Note the illustration below, and my notes. These are actual sizes of the sensors in your camera:
1. The reason why you have such a compact 12X super zoom on your camera that "maintains its f 2.8 brightness blah, blah, blah" isn't because of any optical engineering genius on "Leica"'s part, it's because Panasonic uses teeny, tiny sensors in its cameras that were initially designed for one or two megapixel cameras.
2. The lens focuses the captured image on a small sensor, resulting in its compact size, and ability to remain bright throughout its focal length. Increase the size of the sensor where the lens must focus a relatively much larger image, and so too the size of the lens must increase its dimensions porportionately. There's no magic to it.
3. If Pana were to use a 2/3" or a 15.8 X 13.4" sized sensor, that were designed for 5 megapixel cameras, the lens would approach the size of your standard giant telephoto lens of a film SLR, or DSLR.
4. Cramming millions more pixels into sensors that were designed for 1/2, 1/3 as many results in noise and distortion.
5. It also results in a mini-photoshop session to correct issues via the processor. Call me anal, but I would rather take care of that that on my own, in PS, thank you very much.
The FZ-1V2 is still the best of the lot because, while it is aggressive in terms of how many pixels it's cramming into its 1/3.2" sensor at 2, it isn't NUTS about it by trying to cram 4 megpixel into the sensor. (I wonder ->and this is MY thinking out loud, not a statement of fact<- if there's not a little interpolation going on here, adding fake pixels to increase "megapixel" ratings like Fugi does with some of their cameras.)
So, here's the case for the FZ-1V2 (upgrading the firmware is a must)
1. (a) Compact Super zoom lens, (b) Lots o' megapixels, (c) Low Noise - pick any two.
2. It crammed an aggressive amount of megapixels into its small sensor, but didn't go crazy.
3. It's photoquality is equal for web/CDR shots, it's photoquality is comparable for 6X4's.
4. I can use stepped interpolation with excellent results for smooth 8X10's, which are a rarety.
5. Venus I, same Leica-branded lense...many of the same features; burst mode, bracketing etc.
6. IR capabible... none of the others are
7. Right-sized. Much more compact, which is wonderful, without feeling like a toy.
8. Less noisey
9. HALF (as in .5, one half, 50%) THE PRICE!
In conclusion, comparable image quality, heart of the camera is the same, nice and compact - HALF THE PRICE. Like the classic Mustang, Panasonic got it right the first time around by designing a cool, fun, affordable, camera and opted out of the great "megapixel wars" by differentiating their product with a terrific compact, super-zoom lense, "just right" compact size, and tons of useful features not found in other camera in its price range. It was (is) truly a unique camera - a classic in a crowded field. The downside? It was only a two megapixel camera because of the constraints around sensor size-to-lense size ratio explained above. Is that really a downside? No, because the final image quality is ->identicle<- for PC viewing, 35 mm photoquality on 6X4 prints - which, between the two, accounts for how 99% of pictures are viewed. It produces excellent 8X10's at 150 ppi, and can be interpolated without noticable issue up to 100%, or 300 ppi, for the infrequent 8X10.
Also, like Ford did with the Mustang, they are in the process of screwing it up to appease the more-is-better psychology of the American consumer at the expense of the product's true price to performance ratio. What are you buying with the FZ-20? A noisier, more heavily processed image, that seems to have difficulty rendering greens in some circumstances according to some posters. You're buying a bulked up camera made to look impressive and "SLR-like" losing that wonderful, compact "right size" in the process. Mainly, what the FZ-20 buys you is the ability to satiate your insecurities over megapixel envy, and your "more-is-better", super-size me, psychology that's been brainwashed into you by the mass media. Oh, yes, you do also get a hotshoe. Likewise with the 15, but you lose audio on your video captures. The FZ-20 is truly a case of more (cost, megapixels, and size) is less.