Lumix FH20/FS30 review :: PYKtures Reviews

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This entry is dedicated to my man Choucri Bechir, a Canon G10 user that really rocks this compact like no one I've seen before clearly pwning a lot of photographers out there with better cameras. He made me drop my dSLR for a while, pick up my compact camera and shoot; he trained my eyes to better views. You can see his stuff here: http://www.choucribechir.blogspot.com/.

If you want to know how to make the most of your FH20/FS30 go here to read my article on it

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I’ve lately given a first impression on the camera about how good the image quality was according to the price I paid. Yes, I did lose my F70EXR on some unzipped pocket incident and will not lose it again! I was thinking of getting another F70EXR but something really annoyed me near the prematured end of its time: lens quality and auto white balance. Even though its ISO performance would thrive to produce useable 1600 shots, bad color management and a very bad lens that produces some ugly resolution figures and a pile of lens defects would ruin its image quality. So I went looking. What in my asking price (around 200$) would satisfy my needs? On the Canon side of things, you have the SD1200is; a very typical stabilized 3x zoom pocket compact camera with regular video… Then I decided to return to the land of the Leica inspired brand: Panasonic. What I found was the FH20 (also called FS30), a hidden gem inside Lumix’s camera lineup.

Camera's official site


The camera

This is how the camera looks (image taken from dpreview). I got the black one... no choice...

First Walk with another Lumix

It stands there, very humble without pulling any punches. Its slim and sober design derives from a long bloodline of FX cameras without the solid all metal shell of the FX series. On the non-Leica branded lens (now a Lumix DC Vario), the carved letters of “Mega O.I.S/28mmWide” stay uncolored as if such features weren’t already amazing. In fact, Lumix has moved onto lenses of 25mm wide with a better stabilizer (Power O.I.S).

The lens is an 8x zoom and surprisingly, it’s smaller and thinner than the TZ series from back in the days. I don’t know what kind of black magic Lumix has evoked to fit something of this range in something this small.

Most of the buttons are made out of semi-cheap plastic. While it’s producing great colors and sharp imagery, the LCD screen dates from the one found in the old FX33: horrible viewing angles and there is even a “high-angle” mode to activate… One can say that it looks like a high-end Pentax compact point and shoot from the back, but the designers selectively put the money where it was needed: solid metal zoom rocker, shutter button and on/off button. Those elements are bolted on an aluminum rim that gives the camera a solid feel.

So from the outside, people might think you are using a Lumix FX-type camera, which is always cool, if you are showing off. Haha


The shooting experience

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Surviving Bromont Nuit Blanche

Surviving Bromont Nuit Blanche

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Lumix has fixed a lot of things that plagued the fx35 and fs5 cameras. The operation speeds have now almost doubled! Opens fast, focuses faster (not quite there yet with the top ones but it’s still good!), shoots fast. What else do you really need? For sure it doesn’t run at the speed of a good F70EXR camera but for what it does, it does so well. Rediscovering the joys of MEGA O.I.S. brings happiness in my shooting experience: I could land sharp pictures at full 224mm using slow shutter speeds of 1/30.

There are 2 main modes I use on the Lumix: Normal Mode and Intelligent mode. Normal Mode is a very limited Program Mode where AF-points, ISO value, Burst mode, White Balance, Color Management, 2 stop EV compensation, Macro Mode, Flash (on/off) can be set among other things. There seem to be a limiter switched on that limits shutter speed of going below 1/8. The minimum shutter speed could be set on the FX35. I’m surprised that Panasonic removed that feature. You could go over that limiter by using Intelligent mode.

Intelligent mode is Lumix’s highly effective scene recognition mode. Everytime you point the camera at a scene or a subject, it cross references what it sees with every scene mode it has in store then picks a scene mode to capture the subject. Intelligent mode has now a dedicated button to push on at any time and grab a picture without fiddling with the menus. This makes shooting things you camera wasn’t set on shooting. Say I was shooting a still object. I can switch to Intelligent mode to quickly shoot to a moving one.

The camera is very smart though: it knows that it doesn’t have the best ISO performance in the bunch; it knows it has the best optical image stabilization of the bunch too. The FH20 really wants to give you a sharp picture: it chooses smartly at what shutter speed to go and usually at what ISO to go too. Unless obliged to get into Sports mode, it will always chose the slowest shutter speed to give you the lowest ISO value every time, therefore guaranteeing sharp results on still subjects.

I’ve probably landed on the best battery life I’ve seen in a while. 475 shots taken and I’m still at 2/3 of battery life… Never in my life have I reach a number this high using a compact!

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All in all, it runs at a slightly below average speed of today’s 2010 generation of cameras and would follow your eyes effectively without a fuss. It will put a smile on your face because the camera has a decent screen for you to admire your pictures. The camera can even last you a whole day of intense shooting!


Image quality
When I went back to Panasonic, I was afraid to get back the image quality drawbacks of my FX35. That camera could land great shots from ISO 80 to 200. The Leica branded lens on the FX35 was very sharp wide open at 25mm but became terribly softer as I approached telephoto.

Seeing that the FH20 can be pushed up to 800 before giving up came as a big surprise. From ISO 80 to 400, it will keep most of the details. At ISO 800, it will blur the detail while keeping the noise low. At ISO 1600, unless your shot is well exposed, it produces an unusable shot.

this is ISO 1600
Surviving Bromont Nuit Blanche

Color management is SPOT ON nailing the colors at almost all lighting conditions. Using the Vivid color management gives style to the pictures.

The lens of the FH20 isn’t Leica branded. Panasonic took some liberties in inspiring itself out of the Leica lens designs it was taught to produce in its factories. We can see the Panasonic Vario lens series in the Micro G interchangeable lens system too. So can we assume that the lens I’m using is good? Maybe. Well all I can say is DANG! Sharpness all across focal lengths! O_O Truly, this is a lens that sharpens every single pixel of the camera’s 14 megapixel resolution. I never thought the lens could handle such a resolution. Seriously, try shooting a 15 megapixel shot of a Canon 50D with a EF-S 18-55is kit lens... Even though the FH20 lens has some distortion at 28mm, I can witness the other cool factors of lenses on a Lumix: no chromatic aberration, no purple fringing, edge-to-edge sharpness and whahahahahahahahaahahah. Oh well, this makes me happy!

So even if this isn’t a LX3, we got some decent ISO management and a good sharp versatile lens. Viva Panasonic!


Bottom Line
It is hands down best 220$ compact of the year. The higher level will give you better customization features (like shadow correction, manual modes etc…) and probably a wider lens (like 25mm or 24mm). But for what it’s worth, get it now. I highly recommend it.

Here are the rest of the pictures I've taken with the camera. Press play and enjoy!


28 comments:

Rose said...

I like it. The photos look amazing and not to mention it is so tiny! Good buy!

iamkionda said...

Great photos! Glad you found a good replacement. :D

~iamkionda

ggont said...

Hello,

I just bought the Fs30 to replace my broken Nikon coolpix 4200.

I found the picture quality to be worse! It cannot focus near the edges of the photo and these areas look blurry. If you would like I could send you a photo in case my camera has a problem.

Yannick Khong said...

ggont, the fs30 uses a 9 point focus AF-system that mostly covers the center of the picture. so just prefocus your subject in the center before framing it on the edge.

This not being a Leica lens, it's is quite normal to get some blurry edge if we take closer looks. Sure show me a link. ^^

ggont said...

Thanks.

Here is a link of the photos I took
http://picasaweb.google.com/ggontikas/Giona_EOS_Athinon#

If you look at 1,4 and 24 in the left side you can spot the bluriness.

I thought that FS30 had the Leica lens as the 25 did. Do you think I should get one with Leica lens for better quality like the TZ8 or 10?

Yannick Khong said...

yes I see the lens issue. I believe you just got a bad copy. as my shots at wide angle aren't as soft as yours...

ggont said...

So you think there is something faulty and I should return it?

Yannick Khong said...

yes. ggont, this is a consumer electronic piece that is mass produced in a factory. You are bound to land on a malfunctionning lemon. Just exchange for a better copy.

Anonymous said...

Does your battery perfomed that well when you first charged it or is this after a number of charging? Cuz my one seams to only last about 200 pictures. Altho I did record 1 30sec HD movie. By the way do you do a lot of reviewing (switch back and forth between playback and record modes) while taking pictures?

Anonymous said...

Have you any comments on how the FH20 compares with the DMC-ZR1? I'm torn by the great reviews on the FH20, but some reviewers still favour the ZR1 because of the Leica lens.

Yannick Khong said...

I will post a blog on how to achieve the 425 shots battery trick.

The ZR1 has indeed a Leica lens that extends wider to 25mm instead of the FH20's 28mm. I believe it has also less distorsion. But I feel that the ZR1 is also bigger and bulkier than the FH20... your pick :)

Vivek said...

Beautiful pictures and a fantastic review!
I am also torn between ZR 1 and FH 20. But reviews say that ZR 1 is bad in low lighting. Any comments? and how about FH -20?
Have heard a lot about new Sony H55 also though no reviews so far. WOuld be grateful for your thoughts on this. Thanks

Yannick Khong said...

hi guys, I am in the process of writing a blog article addressing those questions :)

Yannick Khong said...

http://pyktures.blogspot.com/2010/04/pyktures-guide-to-fh20fs30-coolness.html

here :)

Johnny Boy said...

Awesome pics .I just bought it yesterday.Did u get yourself a screen protector ?

Anonymous said...

I just got one and I can't believe this little gem ... and I got mine for $160 new!!!

Joanna said...

Hi Yannick,

I just bought a Lumix FH20 together with a 4GB SDHC memory-card (class 6). But as soon as I turn the camera on it tells me the card is not formatted for video!

Can you (or anyone else) please tell me how to format the memory-card?

Thank you,
Joanna

Max said...

Hi Joanna,

You will need to use your PC, an SDHC card reader and an SDHC formatter program which is downloadable from Panasonic at:

http://www.sdcard.org/consumers/formatter_3/eula/

Regards,
Max

Max said...

Hi Joanna,

You will need to use your PC, an SDHC card reader and an SDHC formatter program which can be found and downloaded free on:

http://www.sdcard.org/consumers/formatter_3/eula/

Regards,
Max

Anonymous said...

Joanna: just bring it into the shop you bought it from. they can format the card in 2 minutes. Ken

Anonymous said...

How is the pic quality when viewed at full res? I mean I saw one sample pic from FH20 (a landscape in normal daylight), I saw that the sharpness was not as expected, I mean the grass & some bush color looked faded / intermixed. The pic looked great when viewed as Fit-to-Screen.

Miriam said...

I would like to thank you for inspiring me to get this camera! I first took it out today, and here are some of my results. It does a pretty good job of capturing shots from a moving subway train (the graffiti)!

http://s781.photobucket.com/albums/yy95/selkie305/New%20Photos%20Lumix%20FH20/?albumview=slideshow&track=share_email_album_view_click

Anonymous said...

Hello, were most pics on slideshow taken in IA mode. Nice.

lumix fh20 said...

I saw one sample pic from FH20 (a landscape in normal daylight), I saw that the sharpness was not as expected, I mean the grass & some bush color looked faded / intermixed.

fabiopirovano said...

Great Blog,please I'm going to buy one,but what About Casio Ex Z2000???

Kirk Bruner said...

Johanna-Check the pdf file (instructions) that came with the camera on the CD. It talks about the non-formatted warning. I don't think there's actually a problem with the card. I think the manual offers a solution, also. I bought my FH20 in May, and couldn't be happier for spending $200 on this marvel. It never ceases to amaze me what can be packed into something the size of a deck of cards.

Ed said...

Okay seriously, you just owned every DSLR user I know with a $100 camera... that doesn't even shoot in RAW.

Tell me these pictures were at least processed and not just straight uploaded from the camera.

The colours are Jaw-droppingly amazing. I have new-found respect for compact cameras now.

Anonymous said...

Woah these photo samples are amazing. So they're totaly untouched??

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