Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Panasonic Lumix Cameras i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.33"
Lens: 12.00x zoom
(25-300mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 80-6400
Shutter: 60-1/2000
Max Aperture: 3.3
Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.
(103 x 60 x 33 mm)
Weight: 7.3 oz (206 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $300
Availability: 03/2010
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic DMC-ZS5 specifications
12.10
Megapixels
12.00x zoom
1/2.33"
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5
Front side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 digital camera Back side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 digital camera Top side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 digital camera Left side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 digital camera Right side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 digital camera
Imaging Resource rating

4.5 out of 5.0

Panasonic ZS5 Overview

Overview by Mike Tomkins
Reviewed by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 04/08/2010

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 has a maximum resolution of 12 megapixels from a 1/2.33-inch RGB multi-aspect CCD image sensor, and Panasonic has coupled this to an image stabilized, Leica DC Vario-Elmar branded 12x optical zoom lens with an excellent 25mm-equivalent wide angle. There's no optical viewfinder, but this is understandable given the strength of the zoom. The Panasonic ZS5 opts instead for a 2.7-inch LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution on which images and videos are both framed and reviewed. The Panasonic ZS5's lens has a maximum aperture that varies from f/3.3 to f/4.9 across the zoom range. The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-ZS5 is ordinarily 50 centimeters, but drops to just three centimeters when switched to Macro mode.

The Panasonic DMC-ZS5 has an 11-point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point "high speed" focusing mode. As with many digital cameras these days, there's also a face detection function, with Panasonic's implementation using the information to adjust both focus and exposure to properly capture your subjects' faces. The Lumix DMC-ZS5 can also be programmed to recognize specific individuals' faces, and prioritize these over other detected photos when capturing photos, or search for photos containing a specific face in playback mode. The Panasonic Lumix ZS5 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required.

ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 80 to 1,600 equivalents, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6,400 equivalent in High Sensitivity Auto mode. Shutter speeds from 1/2000 to 60 seconds are possible. The Panasonic DMC-ZS5 uses Intelligent Multiple metering by default, with Center Weighted and Spot metering options available. The ZS5 offers six white balance settings including Auto, Manual, and four fixed presets. A whopping selection of twenty nine scene modes let users tailor the look of their images with a minimum of effort, and the Panasonic ZS5 also offers aperture-, shutter-priority, or fully manual modes when more control is desired. There's also an Intelligent Scene Selection function, which can automatically select from a subset of the available scene modes. A five mode flash strobe includes red-eye reduction capability, and has a rated range of up to 5.3 meters at wide angle, or 3.6 meters at telephoto when using Auto ISO. There's also digital red-eye correction, and Panasonic's Intelligent Exposure, Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Auto functions as seen on past models.

As well as JPEG still images, the Panasonic ZS5 can capture movies with monaural sound at up to 1280 x 720 pixel resolution or below, but the compression used is the older QuickTime Motion JPEG type, so file sizes will likely be hefty. A new Video Divide function allows in-camera movie splitting, letting users trim away the unwanted portions to keep just the parts of movies that they desire.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCards, including the newer SDHC and SDXC types. There's also a generous 40MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, plus standard definition NTSC / PAL video output (NTSC only for North America).

Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion battery with ID-Security feature that prevents use of counterfeit or third-party batteries, and is rated as good for 340 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO 5.0 Edition.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 began shipping from mid-March 2010, priced at around US$300. Two body colors are available - black or silver.

 

Panasonic ZS5 User Report

by Mike Pasini

The Panasonic ZS5 arrived not long after we'd returned the Panasonic ZS7. They're quite similar, packaging the photographic essentials of the Panasonic ZS7 into the more affordable Panasonic ZS5.

What's different? Instead of a 3.0-inch LCD, the Panasonic ZS5 has a 2.7-inch LCD. There's no built-in GPS, and Movie captures are HD but monaural, encoded in Motion JPEG instead of stereo AVCHD Lite. There's also only one instead of two custom Scene modes on the Mode dial. Oh, and the Movie button has turned into an E.Zoom button for quickly zooming in.

Those are tradeoffs that don't bother me in the least. And the Panasonic ZS5 gives you 40MB of internal memory, rather than the 15MB of the ZS7, which can come in handy for the unique Clipboard mode.

As much as I liked the ZS7, some of the results in daylight were mystifying. Like a beach scene that Program snapped at ISO 800 and 1/2000 second. So I was curious to see if the Panasonic ZS5 exhibited the same behavior. I had, in short, some questions.

One thing I did not question, though, is that long 12x zoom lens. Between Panasonics, I'd been shooting with two 4x zoom Canons. They were very attractive and certainly competent, but I really did miss that 12x zoom. I spent far too much time using digital zoom with these more compact Canons.

There's a lot of intelligence built into these new Panasonics (Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Resolution, Intelligent Auto, Intelligent LCD, Intelligent Zoom) but they also have a real Manual mode with Aperture and Shutter Priority modes as well.

Dropping manual control is one tradeoff we don't like. Panasonic doesn't force us to make it with the ZS5.

Look and Feel. The Panasonic ZS5 body is identical to the ZS7 except for the missing bump on top for the GPS radio, lacking an HDMI socket and a second microphone, and its slightly smaller LCD.

The 2.7-inch LCD is still an Intelligent LCD. The intelligent part is how the LCD automatically adjusts brightness to ambient light in 11 steps.

Like the ZS7, the Panasonic ZS5 sports a large lens of more sophistication than you'll find on most digicams. The Panasonic ZS5's Leica glass is a 12x zoom ranging from 25mm to 300mm, the same as its big brother.

Oddly enough, the Panasonic ZS5's flash is located between the lens and the small grip, so beware of blocking the flash if you have large hands.

The grip is small enough not to protrude, but large enough to help secure the Panasonic ZS5. Still, I wouldn't and didn't use the ZS5 without the wrist strap.

The Panasonic ZS5's speaker is on the top panel and the microphone right next to the Mode dial. Where the GPS radio required a small hump, the top panel is just flat with the model name luxuriously sprawled out over it.

The Shutter button and Zoom lever are right where your finger expects to find them. The Panasonic ZS5's Mode dial is to the left of the Shutter button, slightly overhanging the back edge so you can turn it with your thumb when holding the camera with two hands. The bottom right corner of the top panel on the Panasonic ZS5 is reserved for the Power switch.

On the back panel with the 2.7-inch LCD are all the other controls. This is where the Panasonic ZS5 allows you to set things, fiddle with things, make adjustments.

The metal tripod socket on the Panasonic ZS5's bottom panel is near the middle of the camera, which may or may not conflict with the battery door operation, depending on your tripod.

And the Panasonic ZS5's battery compartment door has a latch which must be manually pushed to release the door.

The Panasonic ZS5 has a connector door on the right side with just one outlet: an AV Out/Digital socket. The Panasonic ZS7 included a mini HDMI socket.

The Panasonic ZS form factor is a bit thick and heavy for a shirt pocket but no problem for jeans, a coat pocket, or a purse.

Controls. Panasonic favors switches rather than buttons for some controls and there's no better place for a switch than the Power control. After trying to find and press miniscule Power buttons with their dainty LEDs, it is a relief to rub your thumb across the Panasonic ZS5's knobby Power switch to slide the power on or off.

The Panasonic ZS5's Shutter button and Zoom lever were very much like those on the Panasonic ZS7, except I found it easier to live with the Zoom lever. It was jerky but not as jerky. A softer touch moved it more slowly.

In addition to Program Auto and Manual, the Panasonic ZS5's Mode dial includes Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes. There is a Scene mode as well (for stills and movies), but there is also one My Scene mode (there are two on the ZS7) that you can dedicate to a Scene mode you use frequently (a very nice little touch). There's also a Custom mode, Movie mode, and a Clipboard mode. More about these in the Modes section below.

The Panasonic ZS5 relies on a Mode switch to set the camera into either Record mode or Playback mode. It's simple, but the disadvantage is getting caught in Playback mode when a photo opportunity strikes: Cameras with a button to switch between modes can return to Record mode with a half-press on the shutter button, while Panasonic ZS5 shooters will be fumbling for the Mode switch.

The arrow keys (whose icons are very hard to read on the silver body) do double duty, of course. Up accesses Exposure Compensation. Right cycles through the Flash modes, which include Auto, Auto Red-Eye, Forced Flash On, Slow Sync/Red-Eye, and Forced Flash Off. There's no control of the Flash power itself. Down cycles through Off, Macro and Macro Zoom modes. And Left cycles through the Off, 2-second and 10-second self-timers.

Other back panel buttons include the Panasonic ZS5's Exposure button, active in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual modes to enable adjustment of the aperture, shutter or both respectively. There's also an E.Zoom button to zoom into the Intelligent Zoom range and then beyond to digital zoom. Below the four-way navigator is the Display button to cycle through the LCD options and the Q.Menu button to bring up a tool bar on the shooting screen for quick changes to options that might change from shot to shot.

To access the Panasonic ZS5's Menu system itself, including the Setup options, you press the Menu/Set button in the center of the four-way navigator.

The Panasonic ZS5's 2.7-inch LCD features 230,000 dots of resolution and a very wide viewing angle (so you can hold the camera above your head and still see the image on the screen). Panasonic calls it an intelligent LCD because it adjusts brightness according to the scene in 11 steps. The LCD's antireflective coating minimizes glare, and indeed I had no trouble shooting with it in direct sunlight. It also didn't smudge with fingerprints.

Lens. Like the ZS7, the long zoom on the Panasonic ZS5 starts at a very useful 25mm. You can get the whole room without breaking through the wall behind you. And it extends to 300mm, a nice 12x range. With Panasonic's optical image stabilization, you can (just barely) hold that still.

The image did float in the Panasonic ZS5's LCD at 300mm as I handheld the camera, but I was able to snag my shot as the zoom range images show. You can crank it out to 48x with digital zoom and 93.8x combined with E.Zoom.

The Panasonic ZS5's Leica Elmar lens itself includes 10 elements in eight groups with two extra low dispersion lenses and two aspherical lenses with three aspherical surfaces.

The multistage iris diaphragm offers apertures of f/3.3 to f/6.3 at wide-angle and f/4.9 to f/6.3 at telephoto.

Power optical image stabilization, which the company claims "nearly doubles the hand-shake correction power of conventional Mega O.I.S.," can be disabled or set to one of two modes, or set to Auto.

The Panasonic ZS5's shutter speeds, incidentally, run from 60 to 1/2,000 second in Still mode and in Starry Sky Scene mode are 15, 30, or 60 seconds.

ISO sensitivity (while we're at it) options include Auto (which, as Intelligent ISO, can be capped at 400, 800, or 1,600), 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600. High Sensitivity Scene mode runs from ISO 2,500 to 6,400.

Sensor trick. Panasonic uses a neat trick in their pocket long-zoom digital cameras, that leads to better optical quality than would otherwise be the case. We've known about this for some time, but thought we'd take the time to make a graphic to showcase it with their most recent models. The essence of the "trick" is to deliberately give up a bit of the sensor area in exchange for better image quality and the ability to maintain a constant angle of view when changing apect ratios.

We first saw this in the TZ3, which we reviewed way back in July of 2007, albeit with a different, much lower-resolution sensor. This year they're using a 14.5-megapixel sensor in both the Panasonic ZS5 and ZS7, and cropping the raw sensor image to select just those portions of the frame that give the best corner quality and highest resolution for each aspect ratio. The illustration at left shows how the camera's three aspect ratios are arranged on a nominally 4:3 aspect ratio sensor. While the ZS5's 4:3 ratio frame yields a 12-megapixel image that's 4,000 pixels wide, 3:2 is 4,176 pixels wide, and 16:9 is 4,320 pixels wide. As the width increases, the height decreases, so the distance from the center of the sensor to the corner of the frame remains the same. When using a 4:3 sensor, most companies use the full width of the sensor for maximum resolution at 4:3, then just chop off the top and bottom of the image to get the other two sizes. (The illustration above assumes a 4:3 aspect ratio for the sensor itself, but the concept remains the same, regardless of sensor shape.)

Some might wonder why Panasonic doesn't just use the whole 14.5-megapixel sensor, as do their competitors: After all, it'd let them advertise a bigger megapixel number on their spec sheets. The answer is that geometric distortion, corner softness, and chromatic aberration all get worse, the further from the center of the lens you get. At the edges of a lens' image circle, distortion and optical artifacts are often much worse than they are just a short distance closer to the center of the frame. As you can see above, a modest concession in megapixels lets images at all aspect ratios stay within the area of the lens' best performance. Also, all three aspect ratios capture the same diagonal angle of view, meaning that you always get a 25mm equivalent image, regardless of which aspect ratio you're shooting with. In fact, in its Multi-aspect Mode, the Panasonic ZS5 captures all three aspect ratios at once, and you can choose which you like after the shot; another neat trick.

Modes. The Panasonic ZS5 features an Intelligent Auto mode that not only recognizes the kind of scene it's looking at but optimizes the camera's special features as well. The camera adds to that the traditional manual controls of Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes. There are extensive Scene modes and a user-defined Scene mode setting on the dial. And there is a Custom setting to access any of three stored camera configurations. A Clipboard mode stores small but handy shots in built-in memory with a settable zoom mark to indicate an important point. Finally, a Movie mode is also available for Motion JPEGs at two resolutions.

Let's take a closer look at several of the more interesting modes:

Intelligent Auto can identify six different Scene modes: Portrait, Scenery, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Sunset, and Macro. It also sets many of the Panasonic ZS5's "intelligent" options to fit the occasion. It's more than a green Auto mode for both those reasons.

Custom recalls up to three custom camera configurations. After configuring the camera in any of its modes, you record the configuration to one of the three custom settings (C1, C2, C3). You can set the camera to that configuration just by switching to Custom and selecting the custom setting. There are 25 recording functions and 4 setup functions that can be stored.

MS is a My Scene mode that you dedicate to one of the Panasonic ZS5's Scene modes. Rather than switching the dial to Scene and scrolling through the list to find the mode you want, you can simply set one of these Mode dial options to the Scene mode to switch directly to it.

Scene provides optimized camera setups for the following types of photos: Portrait (improves skin tone), Soft Skin (smooths skin), Transform (slim high or low, stretch high or low, no effect), Self Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1 (weak flash to spare skin color and records age and name), Baby 2 (same as Baby1, you know, for two), Pet (age and name), Sunset, High Sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst, Flash Burst (up to five consecutive shots with flash), Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial Photo, Pin Hole (vignette), Film Grain (black and white with grain), High Dynamic (less over/underexposure, art, black and white), Photo Frame (2-megapixel image with superimposed frame), and Underwater (color correction).

Clipboard Mode. Captures a small 1- or 2-Mp image to internal memory like jotting a note a visual note.

 

Zoom Mark. In Playback mode, a quick flick of the Zoom lever immediately highlights part of the image.

Clipboard captures a 1- or 2-megapixel image to the clipboard folder of the Panasonic ZS5's built-in memory. You can, in Playback mode, zoom into the image using the Zoom lever and set a Zoom Mark by navigating to the important point of the image and using the Menu/Set button to mark it. You can then instantly zoom to the Zoom Mark in Playback just by moving the Zoom lever when the image is displayed. This is handy for making visual notes of maps, timetables and other documentation.

Click to view movie. MOV player required.

Motion JPEG Movie. 1280x720@30fps HD movie. (Click to download 23MB MOV file.)

Movie mode offers four options. You can record in HD at 1,280 x 720 and 30 fps or WVGA at 848 x 480 and 30 fps, both providing a 16:9 aspect ratio. Or you can record in a 4:3 aspect ratio in VGA mode at 640 x 480 and 30 fps or QVGA mode at 320 x 240 at 30 fps, all in Motion JPEG format. Optical zoom is supported, and audio is recorded in mono.

Menu System. There are two menu systems on the Panasonic ZS5: the main Menu system and the Q.Menu system.

The main Menu system is a tabbed display with line items for all of the camera's options. In Record mode the tabs are Rec, Travel Mode (Travel Date, Location, World Time), and Setup. Playback mode tabs are Playback Mode (for display options), Playback, Travel Mode, and Setup.

Main Menu. Intelligent Auto has just one page of menus.

 

Q.Menu. We're looking at the Intelligent Exposure option.

A Quick Menu can be displayed on the top of the LCD in Record mode by pressing the Q.Menu button below the four-way navigator. Depending on the Recording mode you're in, you can change options for the Stabilizer, Burst Shooting, Autofocus, White Balance, ISO, Intelligent Exposure, Picture Size, and LCD mode.

Storage & Battery. The Panasonic ZS5 includes 40MB of internal memory (more than the 15MB of the Panasonic ZS7), which is handy for storing images captured in Clipboard mode.

The number of shots varies depending on the aspect ratio selected, image quality and subject matter. In 4:3 at the highest quality a 2GB card will hold about 380 images. No memory card is included with the camera, which accepts cards in the SD format. SD cards from 8MB to 2GB, SDHC cards from 4GB to 32 GB and SDXC cards from 48GB to 64GB are all supported.

Movie recording time for a 2GB card varies from about 8 minutes 20 seconds at 1,280 x 720 or 21 minutes 20 seconds at 848 x 480, both a 16:9 aspect ratio. Using a 4:3 aspect ratio, it varies from 22 minutes at 640 x 480 at 30 fps to 63 minutes at 320 x 240. All formats record at 30 fps.

Using CIPA standards, Panasonic rates the ID-Security lithium-ion battery pack of 3.6 volts and 895 mAh at 340 shots per charge. An AC adapter is optional, connecting to the camera with a dummy battery through a rubber port on the battery compartment door.

Shooting. The Panasonic ZS5 really has two personalities, both of which I found charming. The first is very helpful, doing everything for you. The second does whatever you say.

Intelligent Resolution. Off in the top image, on in the bottom image.

There is no green Auto mode on the Panasonic ZS5 because Personality One is a lot smarter than Auto. Panasonic calls it iA or Intelligent Auto. We described it above, but I took quite a few gallery shots with it when I found out how reliable it is.

I particularly liked how it switched to Macro mode when necessary. But it also uses Intelligent Resolution and Intelligent Zoom. Beyond that it taps into seven detection functions including Shake Detection, Face Detection with Face Recognition, Subject Detection, Scene Detection, and Light Detection to get the best image.

I could explain all of those tweaks (I did in the Panasonic ZS7 review, if you want to know), but the beauty of iA is that you don't need to know what they do to take advantage of them.

On the other hand, the Panasonic ZS5 can be manually configured, too. It's rare that a camera designed with all-auto smarts can also be used by the photo student learning how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO affect an image. But the manual settings on the Panasonic ZS5 are comprehensive.

You won't quite get the gorgeous focus control of using a dSLR with a fast lens, but you do get to step through more than just two f-stops, plenty of shutter speeds and ISO settings up to 1,600.

The weather wasn't as inviting when I had the Panasonic ZS5 here as it had been when the Panasonic ZS7 was here, so I didn't duplicate my beach shots. But I think I isolated the issue to Intelligent ISO. If Intelligent ISO detects motion, it kicks the ISO up to use a faster shutter speed (and freeze the motion).

It seems it's a little too ready to bump up the ISO, though. So beware of it.

Intelligent Auto. Auto Macro.

I was impressed by the poppy shot and the red ground cover. Both of those macro shots took the Panasonic ZS5 into the dreaded reds, which are typically oversaturated on digicams. Not so on the Panasonic ZS5. But it not only didn't oversaturate them, it rendered them faithfully.

I did have some trouble focusing. I noticed it trying to capture the daffodil in macro mode. The camera kept focusing on anything but the daffodil until I composed the image so almost the entire frame was daffodil and the light falling on it, which gave it a bit more contrast.

The problem is that focus is looking for high contrast. You can see this in the Japanese maple shot. Despite the centered subject matter and Macro mode, the camera focused behind the subject on a new leaf. You really have the feeling sometimes that the camera is pulling your leg.

Intelligent Exposure. Standard.

My white ball of yarn shot is actually pretty well rendered even if the dynamic range could use a little help. The highlights are gone and the shadow detail does disappear, but honestly when I look at the yarn with my unaided eyes, that's about what it looks like. I am 107 years old, but still.

There is a tendency for the highlights to go, not uncommon in digicams. But that's what EV is for.

In the end, the Panasonic ZS5 reminds us more of last year's top-end ZS3 with a smaller LCD. It has fewer bells and whistles than the ZS7, but still packs all the imaging power that keeps us coming back to the Panasonic long zoom series. See below for our image quality analysis and our conclusion.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Slightly soft upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Soft upper right corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5's zoom produced some moderate blurring in the corners, though the effect doesn't extend very far into the frame. At telephoto, blurring is again on the moderate side, though the image as a whole appears a little soft as well.


Wide: Lower than average barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
Tele: Low pincushion, only slightly visible

Geometric Distortion: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 showed lower that average barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.4%) but it's still slightly noticeable. There was only a small amount of pincushion distortion (0.1%) at telephoto. Good results here.


Wide: Mild

Tele: Somewhat bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is mild, with only a slight fringe of coloration noticeable on either side of the target lines. At telephoto, chromatic aberration is a little stronger, with bright blue and red pixels visible.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5's Macro mode captures a very sharp image at the center of the dollar bill, with softness and a small amount of chromatic aberration encroaching from the edges and corners. Minimum coverage area is 1.64 x 1.23 inches (42 x 31mm). The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens at the most extreme closeup.


 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 Image Quality


Color: In terms of saturation, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 performs pretty well, keeping bright reds in check, as well as strong yellows and greens. Blues are oversaturated a moderate amount, but overall results here are good. Hue accuracy is also just about right for greens, oranges and some pinks and reds. However, cyan is pushed toward blue, red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Lighter skin tones are just about right, while darker skin tones have a noticeable shift toward a warm, orange/yellow cast. Overall though, good results.


80
100
200
400
800
1,600

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail remains good and distinct up as high as ISO 400, though at this level, some noise suppression is evident. And indeed, even at ISO 800 and 1,600, the idea of fine detail is preserved, though noise grain and noise suppression give images a more painted look. See Printed results below for more on how that affects images on paper.


Wide: Dim, strong vignetting
Tele: Slightly dim

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows slightly dim results with strong vignetting in the corners at the wide-angle rated distance of 5.2 feet at ISO 100. At the telephoto distance of 3.6 feet, results are also a little dim, but with more consistent coverage. Given the ISO 100 results, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5's flash is a little limited, so you'll want to stick very close to your subjects (with 2 or 3 feet at telephoto) to get good coverage.


Auto WB: Good, slightly red
Incandescent WB: Too warm
 
Manual WB: Good, a hint yellow-green

Incandescent: Both the Auto and Manual white balance settings performed pretty well under our household incandescent lighting, though the Auto setting looks a little red, and the Manual setting a hint yellow-green. The Incandescent setting resulted in much too warm of a color cast.


Printed: ISO 80 and 100 printed results look good at 16x20 with good color and detail. ISO 200 shots are quite good at 13x19, and ISO 400 shots look good at 11x14, though there's a little more softening in detail, especially among the reds. That's also true at ISO 800, and while this setting makes a good letter size print, it's really better printed at 8x10 or 5x7. ISO 1,600 shots are better at 5x7 or 4x6.


 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 Performance


Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.41 second at wide angle and 0.44 second at full telephoto. A high speed AF mode cuts lag to 0.39 second. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.011 second, which is very fast.


Cycle time: Cycle time is also pretty good, capturing a frame every 1.9 seconds in single-shot mode. Full resolution continuous mode is rated at 2.3 frames-per-second, though we didn't test that. The ZS5 also has a high-speed burst mode, which takes 3-megapixel images at up to 10 frames-per-second.


Flash Recycle: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5's flash recycles in a sluggish 7 seconds after a full-power discharge.


 

In the Box

The retail package includes:

  • The Panasonic ZS5 body
  • DMW-BCG10 battery pack
  • Battery carrying case (a plastic cover)
  • Battery charger with built-in prongs
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • AV cable
  • Software CD-ROM with the advanced manual in PDF
  • Basic operating instructions

 

Panasonic ZS5 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Compact and attractive body design
  • 12x Leica Elmar zoom with 25-300mm range
  • Power Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.) (supposedly better than previous generation)
  • Extensive autofocus modes, include face recognition
  • Aspect ratios include 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9
  • Power switch instead of a button
  • Full PASM exposure modes
  • Customizable Scene mode on Mode dial
  • Custom camera setting mode on Mode dial
  • 720p HD movies
  • Underwater capable with accessory marine case
  • Clipboard modes is especially useful for travel
  • Good macro mode
  • Low levels of geometric distortion
  • Better than average auto white balance in tungsten light
  • 10 fps burst mode (at only 3-magapixels)
  • Good AF speed and very fast prefocused shutter lag
  • AF tracking
  • Intelligent Resolution feature
  • Adjustable noise reduction
  • Face recognition
  • Portrait mode improves rendering of faces
  • Supports new SDXC cards
  • Very good printed results, supporting prints up to 16x20 inches
  • Flash may be too close to grip for some hands
  • Motion JPEG movies only (no AVCHD Lite option)
  • No dedicated movie button
  • Sprawling Menu system
  • Tends to clip highlights, but that's not unusual for digicams
  • Yellows are noticeably undersaturated and have a green or orange tint
  • Some corner softness at wide-angle
  • Moderate CA at telephoto
  • Some luminance noise visible even at base ISO (but fine grained)
  • Sluggish continuous mode at full resolution
  • Weak flash
  • Flash power can't be adjusted
  • Slow flash recycling
  • Playback switch instead of button
  • No RAW mode
  • No HDMI output

 

Panasonic has done a careful job of pruning the Panasonic ZS7 into a Panasonic ZS5. It has maintained everything that earned the Panasonic ZS7 a Dave's Pick without losing any of the photographic chops of the Panasonic ZS5's more expensive sibling.

With Intelligent Auto you get an unusually capable automatic camera. And with the PASM manual modes, you also get a very flexible, creative machine. Toss in 720p HD movie captures just for fun. The 12x zoom really seals the deal, providing a room-gulping wide angle and enough reach to bring distant landmarks home. Not all cameras can do that. In a way, the Panasonic ZS5 is more attractive than the ZS7 thanks to its more straightforward design, with fewer special features to distract from the act of getting great pictures. Its ability to output 16x20-inch prints really seals the deal. In sum, the Panasonic ZS5 is a sweet digital camera that earns a Dave's Pick all on its own.

 

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