You do get a fairly decent portion of camera for your money though. While it is a little larger and heavier than a real ultra-compact at 94.9 x 57.1 x 25mm (not 22.9mm as the online specs state) and 154g including battery and card, it is still a very sleek and pocketable camera. Build quality is always a Panasonic strong point, and the FS20 is a very solidly made camera. The body is all aluminium with a nice semi-matt finish (also available in black) and chrome highlights. The shape of the FS20’s body incorporates a small finger-grip on the right hand end of the front panel. It has a hard angular edge and isn’t the most comfortable shape in the world, but with a small thumbgrip on the back it does provide a good secure grip.
The control layout has some interesting points. Panasonic seems to have abandoned the rather fiddly little mode dials of its previous models in favour of a mode button and on-screen menu, which is easier to use and less prone to accidental jogging. However this does mean that the FS20 has no fewer than three distinct menu systems, which is perhaps two too many. It has a quick menu providing access to common shooting options including stabiliser mode, drive mode, AF mode, white balance, ISO setting, picture size and LCD mode, as well as a main menu which duplicates some of these options and adds several more, including aspect ratio, compression quality and colour mode. The FS20 also eschews the usual D-pad in favour of a small mushroom-shaped joystick for menu selection and navigation. This actually works very well, and is much more responsive than some similar systems from other manufacturers. The zoom control is a rotary bezel around the shutter button, and is nice and responsive, at least when zooming in. The main on/off switch is a small slider, which has a nice positive action and is unlikely to get switched on by accident in your pocket.
The main feature on the rear of the camera is of course its huge 3.0-inch, 230k dot LCD monitor. This is nice and bright, with a good fast refresh rate, but the acrylic cover is highly reflective leading to some glare problems in bright sunlight that even the boosted brightness of the Power LCD mode doesn’t really solve. The standard angle of view is also rather restricted, at approximately 110 degrees. There is a high-angle option though, which alters the viewing angle of the screen for situations when you need to hold the camera over your head, such as shooting over crowds.