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on May 10, 2010
Purchased this to replace my Canon A1000, which I bought last year for a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Had to really struggle to get a good pic with the Canon -- I was very aggravated with it (though I finally came up with some program combinations that worked okay for the low light under the trees). But I decided for this summer's trip to the beach to try a new camera, with more zoom, and pass my Canon down to my 12-year-old son -- who's not nearly as picky as I am ;-)

Did a bit of research (which is always overwhelming because there's such a huge selection to choose from, and such a diversity of opinions on what makes a "good" camera). And I still wanted a pocket camera for convenience when hiking, fishing, float tripping, etc., so the Canon SX20 and Nikon P100 and the like were still too large for my needs. And then I came across well over 100 user reviews raving about the Panasonic ZS3 -- the predecessor of the ZS5/7 models -- on various websites, and it's reviews were also very good on "official" review sites. What especially impressed me was a review by a couple who guide trips to Yellowstone, were experienced SLR users, and had tried the ZS3 as a compact alternative -- and they loved it for outdoor shots. So I decided to try out the newer version of the ZS3, the ZS5.

(The main differences I saw between the ZS5 and ZS7 were that the ZS5's screen is 2.7" instead of 3.0", the ZS7 has two custom "My Scene's" instead of one, the ZS7 has a built-in GPS, and the ZS7 also has stereo video instead of mono, with more advanced video technology. None of those features were important to me for the additional money.)

I've had the camera only a couple of days, and have done various side-by-side camera comparisons between the ZS5 and the Canon A1000, and I'm pretty floored by the capabilities and photo quality of the ZS5. I'm especially impressed with the macro (I like to take wildflower pics). While no camera is perfect (from what I've seen), for me the ZS5 is going to be just what I needed for outdoor pictures. I'll update this review once I've had more time to experiment.

Update 05/11/10: Some cons -- (1) Battery door latch seems a little flimsy; wonder if it will get where it doesn't latch tight after alot of use? Only time will tell. (Other than that, this camera feels solidly built.) (2) Proprietary battery that has an ID chip built in, and the software in the camera looks for that (on their website, Panasonic says this change was made to ensure battery quality/safety). However, it appears you can finally get a 3rd-party battery thru Amazon (meaning a whole lot cheaper), and other vendors -- just be sure to look for "ID Secured" batteries (e-mail and ask the vendor first if you're not sure). I knew this before I bought the camera, but figured it should be pointed out. (3) I've had several indoor shots, in not very low light, that looked fuzzy, especially when you zoomed in on a PC. Not always the case, though. I think the "iA" mode is not always as intelligent as it should be. Also, reducing to 4 stars, so as not to mislead anyone that the camera is "perfect" -- though it's still "pretty amazing", and I'm really happy with it.

Update 05/14/10: The best pics seem to come with my own settings, and not with the "iA" mode where the computer is trying to make all the decisions for me. So you'll want to learn what the various settings do (and there's quite a few of them -- lots of flexibility). The ZS5 has three "Custom" memory slots in which to save your own configurations (which is great -- my Canon had no memory slots, and I was constantly fiddling with the settings).
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on June 27, 2010
The Panasonic Lumix ZS5 a.k.a TZ8 is purportedly a point-and-shoot camera. However, if the auto setting is all you will ever use it on, you'll probably be disappointed by its performance. This is not a camera which you can simply set on auto, aim, click the button and expect the pictures to come out excellent all the time.

My experience with the intelligent auto has been hit or miss so far. To be blunt, the 'intelligent auto' does not seem exceedingly intelligent at all, and it loves bumping up the ISO (grainy pictures) and pulling out the flash in circumstances where using the said flash doesn't seem to make much sense (wasting battery and resulting in ugly photos). To be fair, it performs excellently when taking pictures in bright outdoor conditions, but if you plan to take pictures indoor and it is the slightest bit dim, the auto doesn't seem to do too well and I ended up with a lot of blurry photos that way. Even with the flash deployed.

After spending about a couple of hours taking a bit of time to understand the manual modes and the appropriate settings of each, however, the mediocre point-and-shoot camera became an excellent little camera. The manual modes allow you a lot more leeway on how you want the photo taken, and thus override the choices the irritating auto mode makes, thus saving your indoor photos. You can also do a lot of experimental pictures. (In fact at the smallest aperture setting, the camera allows you to keep the shutter open for a staggering 60 seconds!). So if you know at least a little bit of basic photography and are willing to do your own settings, the camera manages to perform to its full potential and you can get some truly excellent photos.

If you're not too keen on reading up on fstops and shutter speeds and whatnot, I should mention the camera does get along quite respectably on its preset scenery modes. There's a pretty nice selection of them, covering outdoors, night scenes, food shots, macro etc. An important thing about getting good shots while using these modes is to give the IA a lot of time to "make up its mind" how it wants to take the photo by halfway depressing the button before you take a photo. Do watch for the indicator on the LCD to turn green before committing the shot. There's also a high-speed burst option, which scales down your pictures to about 4 megapixels but allows to you take a lot of pictures in succession very very quickly. (Note: You can also shortcut to this mode under the MS setting on the mode dial)

As you all know, the huge Leica lens on this camera is the main attraction and it lives up to its hype. It's advertised as 16x zoom, but only 12x of it is optical, the rest of it done by "intelligent zoom", which is basically a surprisingly almost-indistinguishable-from-optical digital zoom. The zoom also works (limited however) in macro zoom mode, which can result in some amazing macro shots. The camera also has conventional digital zoom (which went up to a staggering 90+ times zoom) , but you have to navigate the camera's controls to turn it on because by default it's turned off. The non-intelligent digital zoom however, does produce grainy pictures, but this is expected of digital zoom anyway.

When you have a strong zoom, the image stabilization capabilities of a camera become extremely important, and the ZS5 seems to have that covered. I did some testing shooting out of a moving car, sometimes with maximum optical zoom and the camera managed to deliver surprisingly clear pictures despite that.

I actually liked the slightly larger size of the camera, since it made it far easier to hold, but the thing that tipped the balance in this camera's favour for me were the controls, which shy away from pressing buttons as much as possible (Sorry Canon, but you lost out to the Lumix in the end because of this). Dials and switches are less prone to accidental pressings, and a nice little feature is that the camera will still recognize situations where the power switch has been left on by accident and will shut itself down to save the battery.

The battery life is ok, but not particularly amazing. I would recommend getting a spare battery to keep on hand. Do keep in mind however the battery is a proprietary Panasonic one, and the firmware on the camera will recognize imitation batteries and refuse to use them.

The HD video is very nice, although the sound recording is only in mono. The upshot of this camera is that the zoom can be used with the video, and I was very pleased with that because it really does make a lot of difference when you're taking videos of something far away so that you can actually see the thing instead of it being a black silhouette. It does not use the same recording format as the other cameras in the ZS3 or ZS5 however, so if I am not mistaken, the video recordings will take up more space on your SD card.

Overall, I am quite happy with this camera, but like I said before, this camera doesn't do too well as a simple point-and-shoot for the casual user. It takes a while to learn to use to get the best out of it. I would however, recommend this camera for people with a casual interest in photography, and aren't afraid to experiment with their own settings. I would also recommend this camera to people who are into photography but want a compact camera with an excellent zoom without having to lug around a DSLR and lens bag.

Pricewise, I think it's quite reasonable, and I don't think you can get another superzoom camera from any other camera maker for this price range. Although if you find a ZS3 (the older higher end model of this same series) for about the same price, you won't lose out by getting the ZS3 either.

UPDATE 29 Oct 2011: After a little over a year's use, the genuine Panasonic battery that came with the camera decided to suddenly and completely stop working. As I have mentioned before, replacements are not cheap and 3rd party batteries may be blocked by the camera's firmware, so this is definitely something you may want to consider before making any purchases. Still enjoying the camera, the battery factor could be a bit better...
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on May 5, 2010
I bought this camera two weeks ago and almost immediately took it for a long weekend in the NC mountains, where I shot near 700 photos, including video and some bracketed shots. All outside overcast daytime shots. The camera worked like a charm and is much more convenient than my Canon DSLR and larger Panasonic FZ20. I carried it mostly in my jacket pocket.

I have not shot video before, and this one works great! I guess the image stabilization works in video, because mine came out looking pretty smooth, including the zooms, which seem to run a little slower than zooming between still shots. Nice. Sound is good too, I got waterfalls in video and sound.

The major prob. with my DSLR is close focus - i.e., none. With this baby you can get down to 3cm. This is real good for wildflower and moss/fern shots. I wish I had brought my 1-ft tripod with me, but still got lots of acceptably sharp shots. Have not printed any blowups to test this yet.

Battery life - well I didn't count the shots, but towards evening the alert started flashing at me. Going to buy a second battery, which I would recommend you do, if you want to be sure of a full day's worth of photos. I did a lot of reviewing and zooming in to check that I had things in focus.

Great feature of Slide Show viewing -- you get various directional pans of your stills, plus music. Sweet! Wish I could do that on my Windows 7 PC, but I think you can hook up to your TV and get this.

Still learning how to use some of the functions. Unfortunately, the printed manual includes only the basic settings, and you have to read the CD manual to find out more details. This is not like the manual for the FZ20. I would like a complete printed manual to peruse.

You can set 3 presets, and I tried setting up one. Needed the manual to figure out what all you could do, but I had not brought it with me. That seemed a pretty convenient way to do things and I am going to configure all three settings when I get time.

I wonder if there is any way to get the ZS5 to shoot RAW photos like the hack (temporary) for some of the Canon pocket cameras. Think Panasonic will do a firmware update for this?

I discovered that the f-stop range is really limited, f/3.3-6.3. You can't get much depth of field when you do closeups. I would say that this is my main issue with this camera, would like to be able to stop way down. But I really like the wiiide angle lens!

I was out in rain, and I wish there were some way to put on a lens hood. Had to wipe and blow drops off the lens.

I had been worried that my eyes with glasses would not be able to focus on the screen (there is no viewfinder), but then found that you are basically only positioning elements when you make a shot, leaving the focusing to the camera. That worked out great.

Remember to take the camera out of Macro mode when you are switching back and forth. I didn't and got a couple of fuzzy shots.

The battery door and lock seems weak, and the off/on and wide angle /tele knob are a little too small for me, but I managed ok.

One 8GB card, and I used only about 5GB this weekend. Overall I think I have the right camera for my next travel adventure.
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on April 18, 2010
This is hands-down the best camera I've owned, and that includes SLR's.

Right out of the box, this camera is simple to use. As a still camera, it turns out crazy clear pictures, and the 12x Optical Zoom lens is pretty nuts for this sized camera. I first tried out the Nikon Coolpix S8000, and this thing stomps the Nikon in every way, including the lens. Yes, this 12mp camera turns out better pictures than Nikon's 14mp camera.

On top of being a great still camera, this takes GREAT HD video. Super clear, little to no feedback or distortion.

Then, if you get into the manual and learn how to really use this camera, there are so many manual adjustments (shutter speed, fstop, etc), it's almost as customizable as an slr camera, save for interchangeable lenses.

All in all, this is a great deal, and certainly at the top of the line.
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on September 2, 2010
The question is whether the Panasonic ZS5 is the best in the 2010 class of point and shoot cameras. In my humble opinion it is. All of the reviews written against this camera, for example poor picture quality and not a real 12X Optical Zoom(you've got to be kidding), are simply not true. Even the favorable reviews are not necessarily true. I have been taking photos of some kind over 45 years and I have yet to find the "perfect" camera. Of course, I am not a professional, but I feel I am more than just the casual photographer.

I have tested the ZS5 camera against an older, but more expensive Casio Exlim 7.2 Megapixels and my Nikon D70. All of these cameras are very good, but I wanted to take a more versatile camera on our recent trip to Alaska. The picture quality was just simply outstanding. Were all of them perfect? Did all the 500 plus photos turn out with perfect contrast, sharpness, and focus? No, to both questions. But taking pictures of Orca whales on the move, which turned out very good, and a still picture over Resurrection Bay are quite different. The camera performed in excellent fashion when properly used. For example, in manual mode it took almost perfect pictures of the moon rising over the mountains on Resurrection Bay and in IA, the camera performed very well in the sunlight over Exit Glacier. However, you will get washed out colors, especially on white capped mountains when taking the picture into the light. But that is what most any camera would likely do. One review accurately noted that putting the camera in Scene mode would be very beneficial and I agree with this observation. And of course, Manual, Aperture, and Shutter speed modes are all there to learn and use to take better pictures by anyone.

The camera also did an excellent job with the true 12X optical zoom plus the 4X digital. Excellent quality if one holds the camera still.
As other reviews have noted, the ZS5 does an outstanding job taking macro zoom pictures. Taking video movies with the camera also showed excellent results; just don't move the camera too quickly.

I highly recommend the Pansonic ZS5 digital camera as an all around camera. To those who are still undecided as to which point and shoot camera to buy, you will not be disappointed with the Panasonic ZS5. For those who have purchased the camera, stay with it.

In conclusion, this is still a point and shoot digital camera. These cameras have come a long way in quality and price reduction. All of the major companies make great point and shoot cameras, but that is exactly what they are. These kinds of cameras have a place for good photography but are no match for a digital SLR, but again, when hiking up the Harding Ice Fields near Seward, Alaska, the Panasonic ZS5 was a perfect litte pocket camera to carry.
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on June 5, 2010
The Lumix ZS5 reminds me of the finer 70's era stereo equipment. Because of keen competition, the finer stereo equipment was "over-engineered" which contributed to it almost immeasurable quality and durability. Such is the case with the Lumix. Initially I purchased a comparable Canon, but the articles I read about the Lumix ZS5 were etched in my I ordered the Lumix. Out of the box the stellar quality and workmanship was obvious; the clarity of pictures is perhaps unparalleled for cameras in this category; and the ease of operation is wonderful. The quick start-up time still surprises me and the wide angle Leica lens is remarkable on this camera. It also the right mix of heft without weight so it's comfortable without feeling like a plastic toy! This particular Lumix has been engineered to become a legend...if that's possible in our "every 3-month" technological craze. Buy it...enjoy it...
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on October 20, 2010
The Panasonic "Z" Series in one word ... ROCKS!
As a professional Photographer, image quality is everything. Forget about what you may have seen, heard, or read from the big-spenders over at Canon or anybody else. NOBODY has a P & S that can hold a candle to a Panasonic Lumix. I know, I've used or owned most of them, done side-by-side pixel comparisons . . . and dollar for dollar they can't touch the image quality you'll see right out of the box with this camera.

Here's why: Lumix cameras have Leica lenses - which are quite possibly the finest glass in the business. Second, Lumix cameras have set the standard for image stabilization, which is extremely important for razor sharp images. Lastly, you don't need to think about getting a perfectly exposed picture, because Panasonic Lumix camera have the most advanced calibration system. Put it in iA mode (Intelligent Auto) you can be assured you're going to have a perfectly exposed image 99% of the time. Like Ron Popeil said, "Set it and forget it!"

Again, dollar for dollar, the Panasonic ZS5 (or ZS7 if you shoot a lot of video) is the best P & S camera currently on the market. NO disappointments! Check out [...] for examples.
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on September 5, 2010
I purchased a Nikon point and shoot two years ago and ever since the day I bought it, my wife complained about it. It was difficult to use, was slow to take pictures and the quality of the pictures was not that great. Needless to say, I was hounded for two years to get another one. So when I finally decided to replace it, I did quite a bit of research on which camera to buy. Everything I read pointed to this camera and I'm glad that it did.
The camera is very well put together. It feels very solid in your hands but it doesn't feel to heavy. The lens zooms in and out very quickly and the camera boots up extremely quickly so that you can grab that quick shot. There are a ton of features which I have yet to use, but fully intend on exploring. There are tons of pre-set scene modes for shooting as well as alot of manual control features. It has has an option to record HD video.
One of the best features for us was the burst feature. We have a baby on the way and my wife really wanted a camera which would be able to grab shots of the baby as he moves around. Our old camera had this feature but it was very slow and the pictures turned out horribly. This cameras burst feature works amazingly. It takes what looks like 2-3 pictures a second and they are very clear.
Another thing about this camera which is very handy is that it focus's extremely quickly and takes pictures as soon as you hit the button. Our previous camera would focus ok, but would be very slow to take the pictures. This new camera will snap a picture as soon as you tell it to and will do it in focus. It came in extremely handy as we just went on a trip to Savannah and toured the city on a trolley tour. We were able to get pictures while riding on the tour that we would have never been able to get before.
It also has an incredible zoom. It is quick to zoom and allows you to capture moments much farther away than most point and shoot cameras.
If you are looking for an incredibly easy to use point and shoot camera that will take amazing pictures but also offer plenty of pre-set and manual features, look no further. I promise you will not be disappointed.
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on June 4, 2010
This is a combined Sony DSC-H55 and Panasonic DMC-ZS5 review. My wife first bought the Sony and was happy until she shot some video. We next tried the Panasonic. They both are very close in the photo results. In normal light and 1 to 3X focal length, they are for the most part equal with Sony having the edge. At max telephoto the sharper lens of the Panasonic makes itself known. In poor light the Sony is very soft and the Panasonic is sharper but noisier. If you don't use either camera for video they are quite close. Now video is another matter. Here it is straight from the properties from a clip from each camera. The Sony records at 1280x720 data rate 9,148 29 frames/second. The Panasonic records at 1280x720 data rate 31,168 30 frames/second. Sony uses MP4 and Panasonic uses MOV. Sony's video is good only for video sharing, moving video to MP4 devices and the like, a lot of pixilation. Shown on a large 16x9 LCD display it is worse than a good SD video. We did not look at the Canon because they lock out the zoom when shooting video. The Panasonic focus while zooming is quite good. There is some zoom noise but it is low. I would recommend a bridge camera if you can get by with the larger size and greater cost as the P/S large telephoto lens/sensor are just too much of a compromise. In summary, Sony photo 3.6 stars and Panasonic 3.5 stars. Sony video 1 star and Panasonic video 4 stars. Best P/S I've seen is the Canon SD780 IS 3X telephoto. Because we had this camera to compare to, the Sony and Panasonic got low marks in sharpness and noise.
Update 8-2-2010: I removed the camera from i/A mode and set the ISO not to go over ISO 200. We are now getting much better photos. The Panasonic I/A mode moved the ISO up too quick. After a couple of hundred photos, I now give this camera 4.5 stars.
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on September 9, 2010
I'm not a professional photog, nor an acclaimed amateur, just someone who likes to take pictures and loves gadgets - especially cameras. I'm not new to digital to cameras, this is my 7th digital camera, that includes two DSLRs. I can spot quality products, and this one is definitely up there with other cameras in this price range, and then some. The body is metal except for the battery and SD card door, which is plastic. The door, just like most other digital cameras, is flimsy, but the problem here is that the latch used to secure the door seems cheap. It works just fine, and probably will last, but if you hold the camera and admire the fit and finish of the entire camera, the battery door is kind of a joke. The menu system takes a while to get used to, but it has every manual control (except flash output) that you can think of. The optical image stabization is awesome, and I can't get over how well the zoom works. It's a little bigger than most pocket cameras, but because of the 12x zoom, it has to be. the picture quality is simply outstanding, this is comparing it to my Nikon D50 with the 18-70 ED lens. The Nikon is nice, but it's 6MP is limiting. I also compared it to my Nikon L15 8MP P&S, and still, the ZS5 images are better. the build difference between the L15 and ZS5 are close. the Nikon L15, while it's an older model, is smaller, built very well (while being plastic), still doesn't have the heft of the Panasonic. The Panasonic is a little bigger, but it does so much more, and it does it better. Again, probably not apples to apples, but that's all I have to work with.

The HD video is great. I did some video while walking and then stopping, and the OIS was on auto, the video was a little jerky, but as soon as I stopped and started zooming and panning, it was great video. to view your videos don't try to use a PC if it's underpowered, it will look like crap. Use a Mac or your TV and you'll be amazed at the video this camera produces.

It's a fantastic all around camera take along any outing. It's not really a great "through in your pocket camera", because it's a little big, but it will fit. get a small quality case for it. Need to watch out for scratching the screen, it's shiny and smudges real easy. probably best to put a cell phone screen protector on it.

summary: I gave it four stars because I don't think it's perfect. I think that the new Panasonic LX5 or even the new Nikon P7000 might earn a five star rating, but I don't think I'll be shelling out [...] right now.
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