The FS20’s overall performance is reasonably good, although not outstanding. It starts up in just under three seconds, which is a little on the slow side, while shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode is approximately two seconds, about average for a camera in this class. It has a burst mode which shoots up to three shots at just over two frames a second, and a continuous shooting mode which averages just over one frame a second, again about average for a premium compact. The autofocus system is fairly quick, although there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the standard mode and the “high speed” mode. It does slow down noticeably at longer zoom settings and in lower light conditions, but on the whole it is accurate and reliable.
Panasonic’s optical image stabilisation system is one of the best on the market, and the FS20 is capable of producing shake-free shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/30th of a second at maximum zoom, not too shabby for a focal length equivalent to 120mm.
Image quality too is generally good, but not without a couple of small issues. Exposure metering is excellent, colour rendition is pretty much spot on and the white balance copes well with different lighting conditions. The Leica-branded lens is up to the usual high standard, with excellent corner sharpness and minimal distortion at all focal lengths. The overall level of detail is very good, but there is a slight softness that is probably the result of image processing rather than the lens. Dynamic range is a little limited, as is common with small-sensor 10MP cameras, with a tendency to burn out highlights in high-contrast shots. Panasonic seems to have tweaked its noise reduction software for this model, with results somewhere between Canon’s and Fujifilm’s systems. Colour balance remains consistent up to the maximum 1600 ISO, but the system blurs out fine detail at higher settings. Nonetheless it produces good printable pictures at 800 ISO, which is pretty impressive by any standard.
The Lumix FS20 is a companion model the the FS5, offering a larger LCD screen and slightly better handling. Build quality is excellent, and the overall design is functional but attractive. It is a point-and-shoot camera with a limited but sensible range of features, and performs well in most situations, with good low light capabilities. Image quality is also good, but the price tag is a little high for a rather average specification.