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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 Digital Camera Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 Digital Camera Review - The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 has a 28mm wide angle lens for sweeping vistas and 10x optical zoom for if you can't be bothered to go and see them explains languid Matt Grayson.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Price : £40
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A 28mm wide angle lens and 10x optical zoom means that you don't have to crush bridges to get the shot.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Specification

  • Zoom:10x opticalPanasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
  • Resolution: 9.1Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.33in
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Image size: 3456x2592
  • File type: JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO100-6400
  • Storage: Internal, SD, SDHC, MMC
  • Focus types: Normal, macro, continuous AF
  • Normal focusing: 50cm-infinity
  • Close focusing: 5cm-infinity
  • Metering types: Intelligent multiple, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 60sec (max. in starry sky mode)-1/2000sec
  • Flash: Built-in, 0.6-5.3m (wide angle), 1.0-3.6m (telephoto)
  • Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 103.3x59.3x36.5mm
  • Weight: 214g (excluding battery and card)

At £199, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 offers a 10x optical zoom, 9Mp, 28mm wide-angle lens, Leica branded lens and mega OIS. Similarly priced cameras include the Fujifilm FinePix F100fd which comes with a 14x optical zoom, 11Mp, 28mm wide-angle lens and dual image stabilisation.

Alternatively, the Sony Cybershot T20 HDPR at £199 has a 3x optical zoom, 8.1Mp, 38mm on the wide, Carl Zeiss lens and Super Steady Shot.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Little on the rear has changed apart from a small switch to flick from record to playback and a few updates on modes such as the Q-menu.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Minor adjustments to the top plate means if you're upgrading, it won't confuse you.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
The new command dialhas less options on it. In the corner of the top plate is the E-zoom button.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
The menu system is well laid out and contrasting black & white for easy viewing.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Features
It's been over a year since I reviewed the TZ3 which is the previous model and I remember it like it was over a year ago. Little has changed in design between the two models despite a year between releases which suggests Panasonic are happy that the shape is still fresh and practical.

There are one or two minor changes to the layout such as the dedicated playback to record switch next to the thumbpad and the lack of features on the command dial.

Staying on the top plate and the power switch has been moved to the opposite side of the shutter release and the image stabiliser button has been replaced with an "E-zoom" button. All this does is sends the lens to the full telephoto setting in one sweep. Pressing it again takes you to the top end of the digital zoom while pressing it a third time takes you all the way back to wide-angle.

That's an indication of the way Panasonic seem to be aiming with their compacts at the moment. Everything seems to be auto this and intelligent that. I can see that they want to give you the best pictures possible because you'll buy another Panasonic if the images are great. It's just a shame that they have to take full control of everything in order to allow you to do that. With the E-zoom button, you don't even have to zoom out which is really lazy.

Of course, the downside is the margin of error that the camera may misread the scene and give incorrect details leaving you with a picture you don't like. With the camera doing everything, you're more likely to blame it than yourself.

It's because of this need to do everything for you that the modes are disappearing from the command dial. Thinking back to the TZ3 and one thing that annoyed me about it was the masses of modes and features it had so the removal of them is a good thing. But on the flip side they're also running the risk of making the camera boring. Without features in the menu systems, there's less need to explore it, instead users will stick it in auto and take pictures. A lack of excitement about a product loses loyalty.

From a personal viewpoint, it's a shame that they couldn't restyle the camera to fit in with the Stylish range as I think the vintage styling of that range is much more appealing. That said, it's not an unattractive camera with its big lens and small grip.

Ergonomically, it all comes together nicely with the buttons falling where the hands lay and my only concern is that the flash could get covered when I'm using it.

The addition of the playback to record switch is actually a good idea but does take some getting used to as you can't just press the shutter release and be back in recording mode. Because of its location on a small outcrop, it does have a tendency to get caught when you put it in a bag or pocket which means you lose precious seconds while it switches back to record mode. It only takes a second or so but if you're taking pictures of the kids, that can be your entire time span.

Those of you following the recent Panasonic reviews such as the G1 or LX3 will be familiar with the Q-menu but if you're unaware of this, it's what Panasonic now call the function menu. It's located in the bottom corner of the camera on the back and is a quick access to all the most popular features that you'll use such as image stabiliser, continuous shooting, AF area, white balance, resolution, aspect ratio and some of the intelligent systems such as ISO and exposure.

Looking into the main menu and the intelligent ISO can be switched off which then automatically changes the option in the Q-menu to manual ISO. So Panasonic still haven't completely taken over all the functions but you have to request the camera to let you do even the simple stuff.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 has three aspect ratio settings which are 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. Panasonic are part of the collaboration that developed the FourThirds system which is where the 4:3 aspect ratio comes from. Other systems use 3:2 so if you're used to that frame dimension then you can set the camera to use it but at the expense of resolution. The TZ5 only uses the full 9Mp in 4:3, dropping to 8.5Mp in 3:2 and 7.5Mp in 16:9 widescreen.

Don't get fooled with the widescreen option, it doesn't give you a wider field of view. It works in a similar way to how the panoramic mode worked on the APS film by cropping the top and bottom of the image. The pixels are reduced because of the cropping but the benefit is that it'll be easier to view on a widescreen TV taking advantage of the HD output.

Scene modes seem to be getting taken over in favour of picture styles or film simulations. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 offers the standard colour as well as natural, vivid, black & white, sepia, cool and warm. Some cameras offer the user a chance to change the properties of these simulations but that features is normally reserved for DSLRs or high end prosumer cameras. It's not something that compacts have and the TZ5 is no different.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Although the lens is manufactured by Panasonic, they're approved to Leica specification.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
The ports for mains connection, USB and HD output for video are found under a thin plastic door with no other protection from the elements.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Build and handling
As with all Panasonic compacts, the lens is Leica branded and while they haven't actually manufactured the glass, they provide all the information for Panasonic to use and Leica then give a seal of approval. For all intents and purposes, you have a Leica lens on the front and they are one of the best lens makers in the world today.

Viewing the 3in LCD screen from the right gives a near 90 degree view while viewing from the left gives the image a negative effect. From above or below was nigh on impossible for me despite Panasonic saying that the screen has a high angle viewing capability. However, the screen can be brightened or darkened in the set-up menu

With such a large lens on one side of the camera, it can get out of balance but the TZ5 feels nicely centred. I'm concerned by the tripod bush being situated right at one end of the camera as this usually leads to problems with camera shake even when it's mounted to a tripod.

The ports are found under one swing door on the side of the main camera body. It doesn't have a clasp or lock and doesn't have any weather proofing at all. There's a greater risk of dust getting into the ports and interfering with connection.

An all metal casing surrounds the delicate electronics of the camera making it feel solid and a little weighty. The buttons are steady and firm but not difficult to move. The command dial could be a little stiffer and I think it could get knocked out of its setting without due care.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Performance
Shutter lag of the TZ5 is sat at a typical 0.08sec with start up to taking a picture time at just under four seconds.

There are two continuous shooting modes depending on the scene you're photographing. Burst mode only fires three images at a time and does those in just under two seconds. Thanks to a pretty fast download, I managed to get three cycles in ten seconds. This shows a fast burst mode of around 2.5fps but gives an average of just under 1fps over 10 seconds. Unlimited shooting takes shots without the need for buffering but goes a bit slower. It managed 18 shots in ten seconds which works out faster in the long run so if you're wanting to do long continuous shooting projects, the unlimited setting will be the best option giving you twice as many images.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
I'm happy with the colours on the colour test chart. Primary colours are rich and mono tones are balanced.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Despite a low ISO, the long exposure has still created noise in dark areas.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Unfortunately, noise is present but there's a decent amount of detail and no fringing on the bars.

I'm really impressed with the results from the colour test chart. The primary colours have come out in a nice rich colour with the earthy colours looking smooth.

The skin tone is a nice colour and the mono tones are balanced. Even the pastel colours down the side of the blue, orange and brown tiles are well reproduced too.

This one second exposure of some nail cutters has brought out some nice detail but has created an immense amount of noise. Sensitivity was set to ISO100 but because of the gloomy evening, a longer exposure was necessary.

I like certain elements of the landscape image such as the metering coping with the unusual light and the amount of detail as well as the lack of fringing down the white bars of the steps leading into the lock.

It looks a bit noisy despite a low ISO100 sensitivity so I expect the camera to suffer in the noise test.

The noise issue seems to be a recurring nightmare for the TZ5 as the portrait shots also appear to have a problem of noise all over. I think it's down to the size of the sensor. A 9Mp image shouldn't give bad noise on a decent sized sensor, but 1/2.33in is smaller than other compacts around at the moment which means the pixels are sat closer to each other.

As for the portrait mode, it's coped quite well with the exposure although it's a little over exposed for my tastes. The skin tone is even but not warm enough. Using flash has brightened the image more than I'm happy with. A lot of flash systems on compacts are giving results that look like a flash wasn't used while still enhancing the exposure.

I'd like to see this from Panasonic in the future simply because they've got such an amount of potential to be very good. In the portrait mode, there's a soft skin mode which smooths out blemishes and makes a face look more even. It's not done a great deal with the portrait from the regular version so I'm a little disappointed. It does look smoother but not by the amount I expected which is a shame.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
A decent exposure but could be done slightly better such as warming the skin up and getting a bigger sensor.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Using flash has evened the light up and added nice catchlights but could do with being a little less fierce.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Soft skin mode smoothes out areas of the skin but not as noticeably as other cameras that have the same feature.

The 10x optical zoom has a focal range of 4.7-47mm or 28-280mm in 35mm terms. Because of it's wide capabilites, you can get plenty of the scene in without having to move back but the 10x zoom means you can crop in nicely without the tediousness of actually walking there.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
It's not the Golden Gate bridge, but 28mm wide angle view gets more in this shot.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
It's not the Sphynx of Giza, but the 10x optical zoom singles out the lamppost nicely.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Focus and metering
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 incorporates the typical metering types found in any other compact in this classification which are multi, centre-weighted and spot metering. Generally, the camera will be used in multi mode as it gives the best results in most situations. It works by splitting the frame into segments and taking a meter reading from each one. It then determines the exposure based on the readouts.

Sometimes it just doesn't cut the mustard and that's why centre-weighted and spot metering are there to help. Centre-weighted used to be the metering option of choice and it works by taking a reading from the majority of the frame but giving weight (priority) to the centre which is good for centrally framed larger subjects such as houses or trees but a bright area in another part of the frame can fool the camera and mess up the exposure.

Spot metering takes a reading from the very centre of the frame, usually around 2-3% and ignores everything else. It's good for tricky lighting situations such as spotlights or backlit subjects.

There are plenty of focusing modes available for all your photographic requirements such as face detection which can recognise a maximum of 15 human faces in one scene. If you're not taking portraits and the subject is off centre, you can choose the 9 area AF which will use any of the nine focus squares to lock onto something.

Alternatively, if your subject is a fast mover such as wildlife, the 3 area AF high speed can find a subject quicker and you'll notice a moment the screen may freeze while it locks focus.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Noise test
I'm astonished that a company could release a camera that allows this kind of image degradation from the very start. Green colour starts to seep in at ISO200 which is a stupidly low setting for it to come in at. In fact at full size, the ISO100 image isn't very good to start with but may be suffering from the processor over sharpening the image.

By ISO400, the noise has worsened that detail is starting to be lost in the petals while the green colour gets brighter and is joined by purple.

Panasonic have wisely capped the sensitivity at ISO1600 so your images can't get ridiculously bad. At this level, noise reduction the petals are long bereft of detail and green/purple blobs dominate the grey card.  It's a terrible result from a camera that I'm otherwise quite impressed with.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
The ISO100 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
The ISO1600 test.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Verdict
As much as I like the design of the camera and the fact that I have a fondness for Panasonic as the FX1 was my first digital compact, I'm still unhappy with the TZ5. I've always liked the designs of the cameras and the Leica branded lens collaboration must have some other companies writhing in jealousy.

Still, vintage looks and a fancy partnership don't help the fact that the camera can't take good pictures. Noise is the biggest enemy of the TZ5 and it really takes a battering at the higher levels. The problems on the lower settings are only really noticeable when enlarged to full size so for printing out to normal sizes, you shouldn't be affected.

There are more and more features here to make your life easier or you could see it as taking control away from you. It depends on which way you look at it but whichever way it is, you have to admit that it's pretty clever.

If you're in the market for a compact that has a decent quality wide lens that's well built and has a good zoom then take a look at the TZ5.

Disabled Photographers Society
The favourite compact at the meeting was the TZ5. Tom said: "It's a good size camera to hold, not too small and although the buttons are small, they're not the worst I've seen. The Leica branded lens is a bonus and I'm impressed with the pictures I've taken with it."

So it goes to show that size doesn't necesaarily matter. Not everyone needs a small camera and it's easy to forget that in order to please the fashionista's that seem to rule our thoughts on convention.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Plus points
Good lens quality
Great build
Wide lens
10x optical zoom in thin body
Lovely colour reproduction

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5: Minus points
High ISO images are horrible
Low ISO images aren't brilliant

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL

 

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 costs around  £195 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5.

 

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Photographs taken using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5

** Rain,Rain and more Rain **Pilgrimage To Walsingham*** An October Comma Butterfly ***Weekly Macro Challenge - Rust*** Autumn Garden Colours ***Life is a rocky road** Out Of This World **Sand*** A Digital Cosmos ***Weekly macro challenge, car ignition lock.** A Pawnbrokers Lilly ? **Tour of YorkshireTour Of YorkshireFlyboyParisian Chimneys
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