DPInterface Panasonic Lumix TZ5 Review
Brad Soo - September 19th, 2008

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is their latest compact ultra-zoom camera, successor to last year's very hot Lumix TZ3, and carries forward the very versatile 28-280 mm 10X zoom lens in a compact form factor for a big zoom camera. What's new? The main highlights are the 9 megapixel CCD (more megapixels again?!), a really high resolution 3 inch LCD, 720p movie recording and a much-awaited new processor which handles noise reduction better. The spec sheet sounds really promising. Are you ready for more about the TZ5?

And before we go on, let me mention that the TZ5 has a 'twin', the TZ50 which is essentially the same camera with WiFi functionality. The TZ5 is also known as the TZ15 in some parts of the world.

Box packaging

With the Panasonic Lumix TZ5, you'll find the typical digital camera bundle:

  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Software CD
  • User's manual

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 comes with no bundled memory, just 50 MB of internal memory. That's not a lot and I would recommend getting at least a 2 GB memory card with the camera. The TZ5 also supports SDHC cards, which are SD cards above 4 GB... getting a larger card might be a good idea if you plan on taking advantage of the TZ5's 720p movie recording feature.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 uses a single lithium-ion battery for power supply. The battery is rated to take up to 300 shots on a single charge (CIPA Standard). That's just a little below average compared to other compact big zoom cameras, and that's because they use more powerful AA batteries.

Extras

While there aren't any conversion lenses or filters available for the Lumix TZ5, there are things such as an underwater case and AC adapter for the camera. Naturally there's camera cases available as well.

 

Camera Tour

The Lumix TZ5 looks pretty much like its predecessor, the TZ3. With the exception of a few reassigned buttons, previous (along with other Panasonic Lumix users) users would feel very much at home. There aren't too many buttons on the back of the camera, and along with a small right hand grip and enough holding space at the back, the TZ5 is easy to use with a single hand. The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 measures 103.3 x 59.3 x 36.5 mm, weighs 214 g - making it one of the smallest cameras with 10X zoom - and comes in three colors: black, silver and beige.

On the front of the Lumix TZ5 is its large 10X optical zoom lens with an aperture range of f3.3-4.9. The lens is equivalent to a very versatile 28 – 280 mm and has Panasonic's usual Mega OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) built in which is very useful with such a big lens, and also considering the small-ish aperture at wide-angle.

To the upper right of the lens is the TZ5's AF-assist/self-timer countdown lamp which can help the camera to focus in dim situations. To the opposite side, there's a decently-powerful flash. At Auto ISO, it has a range of 60 cm to 5.3 m at wide-angle. That range shrinks to 1 m to 3.6 m at telephoto. You can't attach an external flash unit on the camera, so the flash may not be very useful when used at telephoto.

One pleasant surprise on the back of the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is that it features a very nice 3 inch LCD with 460,000 pixels; that's double the number of pixels that you'll find on other screens. Needless to say, the LCD is really sharp AND bonus points for its great outdoor visibility and auto brightening in low-light. You can manually turn up the LCD brightness or let the camera do it for you via one of the Power LCD modes.

There's a little area to the right of the LCD to place your thumb and after that comes the mode switch which moves you between shooting and playback mode on the Lumix TZ5.

Then you'll also see the five-way controller which, besides navigation, also allows direct access to the following settings:

  • Up – Backlighting (on/off), exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 steps), bracketing and white balance adjustment
  • Down – Macro mode (Off/On)
  • Left – Self-timer (Off, on – 2 seconds or 10 seconds)
  • Right – Flash setting (Off, on, auto, slow sync; all with red-eye reduction option)
  • Center – Menu/Set (confirm)


The quick menu

Below the 5-way navigator is the DISPLAY button which toggles the information on the LCD screen and the Q-MENU button. The Quick Menu is sorta like a FUNCTION menu on other cameras and consists of the following settings for you to quickly change:

  • Optical image stabilization mode (Off, mode 1, mode 2)
  • Continuous shooting mode (Off, normal, infinite)
  • Autofocus mode (Face Detection, 9-point AF, 3-point high-speed AF, 1-point AF, 1-point high-speed AF, spot)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, custom)
  • ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Intelligent exposure
  • Photo aspect ratio and resolution
  • LCD mode (Auto power LCD, Power LCD, high angle mode)

The Q-MENU button also doubles to delete photos in playback mode. So that's it for the back of the Panasonic Lumix TZ5. Moving on to other parts of the camera...

Both the Lumix TZ5's microphone and speaker are place on the top of the camera. The one with many holes and labeled MIC is obviously the microphone. And because of it's placement here, be sure to watch out and not cover it with your finger when recording video. Up here there's also a mode dial, and no, there aren't any manual exposure controls on the TZ5 unfortunately. Let's start with intelligent auto mode and work our way around the mode dial clockwise:

  • Intelligent Auto – Automatic mode complete with auto scene detection for your liking. The camera will detect and choose an appropriate mode from one of the following: Portrait, scenery, night portrait, night scenery and macro.
  • Program mode – Still no real manual controls but you can now change various camera settings (such as the ones in the quick menu above).
  • Two scene mode spots – Access the Lumix TZ5's scene modes from either SCN 1 or SCN 2. The purpose of two scene positions here is so you can assign a preferred scene mode to each spot.
  • Movie mode – Record 720p videos with sound (more on this later in the review)
  • Clipboard – Store photos of data you quickly want to see here (ie maps, train timetables, movie showtimes, etc). This is quite handy when you go travelling.

Other things you'll find up here include a power switch to turn the TZ5 on/off and a shutter button. The shutter button also has a zoom controller wrapped around it and has two zooming speeds, depending on the pressure put on it.

The lone button at the very right corner of the camera is the Easy Zoom button. And despite what it does seems to sound not very interesting, I found myself using it on more than several occasions and ended up appreciating what it does. Press the Easy Zoom button and the lens automatically moves to full 10X zoom (at a rate much quicker than toggling the controller). A second press lowers the resolution to 3 megapixels with a total of 16.9X zoom now, thanks to the cropping of Extended Optical Zoom, and the lens returns back to wide-angle along with full resolution on the third press. It takes the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 less than several seconds to perform the entire sequence (pressing the button three times), which is much faster than having to use the zoom controller.

This is the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 when it's powered on – the lens extends just a little from the body...

...and this is the Lumix TZ5's lens at full zoom, as you can see, it extends quite a bit.

On this side of the camera has a wrist strap loop as well as three ports covered behind a plastic door. The ports are for HD video out, USB with A/V Out and the bottom port is for plugging in your AC adapter.

At the bottom of the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is a plastic tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. The plastic tripod mount is located far away enough so you can change memory cards and batteries when the camera is attached onto a tripod.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

An elaborate display of information is what you'll find on the display of the Panasonic Lumix TZ5. There's details of camera settings, exposure information and a live histogram. A battery indicator and optional gridlines complete this display of information.

 

In case you don't want to shoot at full 9 megapixels all the time, there's an array of other image sizes available down till VGA with two compression options. Just in case that isn't enough, you can also change the aspect ratio of photos, choose from standard 4:3, 3:2 or widescreen 16:9. The good thing about the Lumix TZ5 is that the CCD sensor's design lets you take photos at 28 mm wide-angle, regardless of aspect ratio. By the way, there's a scene mode called Multi-Aspect – it acts like a bracketing function by taking three pictures, each with the different aspect ratios mentioned above.

Like other cameras out there, the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 has a mode 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. At 3 megapixels, the maximum you can go is 16.9X zoom.

There are two image stabilization modes on the TZ5. 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.

 

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 also features some 'intelligent' things besides that Intelligent Auto mode on the mode dial. 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 modes other than just Auto, you can set the ISO limit to 400, 800 or 1600.

Right, Intelligent ISO has been around for quite a while on Panasonic cameras... the other new intelligent feature here is Intelligent Exposure which detects dark areas in photos (ie building against the sky) and brightens those areas.

Besides the comprehensive list of settings you can adjust in the Quick Menu I was talking about earlier, you can adjust continuous AF, photo color effects and metering mode as well. For metering mode, there's multiple, center-weighted and spot metering available. There are seven color modes available: standard, natural, vivid, cool, warm, black-n-white and sepia.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 features a 5 cm macro mode at wide-angle, which is quite close already to subjects. There's also telemacro (the term usually found on camcorders) which allows you to get as close as 100 cm at telephoto.

 

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 has a variety of scene modes like on other cameras: portrait, soft skin, scenery, sports, night portrait, night scenery, self portrait, food, party, candlelight, 2 baby modes, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, hi-speed burst, starry sky, fireworks, beach, snow, aerial photo, underwater and multi-aspect. Let me say some words on a few of those scene modes:

  • High sensitivity mode lowers resolution to 3 megapixels and boosts ISO to between 1600 – 6400 (non-user selectable). I tried many ways (waving the camera around included) to make the TZ5 use that ISO 6400 setting but the highest it went was 1600, oh well.
  • Hi-speed burst is a continuous shooting mode which snaps many lower resolution shots quickly (more on this in the performance section).
  • Multi-aspect mode is an aspect ratio bracketing mode, which I talked about just now.

As you'd expect, Face Detection is almost a standard feature on cameras nowadays, and the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is able to detect up to 15 faces.

Setup menu

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.

 

 

Video Recording

Unlike most other cameras which record in VGA, the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 has a really nice 720p movie mode. The TZ5 is able to record 720p (1280 x 720) videos at 30 FPS with sound. Want even more good news? Image stabilization can be activated and optical zoom is usable while recording a movie, no compromises here! There's a 2 GB per clip limit for movies, which works out to be 7-8 minutes per 720p clip... but that doesn't stop you from taking multiple 2 GB clips, provided your memory card is big (and fast) enough.

If you're not into huge movies which eat up your memory quickly, you can reduce the frame rate of 720p video to 15 FPS. Alternatively you can also lower the resolution of video to Wide VGA, VGA or QVGA, where the frame rate is selectable between 30 FPS and a very choppy 10 FPS.

In addition to usable optical image stabilization and optical zoom while recording, exposure is also automatically adjusted. Movies are recorded in QuickTime format. Movie quality was great, and sound quality was good as well. The Panasonic Lumix TZ5's movie mode is the closest to 'perfect' that you'll find on a compact camera – the only things that prevent it from offering the ULTIMATE movie mode are large file sizes and lack of stereo sound recording.

 

Performance

Start up time for the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is just average – taking about two seconds to power on and extend its lens. Autofocusing was much better though; using one of the normal AF modes, focusing typically takes 1/5 to 1/3 a second and with high-speed AF managing to lock focus twice as fast. Telephoto focusing times can take a little longer and up to a full second and a half if lighting conditions are not favorable. Overall focusing performance of the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 was above average in well-lit areas, and though slower in low-light, at least it managed to even lock focus in the darkest of conditions thanks to the built-in autofocus assist lamp.

But hey, wait, if high-speed AF is really that fast, why not use it all the time? Well, first off, the option is only available with 3-point and 1-point AF (means it's not available for other options such as 9-point AF). Also, you'll notice a really brief split-second freeze on the display before everything suddenly snaps into focus. Those are the two, in my opinion, very small tradeoffs you'll have to live with if you want really fast autofocus.

Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 1.3 seconds, above average
Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 3 seconds on average

Shot-to-shot times were very quick as well for the Panasonic Lumix TZ5, so let's look at one more aspect of picture taking for the Panasonic Lumix TZ5: Continuous shooting. The TZ5 has three burst modes – two are available under the burst mode option in the Quick Menu, the other one is accessible as a scene mode on the camera called "High Speed Burst". Normal continuous shooting takes five 9 MP/Normal photos at 2.1 FPS while infinite mode is able to fill up your memory card at a frame rate of 1.8 FPS. High Speed Burst snaps at a very speedy 6 frames per second BUT (and there's always a but) only at resolutions below 2 megapixels and ISO is not selectable (the camera boosts it as needed, up to ISO 800).

As I mentioned, there are two speeds at which the lens can zoom. The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 moves that big lens from wide-angle to telephoto in around 2.5 seconds in low-speed and quite a bit longer in high-speed zooming mode. You can operate the zoom in very small, precise steps as well. Shut down time was average for the Lumix TZ5, but I don't think many people care... it takes a little over two seconds, including the "Lumix goodbye screen" (which cannot be disabled) to turn off the Lumix TZ5 with its lens at telephoto position.

Overall, the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is a speedy performer and definitely is not the type of camera which will keep you waiting.

Image Quality

Heading on to image quality evaluation with the TZ5, here are a few full-sized crops from photos:


ISO 100 (f3.3, 1/5 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.3, 1/10 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.3, 1/20 sec)


ISO 800 (f3.3, 1/40 sec)

iso160
ISO 1600 (f3.3, 1/80 sec)

We'll start off with the lowest ISO setting as usual: ISO 100 and 200 look pretty clean – a little noise can be seen (which seems to be the nature of Panasonic sensors) but not at all an annoyance.

Noise goes up a little at ISO 400 but still maintain a low profile, The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 uses the newer Venus Engine 4 processor which Panasonic claims to handle noise reduction better. And yes, that looks to be true: there's more noise but less noise reduction – I'll explain why this is a good thing in a bit.

Noise goes up again at ISO 800 and makes yet another jump at ISO 1600. That certainly makes the last one, ISO 1600 unusable. The effects of reduced noise reduction is quite obvious – more noise of course. But thankfully, you can use the photo editing software of your choice to reduce it later. This is better when the camera did it for you (previous generation Venus Engine 3 processors) and caused major loss of detail and color smudging. Remember those photos which looked like paintings after being put out in the rain?

For a lens with such a large zoom range, the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 performs well in the photo chart test – there's very little barrel distortion and vignetting. Corner sharpness does suffer slightly at wide-angle but not too much to be a major issue. Another good thing about the camera's processor is that it reduces chromatic aberrations (color fringing), that in most cases, it's almost non-existant in photos.

In case the ol' pre-flash based red-eye reduction isn't good enough, there's software based removal in the Lumix TZ5. Unfortunately, you can only select it before taking a photo, and not run it after a photo is taken.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 certainly does improve on the image quality output by its predecessor (and any other previous Panasonic model for that matter) by having reduced noise reduction. There is some artifacts from noise reduction but it's not something to worry about too much. But thankfully, major softness and color bleeding are not issues on the TZ5.

The TZ5, all-in-all outputs good image quality that's more comparable to other cameras. I remember the time I was hesistant to get my FX50 back in 2006 due to the noise reduction effects being a concern. Worry no more, images are usable till ISO 800 (of course with a little cleaning up of your own using the computer).

Photo gallery

Check out the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 photo gallery!

Playback

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 has a comprehensive playback mode, and that includes the new slideshow feature souped up with effects and background music. Other playback features include the usual image protection, rotation, resize, crop and aspect ratio adjust plus print marking, voice tagging, and date/text stamping. Photos can be enlarged up to 16X so you scroll around using the directional controller.

 

Images can be displayed as single photos or up to 25 thumbnails! A useful calendar view is available too so you can see the days you've been out and about taking photos. If you find yourself constantly drowning in photos, then you'll appreciate the category feature on the Lumix TZ5 which will help you sort them out.

Other things that the Panasonic TZ5 can do in playback include shifting photos between the built-in memory and memory card and multi-deleting photos. Unfortunately, there's not much to editing those 720p movies, just making 9 shot collages out of them and extracting single still shots from them. That red-eye removal feature in shooting mode is nowhere to be found here either.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 features a Dual Display mode, first seen on the ultra-compact Lumix FX50. This feature takes advantage of the camera's large LCD to display two photos simultaneously in a vertical orientation. You can zoom into photos in this mode, but not both at one time.

 

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 shows the same amount of information as you'd find in shooting mode – that's everything you'll need to know about your photos, including a histogram, exposure info and more.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is a relatively compact camera for a super-zoom. It has a useful 10X optical zoom lens which starts at 28 mm and it comes with optical image stabilization. While there's a nice lens in front, there's a fancy LCD on the back too. The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 has a large, high-resolution 3 inch LCD, on which you can see what you're framing in almost any condtiion. Some things like the plastic doors and tripod mount could be better though

In addition to being a small camera that you can carry with you almost anywhere with you, the Lumix TZ5 has plenty of scene modes and Intelligent exposure features. The thing that it lacks here is more manual controls. Sure there's custom white balance and metering mode selection, but how about some manipulation over shutter speed and aperture?

The Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is also quite fast, especially autofocus using high-speed mode. There are three burst modes to choose from, one of them is a high-speed (but reduced resolution) one and general shot-to-shot times were quick. Only in low-light did the camera's AF become sluggish but it eventually managed to lock focus thanks to the assist light.

All-in-all, the Panasonic Lumix TZ5 is a compact for a 10X zoom camera and combines many features like lots of scene modes, a nice lens and fancy 720p movie mode into a bring-anywhere design. There aren't too many quirks to this camera and image quality was good as of whole. If you can live with a do-it-all camera without needing manual controls, then the TZ5 gets my recommendation.

What's hot:

  • Fairly compact with a 10X zoom lens; starts at a versatile 28 mm
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Camera performance is snappy
  • Large and very nice (sharp and visible) 3 inch LCD
  • Many scene modes, along with those Intelligent features (ie Intelli-ISO)
  • High resolution 720p movie with ability to use optical zoom
  • Good image quality, improvement from previous cameras, and low color fringing

What's not:

  • Not many manual controls (certainly no manual exposure here)
  • Lacks post-shot red eye removal and movie editing features
  • Low light autofocus could be faster
  • Plastic tripod mount and plastic doors on the camera
  • Some very fine details (ie fabric lines) removed by noise reduction

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB SD card or larger SDHC card

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