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Panasonic DMC-LZ5 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Oversaturated color (especially reds and blues), though typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The DMC-LZ5 follows this trend, oversaturating the strong reds, deep greens and blue tones a fair amount, though most consumers will probably find the vibrant color pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Skin tones from the LZ5 are slightly pink, but still well within what we'd consider an acceptable range.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the DMC-LZ5 performed fairly well, though it did push cyan towards blue and purples a bit toward blue. Still, overall hue was within reasonable limits and the color shifts weren't apparent in our shots.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slight color casts with each white balance setting, but a strong warm cast in Incandescent mode. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV
 
Manual White Balance +1.0 EV  

The Lumix DMC-LZ5's Incandescent white balance setting produced a very strong warm cast here, but the Auto and Manual handled the difficult lighting quite well. The Auto setting resulted in a slight red cast, and the Manual in a more yellow color balance, which you like best will be a matter of personal preference - We felt that the Auto white balance was a bit more true to the original scene, but the Manual white balance was a bit cleaner-looking. The camera required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, which is about average for this shot. As just mentioned, overall color is slightly yellow here, making the blue flowers dark and purplish. (A very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a rather yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Good overall color, if a hint warm, though bright exposure with high contrast.

Auto White Balance, +0.7 EV Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the DMC-LZ5 produced fairly contrasty shots, with limited highlight and shadow detail. Overall color was generally pretty good with the Auto white balance setting, if slightly warm in some cases. Still, good results overall.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,250 - 1,400 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,400 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,250-1,300 lines vertically. Extinction occurred at around 1,800. (The camera produced moderate color artifacts here and at lower line frequencies, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,600 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to 1,400 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,250-1,300 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images, with some oversharpening in high contrast areas, as well as some blurring from noise suppression.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, little evidence of over-sharpening. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Lumix DMC-LZ5's images are reasonably sharp overall, with very little evidence of over-sharpening in areas of contrasting detail. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows this in the darker midtones and shadows, though quite a bit of fine detail is visible in the individual strands in lighter areas. The LZ-5's performance in this area is about average.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderately high noise even at the normal sensitivity settings, and very high noise that blurs detail at the higher settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100
ISO 200 ISO 400

The Lumix DMC-LZ5's lower ISO settings showed a good bit more noise than we're accustomed to seeing at low ISOs, but the positive side of this is that very little fine detail is lost to anti-noise processing at those settings. Noise increases dramatically at ISOs 200 and 400 though, with a lot of color variations and very blurry details as a result. Shots at ISO 400 from the LZ5 are really only usable at a print size of 4x6 inches, a rather poor showing by current standards.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast. Pretty good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.

+0.7 EV +1.0 EV +1.3 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Lumix DMC-LZ5 responded to the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above with very high contrast and strong highlights. Shadow detail was limited in the deepest areas, with large noise blotches that blurred detail. Though the highlights are really hot in the +1.0 EV exposure, the image taken at +0.7 EV was just too dark in the midtones to be considered appropriate for a consumer camera. (Consumers tend to judge exposure by midtones, while professionals will watch to see that no highlight detail is lost, and then tweak the midtones and shadows in the computer later. In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
Night Mode
(ISO
80)
Click to see LZ5LL03.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see LZ5LL04.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see LZ5LL05.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see LZ5LL06.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see LZ5LL07.JPG
8 sec
f2.8

Low light:
Our low light testing revealed some limitations in the lens and sensor's ability to gather and process light, but the Lumix DMC-LZ5 was nonetheless able to capture bright images down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level (about 1/4 as bright as average city street lighting at night). By default, the camera limits you to a maximum exposure time of 1/8 second in all but Night and Starry Skies modes. You can increase this to 1 second via a menu option, but the Night Mode will still produce the cleanest shots under very dim conditions. Color balance was good with the Auto white balance setting, and the camera's autofocus system worked unusually well, able to focus on the subject down to the darkest light levels we test at without AF-assist.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
A fairly strong flash, though not strong enough for the full zoom range. Our standard shots required about average exposure compensation.

37mm equivalent 222mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.0 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.0 EV

Flash coverage was a little uneven at wide angle, but quite even at telephoto, even though our test target was well beyond the range of the flash at the maximum 222mm equivalent focal length. In the Indoor test, the flash on the DMC-LZ5 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get reasonably bright results (about average for this shot). The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly more even lighting overall, though with a stronger orange cast from the background incandescent lighting. The Slow-Sync mode also required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment for bright results.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see LZ5FL08.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see LZ5FL09.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.8
ISO 100
Click to see LZ5FL10.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.9
ISO 100
Click to see LZ5FL11.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.1
ISO 100
Click to see LZ5FL12.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see LZ5FL13.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.4
ISO 100
Click to see LZ5FL14.JPG
1/30 sec
f4.4
ISO 100

The DMC-LZ5's flash was fairly bright at the eight foot distance, but intensity decreased noticeably with each additional foot of distance. This roughly matches Panasonic's flash range spec of 13.6 feet at wide angle, but only 8.5 feet at telephoto. A bit less flash range overall that we'd prefer.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, usable 13x19 inch prints, sharp 11x14 ones. ISO 400 images are very soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, good at 4x6.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5, we found that it had enough resolution to make sharp 11x14 inch prints. At 13x19 inches, its images were softer, but more than adequate for wall or table display. When we moved to higher ISO settings though, noise increased very noticeably, and sharpness suffered as well. ISO 400 shots were very soft and noisy at 8x10 inches, but would probably be acceptable to most consumers when printed at 5x7 inches. ISO 200 shots were soft, but marginally acceptable at 8x10.

Color-wise, the Panasonic LZ5's images looked very nice when printed on the i9900, with bright, vibrant color. Users who prefer more subdued, technically accurate color saturation levels may find the LZ5's images a little too bright, but the majority of consumers should find the LZ5's bright, colorful images highly appealing.