on May 31, 2008
I did a great deal of research before purchasing this camera because I don't have the time or money that some people apparently have to be doing the eBay revolving door thing. What I came to realize is that, disappointingly, there isn't a clearly superior compact or ultracompact camera out there. There are only cameras with greater or lesser compromises and the trick is finding the one you can live with. The Lumix TZ5 was a good travel companion and turned out to have few flaws.
Since it irritates me when people say that they do a great deal of research and then never share it (doesn't that irritate you?), here are some of the cameras I ruled out based on my (maybe not your) criteria:
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (difficult menu design, pink banding issue), Canon PowerShot SD890 IS (reported awful handling and poorly designed controls), Casio Exilim Card EX-S10 (No image stabilization, very slim, picture quality ok, weak zoom, tiny controls), Casio Exilim EX-S880 (No image stabilization, reported poor image quality), Olympus Stylus 850 SW (reportedly poor video shooting, poor battery life), Pentax Optio V10 (No image stabilization), Casio EX-Z1080 (Reduced pixels compared to others, 38mm starting range), Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55 (Reportedly falls short on image quality, no viewfinder, larger), Ricoh Caplio R7 (No optical viewfinder, very noisy, some barrel distortion when fully extended, poor customer service?, reported quality mediocre), Pentax Optio A40 (Reportedly poor autofocus), and Canon PowerShot A470 (No viewfinder, no image stabilization, weak zoom).
Unfortunately, doing all this research meant I didn't get the Lumix TZ5 till right before my trip to Amsterdam - I was literally reading the manual on the plane. I don't recommend this, but it does serve as a good crash test for what the camera could (and could not) do out-of-the-box.
As you probably know, this isn't an ultracompact but it is not as big as some reviewers make out. Could fit in a large pocket but it is rather heavy and unprotected in that environment so I got a LowePro case for it that sat on my belt. Worked well, allowed for extra batteries and SD card, and access was quick for candid shots.
Things that worked well:
* The Intelligent Auto mode worked pretty well for most situations. I suggest studying the exposure compensation settings since I had to use these often in high contrast and full sun situations.
* One handed operation works well.
* Menu system was pretty intuitive for basic functions.
* Zoom is amazing and E.Zoom setting was very useful. Be sure to read how to use the "extended optical zoom" which lets you go out to 16.9x at reduced picture quality (I believe you have to have picture quality set at max 9MB and this is then reduced to 3MB). I didn't use the digital zoom.
* The screen is gorgeous and the playback is amazing - many people commented on this.
* Taking video is pretty easy, though I would have preferred a button rather than having to rotate a dial. Be careful on playback to distinguish between what is a still picture and what is video - I accidentally deleted some video because I thought they were poor still shots, rather than the start of the video.
* If the dial is accidentally rotated, the camera will not let you take a picture until you correctly choose an actually setting.
* Fairly quick start up - not stellar but not bad.
* Can set up something called Travel Date, which will organize pictures by 1st, 2nd, 3rd day. This was useful when sharing pictures and to help you remember the chronology of the trip.
* You can zoom while taking video, although more slowly than with still shots.
What didn't work well:
* No matter what you read, the pretty LCD screen is no replacement for a view finder even when you use the Auto Power LCD option to compensate. In daylight, even on the brightest setting, the screen washes out. Another problem I had was I had to remove my glasses to compose on the screen, which was a hassle with rapidly-moving candid shots. This was the biggest disappointment and I took off one star for this.
* Certain functions of the camera will only work in certain settings. For example, you can only set the self-timer for 10 sec in IA mode, histograms cannot be displayed in IA mode, exposure settings can only be used in normal mode, extended optical zoom cannot be used in motion picture mode, etc. It can be frustrating, and you can miss a good shot, if you don't have all that memorized. I imagine all cameras are like this, but thought I would mention it since we are discussing an out-of-the-box experience.
* The door to the sockets on the right-hand side comes open easily (does not lock closed but only snaps shut), which is a hassle at times. I am concerned that it will snap off one day.
* In my opinion, the flash is underpowered.
Overall, I am happy with the TZ5 and impressed with the pictures and video it produced - especially since I had so little experience with it. My friend, who is a film maker by trade, was also impressed with the camera. It is bigger than I would have liked, but the trade off for a 10X zoom was worth it for me.
Do get an extra battery - I went through both batteries in 4 hours of shooting, mostly stills but some video. Big hassle to run out of juice in the middle of your day. A SD Extreme III 8GB was recommended in some reviews and it worked well for me, especially with shooting video. In doing research about buying a camera, one of the most helpful websites I found was the "What Camera Should I Buy?" forum at the Digital Camera Resource Page - [...]
In looking at the reviews here on Amazon for the TZ5, be aware that they are organized by color, so check each color for information about this camera.
on April 23, 2008
I already wrote a review on the little sister, the TZ4, which is a phenomenal camera; I am however returning it because the price differential with the TZ5 is so low at this point it made more sense for me to spring for the few extra bucks on the TZ5 .
If you read any professional reviews, you already know that this is not the camera for poster size enlargements, even at low ISO values. While the noise reduction has been turned down, there is still some NR smudging and noise. Thankfully, the noise at least can be removed to the point where I was able to doctor a sample ISO 1600 picture to look just fine in 4 x 6 size (thanks to NeatImage). And I've had no problems with 8 x 10's at ISO 100 and 200.
And guess what? That is THE ONLY issue with this camera, and it is one that all other compact cameras also share to various extents. The difference here is that many other compacts also add lots of other "negatives" to the mix, such as severe wide angle distortion, wild and wooly purple fringing, reduced zoom range, and corner blurriness . The TZ 4 and 5 do nothing of the kind.
For what you're getting, a compact, POCKETABLE 28 - 280 Leica lens with IS, there simply is nothing like it out there. And that's before even looking at the HD movie mode, the surprisingly accurate intelligent scene selection feature, the brilliant LCD and the jewel-like workmanship.
This is the ultimate vacation camera if you plan to leave your DSLR home and travel lightly, and aren't spending all day in museums shooting w/o flash. I highly recommend this camera, especially if you lock in the highest possible ISO value at 400, turn the dial to iA, and then give the camera to a complete newbie to shoot pictures with. I think he/she AND you will be very pleasantly surprised with the excellent results.
on April 2, 2008
As an advanced photographer with two pro DSLRs and an array of lenses I was looking for a light compact camera that will still have some of the features I am so used to from my DSLRs. This camera has the best lens in the industry bar none. Leica is superior to any other compact point and shoot lens out there (except other Lumix cameras that all use a Leica Lens). The camera is fast wt start up and can take 3 FPS in sports mode. It packs a 10X optical zoom and on the TZ5 can go up o 17X with some resolution loss. I never use Digital zoom as I do not consider it a zoom.
The Camera ergonomics is great, may of the features photographers need are easily accessible and well though of. I have been using the TZ3 for 2 years and took more than 10000 pictures with amazing results. I take many night shots and this is really where this camera excels. It can take 15, 30 and 60 seconds exposures which no other compact can do.
Battery life es very acceptable. A second battery is a recommended inexpensive accessory. The camera build quality is good, durable materials and high quality. I have evaluated a huge number of cameras and the Lumix comes on top by far based on its image quality, image stabilization, optical zoom, Leica superior lens, form factor and overall value. The closest camera you can get with similar performance is the Canon SX 100 IS. It is bigger, bulkier, heavier, much much slower and costs about the same. When it comes to compact point and shoot with advanced features and a hefty zoom nothing beats the Lumix.
on April 7, 2008
I have a Pansonic DMC-FZ7 that takes excellent photos, but is a bit bulky when you don't want to look like a tourist. I've grown jealous of a friend's Panasonic DMC-TZ3 which he keeps on his belt loop in a Lowepro Rezo 30 case. It also has a wide angle lens which I don't have on the FZ7. I've purchased the TZ5 as a second camera for when I want to be a more discreet tourist without a camera bag. This may become my primary camera.
I am not a fan of small cameras as a rule. Some of them (e.g., Canon Elph) have screens and icons so small, I can't see them. But this camera has a lot of features, most also available on the TZ3 & new TZ4. (The TZ3/TZ4/TZ5 fit into the Lowepro Rezo 30 case, but no room to spare.)
The choice of which model to buy depends on your need for Megapixels and what you are willing to spend. I have used my friend's TZ3 and don't really notice any significant improvements in the workings of the TZ5 that would justify the price for routine point-and-shoot photos. However, the TZ5 has a 3 inch LCD while the TZ3 & TZ4 only have 2.5 inch. That was a deciding factor for me.
If you need a camera where you look through a traditional view finder to frame your photos, this is not the right camera for you. I prefer using the LCD screen, so I don't miss this feature.
I find the Panasonic menus easy to use to access all of the varied features. If you just want to use it as a point-and-shoot, it's easy to do. If you want to experiment, the features are there for you to play with...
There is another feature on Panasonic that is an absolute MUST for me. It is possible to set the flash "off" so it doesn't go off when you don't want it to (i.e., in places that restrict flash photography). Some of my friends have cameras where they have to turn the flash off each time. And they forget...
Another reason I opted for the Pansonic FZ/TZ series is the easy to use battery charger/rechargeable battery. The batteries that hold their charge for 1-3 days, but I do carry a spare. I'm not a fan of carrying around AA or AAA batteries.
on March 21, 2008
[EDITED] 03/29/08: -indicates modifications
I've had the camera for [about 2 weeks now] so bear in mind that not all the features were tested. Also, this is my first advanced point and shoot camera so I cannot compare it to others I didn't own. I've tested the reasons why I chose this particular camera. The high resolution, compact size (can't really test that except that it fits in my pocket great!), and its ability to shoot high resolution video.
The high resolution is amazing but only a 4 star. 4 because there will be much playing around to do in order to get the sharpest possible image. Perhaps the ISO was set too high, perhaps I didn't use the perfect setting, much playing around to be a perfectionist - and only because I am coming off a manual digital camera where you have full control.
The pre-set settings in this are incredible! It even has a pre-set setting for PETS! I shoved the camera in my spaztic cats face and as he was trying to get away, I had a clear and up close shot of his face (with FLASH!) Any other digital camera and it would have been fuzzy or non existant as the lag between shutter, flash, and actual photo would be greater than the cat's ability to dissapear within a second. I did this more than once - super sharp and ultra fast! Poor cat...
There are baby-settings where you can give it a name and birthdate! Probably so you can title your pictures automatically later - I don't know yet - but it's cool!
Face detection - perfect! 4 faces in one shot I believe. Also, the flash compensates to the distance to each face (multiple flashes) so if you're closer to one person, that person's face won't be washed out in light! That's amazing technology!
Enough tech - plenty more in there to play with - onto the video!
I wanted a camcorder replacement so I don't buy another gadget just to take the few videos I DO want to take. Something fast and easy to capture the moments as they arrive out of nowhere. This camera's ability to take 1280x720 wide-screen videos to display on our flat-screen is what I was looking for. I only give it 4 stars though - which is STILL such a feat! The reason for a missing star is the camera's inability to focus fast enough on moving objects or while you're zooming. I'm sure the motor tech will develop over subsequent cameras but for SUCH a small package to deliver such high resolution "clips" is truly a feat! The maximum length of video at the highest resolution [tested] is 2GB [turned out to be 10:38 minutes]. Most videos won't need that much continuous shooting anyway so that's not a big deal. The format is Quicktime's MOV. I'll need to play around with transfering that to DVDs but looks great on the computer! You can get the optional component cable that hooks directly onto the camera to the TV for instant enjoyment. (it comes with a VGA cable). [I hooked up the camera to a 42" HD Plasma via the AV cable and got a great resolution - better than a broadcast TV and JUST shy of HD sharpness - but I was up next to the screen so sitting back at the couch - doubt I could tell the difference. The AV cable is mono with one video out so the sound only came out of the center channel speaker. I'd give the sound 3-stars as there was a detectible background noise - I made sure to test it with little sound to decipher. Sounds and voices came out clear - but it was not high fidelity by any means. This is definately NOT a surround sound HD camcorder! The camcorder "clips" however are phenomenal!]
Oh, also, to download pictures from the camera to the computer? NOTHING REQUIRED TO INSTALL!!!! You plug the camera in the USB port, turn on the camera, choose PC on the camera (you can set it to always be that), and the computer recognizes it as a hard-drive from where you can drag and drop to your hearts content!
This is NO DSLR where you have full control - but that's not what this is for. So as you can tell, I highly recommend it and know it will be the perfect companion for pretty much all your photo-video needs in ONE tiny package (which travels VERY well!).
[I am still working on posting samples - I'm sure others will beat me to the punch now that it's widely available and on sale]
I received my TZ5 today, and so far I'm impressed. While some of the improvements over my TZ3 are minor, some are significant. Most people will enjoy the return of zooming ability while taking video, and the introduction of HD video. The TZ5's LCD screen is the nicest I've ever seen on a camera. I've taken several dozen test pictures under different circumstances, and the results were for the most part very good. Under perfect conditions, the results weren't much different than the TZ3. Under low light conditions, the Venus IV engine seems to do a little better with noise at ISO 400 and above. I wouldn't call it a dramatic improvement though. I'm going to do a little "pixel peeping" in the near future to see how the TZ5's small sensor handles the increase in megapixels. All in all, the TZ5 is just a great camera that is loaded with features. Is it a DSLR? No, but it's not supposed to be. If you already own a TZ3, you may want to weigh whether the TZ5 has enough new features and improvements. For myself, I'm happy with the upgrade, and will give my TZ3 to my wife. The only thing I wish that I had done was get a black TZ5 instead of the silver one.
on April 8, 2008
I love this camera. I really do. I'm so happy with its performance and feature-set, I'm willing to forgive the lack of manual controls and the price drop I just saw.
I pre-ordered and also bought a 16Gb SDHC card. I plan on having this device replace my current Canon Powershot A75 and my Sony TRV-608 camcorder. I can plan this way because... this camera shoots 720p high-definition video. My big-screen LCD will really allow the captured video to shine. In my preliminary tests on a 22" LCD, the output is gorgeous, so much clearer and vibrant than the Hi-8 video I would shoot using the old Sony.
It's a wonderful progression of technology. My Sony camcorder can shoot in zero light, zooms to some ridiculous level, but I hardly ever use it because it's yet-another-device you need to carry. My Canon worked well for three years, then decided to stop running. I loved the manual controls and ability to bracket shots, but with 3x optical zoom, I was missing something. Plus, it was a family camera, and The Wife could not care less about manual controls.
The Lumix TZ5 is a perfect blend of features and performance for me. It will allow me to grab high-definition camcorder video in the same device I can just hand to The Wife and say, "Press the button". It has a removable Li-On battery with separate charger, so I can buy a spare and keep them charged and ready to travel. It does a lot, for a fair price.
I will miss the manual controls, especially for low-light shots, but in my testing I've already seen how well it can handle low-light with no flash. Pictures look remarkable, shutter lag is less than the A75, and flash recharge is not too bad. The LCD screen is huge compared to the A75, almost the size of a PDA screen. That'll take some getting used to, especially since there's no optical viewfinder. In all, I'm really happy with it, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new point-and-shoot who needs the ability to grab quality video every now and then. With two kids, that'll be every day for me.
on May 19, 2008
I came from a Sony DSC-V1 which was a terrific camera in it's day. It's downfall was a tiny little LCD screen and a limited zoom range that ended at 35mm on the wide end. I wanted a camera that went down to at least 28mm and had a clear, large LCD. I looked at the Canon 870IS and the Nikon P-80 but settled on this. Why? The Canon's LCD was not as clear as the Lumix and it had a limited zoom range on the top end. And, to be honest, it didn't have some of the 'bells and whistles' that the Lumix did. The Nikon was really not pocketable and has been getting horrible reviews all over the internet since it's recent introduction (Amazon, DPReview.com, etc.). It seems that Nikon really knows how to do dSLR's but comes up way short in the P&S category. I also briefly considered the Fuji 100SD but rejected it due to well known problems with pink banding and purple fringing. If you like to do a lot of low light, higher ISO photography though, the Fuji should be on your very short list.
I know a number of people have complained that the TZ5 is 'not as small' as they thought/hoped it would be. C'mon guys, this thing has a 10x zoom that goes down to 28mm!!! Something with those capabilities is never going to be the size of a credit card! And the thing for me is that I just can't stand geometric distortion and the Panasonic/Leica is a real champ in this regard. There's nothing worse than that horrible barrel distortion you see in so many wide angle lenses. This one has none of that. The trade off is that it gets iffy at higher ISO's. You can effectively prevent this by setting the camera to never let the ISO get above, say 400. The camera allows you to do this. The Optical Image Stabilization ("OIS") is really superb as are the exposure options. And, of course, the face recognition is a great new development that Panasonic has implemented quite well in this camera.
Now to it's video capabilities. It'll shoot 720p HD video in 16:9 which is awesome if you have a HD TV which is, of course, 16:9. Just be sure to turn off "auto-focus" when in video mode or the camera will constantly be 'hunting' for the right focus. It's depth of field is excellent so it'll be in focus most of the time anyway.
Just a couple of nits. The low light assist lamp is not terribly effective (nowhere near as good as the one on my Sony DSC-V1) and the camera sometimes takes a second or two to find the right focus in low light. And I wish there was a way to more easily control/allow for long shutter exposures as I love night photography. As it is, you have to set the camera to "Starry Night" (one of the scene modes) to get shutter speeds longer than 1 second. Not that big a deal and certainly a minor criticism of such an excellent overall camera.
Oh, and one final thing...the build quality is superb. Everything about this camera just shrieks "quality." Great job Panasonic. All at a price point of <$300. Incredible!
on April 30, 2008
I did research for about two months before deciding to purchase this camera. I was originally going to buy the TZ3 for $249.99 and the day I was going to buy it I read an article that Panasonic was going to come out with the TZ5.
I decided to wait a few weeks and read what I could regarding the quality of the new TZ5. It took a few weeks but reviews started popping up online and I was able to see the features of the new camera verses the TZ3. I decided to go ahead and spend the extra $50 dollars and purchase this camera.
I am very pleased with the features of this camera. I was looking for a small compact camera that was easy to use for my wife, but a large zoom for me. Most point and shoot digital cameras have 3x or 4x zoom, this camera has a monster 10x zoom, which is great for my needs. The camera stays relatively small so my wife can carry it around and with the Ai settings it makes it a very easy camera to use, which meets her needs. I am also impressed with the photo quality of this camera. There was one hang up though and I expected this so I knew what I was getting into - right out of the box I had to begin reading the instruction manual and adjusting the cameras settings to get the best picture quality.
+ Small compact point and shoot with large 10x zoom
+ HD video resolution (720p capture with component cable playback)
+ Zoom while capturing video (option was not available in TZ3)
+ Ai setting makes the camera easy for beginners, just turn it on and shoot.
+ Large 3.0" LCD display screen makes reviewing pictures easy (the TZ5 also has a higher resolution screen then the TZ3)
+ 9.1 megapixel
+ Able to take pictures in different aspect ratio's 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9
- Picture review button has changed from the TZ3 model. Now instead of easily hitting down on the 4 way directional pad you have to push a switch down to go into "review mode" to see the last picture you just took. I found this a little slower than the TZ3 and one more moving part that can break. For reference see the back of the TZ5 and notice the toggle switch from "capture to review" in the upper right hand corner.
- If the camera is not set to Ai then taking a good picture straight out of the box might not be perfect. You will want to spend a little time reading the manual and adjusting some settings to get a great photo.
- Will only us SDHC memory cards. Since I did not have a memory card this was not a problem for me, but if you are upgrading from an older camera you cannot use the old standard memory card. The new SDHC cards are faster and it is suggested that you get a high speed card (transfer rate) in order to capture HD video.
- ISO Images above 800 do have artifacts (static) in the image. This does not make the photo horrible or bad looking just noticeable if you blow up the image to a large size such as an 8x10. I knew this going in and most digital cameras have this problem, some worse.
After owning this camera for over a month I am very pleased with it and couldn't be happier. I hope this review helps and if you still need information or possibly some sample photos, then go to Google and type in "review Panasonic TZ5". You will see a few great websites that can help you decide what the best camera is for your needs.
on May 11, 2008
Lumix is perfect for me, former pro photog in the 60s. Recently restarted with an FZ20, liked it semi-pro. Went FZ30, better. Went FZ50 and it does excellent portraits/landscapes, so replaced my Olympus point-and-shoot (P&S) (good camera, but xD) with TZ3K (black), and cut my "shaky" pix in half, improved my low light (harbors at night, etc.) pix, and got very good family pix even with the wimpy flash. So when the TZ5A (blue) came out, it was just a bit pricey. With Amazon discount, bought it early this year, and I remain very impressed with its quality despite being a P&S. The face recognition does a better job than the excellent TZ3, the 10X zoom gets shots I used to have to skip, color is very good, and it works well with CS3 and Elements 6.0 at 9 Megapixels. This camera lacks manual controls, but from what I've seen so far, I haven't needed them: the automatic/ intelligent exposure rarely misses. Battery life is very good (200 to 250 pix average before replace/recharge). I've become a Lumix fan because much as I loved 35 mm and 2-1/4 Mamiya and Nikon years ago, Lumix gives routinely nearly the same quality without the extra cost and complex menus that can buffalo us oldsters. Lightweight, commonly available battery same as the TZ3, and it ran the 8 Gb and 16 Gb flash cards with no significant problem (counter has a display-only limit with 16 Gb). With SDHC cards, the Lumix TZ5 (A, K, or S) is my choice for a non-pro but near pro-quality P&S camera. Wow! Cheyguy