by Andrew Alexander
Review Date: 07/25/08
Panasonic released the TZ5 in March of 2008, updating the TZ3 with a new sensor, slightly new styling and a few new features.
The Panasonic DMC-TZ5 upgrades the 7.2 megapixel sensor of the DMC-TZ3 to 9.1 megapixels, but maintains the 10x Leica-branded optical zoom lens and Panasonic's signature Optical Image Stabilization (MEGA O.I.S.). The lens offers a 28-280mm zoom range, offering a true wide-angle option. Panasonic has trimmed the size and weight again: it's 0.6 an ounce lighter at 8.4 ounces (240g) and just a few millimeters thinner. It's still not comfortable in a shirt pocket, but it's definitely compact and portable.
Panasonic has made some subtle alterations to the body and interface dials to make it simpler and easier to use. The Panasonic TZ3 crammed 10 settings onto the main mode selector dial; the TZ5 removes four of these settings to the operation menu, and adds a dedicated image playback switch near where your right thumb will rest on the back of the camera body. The results is a less imposing selector dial, that also doesn't switch to playback mode when the dial gets accidentally turned. The Panasonic TZ5's 3.0-inch LCD screen is also maintained, but the resolution has increased from 230,000 pixels to 460,000 pixels, offering a much clearer and sharper playback image.
The DMC-TZ5 offers a first for Panasonic cameras: Hi-Def recording in its movie mode, at 1,280x720 pixels (720p). The addition of a new Component connection port allows you to view your Hi-Def masterpieces on your Hi-Def television. Standard movie mode recording is still available. The Panasonic TZ5's ISO sensitivity has also been pushed one more stop with a maximum sensitivity of 6,400 in a dedicated scene mode. Panasonic hasn't added manual controls to its feature set, preferring to aim this camera at the point-and-shoot market.
Panasonic didn't re-invent an already good camera, maintaining a versatile lens with amazingly little distortion, and its ease of use. Instead, they have improved what didn't work, and added Hi-Def movie recording, and a few new features to the Panasonic TZ5.
by Andrew AlexanderLook and feel. The Panasonic DMC-TZ5 is a box-style camera with an extending lens. The high-res 3.0" LCD screen dominates the rear of the camera; there's no place to fit an optical viewfinder, but with this screen and several options for determining the brightness of it, you don't feel like you need one. Controls are laid out intelligently across the top and rear of the camera; the battery and memory card are accessible from the bottom of the Panasonic TZ5. The tripod mount is tucked away on the extreme right of the bottom, meaning it's quite practical to keep the camera mounted on a tripod and still be able to change the battery or memory card.
The handgrip, long a feature of the TZ-series, has improved with each generation. On the original TZ1 there was nothing but the protruding groove of the camera to hold onto, and the slick finish of the camera made it a bit slippery at times. Panasonic addressed this problem by adding a small horizontal strip of texturized rubber to the front of the grip, giving the fingers something to grip; they have further improved this on the Panasonic TZ5 by putting the strip in the vertical orientation. Your fingers naturally find the strip with your index finger resting on the shutter release button. One-handed operation is quite feasible, but for most shots you'll find yourself using your other hand to support the camera while you make adjustments to settings. It's worth noting that there isn't much real estate left on the front of the Panasonic TZ5 to place the flash; you have to make sure your middle finger is out of the way, or you might end up partially obscuring the flash.
Panasonic has made a few adjustments to the number and layout of controls on the Lumix TZ5. Gone is the image-stabilization button, replaced with an E.Zoom button which allows the user to instantly zoom to the maximum range and back again. The zoom function of the camera is quite good, with the zoom rocker providing a very responsive level of acceleration. It's not terribly fast, taking about 2.5 seconds to go from 28mm to 280mm, but then, the lens is fairly beefy.
Panasonic has also added a dedicated recording/playback switch to the Panasonic TZ5, just above the notch where you rest your left thumb on the rear of the camera. Everything else remains unchanged from the TZ3; the zoom rocker is still a trigger collar surrounding the shutter release button, and an on/off switch is tucked in between the shutter button and the mode selector dial.
A four-way direction pad and central button control the Panasonic TZ5's menu navigation. The only other change of note is that Panasonic has helpfully labelled the microphone area of the top of the camera, as a visual cue to not cover the mic during video or audio recording.
Interface. Panasonic has introduced a new Quick menu interface system with the DMC-TZ5, which overlays the most common settings onto the LCD screen. Pressing the Q.Menu button introduces a menu bar to the top of the LCD screen, allowing the user to change nine settings on the fly without having to enter the main menu screen. Specifically, the user can change the Panasonic TZ5's image stabilization mode, burst shooting mode, focus mode, white balance setting, ISO setting, intelligent exposure mode (either on or off), aspect ratio, quality setting, and the LCD power mode. In some modes however, there will be fewer options available for the user to set, as the scene modes take away some of the burden of decision-making. The best thing about this new menu is that because it overlays the LCD screen, you can see the effect your new setting will give you in many cases. For example, you get a visual demonstration of the effect of the image stabilization mode you're selecting; choosing one aspect ratio over another will show you exactly how it will look on screen. It's a very quick and effective way of changing settings, and the user is guided through these settings with short but instructive bits of text.
I actually found that the Panasonic TZ5's Quick menu setting was preferable to using the standard menu system to make these changes, as it offered slightly more information regarding one setting over another. For example, if you want to change the focus mode, you have six options to choose from: in the regular menu, you are presented with icons only; with the quick menu, you get the same icons, plus a line of text at the bottom of the screen that describes the selection.
The Panasonic TZ3 introduced the option to display a live histogram during shooting, and it's still available in the TZ5. It's not incredibly advanced, but it does give you an accurate representation of the various levels of luminosity in an image: shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.
The menu system maintains a virtual mode dial that first appeared in the TZ3. The menu appears briefly whenever you rotate the physical mode dial, so there's never any question of what mode you're in. It is important to note that the SCN1 and SCN2 selections actually activate the same menu selection, the Scene mode. The only difference is that each maintains a separate memory of the last scene setting you used. So if you want to quickly flip between Scene modes, you just have to switch between the two selections on the mode dial. What I didn't like about it was that you had to confirm the scene selection prior to shooting: the scene selection menu comes up automatically and you have to press the shutter button or menu/enter button to begin shooting.
The Panasonic TZ5's Playback interface is quite slick, offering a new Dual play view mode which allows you to view two photos at the same time on the LCD screen. The screen presents the photos in the vertical orientation, so you have to turn the TZ5 ninety degrees if they're oriented horizontally. The interface allows you to switch the photos independently, so it would be useful if you wanted to compare two images. There are several other robust Playback options, such as your standard slideshow. You can also display photos by the scene mode you selected: if you only wanted to see the photos you shot in the Sports scene mode, it will filter out all but those photos. The Panasonic TZ5 also has a good calendar function, showing you on a calendar, which days you took photos on. There are also many options for doing some basic post-processing on images, including the ability to resize, trim, change aspect ratios, and add voice memos to photos.
Viewfinder / LCD. There's no viewfinder on the Panasonic TZ5, so everything is done through the LCD. The LCD deserves special mention: it's big, clear, and extremely sharp, at 460,000 pixels. It was probably necessary to upgrade the LCD given that the TZ5 can now shoot Hi-Def video, as playing back HD video clips on a 230,000 pixel screen probably wouldn't look so good. While the Panasonic TZ5's LCD can't swivel, you can select an innovative High Angle LCD mode, which magically makes the LCD perfectly readable when the camera is held above your head at a forty-five degree angle. Also selectable are on-demand gridlines in two patterns. According to our tests, the LCD provides 100 percent coverage. This ensures that what you saw on the LCD screen will appear in recorded images.
Modes. In addition to a Normal Picture mode which offers the most customization of shooting conditions, the Panasonic TZ5 offers an Intelligent Auto mode, 24 scene modes, a movie recording mode and a Clipboard mode. Intelligent Auto mode seeks to make shooting as simple as possible, automatically detecting elements in the scene to choose the most appropriate settings.
The Panasonic TZ5's Scene modes are refreshingly useful, and seek to take the effort out of getting the right collection of settings to ensure a good photo of a given scenario. Setting the Candle Light scene mode, for example, will engage auto-ISO with a maximum ISO setting of 400, and seek to use the largest aperture available combined with a lower shutter speed to get a good shot. In this mode image stabilization plays a key role, as the camera typically aims for a 1/15 shutter speed. Without image stabilization enabled, you have a recipe for camera blur. Party mode uses a similar selection of settings, but limits the ISO to 100 and engages red-eye reduction.
There are two scene modes that aren't really scene-specific. The first is the Multi Aspect mode, which is useful if you're not sure what aspect ratio you'd like to use for a given shot. In this mode the Panasonic TZ5 will take one photo and make three copies of it, cropping each one to fit the different ratios. Red, green and blue cropping guides are present on the LCD screen so you will have a sense of how the resulting images will look. The second non-scene mode is the High-Speed Burst mode, which sets the camera to shoot at its fastest continuous shooting speed - 6 frames per second. The images are limited to 2 megapixel (4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio) or 2.5 megapixel (3:2 aspect ratio).
Unfortunately, no manual mode is available on the camera, but this is not a camera that is targeted at the advanced amateur. Similarly, a manual focus option is also not available. However, there are several options for overriding automatically determined settings, such as a +/- 2-stop exposure adjustment.
The last mode worth noting is the Clipboard mode, which Panasonic says is "useful for taking pictures of timetables and maps instead of taking memos." Photographs taken in this mode are saved to the camera's 50MB of internal memory and can be reviewed without an SD card being present in the camera. Further, a "zoom mark" can be set on a photo in the clipboard, by navigating to a certain position in the image and pressing the Menu/OK button. When the image is recalled, zooming in will automatically reposition the image to that saved mark.
Panasonic TZ5 Special Features
Face Detection. It's hard to call Face Detection a special feature any more, as almost all new cameras released now present this feature. Panasonic indicates that the TZ5 can detect up to 15 faces, and adjusts exposure and focus accordingly. I found the face detection function to be quite sensitive. Some cameras need the subject's face to be looking pretty much straight at the camera, where the TZ5 could detect a face even if it was around 30 degrees off-axis to the camera. Faces were also tracked quite consistently as they moved around the frame.
E. Zoom. The Panasonic TZ5's E. Zoom button allows the user to zoom in to maximum magnification (10x) in one press, and to zoom back to wide angle with a second. If digital image zooming is enabled, the button will zoom out to full tele (280mm) with the first press, to a further 4x digital with the second press, and then back to wide (28mm) with the third. In Playback mode, the button has no function. Despite my initial skepticism, I actually found the button useful, given the relatively long time it takes to zoom in and out. But I don't think I would pine for the button if it were not there; I would probably find holding the Panasonic TZ5's zoom rocker sufficient.
Hi-Def video recording. Recording movies in Hi-Def is new for the TZ series, and Panasonic recommends that to record full-resolution movies at 30 frames per second you'll need a card capable of recording 10MB/s. This equates to a 66x card, and indeed, on our 60x SD card, full HD recording cancelled at exactly 10 seconds with an error message saying basically that the card couldn't keep up. The Panasonic TZ5 records HD video in MJPEG (actually, the codec shows up as Photo - JPEG), and a 10-second file takes up 29,562KB of disk space. That equates to about 173 megabytes per minute: a 2 GB memory card will fill up in eleven minutes. As well, the audio portion is recorded at a paltry 8kHz mono, so I wouldn't throw out your video camera just yet. As far as the quality of the HD content goes, I'd like to tell you it looks great, but the TZ5 doesn't ship with the required DMW-HDC2 component video cable to attach the camera to an HDTV.
Storage and battery. The Panasonic TZ5 uses SD, SDHC, or MMC memory cards, though the user manual states that video recording is not stable when using a MMC card. A memory card does not ship with the camera; however, the TZ5 has 50MB of internal memory. Image sizes vary according to the quality setting chosen: the highest quality image, 9 megapixels at maximum quality, takes up 3,946KB of space on a card. A RAW shooting mode is not available. Panasonic has also improved the image transfer speed from the TZ3; the TZ5 transfers images via USB2.0 at a rate of 2,739 KBytes/sec, compared to the TZ3's 835 KBytes/sec.
The Panasonic TZ5 uses a small, proprietary CGA-S007A lithium-ion battery. The battery is rated as 3.7V, and 1,000mAh. The battery charger is quite well designed, with a folding plug attached directly to the unit so you don't need to worry about losing a cord. The charger will hog a few spots on your power bar, though. Charging lasts about two hours. A fully charged cell should last about 300 shots according to the CIPA standard.
Shooting. The Panasonic TZ5 is a fairly responsive camera, with average to above average test results for performance. The camera powers on relatively quickly, in one second, despite having to extend a beefy lens. Switching between Record and Playback modes is a bit better than other cameras, around 0.9 seconds either way. If your power saving options are set appropriately, the lens will retract after a specified time when you're in Playback mode.
The Panasonic TZ5's "Intelligent Auto" mode is indeed fairly smart: it's constantly monitoring the scene in an effort to figure out what you're trying to photograph. A lot of scenery without any obvious primary subjects will put it into landscape mode; human subjects will turn on face detection and put it into portrait mode; closeups of objects will put it into macro mode. It's not perfect, but in practice it did work very well, making the Panasonic TZ5 a very good camera, true to the concept of point-and-shoot.
The bane of most point-and-shoot cameras is the delay between pressing the shutter release button and the camera actually taking a photo; if it's too long, you'll miss your shot. During this delay, which we call "shutter lag," the camera is autofocusing and setting exposure. This delay can be very frustrating, as much can change in this seemingly short time. Panasonic has improved the shutter lag from the TZ3, with the Panasonic TZ5's shutter lag measured at 0.45 seconds at 280mm, and 0.42 seconds at wide-angle. If this is still too slow for you, pre-focusing the camera with a half-press of the shutter button will almost entirely remove the delay; the camera takes a photo a mere 0.011 seconds after pressing the shutter release button. This is excellent performance for this category of camera, some of the fastest numbers we've seen. For a point-and-shoot model, that's very good. It's worth noting that our review copy of the TZ5 had an issue with its shutter release button, where pre-focusing with a half-press of the shutter release button wouldn't hold all the time. We verified that it was our copy with some informal testing of another TZ5.
In the field, shooting with the Panasonic TZ5 was straightforward and easy. Autofocus generally worked very well, and there were very few situations where the camera didn't get it right by itself. Where it was presented with a challenging combination of subjects and low-contrast situations, it was possible to select one of its other six focus modes to fine-tune how the focus operated. In fact, for the majority of times it wouldn't achieve perfect focus, it was because I was trying to focus closer than the camera was able. This is a common problem for cameras, and the Panasonic TZ5 offers a helpful indicator when focus is not achieved in this situation, showing the user the minimum close focusing distance for the current focal length (zoom position). This indicator also displays while the lens is zoomed in and out.
I'm a big fan of adding voice memos to photos, and the Panasonic TZ5 offers a few options to make this simple. A menu option allows you to activate a setting which records a five-second voice memo after each photograph is taken. Alternately, you can add a voice memo to a photo in the playback menu by selecting "AUDIO DUB." This option allows you to review your photos as usual, and you can add a voice memo to any photo selected.
Image stabilization is also standard on the Panasonic TZ5, a holdover from the TZ3, offering two modes: continuous, or shoot-only. Continuous provides image stabilization throughout, while shoot-only activates image stabilization only while the camera is autofocusing and shooting. The only difference between the two modes deals with power consumption: continuous image stabilization takes a bit more power to operate. Image stabilization provides excellent results, especially in low-light where long shutter speeds are inevitable. I found I was able to take very sharp photos operating with shutter speeds as slow as one-quarter of a second.
The Panasonic TZ5 offers a high-speed burst mode, providing an extremely fast frame rate of six frames per second. In this mode image quality is fixed at either 2.5 megapixels for images taken with the 3:2 aspect ratio, or 2 megapixels for standard 4:3 or 16:9 images. The user also has fewer options to choose from. The camera doesn't autofocus while the shots are taken, so you're stuck with whatever focus result was obtained before shooting began. Still, it's a lot of fun to blaze away at such a high speed. In regular continuous shooting mode, the speed at full resolution has actually slowed from the Panasonic TZ3's 2.99 frames per second, down to 1.88 fps, likely due to the higher resolution.
Image quality. Despite the fact that the Panasonic TZ5 has a lens providing both wide-angle and telephoto options, distortion is surprisingly minimal. At wide angle we typically see some significant barrel distortion (things look a little "bloated"), but with the TZ5 set to 28mm, distortion is only a barely perceptible 0.3%. At full telephoto, 280mm, this distortion inverts to 0.2% pincushion (things look slightly squeezed). But with either of these numbers, you would have to pull out a ruler to see that your straight lines aren't truly straight.
|Barrel distortion at 28mm: 0.3%|
|Pincushion distortion at 280mm: 0.2%|
Chromatic aberration is also nicely controlled: the purple fringing that surrounds areas of high contrast shows up mostly in the corners, at full wide-angle or full telephoto. It's more evident at wide-angle, showing about 8-9 pixels. Sharpness is excellent in the center of the image, but is comparably soft in the corners at both wide-angle and telephoto.
|CA: Wide (28mm), top left, 200%||CA: Tele (280mm), top left, 200%|
Generally, the Panasonic TZ5 produces images with colors that are faithful to the scene being captured: our testing showed that reds and blues are just slightly oversatured. Shooting at full nine-megapixel resolution produced an image of 3,456 x 2,592 pixels, more than adequate to produce a high-resolution 8" x 10" print. Examining prints produced at 13" x 19" resolution at ISO 100, we note that images are slightly soft overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. There is some slight noise suppression (which becomes highly evident at higher ISO settings) but at ISO 100, it's not objectionable.
As you select higher ISO ratings, however, the camera's noise reduction systems kick in. Images still look very good at ISO 200 and ISO 400, but by ISO 800 noise begins to become a noticeable factor, and perhaps even more noticeable is the smudging that occurs with the camera trying to reduce it. At ISO 800 and ISO 1,600, fine details are smudged considerably. ISO 3,200 is available with the camera set to HIGH SENS mode, where images are restricted to either 3 megapixels (4:3 mode) or 2.5 megapixels (16:9 or 3:2 mode). With this setting we note very high levels of noise and color shifts; this really is a mode where you can't be too concerned with overall image quality. At this setting, it's really more about getting a photo or not at all. It's possible to get the TZ5 to shoot at ISO sensitivities equivalent to 4,000 and 6,400, by setting it to STARRY SKY mode, at the cost of high noise reduction and loss of detail.
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,600||ISO 3,200 |
(2,048 x 1,536)
Photos taken in direct sunlight are traditionally a challenge for point-and-shoot digicams, and the Panasonic TZ5 had as difficult a time as most cameras in coping with it. Our sunlight test produced a high contrast image with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Set to its Intelligent Exposure mode, the TZ5 attempts to correct for this lighting, balancing the exposure by boosting shadow detail. Turning on backlight compensation will prompt the camera to activate fill flash, which is the preferred way of dealing with highly backlit situations.
White Balance: Indoors, Incandescent Light (+0.3EV)
The Panasonic TZ5 did well in detecting the appropriate white balance in both indoor and outdoor situations. Indoors, the best results were not obtained with automatic white balance detection, but with a manual setting: auto white balanced produced images that had a slight yellow cast. Outdoors, the camera did well at obtaining the appropriate white balance in a variety of sunny / shady situations.
With the flash enabled, the Panasonic TZ5 provided strictly average performance. We found the coverage to be uneven at wide angle, and at full telephoto (280mm), the target was too far away for the flash to illuminate it. Our testing of the manufacturer's stated flash range proved more or less accurate: Panasonic states that for wide-angle, the flash will work up to 17 feet, and that at full telephoto, it will work up to 12 feet. This performance is as advertised, but on the auto mode, the camera selected ISO 400 to achieve these results. We were unable to get the Panasonic FZ8's exposure compensation to make any adjustments to the exposure when flash was enabled.
Appraisal. Despite the usual image quality issues you encounter when shooting at higher ISO settings, the Panasonic TZ5 has many strengths, most notably its 10x optical zoom lens and its optical image stabilization. Add good performance, an above-average feature set, a compact body, and an affordable price, and it's easy to see why this camera is so appealing regardless of the type of shooting you like to do.
It's also worth mentioning that Panasonic has released a firmware update (version 1.2) that you can install yourself. The firmware update is meant to improve autofocus performance, but after installing it, we didn't notice any significant improvement in performance.
Panasonic TZ5 Basic Features
- 9.1-megapixel, 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor delivers image resolutions as high as 3,456 x 2,592 pixels
- 10x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 28-280mm
- 4.0x digital zoom
- 3.0-inch color LCD monitor (460K pixels)
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 60 seconds, depending on mode
- Aperture range from f/3.3 - f/11, depending on zoom position
- Built-in flash with 5 modes plus Red-eye Reduction
- 50MB internal memory
- Power from 1,000mAh proprietary lithium-ion battery
- PictBridge compatible
Panasonic TZ5 Special Features
- Face Detection
- 23 preset Scene modes including "Clipboard" mode
- Movie mode with sound, and Hi-Def movie recording (1280x720p)
- Voice Memo option for still images
- Two Optical Image Stabilization modes
- Macro and Self-Timer modes
- Adjustable ISO from 100 to 1,600 equivalents, 1,600 - 6,400 in HI-SENS mode, plus 3 auto-ISO settings
- Adjustable white balance with five settings, including a Custom adjustment
- Overlaid "quick menu"
In the box
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 digital camera
- Lithium-ion battery CGA-S007A
- Battery charger DE-A45B
- AV cable
- USB cable
- Wrist strap
- Arcsoft software
- Manual, warranty cards
- Soft carrying case
- Backup rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card. These days, 2GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 4GB should be a minimum. The card must be at least 66X to capture HD video.
- Waterproof case
Panasonic TZ5 Conclusion
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Packing an optically image-stabilized long zoom into a small package, the Panasonic TZ5 quite similar to its predecessor, the TZ3. Most of the features that made the TZ3 so popular are carried forward, including the high quality lens. Images produced by the camera are generally quite good when you stick to conservative settings. When you consider the Panasonic TZ5's 10x span from a 28mm wide angle to 280mm equivalent, corner sharpness is better than expected, and chromatic aberration is well-controlled.
The Panasonic TZ5's large, 3-inch LCD offers excellent resolution. It's a nice enough LCD that we really didn't miss the optical viewfinder. The Panasonic TZ5's grip is just right to hold onto this relatively solid camera, and controls are well-placed for easy operation. Though it's a little thick as a pocket camera, the Panasonic TZ5 is still shirt and pants-pocketable in a pinch, though we recommend a case if you want to keep it looking nice.
Menus are laid out logically and offer a wide range of custom options, but I preferred to use the Panasonic TZ5's new Quick menu, which overlays the LCD screen during shooting; it makes adjustments quick and simple. There isn't a fully manual mode on the Panasonic Lumix TZ5, but the camera does tell you what shutter speed and aperture it's chosen so you know what to expect. Its built-in image stabilization gives you a little extra help with indoor shots, as does the Panasonic TZ5's Intelligent ISO functionality.
Panasonic has also improved their anti-noise algorithm to make smoother images overall, with fewer apparent demosaicing errors. These latter two items have always been our main concern with Panasonic digital cameras, so it's good they addressed them. It's still not perfect, but the Panasonic TZ5 will still turn out sharp 11x14-inch prints. Overall, the Panasonic TZ5 is an improvement to an already great camera, with about the same printed performance, faster autofocus, and still earns a Dave's Pick.