autofocus system, which is slow and too often unable to lock onto the subject. Luckily, composing your pictures isn't as painful. The optical viewfinder is small but clear and reasonably bright, and the 1.5-inch LCD, while not the best we've seen, is sharp and works adequately in outdoor light. Though it uses only two AA batteries, the LC20S squeezes pretty long life out of them. We shot for most of a day, with heavy LCD use, on one charge of a set of nickel-metal-hydride batteries.

In addition to being sharp and relatively free of aberrations, this Lumix's pictures have vibrant, well-balanced color, natural skin tones, and low electronic noise. We did, however, get more underexposures than average, though the problem wasn't serious enough to ruin any of our test shots. To keep the Leica hype in perspective, we should note that the LC20S's pictures, while excellent, don't really beat those of other top-notch 2-megapixel digicams--that cool Vario-Elmarit lens notwithstanding.

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