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Panasonic LZ20

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Panasonic Lumix LZ20 Technical Info

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Among several long-zoom cameras announced by Panasonic in mid-July 2012, the Lumix LZ20 marks the entry point. Its siblings have more powerful zoom lenses, and faster MOS image sensors. By switching to a standard CCD sensor and switching to a less sophisticated lens, the Panasonic LZ20 doubtless reduces cost noticeably compared to the other models it's announced alongside, and that will likely translate to a more affordable camera. (Although as yet, Panasonic hasn't officially stated what pricing for the LZ20 will be.)

In the process, the LZ20 also shaves a little more off its size and body-only weight, versus the simultaneously-announced FZ60 model. The weight difference is largely offset by a switch to standard AA alkaline batteries, but the size reduction is worthwhile, trimming about half an inch (12 mm) off the depth, while retaining about the same width and height.

The Panasonic LZ20's lens is quite a bit less complex than that of the FZ60. With twelve elements in nine groups, there are two less elements and one less group. There are also no ED lenses or Nano Surface Coatings in the design. These are replaced by an extra double-sized aspheric lens element, for a total of three aspherics, two of them double-sided.

Perhaps suggesting that it won't offer the same quality as the lenses on the FZ60 and FZ200, the LZ20's 21x zoom lens is unbranded. Focal lengths range from 25 to 525mm, sacrificing a little telephoto reach when compared to the 24x zooms of the other two cameras. Maximum aperture is less generous across the board, too, running from f/3.1 at wide angle to f/5.8 at telephoto.

Behind the Panasonic LZ20's lens is a 1/2.33-inch CCD image sensor with 16.1 megapixel resolution. It's the same size and effective pixel count as the sensor in the FZ60, but the standard sensitivity range is more limited, at just 1,600 equivalent max. It's also much slower, at a sluggish 1.2 full-resolution frames per second. Not surprisingly, it isn't capable of Full HD, AVCHD video. The LZ20 is thus limited to 720p or below in Motion JPEG format, at a rate of 30 frames per second. The built-in microphone is also downgraded to a monaural type.

Another significant difference between the LZ20 and FZ60 is that, while it has the same three inch LCD panel, the LZ20 lacks an electronic viewfinder. That, again, will have contributed to the lower weight, although surprisingly it doesn't make much difference to the camera's height.

Compared to the 23-point autofocus system in the FZ60, the LZ20's 9-point AF system is simpler and less sophisticated. The shutter speed range of 15 to 1/2,000 second is quite a bit wider, though. The more simplistic design is also seen in the lack of Custom and Priority-mode exposure, with these modes instead replaced with some user-friendly scene modes such as Sports and Portrait. There are also fewer white balance presets, and only one custom position.

There are a couple of areas where the LZ20 may in fact be seen to best the FZ60, however. The available 109MB of memory is quite a bit more generous than its sibling's 70MB, for one. And if you're looking for a camera with the ability to grab standard batteries from a store when you're away from home, rather than relying exclusively on being able to find somewhere to recharge, then the AA power of the LZ20 will be right up your street.

Panasonic will not be announcing pricing and availability until roughly 30 days before the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LZ20 goes on sale.