I love my annoying Panasonic DMC-LZ20 camera. That sums up how I feel about it.

The DMC-LZ20 is a ‘bridge’ camera. That means it’s not quite a full, proper camera (a DSLR) but it’s slightly more tweakable than your normal digital camera. It bridges the gap between the two different types, hence the name.

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Now, if you’re looking for a massively technical explanation of the features of this camera, you’re in the wrong place. Plenty of people with far more knowledge of such issues will already have written about this camera. This is a layman’s exploration.

Firstly, the big pro of my camera – the control over shutter speed. You can leave the shutter open for up to 30 seconds. I wanted to take photos of the stars and this is the minimum you need to leave your shutter open for star pics. You generally don’t get an option to have the shutter open for this long on a ‘normal’ digital camera.

There are two noticeably big negatives to this camera. The first is the decline in quality when you go to a higher ISO. Woah – that got technical. Let me explain.

The ‘ISO’ is a measure of light sensitivity. The lower the ISO, the lower the sensitivity to light. So, when it’s dark, you’ll need a high ISO. This camera has an ISO range from 100 to 1600. The problem with the higher ISO is that the pictures get very noisy.

This photo, for example, has an ISO of 1600 and a shutter speed of 30 seconds. That’s the highest light sensitive setting. See all the dots and the noise in the sky? That’s the disappointing mess.

365-camera-noisy

I’ve seen other cameras with ISOs up to 6400 and 12800. Wow. That idea pleases my simple mind.

The second big issue I have with this is the focus. There’s no manual focus option. You can choose to auto-focus in the centre, or by selecting an option to look at 9 different spots and focus from that. It’s not good.

I’ve been frustrated many times by taking what I thought would be a good pic only to find the result is out of focus. Sometimes you end up giving up because the camera just isn’t interested in looking at your chosen subject.

When it does work, though, it’s fun. Sometimes experimenting with lights leaves you with some pretty results. With this shot, for example, I left it on a low light sensitivity but left the lense open for 2.5 seconds.

treepic

The low light sensitivity with the 100 ISO meant that you got a glow from the bulbs without itย  over-exposing the pic. A nice pic for entering Christmas Tree pic competitions, although it didn’t win me anything! :/

One day, I’d like to step up to a proper DSLR. The bridge camera has served it’s purpose – it’s introduced me to the various advanced camera / film variables (focal length, ISO, shutter speed). When you reach limits, however, or when you’re looking for a better performance from certain aspects of your camera, then perhaps it means you’re ready to get to the other side of the bridge….