Originally Posted: May 5, 2008
Last Updated: June 10, 2009
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 ($350) is the follow-up to the highly popular DMC-TZ3 compact ultra zoom, which was introduced to much praise last year. That camera offered a 10X, 28 - 280 mm lens with image stabilization in a midsize body, along with a host of point-and-shoot features.
So how did Panasonic top that? Here are the new features on the TZ5:
- 9.1 effective Megapixel CCD (compared to 7MP on the TZ3)
- Venus Engine IV image processor, which promises better noise reduction (among other things)
- Super high resolution 3.0" LCD display with 460,000 pixels and auto brightness adjustment
- Intelligent Exposure feature brightens dark areas of photos automatically
- Face detection (for up to 15 faces) with subject tracking and digital redeye removal
- High speed burst mode shoots at 6 fps (though at 2.5MP or less)
- 720p movie mode records videos at 1280 x 720 with the optical zoom and image stabilizer available
- Multi Aspect feature takes a photo at three aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9)
- Easy Zoom and Zoom Resume features (details later)
- Enhanced slideshow feature
- Component video output
- Improved battery life
Not too shabby, eh? I suppose I should mention the TZ5's little brother, the DMC-TZ4 ($300). It has a more conventional 2.5" LCD, no digital redeye removal, and a lower resolution movie mode. Also, in a few months, the DMC-TZ50 ($450) will arrive, which has the same features as the TZ5, plus Wi-Fi support.
The TZ3 was one of my favorite cameras last year. Is the DMC-TZ5 a worthy replacement? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 9.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-TZ5 camera
- CGA-S007A lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio, ArcSoft Media Impression and Panorama Maker, and drivers
- 113 page camera manual (printed)
Most cameras have built-in memory these days, and the DMC-TZ5 is no exception. Panasonic supplies a decent amount of built-in memory on the TZ5 -- 50MB to be exact. While that's a lot more than you usually get, it still holds ten photos at the highest quality setting, so you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The TZ5 supports SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards, and I'd suggest starting out with a 1GB or 2GB card. It's definitely worth spending a little more for a high speed card, though you don't need to go crazy (300X is probably overkill).
The DMC-TZ5 uses the same CGA-S007 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. Despite that, Panasonic engineers managed to squeeze more juice out of this 3.7 Wh battery:
Panasonic managed to improve battery life by about 10% on the DMC-TZ5, with the Venus Engine IV having a lot to do with that. In the group as a whole, the TZ5 is just slightly below average.
I do want to mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries used by the TZ5 and most of the other cameras on the above list. They're expensive (a spare will cost you at least $39), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery in an emergency. Not a huge issue, but certainly something to keep in mind.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes approximately two hours for a full charge. This is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall, with no power cable needed.
The TZ5 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with (as there was on the original TZ1). As you can see, it's a remarkably small camera considering its focal range.
Panasonic offers just a few accessories for the DMC-TZ5. Here they are:
Okay, so there are no conversion lenses, but that's still not too surprising, given the camera's size.
PhotoFunStudio for Windows
Panasonic includes several software applications with the DMC-TZ5. First up, we have PhotoFunStudio 2.0, which is a Windows-only application (Mac users can use iPhoto instead). The first way in which you'll probably use this software is for transferring photos off of your camera. I didn't see a way to select which photos were transferred -- it was all or nothing.
Once on the main screen (pictured above), you'll find a familiar thumbnail view of your photos. Photos can be organized (by date, category, keyword, and scene mode), e-mailed, printed, and rotated from this screen.
Editing in PhotoFunStudio for Windows
Select "retouch" and you'll get the editing window you see above. Here you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Images can be changed to sepia or black and white, and redeye can be removed with the click of your mouse.
ArcSoft MediaImpression for Mac
Also included is ArcSoft's MediaImpression software, for Mac and Windows. This appears to be a more modern version of the old PhotoImpression software that Panasonic used to give you. MediaImpression can be used to import photos from the camera, with the unique option of removing redeye during import. After that's done, you get the usual thumbnail view.
Easy-Fix Wizard in MediaImpression
The software doesn't appear to have as many editing features as PhotoImpression used to, but it does have a handy Easy Fix wizard, which helps you straighten, crop, remove redeye, add brightness/contrast, sharpen, adjust color, and "make the subject stand out", all with one click. You can also add text, borders, and special effects to your photos. Naturally, there are e-mailing, printing, and archiving options available as well.
ArcSoft PanoramaMaker for Mac
Another piece of the ArcSoft suite is PanoramaMaker, which helps you combine photos that you've taken side-by-side into a single panorama. It's easy to use, and the results can be really impressive.
Look and Feel
The DMC-TZ5 doesn't look a whole lot different than its predecessor, the TZ3. The most visible differences are the area around the right hand grip, and the buttons on the top and back of the camera. Even with these minor changes, those of you with older TZ-series cameras shouldn't have any trouble with the TZ5.
The TZ5 is a midsize camera, made mostly of metal. It's well put together in most respects, save for the plastic tripod mount and the door over the battery/memory card slot. It's very easy to hold and operate with one hand, and Panasonic did a good job in leaving space for your thumb, so it doesn't rest on the screen. The right hand grip may look rubberized, but it's actually a piece of plastic that's not very "grippy". The TZ5 doesn't go overboard with buttons -- so you don't have to "hunt" to find the option you're looking for -- though I wish the buttons on the back were a bit larger.
Images courtesy of Panasonic USA
If the idea of a silver camera bores you, then you'll be pleased to hear that the TZ5 is also available in black and blue.
Now, here's a look at how the TZ5 compares to similar cameras in terms of size and weight:
Though you might not notice by looking at them side-by-side, the DMC-TZ5 is both smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the TZ3. It's not the smallest camera in the group, but those cameras only have 7X zoom lenses. The TZ5 is not what I'd call a "jeans pocket" kind of camera. It'll fit comfortably in a jacket pocket or small camera bag, though.
But enough about that -- let's tour the TZ5 now, shall we?
While the important specs are the same, I do believe that the TZ5's lens is slightly different from that of its predecessor. This F3.3-4.9, 10X optical zoom lens has a great focal range of 28 - 280 mm, covering virtually any shooting situation that may come up. The lens is a bit slow at the wide end, but I guess that's one of the compromises that comes with putting a big lens in such a small camera. The TZ5's lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported.
Inside the lens is Panasonic's "Mega" optical image stabilization (OIS) system. The OIS system aims to counter the tiny movements of your hands that cause "camera shake". This shake can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. Sensors inside the camera detects these movements, and one of the lens elements is shifted to compensate for it. The OIS system won't work miracles (so you won't be taking 1 second handheld photos) and it can't freeze a moving subject, but it will allow you to use slower shutter speeds than you could otherwise. Want proof? Look at this:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on (mode 2)
I took both of the above photos at a shutter speed of 1/5th of a second. As you can see, the "Mega" OIS system did its job, producing a sharper photo. You can use image stabilization in movie mode as well, and you can see how well it works in this short video clip.
To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's AF-assist lamp, which is used as a focusing aid in low light situations. It also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer. Do take care not to block this lamp with your fingers -- it's easier than it looks.
Moving to the left, we find the TZ5's built-in flash. The working range of said flash is 0.6 - 5.3 m at wide-angle, and 1.0 - 3.6 m at telephoto. That's pretty good, though keep at mind that it's at Auto ISO, and you may not want to use that setting, in order to keep noise levels down. There's no way to attach an external flash to the TZ5.
While the 3-inch LCD on the back of the DMC-TZ5 may look the same as the one on the TZ3, there were some major changes under the hood that make it one of the best screens I've ever seen. The screen has a whopping 460,000 pixels (twice as many as your typical LCD), so everything is tack sharp (that's kind of an understatement, actually). Outdoor visibility is amazing, especially with the Auto Power LCD feature turned on. Even in bright sunlight, you can easily make out your subject. Low light visibility wasn't quite as spectacular, but it was still better than average.
Optical viewfinders have never been offered on the TZ-series cameras, and that hasn't changed here. Whether this is a problem sort of depends on your needs: some people love'em, while others could care less.
At the upper-right corner of the LCD is the switch for moving the camera between record and playback mode. On previous models, you'd use the mode dial to switch between the two.
Underneath that switch you'll find the four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as:
- Up - Backlight compensation, exposure compensation, auto bracketing, white balance fine-tuning -- see below
- Down - Macro (on/off)
- Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash on w/redeye reduction, slow sync w/redeye reduction, flash off)
- Center - Menu/Set
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 the Intelligent Auto mode. You may want to use it when your subject has a bright light source behind them. Exposure compensation has the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments range. Auto bracketing takes three shots in a row with each shot having a different exposure. The increment between each shot can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV or ±1EV.
White balance fine-tuning
The white balance fine-tuning feature lets you adjust the WB in the blue or red directions. This is in addition to the custom white balance feature that I'll discuss later in the review.
Quick Setting menu
Below the four-way controller are the Display and Quick Menu/Delete Photo buttons. The Display button toggles the information shown on the LCD, which includes a histogram and composition grid. The Quick Menu button opens up a shortcut menu that lets you adjust the following:
- Image stabilizer
- Burst mode
- AF mode
- White balance
- ISO sensitivity
- Intelligent exposure
- Aspect ratio
- Picture size
- LCD mode
I'll discuss all of those in more detail when we get to the menu discussion later in the review. And that's it for the back of the camera!
The first item of note on the top of the TZ5 is the microphone. If you're recording audio, make sure to keep your fingers away from it! Next to that is the TZ5's speaker.
Right in the center of the photo is the camera's mode dial, which has these options:
While there are no manual controls available on the DMC-TZ5, there are a ton of scene modes, plus an Intelligent Auto mode that can pick a scene for you. The Intelligent Auto mode analyses the scene and then selects from portrait, scenery, macro, night scenery & portrait, or night scenery mode for you. Face detection, Intelligent ISO, and Intelligent Exposure are also activated (I'll tell you about each of those later).
|Scene Menu||Help screen|
If you want to choose a scene mode yourself, then you'll have plenty to choose from on the TZ5. In fact, there are two scene mode spots on the mode dial, though both contain the same items. This allows you to have a preset, favorite scene at each one of those spots. Oh, and if you're confused about any of the scene modes, a help menu is just a button-press away. Here are some details on some of the camera's notable scene modes:
The baby and pet modes let you set the birthday and name of your two children or one animal. When you take a picture in either of these modes, the current age of the child/pet is saved, along with their name. This information is available both in playback mode and in the PhotoFunStudio software, so you can print it on your photos.
The high sensitivity mode will boost the ISO to somewhere between 1600 and 6400. At the same time, the resolution is cut to 3 Megapixel or less. If you've read enough camera reviews on this site, then you probably know that I don't care for features like this, and if you need some proof, have a look at this photo.
The hi-speed burst mode takes up to 100 photos in a row at a blazing 6 frames/second. The catch is that the resolution is lowered to just 2 Megapixels (at 4:3), and the ISO sensitivity is set to somewhere between 500 and 800. Thus, the quality of these images aren't as good as they could be. Don't worry though -- you can do full resolution continuous shooting too -- I'll tell you about that a little later.
Starry sky mode lets you select super long exposures: 15, 30, or 60 seconds -- it's similar to "bulb mode" on more advanced cameras.
Multi-aspect mode composition guidelines
The multi-aspect scene mode is new to the TZ5, and you won't find it on any other camera. This mode takes one exposure, but saves the photo at all three aspect ratios (3:2, 4:3, and 16:9). The design of the sensor allows you to shoot at 28 mm, regardless of the aspect ratio.
Getting back to the tour now. To the right of the mode dial is the power switch, followed by the shutter release button / zoom controller. The zoom controller can move the lens at two different speeds, depending on how hard you press it. At full speed, it takes around 2.5 seconds for the lens to make the trip through the focal range. I counted over thirty steps in the TZ5's 10X zoom range.
The last thing to see here is the Easy Zoom button. Press the button once, and the zoom moves to the full telephoto (10X) position. Press it again, and it activates the extended optical zoom feature. This gives you a total zoom power of 16.9X, though the resolution drops to 3 Megapixel (still more than enough for a 4 x 6 inch print). Pressing the button a third time returns the zoom to the wide-angle position, and sets the resolution back to its previous value.
There's nothing to see on this side of the DMC-TZ5.
On the other side of the camera you'll find its I/O ports, which are behind a plastic door of average quality. The ports here include component video (HD cable not included), USB + A/V out, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The DMC-TZ5 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so data transfers to your Mac or PC will be speedy.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here.
On the bottom of the TZ5, you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo!) and the battery/memory card compartment. The door that covers this compartment is on the flimsy side, though I appreciate the fact that it has a locking mechanism. Accessing the memory card slot while using a tripod shouldn't be a problem.
The included CGA-S007 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
It takes the DMC-TZ5 around 1.9 seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's about average.
A live histogram is available in record mode
Focus speeds were generally very good, though the TZ5 will be at its best in one of the two "high speed" AF modes. In the regular AF modes, focus times range from 0.2 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle, and around twice that at the telephoto end of the lens. If you use the high speed modes, you expect a roughly 50% drop in focus times. I did find the TZ5 to be a slow focuser in low light situations, with delays exceeding one second.
Shutter lag wasn't a problem, even at slower shutter speeds, where it usually pops up.
Shot-to-shot delays were minimal. You'll wait for about a second before you can take another photo without the flash, and two seconds with it.
There is no quick way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.
Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the TZ5. Since there are three different aspect ratios available, it's a pretty lengthy list.
Are those enough options for you? While the 50MB of built-in memory is more than you'll usually get, the chart illustrates why you still may want to buy a larger memory card. As I mentioned earlier, when you lower the resolution, the extended optical zoom feature kicks in. This lets you have added zoom power without degrading image quality. For example, lowering the resolution to 3 Megapixels will give you 16.9X worth of zoom.
The DMC-TZ5 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats.
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.
Panasonic's menu system has received a bit of a facelift on the TZ5, and I have to say, I like it. It's a little more colorful and animated than before, yet still remains easy to use. My only wish is that Panasonic added help screens for the menu options, like they do for the scene modes. Keeping in mind that some of these options may not be available in all shooting modes, here's the full list of items in the record menu:
- Picture size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9)
- Intelligent ISO (Off, max 400, max 800, max 1600) - see below
- Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - auto mode tops out at 400 without the flash, and 1000 with it
- White balance (Auto, outdoor, cloudy, shade, incandescent, white set) - see below
- Metering mode (Multiple, center-weighted, spot)
- AF mode (Face detection, 9-area, 3-area high speed, 1-area high speed, 1-area, spot) - see below
- Continuous AF (on/off) - camera is always trying to focus; reduces focus times, at the expense of battery life
- Burst (Off, normal, infinite) - see below
- Intelligent exposure (on/off) - see below
- Digital zoom (on/off) - this is the old school digital zoom that degrades image quality
- Color effect (Standard, natural, vivid, cool, warm, black & white, sepia)
- Stabilizer (Mode 1, mode 2, off) - see below
- Minimum shutter speed (1/200, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 sec) - slowest shutter speed the camera will use
- Audio rec (on/off) - add a 5 second audio clip to each photo
- AF-assist lamp (on/off)
- Clock set
I want to quickly mention the Intelligent ISO feature, which is always on in Intelligent Auto mode, and is optional in Normal Picture mode. The camera will take a look at what's going on in the frame, and adjust the sensitivity accordingly. If there's nothing happening, it will only boost the ISO enough to produce a sharp photo. However, if the subject is in motion, it'll boost it even higher, in order to freeze their motion. If you're in Normal Picture mode, you can select the highest ISO it will use, and I recommend keeping it at 400 to maximize photo quality.
The DMC-TZ5's "white set" option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting conditions. If that's still not accurate, you can use the fine-tuning feature which I mentioned earlier to tweak things even further. Strangely, the camera does not offer a fluorescent preset white balance option.
While difficult to see here, the TZ5 locked onto five of the six photos
The TZ5 has numerous autofocus modes, and I want to mention a few of them. The face detection feature will find up to fifteen faces in the frame, making sure that they're in focus and properly exposed. Panasonic's face detection system performs well, finding five out of the six faces in our test scene. The camera can track the "primary" face (highlighted in green) as it moves around the frame. The two high speed mode lock focus quicker than their regular counterparts, though the image on the LCD will freeze briefly during focusing.
I told you about the high speed (but low resolution) continuous shooting mode earlier, and here are the details on the full resolution version. There are two speeds to choose from: normal and infinite. At normal speed, the camera takes three shots in a row at 2.3 frames/second at the highest quality setting (you can take five shots at normal quality). If you want to shoot for a while, choose infinite ("free") mode, which keeps firing away until your high speed memory card fills up. At fine quality, the camera starts off at 1.8 fps (for 4 photos), and then slows to 1.2 fps. If you drop down to normal quality, the frame rate stays at 1.8 fps the whole time.
The Intelligent Exposure feature aims to brighten up dark areas of your photos. Features like this have been on other cameras for a few years, with names like D-Lighting, Shadow Adjustment Technology, and D-Range Optimizer. Panasonic has taken a very conservative approach with their implementation of this feature. I took a lot of test shots, and usually saw only slight differences when the feature is used. The shot below is really the only time I saw an obvious difference:
Intelligent Exposure off
Intelligent Exposure on
This is a pretty unlikely shot (not to mention difficult to properly expose), but it was the only time where I really saw the Intelligent Exposure system do its thing. If I can come up with a better example, I'll post it.
There are two image stabilization modes to choose from on the TZ5. Mode 1 activates OIS as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release button, so you can compose the shot without any camera shake. For more effective stabilization, you'll want to use mode 2. It doesn't activate OIS until the photo is actually taken, but it does a better job at reducing shake. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if the camera is on a tripod.
There's also a setup menu, which is accessible via the record or playback menu. The items here include:
- Clock set
- World time (Home, travel)
- Monitor brightness (-3 to +3 in 1-step increments) - these can be set separately
- LCD mode (Off, auto power LCD, power LCD, high angle) - see below
- Beep level (Mute, low, high)
- Beep tone (1, 2, 3)
- Shutter volume (Mute, low, high)
- Shutter tone (1, 2, 3)
- Volume (0-6)
- Guide lines
- put a composition grid on the LCD
- Rec info (on/off)
- Pattern (3 x 3, complex)
- Histogram (on/off) - live histogram for record mode
- Travel date (on/off) - when set, records what day of your vacation a photo was taken (e.g. day two)
- Power save (Off, 2, 5, 10 mins)
- Auto LCD off (Off, 15, 30 secs)
- Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 2 sec, hold, zoom) - the zoom option shows the picture for a second, then enlarges it by a factor of four for a second
- Zoom resume (on/off) - whether the camera remembers the zoom position when you turn it off
- File number reset
- Reset rec. settings
- Reset setup parameters
- USB mode (Select on connection, PictBridge/PTP, PC)
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- TV aspect (16:9, 4:3)
- Blank bright (on/off) - brightens black bands when viewing photos on a TV
- m/ft (Meters, feet)
- Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you turn the mode dial to the scene mode position
- Dial display (on/off) - whether a "virtual" mode dial is shown on the LCD as you rotate the real one
- Demo mode (Jitter/subject movement, auto demo) - this is intended for retailers rather than end users
The only thing I want to mention in that list are the LCD modes. First off, you don't have to venture into the setup menu to adjust this -- it's also in the Quick Setting menu. The Power LCD option quickly cranks the LCD up to full brightness, which is handy when you're outdoors. If you want the screen to do that automatically, simply select the Auto Power LCD option. The High Angle option makes the LCD visible when you're holding the camera above you. I don't know how it works, but it does.
Alright, enough about menus, let's talk about photo quality now, shall we?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 did a good job with our standard macro test subject. Colors look good -- nice and vivid -- and the figurine is sharp. If you look at the full size image, you'll notice some noise/grain. This is quite the opposite of what previous Panasonic cameras did, which is smudge away noise. While this noise is a bit unsightly, it cleans up well with NR software such as NeatImage. Of course, if you're making small prints, you don't even need to worry about this, as the noise will not be visible.
The minimum focus distance varies depending on the zoom setting. At wide-angle, it's 5 cm; from there until 9X, it's 2 meters. At full telephoto, the distance drops down to 1 meter, for some serious tele-macro action.
Since the TZ5 lacks manual control over shutter speed, you have to use the scene modes to take long exposures like the one you see above. That said, the night shot is just okay. Things are a bit dark, and the colors are a little yellow for my taste (white balance isn't adjustment in night scenery mode). Again, there's noise visible here, but it does clean up well. Purple fringing is minimal, as the camera's Venus Engine IV image processor removes it digitally.
Since I can't control the shutter speed, I cannot perform the low light ISO test. Look for the studio ISO test in a bit.
One of the new features on the TZ5 is digital redeye removal. It isn't available in every shooting mode, and you may need to select it (check the flash mode), but it does a pretty nice job of eliminating this annoyance. There's no redeye removal tool in playback mode, so this is your only chance to get rid of it on the camera.
There's minimal barrel distortion at the wide end of the DMC-TZ5's lens. That's a remarkable feat, considering that it starts at 28 mm. The test chart shows some vignetting (dark corners), though it was very rare in real world shooting. The camera had some minor corner blurriness, but it wasn't too bad.
All right! Here's the studio ISO test, which you can compare against other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Each of the crops below was taken at a different sensitivity, starting at ISO 100 and continuing through ISO 1600. While looking at the crops is good for a quick comparison, it's a wise idea to view the full size images as well.
The ISO 100 and 200 crops look about the same. There's some visible noise, and minimal noise reduction artifacting. You start to see NR artifacting kick in at ISO 400, though it's still relatively low. Things really aren't much worse at ISO 800 -- it's still very usable for small prints (especially if you use noise reduction software). The ISO 1600 shot is probably a bit too noisy to be used for printing, so I'd pass on this one unless you're absolutely desperate.
Panasonic has definitely changed how they deal with noise reduction on their Venus Engine IV-based cameras. Load up the test images from last year's DMC-TZ3 and you'll see what I mean. Images are noisier now, but details remain intact, instead of being smudged away.
Overall, I was very pleased with the DMC-TZ5's photo quality. They were generally well-exposed, with nice vivid color. There were a few exceptions though, including blown highlights in one or two photos (example), and poor auto white balance performance in two others. In terms of sharpness, the TZ5's photos are on the softer side, though not enough for me to mark it down as a negative. As I've mentioned in the preceding tests, noise is more visible on the TZ5 than on the TZ3, especially in the shadow areas of photos. For most folks, this isn't an issue, as noise "blends away" when you downsize images or make small prints. If you're making larger prints, running the photos through something like NeatImage isn't a bad idea. While noise reduction has been greatly reduced since last year's models, fine details such as trees, hair, and grass are still a little fuzzy. Purple fringing was minimal, thanks to the Venus Engine IV image processor.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, maybe printing a few of the photos if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the TZ5's photo quality meets your expectations!
One of the TZ5's biggest selling points is its movie mode. It allows you to record video at 720p -- that's 1280 x 720 -- with full use of the optical zoom and image stabilizer. Naturally, sound is recorded as well. The camera will keep recording until the file size hits 2GB. That takes approximately 8 minutes at the highest quality setting, so your memory card (high speed, please) fills up quickly.
There are many other resolutions available. If you want to stick with 1280 x 720, you can drop the frame rate to 15 fps, for double the recording time. You can also select resolutions of 848 x 480 (16:9), 640 x 480, and 320 x 240, with a frame rate of either 10 or 30 fps. As you might imagine, the 10 fps frame rate results in very choppy videos, so I'd pass on that option.
As I mentioned, you can use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie. The lens moves slowly, to keep the motor noise from being picked up by the microphone. The image stabilizer is available as well, for "smoother" movies.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec. It would've been nice had Panasonic chosen a more efficient codec, which would've allowed for much longer recording times.
Here's a sample movie for you, recorded at 1280 x 720 (30 fps). It's big (in more ways than one), but I don't think HD camcorders have anything to worry about just yet.
Click to play movie (30.6 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download QuickTime.
|Playback mode||Playback menu|
The Lumix DMC-TZ5 has a nice playback mode with a few unique features. The basic playback features include slideshows (now with music and special effects), image protection, voice captions, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the image by as much as 16X (in 2X increments), and then move around the enlarged area.
|Calendar view||Selecting a category of photos to view|
Photos can be viewed one at a time, as thumbnails (in numerous sizes), and via a calendar. There's also a category view option that lets you jump directly to photos taken in certain modes (scene or movie).
Dual Display mode
Another way to view photos is via the "Dual Display" option. In this mode, you hold the camera vertically, and two photos are shown at once. While you can zoom into one photo at a time, it would've been better if you could zoom and scroll around both images simultaneously.
Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. If you want to change the aspect ratio, you can do that too. If you're viewing a movie, you can grab a single frame, or create a collage consisting of nine frames. There's no way to trim your movies on the camera, unfortunately.
|Text stamp feature||Entering a title|
The TZ5 has the same date stamp feature as its predecessor. You can print the date and time, the age of your baby or pet, and even a title of your choosing onto your photos, either one at a time, or in a big group. Do note that the camera will downsize the image to 3 Megapixels or less when using this feature, which is fine for what most people will be doing with them (printing them at 4 x 6).
The camera lets you delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all -- a feature I always appreciate. Lastly, as you'd expect, you can copy images between the internal memory and an optional memory card.
By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. However, you can press the display button and see more info, including a histogram.
The DMC-TZ5 moves though photos fairly quickly, with a delay of under one second between each photo.
How Does it Compare?
In the introduction to this review, I remarked that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 was one of my favorite cameras of 2007. I'm pleased to report that this years model, the DMC-TZ5, is even better. It offers a big zoom lens, good photo quality, a stunning 3-inch LCD display, a 720p movie mode, and generally snappy performance, all in a relatively compact body. It has a few downsides, including above average noise, a slow lens, and sluggish low light focusing. Despite a few flaws, the TZ5 is a great camera, and one which I can highly recommend.
From most angles, the DMC-TZ5 looks a whole lot like its predecessor. It's a midsize camera, made mostly of metal, and Panasonic offers it in silver, black, and blue colors. Build quality is good in most areas, save for the door over the memory card/battery compartment and the nearby plastic tripod mount. The camera is easy to operate with one hand, though you need to watch your fingers, as its pretty easy to accidentally block the AF-assist lamp and flash. I also found the "grip" on the front of the camera to be kind of slippery. The TZ5 has a logical control layout, though the buttons on the back of the camera are on the small side.
The camera sports a 10X optical zoom lens, with a very nice focal range of 28 - 280 mm. The lens is a bit slow at the wide-angle end of things, with a maximum aperture of F3.3 at that position. While you cannot attach conversion lenses to the TZ5, you can get more zoom out of it by using the extended optical zoom feature. This gives you more zoom power in exchange for lowering the resolution (3MP = 16.9X zoom). Like all of Panasonic's cameras, the DMC-TZ5 has an optical image stabilization system. This does a good job of reducing the effects of camera shake, for both still and movie recording. On the back of the camera is one heck of an LCD. Packing 460,000 pixels, the screen is as sharp as you'll find. Outdoor visibility is excellent, though low light viewing isn't quite as impressive. There's never been an optical viewfinder on the TZ-series models, and that continues to be the case here.
The DMC-TZ5 is a point-and-shoot camera at heart, with just one manual control (for white balance). Panasonic has crammed a ton of scene modes into the camera, from common things like portraits and landscapes, to unusual things like aerial photos. There's a high speed continuous shooting mode that lets you shoot at 6 frames/second, though the resolution drops to 2 Megapixel, while the ISO stays above 500. A scene mode you probably want to skip is the high sensitivity mode, which produces low resolution, mushy-looking photos with an ISO somewhere between 1600 and 6400. If you don't want to bother with scene modes, you can use the Intelligent Auto mode. This figures everything out for you: it picks the appropriate scene mode, detects faces, boosts the ISO based on subject movement, and brightens dark areas of your photos (though I wasn't overly impressed with this last feature).
Like movies? Then you'll love the TZ5. It can record videos at 1280 x 720 (720p) at 30 frames/second, with the optical zoom and image stabilization both available. Naturally, these movies take up a lot of space on your memory card, and you'll hit the 2GB file size limit in about eight minutes at this setting. Other resolutions are available as well, ranging from 320 x 240 to 848 x 480, allowing for longer recording times.
The TZ5 turned in solid numbers in terms of camera performance -- in most areas, at least. The camera takes about 1.9 seconds to start up, which is about average. Things get faster in the focusing department, especially if you use one of the two high speed AF modes. Low light focusing wasn't as impressive -- it was on the sluggish side. Shutter lag was not a problem, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. There's a full resolution burst mode on the TZ5, in addition to the high speed one I described above. In "regular" burst mode, the camera takes 3 - 5 photos at 2.3 frames/second. If you want to keep on shooting, the infinite mode will do so at a frame rate of 1.2 - 1.8 frames/second, depending on the image quality setting. While battery life has gone up since the TZ3, the DMC-TZ5's numbers are just slightly below average in its class.
Photo quality was very good. In most cases, the TZ5 took well-exposed photos with pleasing, saturated color. Photos are slightly soft, though not enough to cause concern for this reviewer. On previous TZ-series models, noise reduction was a big problem. Panasonic has addressed that here, though your photos have noise in them instead, especially in shadow details. The noise does clean up well, though, since details are left intact (even at ISO 800), and if you're making small to midsize prints, you don't even need to bother with that. Noise reduction is still present, though it's not nearly as harsh as it was on the TZ3. Redeye and purple fringing were not problems, as the camera removes both of these annoyances automatically.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 is quite an impressive package. It's not perfect, but it's arguably the best camera in the "compact" ultra zoom class. From its 28 - 280 mm lens to its 720p movie mode, the TZ5 can do just about everything. If you're after a point-and-shoot camera with some serious zoom power, then the TZ5 should be high on your list.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality, less noise reduction than previous models (though see issues below)
- 10X, 28 - 280 mm lens in a relatively small package
- Optical image stabilization
- Incredible 3-inch, super high resolution LCD display; great outdoor visibility
- Tons of scene modes; Intelligent Auto Mode can pick one for you
- Well-implemented face detection feature
- Auto redeye reduction
- High resolution 720p movie mode; optical zoom and image stabilization available
- Elaborate playback mode: calendar, category, and dual display views, enhanced date stamp, multi-photo delete, fancy slideshows
- Optional underwater case, HD video cable
- USB 2.0 High Speed support
What I didn't care for:
- Images on the noisy side, especially in shadows; still some noise reduction artifacting
- Lens is "slow" at the wide end
- Sluggish low light focusing
- More manual controls would be nice
- No optical viewfinder
- Small buttons on back of camera; easy to accidentally block the flash or AF-assist lamp with fingers
- Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment; plastic tripod mount
Some other "compact" ultra zooms worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS, Fuji FinePix S1000fd, Kodak EasyShare Z812 IS, Olympus Stylus 1020, Pentax Optio Z10, Ricoh R8, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10. Don't forget about the TZ5's little brother, either: the Lumix DMC-TZ4.
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Lumix DMC-TZ5 and its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality turned out? Check out our photo gallery!