DPInterface Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5
The Lumix FS3 (8 megapixels) and Lumix FS5 (10 megapixels) are two small point-and-shoot cameras from Panasonic. Both cameras pack the latest Venus Engine 4 processor, optical image stabilization, 2.5 inch LCDs, good battery life and many scene modes. So what's the diff? Resolution and optical zoom are the main things that separate the two, with the Lumix FS5 being the higher-end model.
Since the FS3 and FS5 are so similar, I'll be covering them both in a two-in-one combo review today. Hopefully that'll make picking the camera of your choice easier too. Ready for more about the FS-twins from Panasonic? Read on!
Size and Weight
(163.6) 86.8 x 54.8 x 22.0 mm (125 g) - Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital ELPH
Since the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 share a common body design, their dimensions are the same. There's a minuscule 1g difference between the two but it's impossible to even feel that extra fraction of weight. In terms of size and weight, the two fit in right into the middle of the group, and will fit into almost any pocket without any fuss; though they're not thin enough to go into your tightest jeans' back pocket.
Both the Lumix FS3 and FS5 come bundled with the same box contents:
The software CD on both cameras include USB driver software, Photo Fun Studio, which is a photo viewer and has simple editing features, and ArcSoft's Media Impression + Panorama Maker.
Neither camera comes with a memory card but instead, come with 50 MB of internal memory. While that 50 MB may sound like a lot (and that's somewhat true compared to other cameras which have less than 20 MB of built in memory), it still isn't enough to go around snapping photos for either camera. On the 10 megapixel Lumix FS5, it stores up to nine shots at the highest settings and twelve photos on the 8 megapixel FS3, which isn't a whole lot more.
Both cameras support SD, SDHC and MMC memory cards. I haven't seen many people selling the slower MMC cards any more so it's best you stick with SD/SDHC. Even if you had some MMC cards at hand, you wouldn't want to use them anyway since Panasonic says you can't record movies with them (too slow!). Here's my opinion: get at least a 2 GB card (or higher, since 4 GB SDHC cards are quite cheap nowadays) with whichever camera... you'll appreciate that you can take a whole lot more pictures with a large card. A high speed card is useful for both cameras too, as you will notice better performance (faster shot-to-shot times in general).
In addition, both the FS3 and FS5 share the same lithium-ion battery type. However, the same battery nets slightly different battery life numbers for each camera. The 10 megapixel FS5 is rated to 300 shots per charge while the 8 megapixel FS3 comes in with 10% better battery life; that's 330 shots. Compared with other compact cameras in this class, both cameras' battery life numbers are above average:
240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital ELPH
There aren't many accessories you can find for the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5. The accessories that are available can be shared by both cameras; that includes an AC adapter and underwater case.
Design wise, you'll be hard pressed to spot the differences between the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 – They share the same simple body design that's overall well constructed, except the plastic battery/memory door. It's easy to operate either camera with one hand and adding to simplicity of use, you'll find just three sizable buttons and a multi controller on the back, all are clearly labeled on the FS3 (some labels aren't that visible on the FS5). Since this is a two-in-one review, each camera will take turns in being displayed in our camera tour, with some pictures showing both cameras side-by-side.
Oh, there's a third and more expensive camera that looks really similar to the FS twins; it's Panasonic's own Lumix FX37 (which is a different camera), so be sure you're looking at the right thing when shopping for your camera!
The Panasonic Lumix FS3 comes in your choice of silver, black, baby blue or pink, while the Lumix FS5 comes in less playful colors: choose between black, silver and red only.
Let's go to the front of the camera. Both the Lumix FS3 and FS5 look alike, there's no obvious difference except the "10 megapixel" label at the bottom left being the only way of visually distinguishing the Lumix FS5 (the FS3 has no label).
Then we have another difference between the two cameras: Lenses. The Panasonic Lumix FS3 features a 3X optical zoom lens which is typical for a compact camera while the Lumix FS5 has a more powerful 4X zoom lens. The FS3's lens is equivalent to 33 – 100 mm and has an aperture range of f2.8 – 5.1. On the other hand, the FS5's lens covers more focal length on both ends, equivalent to 30 – 120 mm. However, because it has more zoom, the FS5's lens is also slower, with an aperture range of f3.3 – 5.8.
Panasonic has a tradition of having optical image stabilization in all their cameras' lenses – the FS3/FS5 twins are no exception. Another note: The FS5 has "Mega OIS/30 mm wide" standing out in red on the outer lens rim, while the FS3 has a more discrete "Mega OIS" carved in the chrome rim without any color. Both cameras have an AF-assist lamp to the upper right of the lens, and that also acts as a visual self-timer countdown.
On to the flash unit on both cameras. Strange enough, the FS3, being the lower of the two, has a more powerful flash unit. The FS3's flash has a range of 30 cm to 6.3 m at wide-angle and at telephoto, the reach goes down to 3.4 m. In contrast, the FS5's flash covers 30 cm to 5.4 m and 50 cm to 3.0 m at wide-angle and telephoto respectively. Oh, all those flash figures are with ISO Auto, so they may be a bit lower when you manually select lower ISO settings.
At the back of the Panasonic Lumix FS3/FS5, you'll find a 2.5 inch LCD unit with 230,000 pixels. The LCD displays on both cameras were equally good and viewable (of course, it's the same display). The display image brightens nicely in dim conditions and it was viewable outdoors in bright light too – thanks to the Power LCD feature.
Then we'll move on to the buttons. The buttons of both cameras perform the same functions, so I won't waste time with highlighting function differences here since there are none. Before we go on, here's something cosmetic that's noteworthy: the Lumix FS3's buttons are labeled in black font, while the FS5's buttons fonts are not colored, making them harder to see when viewed at certain angles. Check out the pictures above.
To the top right, there's a mode switch which moves you between shooting and playback. Jumping over the little place where your right thumb will go, there's the MODE button which does exactly what it sounds. When taking pictures, you get to select between several modes:
After that comes the five-way controller which navigates menus and gives direct access to the following functions:
The exposure bracketing feature lets you take three photos at different exposures, up to +/- 1EV in 1/3 steps. If you've used previous Panasonic cameras, you'll notice white balance adjustment (which allows you to tune it to cooler/warmer settings) is only available in underwater mode on the FS3/FS5, at least the custom set option is still available everywhere else.
The last two buttons are the DISPLAY button which toggles on-screen information and the Q-MENU button. The Quick Menu brings up a handful of picture settings you can change easily without accessing the main menu:
The Q-MENU button also doubles to delete photos in playback mode.
Up on the top of the camera, there's the speaker and microphone as well as the power switch. There's also a shutter button with a zoom controller wrapped around it.
Finally the button at the very right is the Easy Zoom button. Despite its function sounding not very interesting, it is in fact useful in more conditions than one. Press it to quickly move the lens to telephoto position. A second press zooms in further by lowering the resolution to 3 megapixels. This is 'Extended Optical zoom' (aka cropping) and at 3 megapixels, can extend your zoom reach to 4.8X on the FS3 and almost double to 7.1X on the FS5. The lens returns back to wide-angle along with full resolution on the third press. The entire sequence performed by pressing the button three times is much faster than using the zoom controller.
One side of the camera is blank...
... while the other side houses a wrist strap eyelet and two ports: the single combined A/V + USB port and a DC-IN port for the AC adapter accessory. The USB interface for both cameras is 2.0 Full Speed though, which is a bummer considering all 2008 cameras should have High Speed standard.
At the bottom of the camera is the tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. While the compartment door is made of plastic and a little flimsy, there is some good news here: the tripod mount here is a metal one, which is a rarity in the world of plastic tripod mounts on compact cameras.
Taking pictures (Shooting mode)
Both cameras' screens display camera settings and exposure information in shooting mode, which is adequate for most people, with grid lines to assist in photo composition via a setting in the menu. There's a 4-step battery indicator and zoom indicator shown on-screen as well. Only a live histogram is missing here.
Besides maximum resolution, there's a TON combinations available for image size, compression and aspect ratio. For the 8 megapixel Lumix FS3, the image size options available are 8, 5, 3, 2 and 0.3 megapixels, while on the 10 megapixel Lumix FS5, they are 10, 7, 5, 3, 2 and 0.3 megapixels. Both cameras feature Fine and Standard compression modes and three aspect ratios: standard 4:3, 3:2 or widescreen 16:9. Which settings to choose? You ask. Personally I'd select the highest resolution with Standard compression. As for aspect ratio, use 3:2 if you're planning for prints, and 16:9 if you wanna show them on your TV set.
When we were discussing the "Easy Zoom" button just now, I spoke of a feature called Extended Optical Zoom. It's basically cropping, so when you lower the resolution, you get extra virtual zoom power without reduction in image quality. On the Lumix FS3, the most Extended Optical Zoom can take you is up to 4.8X at 3 megapixels. On the Lumix FS5, it's 7.1X (3 MP also) because of its higher max resolution (more room for cropping) and bigger zoom lens.
On to the menu system, you're able to adjust:
Many of the settings above can be adjusted in the Quick Menu so I'll move on to the things I haven't explained yet. There are two image stabilization modes available on both the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5. Image stabilization is more active in mode 1 while it's only activated during a shot in mode 2. That makes mode 2 image stabilization more effective and it puts less strain on the battery as well. You can also opt to turn it off when your camera is already on a stable surface (ie on a tripod).
Intelligent ISO detects movement in the photo while composing and automatically selects ISO as needed. The camera uses a low ISO setting if there is little or no movement, while lots of movement (ie sports, children, pets moving) triggers the camera to use a higher ISO setting to freeze the action.
In Intelligent Auto mode, the camera turns on Intelligent ISO and Backlighting Compensated automatically... the latter adjusts brightness accordingly if there's a light source behind your subject.
Despite the different lenses used, the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 both feature a 5 cm macro mode at wide-angle, which lets you go close to subjects. At telephoto, that number goes up to 50 cm.
Let's talk about scene modes now... The Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 share the same palette of scene modes which are: portrait, soft skin, self-portrait, scenery, sports, night portrait, night scenery, food, party, candlelight, 2 baby modes, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, hi-speed burst, starry sky, fireworks, beach, snow, aerial photo and underwater mode. Of course an underwater case is required for you to take advantage of that last scene mode. Most of the scene modes above are self-explanatory but here are some worthy of note:
In case you need more details on the individual scene modes while out using the camera, Panasonic provides tooltips for each scene mode built-into both the FS3 and FS5.
Face Detection is present on both cameras and detects up to 15 faces. I found that Panasonic's implementation of face detection works but not as elaborate as certain competitors... since it only finds full faces that are looking directly at the camera. I'll have to make do with a promotional brochure from Panasonic this time (which is still a very good example):
Though it may be a little difficult to see, the camera picked up the center guy in red as the primary face and the other guy on the left as well. Neither camera could consistently pick up the other 6 faces (it took a few tries) because their faces were partially covered or not looking directly at the camera. So be sure to tell everyone to 'look at the camera and say cheese' when snapping photos.
There's also a setup menu which contains settings that you'd wanna change the first time you take the camera out of the box.
The Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 both feature pretty conventional VGA (640 X 480) movie modes which record at 30 FPS with sound. There's a higher resolution Wide VGA (848 X 480) available as well as a lower res QVGA (320 X 240) setting, both plus the VGA setting have selectable frame rates of either 10 or 30 FPS.
You can use optical image stabilization while recording a movie but not zoom (neither optical nor digital). I understand the zoom lenses on both cameras make a low (but audible) humming sound when used. But... Panasonic could have implemented the 'crop zooming' used in Extended Optical Zoom available when shooting stills.
Movies are recorded in QuickTime format. Overall movie quality was identical from both cameras - good video quality and sound quality was reasonable for a compact camera.
Start up time for the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 are both about average, clocking about 1.4 and 1.5 seconds respectively. Autofocusing using 'normal AF' took about 1/6 to 1/3 second on average while Quick AF checked in with times which were twice as fast. What's the catch? Well, you can only use the center AF point (versus 9 points in normal mode) and there's a very brief but noticeable for a split second before the picture suddenly snaps into focus.
Should you use Quick AF? In my opinion, yes, the trade-offs here are very minor and are well worth the blazing autofocus speed.
In lower light and/or at telephoto, autofocus speed dropped to take about 1/3 to about a second for the FS3 and 1/2 to a full second for the FS5. Thankfully both cameras managed to lock focus eventually thanks to the AF assist lamp. Autofocus in both cameras were generally speedy in good lighting and take a little longer in low-light, but that's acceptable since they managed to achieve AF.
Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 1.2 seconds (Panasonic Lumix FS3) and 1 shot per 1.6 seconds (Panasonic Lumix FS5), both above average
Both the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 have three continuous shooting modes. Also applicable to both cameras: the full resolution burst mode can be activated via the Quick Menu while the High Speed burst mode is available as a scene mode.
I'll talk about the junior model, the Lumix FS3, first. The camera's normal burst mode shot at 3 FPS for up to 4 full-res Fine images and 7 Standard images. The High Speed burst 'scene mode' lowers resolution to 2 megapixels and boosts ISO as needed (up to 800) so it shoots at a very quick 7 FPS. For High Speed burst, there appears to be a software limit of 100 shots (so you can let go of the shutter button and press it again to snap another 100 shots).
Okay, now for the 10 megapixel FS5. The Lumix FS5 managed to snap up to 3 Fine images (or 5 Standard ones) at 2.4 FPS in its normal burst mode – that's less pictures and at a slightly slower pace than its 8 megapixel sibling due to the image size. For the High Speed scene mode, the same restrictions apply: 2 megapixels, Auto ISO as high as 800 and 100 shots... but the FS5 shoots a tad slower at 6 FPS.
Both cameras also feature an 'unlimited' burst mode, shooting at 2.2 and 2.0 FPS at full resolution/Standard for the Lumix FS3 and FS5 respectively. For 'Fine' images, the frame rate drops to half the speeds mentioned above.
The Panasonic Lumix FS3's lens takes 2.5 seconds to reach telephoto while the FS5's lens moves there in 2.7 seconds. There are multiple precise steps in between. But I did mention the Easy Zoom feature which skips that and moves you directly to telephoto. Shut down for both cameras took under 1.5 seconds, including the "Lumix goodbye screen" (which cannot be disabled).
All-in-all, both the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 were fast, above average performing cameras. From autofocus to burst mode, everything was snappy.
Let's continue to look at the image quality of both the Lumix FS3 and FS5. We'll start out with the Lumix FS3 first which features the test chart:
And now we'll move on to the 10 megapixel FS5 which uses a slightly larger imaging sensor (and do note I used different test scenes):
Overall both the FS3 and FS5 produced similar image quality despite the 2 megapixel difference between both of them. I hypothesize that this may be because the FS5 which has more megapixels, also has a larger image sensor compared to the FS3.
At ISO 100 and 200, you can see that quality is what you'd expect from these low ISO settings - good with detail preserved. Noise goes up a little at ISO 400 and you will notice the difference of the Venus 4 processor compared to older Panasonic cameras, that these two new cameras are actually outputting slightly more noise, but there's less noise reduction. The less noise reduction is good news since it doesn't blur away details in photos.
Noise goes up at ISO 800 on both cameras, and so does noise reduction, which may render photos less useful since details get wiped away a little (although they don't look as mushy as the older models). You may get away with some software processing on the computer but it's best to stay at ISO 400 and below if possible. ISO 1600 is totally unusable as there's noise reduction AND artifacts here.
Both cameras suffered from very little barrel distortion which isn't that noticeable in real life, and there wasn't any chromatic aberration (color fringing) in photos either - the camera's processing gets rid of it automatically. Vignetting is a slight issue here with some dark corners appearing in some photos (ie those with skies, walls in the corners).
Sadly, redeye reduction is present on both cameras and there's no software based red-eye removal on the FS3/FS5, unlike the TZ5 I reviewed last month.
Overall image quality was good from both the Lumix FS3 and FS5, improvements from older models were noticeable here and brings both cameras on par with most of the competition. Optical image stabilization on both cameras was a plus since it allows you to take handheld photos with less chances of blurring.
The Panasonic Lumix FS3/FS5 duo also offer the same playback mode and features as well. Images can be viewed as single photos, in thumbnails (up to 30 of them!), by date in calendar view or by category. An album-like feature allows you to tag and view your 'Favorite' photos here. Photos can be enlarged up to 16X so you scroll around using the directional controller.
The usual image protection, rotation, print marking, voice tagging and slideshows in playback are all here. The slideshow feature has been improved to now include playback effects and background music; and like normal playback, you can select to display pictures out of a specific category too.
Also, there's resize, crop (it's called trimming here) and aspect ratio adjustment at your disposal along with text stamping *only* (the date stamp feature I saw on some other Panasonic cameras isn't here) and title edit.
Some other things that the Panasonic FS3 and FS5 can both do in playback include shifting photos between the built-in memory and memory card and multi-deleting photos. There aren't any movie editing features besides extracting single shots or 9 shot collages out of movies.
The Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 show the same information about your photos as in shooting mode – camera settings and exposure values. And like in picture taking mode, a histogram is missing here too.
Here is a summary of the differences between the Panasonic Lumix FS3 and Lumix FS5:
The compact little Panasonic Lumix FS3 and FS5 cameras are two which have much to offer with their small designs, nice point-and-shoot operation and great performance. Set aside their minor differences, both cameras have features which casual picture takers will appreciate: optical image stabilization, face detection that works (if shooting head on) and a nicely viewable 2.5 inch LCD.
But when I say point-and-shoot, I do mean there are plenty of scene modes but pretty much limited manual controls and certainly no manual exposure on either camera.
The Panasonic FS3 and FS5 have 8 and 10 megapixel resolutions respectively, and while the FS3 has a more traditional 3X lens, the FS5 has a larger (but slightly slower) 4X zoom lens. But whichever camera you go with, both are snappy in terms of speed and you'll get good image quality out of the camera. It's just that you'll have to watch out sometimes to not choose really high ISO settings and be prepared to use computer software to remove redeye in people photos.
Ultimately, if you're looking for something you can bring with you everyday, anywhere, to take some nice pictures before stowing back away into your pocket, you won't go wrong with either camera. You'll just have to take your pick: the Lumix FS5 if you need higher resolution (for bigger prints, display, more cropping) and more zoom... and the Lumix FS3 if you want the slightly more capable burst mode, battery life and more powerful flash. That said, I predict the Lumix FS3 will be the 'hotter' of the two because it seems more geared towards outgoing party people - it costs less, powerful flash and longer battery life; and with pink & baby blue body colors that target the youth/female audience.
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