Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 Review

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5

Record Mode

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.

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality # images on 50MB onboard memory # images on 1GB SD card (optional)
4:3 9M
3456 x 2592
Fine 10 210
Standard 22 430
3072 x 2304
Fine 14 270
Standard 28 540
2560 x 1920
Fine 20 390
Standard 40 770
2048 x 1536
Fine 32 600
Standard 62 1180

1600 x 1200

Fine 51 970
Standard 97 1830
640 x 480
Fine 240 4640
Standard 400 7550
3:2 8.5M
3552 x 2368
Fine 11 230
Standard 22 450
3072 x 2048
Fine 15 300
Standard 32 600
2560 x 1712
Fine 22 440
Standard 45 860
2048 x 1360
Fine 36 680
Standard 69 1310
16:9 7.5M
3712 x 2088
Fine 13 250
Standard 26 490
3072 x 1728
Fine 18 360
Standard 37 710
2560 x 1440
Fine 27 520
Standard 53 1000
1920 x 1080
Fine 47 900
Standard 92 1720

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
  • Sound
    • 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)
  • Economy
    • 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
    • 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
  • Format
  • Language
  • 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.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

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!

Movie Mode

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 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.