Some of the best cameras in 2004 were
Panasonic's ultra zoom cameras. Now, for 2005 they
are two new models -- the Lumix DMC-FZ4 and DMC-FZ5
-- which replace the DMC-FZ3 as the entry-level model
in the group. New features on these two models compared
to the "old" FZ3 include:
- Higher resolution CCDs (4 and 5
MP for FZ4 and FZ5, respectively)
- Faster focusing
- Slightly refined design
- Slightly slower lens
- Larger LCD (FZ5 only)
- Better battery life
- Scene mode help screen
The nice features of the FZ3 remain,
including full manual controls, a huge 12X stabilized
lens, fast performance, and an AF-assist lamp.
This chart describes the differences
between all of the FZ-series models:
||35 - 420 mm
||35 - 420 mm
||36 - 432 mm
||35 - 420 mm
||36 - 432 mm
||F2.8 - F3.3
||F2.8 - F3.3
|Supports conversion lenses
|Battery life (CIPA standard)
||Silver and black
||Silver and black
|* While Panasonic
doesn't offer conversion lenses for the FZ3/FZ4/FZ5,
third-party lenses will work
Please note that those street prices were accurate at the time I wrote this
and are subject to change. I'll compare the dimensions and weight of these
cameras a bit later in the review.
In this review I'll be looking at
the 5 Megapixel DMC-FZ5. How does it perform? Well,
you'll have to read on to find out. Do note that since
this camera is so similar to the FZ3, the reviews will
be quite similar (and I mean it).
What's in the Box?
The DMC-FZ5 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.0 effective Megapixel Lumix
- 16MB Secure Digital card
- CGA-S002A lithium-ion rechargeable
- Battery charger
- Lens hood w/adapter
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring ArcSoft software,
SD Viewer, and USB drivers
- 127 page camera manual (printed)
Panasonic includes an 16MB Secure
Digital (SD) card with the FZ5, which won't hold very
many 5 Megapixel photos. So consider a larger card
a required purchase! I would recommend a 256MB card
as a good place to start. While the camera can use
MultiMediaCards (MMC), I would recommend avoiding them,
as they are slower and lower capacity than SD cards.
I should point out that the FZ5 does take advantage
of high speed memory cards. If you want to enjoy that
fancy continuous shooting mode, than a fast SD card
is a good purchase.
The FZ5 uses the same CGA-S002A lithium-ion
battery as the other FZ-series cameras. Panasonic has
managed to increase battery life by 15% on the FZ5
to 300 shots per charge (using the CIPA standard).
That makes it the battery life king in the FZ family,
though it still falls a little short of the Konica
Minolta Z3/Z5 in this area.
The usual caveats about proprietary
batteries apply here. For one, an extra battery will
set you back $50 (third party options are available
for less). Secondly, if you're ever in a jam, you can't
just pop in some alkaline batteries to get you through
the day like you could on an AA-based camera.
When it's time to charge the battery,
just snap it into the included charger. The charger
plugs right into the wall -- no power cord is needed.
It takes about two hours to fully charge the CGA-S002A.
Panasonic includes a lens cap with
a retaining strap with the camera to help protect that
Something else you'll find in the
box is a big plastic lens hood, which comes in handy
when you're shooting outdoors. The lens hood is actually
comprised of two parts: an adapter and the hood itself.
The adapter can also be used for attaching 55 mm filters
(which Panasonic would be happy to sell you).
Panasonic offers just a few accessories
for the FZ5, including neutral density (reduces light
hitting the lens) and MC protector filters ($30 each),
as well as an AC adapter ($80). One thing Panasonic
does not offer (unlike on the FZ15/20) are conversion
lenses. That doesn't mean that you can't use one, though,
as third party lenses combined with the lens hood adapter
should work just fine. Our Panasonic
forum is a good resource for those interested in
Panasonic includes ArcSoft's camera
suite with the FZ-series cameras. This includes PhotoImpression
5, PhotoBase, and Panorama Maker for Mac and Windows.
PhotoImpression (shown above) lets you view, enhance,
and share images. The interface is unique and easy-to-use,
and the whole product is well designed. PhotoBase is
a less impressive product that you can use for organizing
and performing basic edits on your photos. Panorama
Maker will stitch together several shots into one big
Panasonic's manuals leave much to
be desired (just like Sony's... consumer electronics
companies just don't make good manuals). Much like
the manual that came with your VCR or DVD player, there's
tons of fine print and bullet points, and finding what
you're looking for can be difficult.
Look and Feel
Unlike the monstrous FZ15 and FZ20
cameras, the DMC-FZ5 is compact and unassuming like
the FZ3 before it. The body is made of plastic and
metal and it's pretty solid for the most part. The
camera is now easier to hold than the FZ3, thanks to
a larger right hand grip and relocated shutter release
|Note the larger grip and better-located shutter
release button on the FZ5
||Here's the FZ3 for comparison
While the FZ5 is compact, it's not
close to pocket-sized. Even so, I never found it uncomfortable
to carry around, and it's sure a lot smaller than the
big FZ cameras!
Now, let's take a look how the FZ5
compares in size to other ultra zoom cameras in this
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
PowerShot S1 IS
x 3.1 x 2.6 in.
x 3.2 x 3.1 in.
x 3.2 x 3.2 in.
x 3.4 x 3.4 in.
Minolta DiMAGE Z5
x 3.1 x 3.3 in.
Minolta DiMAGE Z20
x 3.2 x 3.7 in.
x 2.6 x 2.1 in.
C-765 Ultra Zoom
x 2.4 x 2.7 in.
C-770 Ultra Zoom
x 2.7 x 3.3 in.
x 2.7 x 3.3 in.
x 3.4 x 4.2 in.
As you can see, the FZ5 is the second
smallest ultra zoom camera in the group -- and the
smallest with image stabilization, just as the identically-sized
Okay, let's begin our tour of the
The FZ5's lens is not quite as impressive
as the one on the FZ3, but it's still better than virtually
every other ultra zoom lens on the market. The old
lens had a maximum aperture F2.8 across the board,
no matter what the focal length. That's changed on
the FZ4/FZ5, presumably due to the larger CCD that
it uses (1/2.5" versus 1/3.2" on the old
model) -- the aperture range is now F2.8 - F3.3, which
is still very good. One thing that hasn't changed is
the total zoom power: 12X. On the FZ5 the focal length
is 6 - 72 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 432 mm.
The FZ5 has the same optical image
stabilizer as the other cameras in the series. Here
are two examples of why you want this feature. Ever
taken a indoor photo without flash, only to be disappointed
when its blurry? Or what about when you're taking a
picture near the telephoto end of the lens and the
photo is blurry, despite a fast shutter speed? The
OIS system can help.
Sensors in the camera detect this
motion and an element in the lens is shifted to compensate
for the shake. This lets you use shutter speeds 3-4
stops slower than what you can use on an unstabilized
camera. For example, a 1/30 sec shutter speed will
result in a blurry photos for most people (unless you
have hands of stone), but with image stabilization
you'll most likely get a nice, sharp photo. In actuality
you can shoot even slower, as this sample illustrates:
OIS on (mode 2), 1/13 sec
OIS off, 1/13 sec
If you need more evidence, check out this
movie, which is taken with and without OIS. Personally
I think those photos are more impressive than the
Directly above the lens is the FZ5's
pop-up flash. The working range on this flash is an
impressive 0.3 - 4.5 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 3.8
m at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash
to the FZ5 -- for that you'll want the FZ20.
To the upper-right of the lens are
the microphone and AF-assist lamp, with the latter
doubling as the self-timer lamp. The AF-assist lamp
helps the camera focus in low light situations and
it has a range of about 1.5 meters.
The rear of the FZ5 looks just like
its predecessor, except now the LCD is 0.3" larger
(1.8"). The 130,000 pixels on the screen product
sharp images, and the screen is bright and colorful
as well. One thing Panasonic didn't fix on the FZ5
is low light visibility -- the screen is still just
too dark to use in dimly lit rooms.
Like all ultra zoom cameras, the FZ5
uses an electronic viewfinder, or EVF. The EVF has
a resolution of just 110,000 pixels, which isn't great.
Even so, I never found that to be a problem. The EVF
has a diopter correction knob which can be used to
focus the image on the screen. Just like with the main
LCD, low light visibility on the EVF is poor.
Above the LCD are four buttons plus
the power switch. The buttons are for:
- Flash release
- EVF/LCD - choose which one to use
- Display - toggles what's shown
on the EVF and LCD
- Exposure - adjust the shutter speed
or aperture in the manual shooting modes
To the right of the LCD are the menu
and focus / delete photo buttons, as well as the four-way
controller. The focus button can be used to activate
the autofocus, instead of halfway-pressing the shutter
release button. The four-way controller is used for
navigating the menus as well as:
- Up - Backlight compensation, exposure
compensation, flash exposure compensation, white
balance fine-tuning, auto bracketing (see below)
- Down - Review (quickly jumps to
- Left - Self-timer (2 or 10 seconds)
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto
w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync w/redeye
I want to talk about those options
that appear when you press the "up" button
on the four-way controller. Backlight compensation
is something you can toggle on and off while in "simple
mode". Use this if your subject has a bright light
source behind them. Exposure compensation is the usual
-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments like on every camera.
Flash exposure compensation lets you adjust the flash
strength using the same range. Auto bracketing takes
three shots in a row with each shot having a different
exposure. You can choose from ±0.3EV, ±0.6EV
or ±1.0EV increments. White balance fine-tuning
lets you adjust the preset or custom WB that you've
selected in the red or blue direction, with a total
range of ±10 (in 1-step increments).
The last item to see here is the FZ5's
speaker, which is located to the right of the four-way
Here now is the top of the camera.
Unlike the FZ15 and FZ20, the FZ4 and FZ5 do not have
a hot shoe. So let's start on the mode dial, which
has the following options:
||Fully automatic mode with all menu options
available; there's no program shift feature
on the FZ5, unlike the higher-end models;
also, the slowest shutter speed available
in this mode is 1/4 sec, so it's not for
|Aperture Priority mode
||You pick the aperture, the camera picks
the appropriate shutter speed; aperture range
is F2.8 - F8.0
|Shutter Priority mode
||You choose the shutter speed and the camera
picks the correct aperture. You can choose
from a range of 8 - 1/2000 sec; Do note that
the 1/1300 sec speed is only available at
F4.0 or higher, the 1/1600 at F5.6 or higher,
and 1/2000 at F8
|Full Manual mode
||You pick the aperture and shutter speed.
See above for values and restrictions
||Same as program mode
but for close subjects; more on macro later
| Movie mode
||More on this later
|| You pick the scene and
the camera uses the appropriate settings;
choose from portrait, sports, scenery, night
scenery, night portrait, panning, fireworks,
party, and snow
||Fully automatic, with
a simplified menu system (and fewer options)
||More on this later
Hopefully everything up there is self-explanatory.
Do note that you can access the macro focus range in
A/S/M mode, so you don't need to use the macro option
on the mode dial. In program mode, however, you cannot
focus any closer than 30 cm, which is where the macro
item is needed.
Panasonic added a new "help" item
to the scene menu on the FZ5, as you can see above.
To the right of the mode dial is the
is the burst mode button. There are three burst modes
on the FZ5: high speed, low speed, and infinite. In
high speed mode you can take up to 4 photos at the
highest quality setting at 3 frames/second. Low speed
mode also records 4 photos (7 at the lower quality
setting) but at 2 frames/second. Infinite mode will
keep shooting at about 2 frames/second until the memory
card is full -- a high speed SD card is recommended
for this. The LCD and EVF don't "black out" between
shots (though there's a slight pause), so you should
be able to track a moving subject.
Above the burst button is a new addition
to the FZ5: the OIS button. This lets you switch the
OIS mode from Off to Mode 1 to Mode 2. When the "mode
1" setting is used, the stabilizer is always running,
which helps you compose your photo without camera shake.
Mode 2 only activates the stabilizer when the picture
is actually taken, which actually does a better job
of eliminating the blurring caused by camera shake.
You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable
under certain situations, such as when you're using
The final item on the top of the camera
is the zoom controller, which is wrapped around the
shutter release button. The zoom controller moves the
lens from the wide-angle to telephoto position in about
2.4 seconds (a little slower than the FZ3?). I counted
nearly 30 steps throughout the 12X zoom range -- nice!
On this side of the FZ5 you'll find
the I/O ports for USB + A/V out (one port for both)
as well as DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The ports
are covered by a fairly sturdy plastic door. The FZ5
supports USB 2.0 Full Speed, which is the "slow" version
of USB 2.0.
Nothing to see over here! This is
the lens at the full telephoto position, by the way.
The final stop on our tour is the
bottom of the FZ5. Here you'll find the battery compartment,
memory card slot, and metal tripod mount (not seen
in this picture). The battery/memory card slots are
covered by a sturdy, reinforced plastic door. I'm not
a big fan of having the memory card slot down here
because you can't get to it while the camera is on
Using the Panasonic Lumix
It takes three seconds for the FZ5
to extends its lens and "warm up" before
you can start taking pictures.
There's a live histogram!
Panasonic has added a new high speed
autofocus feature to the FZ4 and FZ5 and boy is it
nice. When this option is used, the FZ5 focuses as
quickly as any fixed-lens camera out there. The catch
is that the LCD and EVF freeze briefly while the camera
is focusing. If you don't want the freeze you must
use the old focus modes, which are still available.
Anyhow, with the high speed focus
mode turned on, the camera focuses VERY quickly --
we're talking 0.2 seconds here folks. The regular focus
modes are more like 0.4 - 0.6 seconds. Do note that
in hard-to-focus situations those numbers can be a
bit higher (over one second). Low light focusing was
above average thanks to the FZ5's AF-assist lamp. It's
too bad that the EVF and LCD are so hard to use in
Shutter lag was low, even at slower
shutter speeds where it often occurs.
Shot-to-shot speed is excellent, with
a delay of a little over a second before you can take
another shot, assuming the post-shot review feature
is turned off. If you shoot in TIFF mode there can
be a delay of 11 seconds while the image is saved,
although you can reduce this delay dramatically by
using a high speed SD card.
There is no easy way to delete a photo
immediately after it is taken -- you must use the Review
Now, here's a look at the resolution
and quality choices on the FZ5:
||# images on 16MB card
||# images on 256MB card
Yes, you DO need a larger memory card
As you can see, the FZ5 supports the
TIFF image format. This is uncompressed image data
that is as close to perfect as you'll get out of the
camera (as there's no RAW mode). If you plan on using
TIFF mode, I'd recommend a high speed SD card to reduce
the time between shots.
The camera saves images with a name
of PXXXYYYY.JPG, where X = 100-999 and Y = 0001 = 9999.
The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as
you erase and switch memory cards.
There are two menu systems on the
FZ5. One is used only in "simple mode" and
it's quite stripped down. The other is the menu you're
used to seeing on the other FZ-series cameras. Here's
a quick look at the simple menu:
- Pict mode (Enlarge, 4 x 6, e-mail)
- change the resolution and quality
- Auto review (on/off) - post-shot
- Beep (Off, low, high)
- Clock set
All the other menu options are fixed
and cannot be changed.
If you do want to change those other
menu items you'll have to use one of the other shooting
modes. In those you'll get to use the attractive new
menu system that I also saw on the FZ20. The full menu
includes the following options:
- White balance (Auto, daylight,
cloudy, halogen, flash, white set) - the latter option
will let you use a white or gray card to set a reference
for white, allowing for accurate color under any
lighting; I mentioned the ability to fine-tune the
WB earlier in the review
- Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 80, 100,
- Picture size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- Audio recording (on/off) - record
a 5 sec audio clip with each picture
- Metering (Multiple, center-weighted,
- AF mode (9-area, 3-area high speed,
1-area high speed, 1-area, spot) - here are the two
new focus options
- Continuous AF (on/off) - camera
is always focuses which reduces AF delays; puts extra
strain on batteries
- AF trigger (Shutter release, focus
button) - what button makes the camera focus
- AF-assist lamp (on/off)
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best
to keep this off
- Color effect (Off, cool, warm,
black & white, sepia)
- Picture adjust (Natural,
- Flip animation - see below
The flip animation feature lets you
take up to 100 shots in a row and then throw them together
into a 320 x 240 movie up to 20 seconds long. You can
choose from a frame rate of 5 or 10 frames/second.
This feature can be used for making "stop motion" animation.
There's also a setup menu, which
is accessed from the record or playback menu. The items
- Monitor/finder brightness (-7 to
+7 in 1-step increments) - you can have a different
brightness setting for the EVF and LCD
- Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 3 sec,
zoom) - the zoom option shows the picture for a second,
then enlarges it by a factor of four for a second
- Play on LCD (on/off) - photo is
always shown on LCD after it is taken or in playback
mode, even if you're using the EVF
- Power save (Off, 1, 2, 5, 10 mins)
- Beep (Off, soft, loud)
- Shutter sound (Off, soft, loud)
- Volume (0-7)
- Clock set
- File number reset
- USB mode (PC, PictBridge/PTP)
- Highlight (on/off) - overexposed
areas of your photos flash in review and playback
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set
to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you
turn the mode dial to one of the two scene mode positions
- Language (English, German, French,
Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese)
Well that's enough menus for one day,
so let's move on now to our photo tests!
The DMC-FZ5 did a great job with our
usual macro test subject. Mickey is very sharp, and
the colors are accurate and saturated.
You can get as close to your subject
as 5 cm at wide-angle and 1 m at the telephoto end
in macro mode.
The night shot test turned out nicely
as well (okay, it's a little crooked). Everything is
very sharp (maybe too sharp?) and the camera took in
plenty of light. There's no purple fringing to be found
here, as the "Venus Engine II" image processor
removes it automatically. With shutter speeds as long
as 8 seconds, night shots like this are easy on the
FZ5. Just remember your tripod, and turn off OIS while
you're at it.
Using that same shot, let's have a
look at the effect of the ISO sensitivity on noise
As you can see, noise is reasonable
through ISO 200. At that point, detail starts to go
south, as the ISO 400 shot clearly shows.
There's a bit of redeye to be found
in our flash photo test, just as there was with the
FZ3. While your results may vary, odds are that you'll
experience this issue.
There's moderate barrel distortion
at the wide end of the FZ5's lens. You'll notice what
this does to your pictures when you photograph things
like buildings: they appear curved. I don't see any
vignetting (dark corners) in this shot, thankfully.
Overall I was very pleased with the
photos from the DMC-FZ5. They're well-exposed, colors
are saturated, and images are sharp. Like with the
night shot above, the sharpening may be turned up a
tad bit high, and you can see some "jaggies" on
straight edges as a result. Purple fringing was not
a problem at all, again thanks to the FZ's image processor.
Noise levels were comparable to other 5MP cameras,
Please don't just take my word for
it -- have a look at our gallery and
decide if the FZ5's photos meet your expectations!
I encourage you to print the photos too!
The FZ5's movie mode is the same as
on its predecessor -- nothing special. You can record
video at 320 x 240 at either 10 or 30 frames/second
until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded as
The included 16MB memory card can
hold a whopping 25 seconds of video at the 30 fps setting.
Buying a 256MB SD card will allow you to take a movie
8 minutes long.
As is usually the case, you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming. The image stabilizer
functions in movie mode which certainly comes in handy.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format.
A capture of the first frame of the movie is saved
as JPEG along with the movie.
Here's a brief sample movie for you:
to play movie (3.8 MB, 320 x 240, 30 fps, QuickTime
Can't play it? Download QuickTime.
The DMC-FZ5 has a pretty standard
playback mode. Basic playback options include slide
shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail
mode, audio captions (10 seconds), and zoom and scroll.
The camera is also PictBridge-enabled for direct printing
to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom in as much as 16X (in 2X increments)
into your photo, and then scroll around. This feature
is well-implemented on the FZ5.
You can also rotate, resize, and crop
your photos in playback mode.
One other feature that I appreciate
is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead
of just one or all.
By default, the camera doesn't give
you a lot of information about your photos. But press
the display button and you'll see plenty of info, including
Photo playback speed varies a bit,
depending on the speed of your SD card. It can range
from instant on an "ultra" card to about
0.5 second on a regular one. Either way it's still
How Does it Compare?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 is a very
good ultra zoom camera, just like its predecessor.
Some of the changes were welcome: a higher resolution
CCD, larger LCD, and much faster focusing. Some things
got a bit worse: the lens is now slower. And some things
didn't change: composing photos in low light is frustrating.
But if you don't want to carry around the monster that
is the DMC-FZ20, this is a great choice. The FZ5 takes
very sharp (maybe too much so) 5 Megapixel photos with
nice color and no purple fringing. The lens on this
camera, while not as nice as the one on the FZ20, is
still way better than average: F2.8-3.3, 12X zoom.
Did I mention the great image stabilizer feature?
Camera performance is excellent, and
the new high speed focus modes scream. The burst modes
are impressive as well, especially with a high speed
SD card. Battery life has been improved since the FZ3,
and it's better than what you'd find on most cameras.
The camera features an AF-assist lamp for focusing
in low light, but it's not terribly useful when you
can't see your subject on the EVF or LCD. There are
also quite a few manual controls to be found here --
only manual focus is missing -- plus there are numerous
scene modes for the point-and-shoot crowd. If you want
to expand the camera, you can add Panasonic's own filters
or third party conversion lenses.
There are some downsides, though.
Images are a little too sharp, leading to some "jaggies".
Redeye is slightly above normal, as well. The FZ5's
movie mode hasn't changed for the better since the
FZ3, which is too bad. Same goes with the bottom-loading
SD card slot, which is inaccessible while you're using
a tripod. Aside from those and the EVF/LCD issues,
there really isn't much else to complain about! Thus,
the FZ5 gets my recommendation, just like its predecessor.
It's a great semi-compact ultra zoom with a very useful
image stabilization system and great performance.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (though
see issues below)
- 12X optical zoom lens (though a
little slower than on the FZ3)
- Optical image stabilization system
- Robust performance, especially
with a high speed SD card; new focus modes are awesome
- Nearly zero purple fringing
- Full manual controls (minus focus)
plus the ability to fine-tune white balance
- AF-assist lamp
- Supports filters and third-party
- Lens hood/filter adapter included
- Good continuous shooting mode
- Histograms in record and playback
What I didn't care for:
- Images a little too sharp, leading
- Above average redeye
- LCD and EVF don't "gain up" in
- Can't remove memory card while
camera is on tripod
- A VGA movie mode and manual focus
would've been nice
- Slowest shutter speed in program
and simple modes is 1/4 sec
Some other low-cost ultra zoom cameras
include the Canon
PowerShot S1 (has image stabilization), Fuji
FinePix S5100, HP
Photosmart 945, Kodak
EasyShare DX7590, Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 (has
IS) and Z20, Kyocera
Finecam M410R, Nikon
Coolpix 4800, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15 and DMC-FZ20 (both
have IS), and the Olympus C-765 and C-770 Ultra
Oh and don't forget the FZ5's less
capable little brother, the DMC-FZ4!
As always, I recommend a trip to your
local camera store to try out the DMC-FZ5 and its competitors
before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality
turned on? Check out our photo
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me
asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other
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