In form the Z20fd has a fairly straightforward design, with a sliding cover on the front that protects the lens and also acts as the on/off switch. The overall shape is slightly tapered and curved, and is obviously designed to survive in a pocket or handbag. The body is all aluminium and despite its delicate appearance the Z20fd is surprisingly robust.
There is an optional carrying case available which I also received along with the camera, but its design is a sort of half-cradle with a flimsy magnetic closure, and seems very prone to loss or theft, so you’re probably better off just popping the camera in your pocket where it clearly belongs.
The back of the camera carries a 2.5-inch monitor screen which is nice and bright with good contrast, and is quite sharp despite its lower-than-average 150k dot resolution. The viewing angle could be better though, especially on a camera ostensibly designed for sharing pictures.
The controls are simple and attractively designed, consisting of two circular four-way pads, one of which has the menu button in the centre. The top pad includes the zoom control, which is stepped but has nine positions between its minimum and maximum settings.
The menu is also very simple. The camera has two basic shooting modes; manual and automatic. As is usually the case the “manual” mode simply means that exposure compensation, white balance and autofocus mode can be adjusted, and there are a couple more flash modes to choose from, while in auto mode all of these options are disabled. There are a number of scene modes as well, including an online auction mode which can combine up to four frame in a single 640 x 480 image ideal for posting on eBay, and a “stamp” mode which to the disappointment of philatelists everywhere simply adds one of three cartoon-style icons to your shots, the choices being kissy lips, rabbit ears or a speech bubble saying “hello”.
Other shooting features include a good MPEG-4 movie mode capable of 640 x 480 resolution at 30 frames a second with mono audio, and natural light mode, which takes two shots in rapid succession, one with the flash and the other without.
A signature feature of the Z20fd is its wireless infrared communication mode, which allows it to transmit and receive files from any other device equipped with the irSimpleShot protocol, used in many mobile phones and other hand-held devices. IR data transmission is not the most reliable method of sharing data files, and I tried repeatedly to get the camera to talk to my mobile phone (a popular Sony Ericsson model) without success.