on June 15, 2011
I am a novice at photography, so I will be writing this review from the perspective of someone who is not an expert at all with the ins and outs of using a camera. I just wanted something that took good quality pictures for this price range, was easy to use, and had a zoom. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH5 was a massive upgrade from my old Kodak Easyshare C-530. When I took it out of the packaging, I was amazed at how small it was. I have big hands, but had no problem holding or operating the camera. The user manual is on a CD in .pdf format rather than being on paper, but this didn't bother me. The menus and buttons are fairly simple and easy to figure out. Novices like myself will have no trouble operating the camera after a little experimenting. FYI, there is no touch screen on this model, but a few simple buttons instead (which is exactly what I wanted. I suck at using touch screens because my big fingers lead to accuracy problems.) The 2.7 inch display makes it easy to see what you're doing. You can also customize a few items such as the focus icon, the LCD screen's brightness, what sounds the camera makes when taking a picture or selecting menu items, as well as the volume of each sound. If you want to take a self-portrait or family photo with yourself in it, there is a self-timer which can be set for a 2 or 10 second delay. The FH5 also has the standard tripod-mounting hole on the bottom.
One of the really nice things this camera allows you to do is to take pictures with three different aspect ratios. Most of the options are 4:3, but you can also select 3:2 or my favorite, 16:9. Choosing the 16:9 setting means that your pictures display perfectly on a HDTV with no resizing required, which is perfect for me. I have found through experimentation that there are only really three different picture-taking modes that I need to use. The first is Scenery, for brightly lit pictures of outside landscapes. The second is Normal mode with Macro activated, for taking extreme close-ups of small objects/critters. For everything else, Intelligent Auto (iA) seems to do a fine job. I am generally quite pleased at the quality of pictures that this camera produces, and how simple it is to use. It does struggle with overblown bright sunlit areas, but so do all point-and-shoot cameras. The previously mentioned Scenery mode seems to handle these areas the best. I confess that someone who knows more about photography might be able to come up with manual settings that produce better results in this situation than I can. Before I bought a new camera, I was concerned that whichever one I got might have a delay between me pressing the button and it actually taking the picture, but there are no worries with the FH5. It's simply lightning-fast. I cannot comment on the ease or quality of video recording, as I have never used it.
Overall, this camera does a great job for the low price (it was $119.00 when I purchased it.) However, there IS an elephant in the room that prevents the FH5 from getting 5 stars, and that is the poor battery life. I went on a hike yesterday that lasted 2.5 hours, and I took about 170 pictures. The camera went from being fully charged to being fully drained in this time. I already had both the LCD brightness and sound turned down to help save the battery as well. If you have the sounds and brightness set higher, the issue will be even worse. This might not be a big deal if you're just going to use the camera sporadically, but in some circumstances it might become a real problem. If you are on vacation, and you have a full day of photography planned, you'll need to get an extra battery or two. I timed it, and it takes about 100 minutes to fully recharge the battery, so at least that's fairly quick. I have not purchased an extra battery (which is damned expensive at $55.)
What else will you need to get with this camera, if anything? Well, first of all it comes with a wrist strap, but I'd recommend getting a simple neck strap instead. It provides added security and it's just easier to carry something around your neck. The body of the camera is fairly smooth, and you don't want it slipping out of your hands and getting dropped. Another thing I would recommend is a simple case for protecting the camera when it's not in use. The rear LCD IS flush with the body of the camera, so you don't want to be setting it on anything that could scratch it. I got the Case Logic TBC-301, and it fits well. The camera comes with 70MB of on-board memory, so you'll definitely want to pick up a SD/SDHC card if you want to take more than a few pictures at once. I got an 8GB, 30MB/sec card for about $32. However, before it arrived, I used an older and slower 1GB, 15MB/sec card which seemed to work just fine. You can probably get a much cheaper card than I did and it will be good for general photography purposes. I went with this card because I felt I needed the fastest possible card for burst mode. Many times on my hikes, I come across wildlife unexpectedly and usually I only have a second or two before the critter is gone, and the faster your card is in this situation, the better. If you plan on recording video, you may also want one of the faster cards. The last thing you will almost definitely want to grab (if you don't have one already) is a flexible mini-tripod, which are usually about 4 inches tall. I got one last year for my old Kodak, and it works great with both cameras.
I wanted to see how well this camera would actually function as a carry-around for quick grabs of interesting things which happen too fast to dig a camera out of a bag. Being very pocketable, it is easy to carry in shirt or pants pockets, provided you take into consideration the delicate nature of the LCD screen and thin lens cover.
Anyone who reads my other reviews of cameras and electronics will know that I am no fan of proprietary rechargeable batteries. I think they are wasteful and unnecessary complications, requiring one to purchase extra batteries which can only be used on one device, then must be discarded. Given that we already have international standards for battery designs (including rechargeable), I find it a poor design choice created primarily to bilk customers out of more hard-earned cash.
That said, I will have to admit that this camera has changed my mind a little in that regard. I am still using my very first charge on the included battery, and have not had to recharge it yet. Now, I only shoot it for limited periods of time, and not every day, but the charge is holding far better than I expected, even when not in use.
Another strong point is that I can get extra batteries from a third party for little more than the price of a 4-pack of lithium AA batteries, which means that I can easily carry several charged batteries for about the same cost as one-use batteries. This makes it much more attractive, even though I am still limited to the charged batteries I have on hand. I have even bought 2 extra batteries to test this out. I will update if there are any significant additional things to report.
The other thing that has made this camera far more attractive to me is its macro capability. As an old geezer with eyes not quite so good as in my youth, I find it more and more difficult to read the increasingly microscopic text being printed on increasingly smaller electronic devices, such as wall wart power supplies, and have found that this camera works extremely well for taking pictures in macro mode and zooming in to make them very readable. I have also used this camera to reach inside equipment racks to take pictures to document equipment connections (which were undocumented) before making changes or moving gear. It has worked very well for that.
It has become my camera of choice for everyday carry-around use, and although it is not as easy to use as my favorite Canon 720 IS, I am finding that it functions reasonably well for most things. The lack of an optical viewfinder makes it difficult for those of us with glasses, especially in the bright sunlight, but the LCD can be made bright enough to see well enough to frame shots with an acceptable level of usefulness. It would be better if the LCD were not glossy, however, as reflection in bright light makes it more difficult to use.
The picture quality is good, although I haven't done any hard comparisons with my other cameras yet. I was shooting at the 5 megapixel size for a while to save space on the 1gb card, but have since replaced that with an 8gb card and will test at full resolution.
All in all, I am happily surprised and looking to using and testing this camera more in the future. I will update with any significant information.
Within its limitations, I would recommend this camera.
UPDATE No. 13, 2011
I used the video recording feature for the first time recently, and I was extremely impressed. The video was very clear and sharp, and the audio was amazing for the tiny mic placed on top of the camera.
The more I use this camera, the more I like it. It has become very useful in my life.
UPDATE: Dec. 17, 2011
I have seen some references to Panasonic has changing their batteries in later models so one cannot use third party batteries, but must purchase the vastly more expensive Panasonic ones. If that is true, that makes this camera even more valuable, as one can still get replacement batteries from third parties. Shame on you Panasonic, if that is true.
on July 8, 2011
My knowledge of cameras and photography is somewhat less than my knowledge of quantum physics. All the details of pixels, noise, shutter, low-light, etc, get my standard response of "Um, yeah, Ok!"
I need a camera that I can turn on, aim it at someone/thing, push the button halfway to focus and the rest of the way to take the picture. And - Oh by the way, I'm a shaky guy, so the camera needs to be smart enough to account for that.
After this amazing feat, I hope to see a picture, sharp enough to tell who or what I'm taking a picture of. This camera fully exceeds this goal.
The only gripe I have is that the buttons are small and to close together for my fat fingers, but I blame this mostly on my fat fingers.
I'm a Happy Guy.
on July 23, 2011
I bought this camera before leaving for a two-week trip to Kauai. My other digital camera, a fancy Canon camera, broke a while back and I haven't had it fixed yet, plus it is huge.
So I was looking for something relatively inexpensive that would take good quality photos and would not have unacceptable shutter lag.
This camera fits the bill. It's tiny but solid; very little shutter lag; has many interesting scene modes; captures colors really well; and it's extremely easy to transfer files from the camera to a computer without using any special software.
I was a little bit worried about the lack of control due to the complete point and shoot nature of this camera, but I found that by using Intelligent Auto Mode, the results improved. Intelligent Auto got it right most of the time. The stabilization is great, too. Then I found that I could make the camera do some other tricks that make it slightly more tailored to my needs - I found the setting that allows the camera to determine the optimal shutter speed and tweaked a few other settings. Now it takes awesome low-light photos (pending you can hold the camera still for up to 1/4 of a second). I took photos inside of a lava tunnel with no flash and they came out!
The battery life is good also, which I was concerned about. I could take well over 100 photos a day (leaving the camera on for long periods of time) and only wear out 1/3 of the battery.
on July 27, 2011
I have used for years now a Sony DSC-H2, throughout the years I have refused to change it, even for the newer Sony models that followed that one because of the quality of the pictures, the colors and some functionalities that got lost in newer models. My wife however, a more practical person and worried about the camera being impractical because of its size, always wanted a smaller camera she could carry in her bag not as bulky as my beloved Sony.
So I was offered the opportunity to test and review this camera and could not say no, it had great reviews, it was small and with 16.1 MP I assumed picture quality should be acceptable. So far I love it!
I have been heavily using this and it has fulfilled all my expectations, among the many features it has, you can take pictures in HDTV format (widescreen) which is a big deal to me as my photo albums are stored on my PS3 to be watched in my HDTV. The amount of detail that this model delivers is fantastic, I really see a difference between the pictures taken with this one against the ones from my Sony DSC which has a lower MP rate. The colors are vibrant and very close to the actual ones, opposite to the colors displayed by my reference camera, I can see colors are a little bit downgraded but nothing to be too worried about. I liked the fact that this camera does not have the average wheel for you to select the scene mode, instead, there is a mode button that displays up to 28 different scene options! (I included some reference pictures of this if you're interested in more details)
It has taken some time to get used to it since I was always carrying the bigger case to parties or places we visited were we would like to take some pictures, this is so small that I can actually carry it without a case! It is smaller in size than an iPhone but a little bit thicker though, again, I added some size reference pictures for those interested. So now I am finding myself taking pictures of things or events I did not before, because it is now easier to carry the camera with me, and the most important thing, I don't have to worry about the pictures being of a lesser quality as quality is as good as the one I am used to!
Important to note that to fully enjoy this camera you need to buy the memory card separately, as with most cameras, the memory included is internal and of course the amount of pictures you can take will be very limited depending on the quality selected.
Video also provides very good quality, but, as any video recording device of this kind (like the Sony Bloggie or the FlipHD), quality will suffer depending on lighting conditions, a sunny day will deliver vibrant colors and a great amount of detail while interiors lit by your average light bulb will be recorded without as many detail as a well lit place. This is not a bad thing about this model but what I consider normal behavior in this type of devices, worth mentioning though.
The box includes the USB cable, video cables to output to a TV set and a rechargeable battery with its respective charger (which at first I thought was not the best option as I would like to carry extra batteries in case the one included runs out, battery life though, has proven to be great and have not had any problems with running out of battery while taking pictures or recording video)
I cannot comment on the software included as it has always been easier for me to use the windows default application to copy the contents of the memory card directly to my external HD.
Bottom line, this camera has proven to be great and more than expected, if you, like me, need a camera that's easy to carry for those parties, events or just occasional pictures with great picture quality, this one's definitely for you.
on July 17, 2011
i bought this camera because i needed a small, compact camera that was easy to use and didn't take a million years to take a pic that usually ended up blurry on my other cameras. Anyways, i got it the day before i went to Vans 2011 Warped Tour with all my favorite bands. The battery lasted all day!! The pic & video quality are absolutely amazing! i was jumping up & down,dancing around and being smooshed by hundreds of people while taking videos & pics of all the bands and lets just say, the pictures are perfect & best of all....NON BLURRY!!! thank you jesus! haha. Well, overall this camera is really light, fast, & the best buy i ever made electronics wise. i just hope it lasts!!
P.S. The Amazon Vine Program reviews really helped and are what finalized my decision to buy this camera. THANK YOU AMAZON VINE REVIEWERS & AMAZON for helping me make a smart & unregrettable buy. :) I am in love with this camera & to all future college students or teens.....this camera can last through anything and is perfect for vacations or parties. :)
My last point and shoot was canon s70. It's not that old and it shoots raw, but, compared to this Panasonic one, my Canon felt like an ancient device. First, I was impressed with its compact size. I can not believe how far technology has come since my Canon point and shoot. This camera is very small and light; it is easy to carry on anywhere.
Featurewise, considering this is a compact point and shoot, I do not expect dslr quality pictures, yet it is great that this has an optical image stabilizer and 4x zoom. In the low light setting, of course, the pictures are noisy with the high ISO, but the optical IS helps a little bit to get the sharper (or not too shaky) images. Also, 4x optical zoom is very nice feature. Often camera manufacturers tend to advertise greatly about their 10x 20x digital zoom, but it is only a matter of time for people to realize that digital zoom equals to terrible image quality.
I have not touched compact point and shoot cameras since the iPhone era, and I believe now that I was the only one who thought taking photos on the iPhone was the most convenient option for me. It was a habit I suppose, to omly use my iPhone for photos, because I could easily upload pictures without downloading to my computer. However, iPhone camera is not yet point and shoot replacement 100%, maybe 80%. iPhone cameras might have more soft feature options in terms of many different camera related apps, but hardware wise, the iPhone cannot beat this one. This camera is tiny enough to carry with my iPhone in the purse or pocket, and it does more than an iPhone does. Also, the image and video quality is better than my iPhone 4's.
I have not tried printing 16x20 printing with this yet; I should not have any problem printing that big out of 16 megapixel camera, however.
These days micro four thirds are receiving popularity, but the price is stiff and it is still compact camera with smaller sensor than dslrs'. I thought about getting GF2, but I became hesitant easily because of the $600 price tag. However, I do not mind sacrifycing the bigger sensor and great depth of field for more than $400. I tried GF1 in a low light setting, and it was still noticeably noisy and slow to focus.
So, if you just need a simple, tiny, and light point and shoot that does its job more than an average point and shoot, I recommend this one. If you are disappointed by slow focus and shutter lag or lack of flash or any machanical presets, I also recommend this camera.
Overall, I am truly satisfied with this camera, but wished it cames with at least 2gb sd card.
I you are are a novice with digital cameras/taking pictures, or want a camera where you can literally just point and shoot this is the device for you. it's small, easy to hold, has a nice big clear digital viewfinder, relatively fast delay between shots and actual shot time, and is REALLY easy to use. In fact, this is without a doubt the easiest camera to use I have ever seen in my life.
To be sure, you can select custom scene modes for specialized shots, but most of the time the pictures taken by the camera in it's fully automatic default are just fine. It has image stabilization, a very nice zoom (very good for wildlife pictures), and automatically detects when flash is needed. Pretty much every other function that helps ordinary people take great pictures is built-in, from focus-lock to facial detection.
There is a tiny amount of built-in memory, but with memory prices being what they are you might as well grab a 4GB memory card or two. Personally I have no need to use the highest megapixel setting (What am I gonna do? Print out posters?) and instead set the resolution a bit lower so I can take HUNDREDS of pictures on a single 4GB memory card.
Two things to note: Seniors and those with poor eyesight may have trouble seeing the image on the screen on the viewfinder in bright sunlight with high glare (my mother could not see the screen on cameras like this to take a picture no matter how many times I explained, showed her, and tried to help her). Also, digital screen viewfinders have ALWAYS been battery hogs. If you leave the camera on between shots you will probably only get around 2 hours as the manufacturer has said. If, on the other hand, you turn off the camera between your series of shots (take a few shots, turn off camera, find another good view, turn on camera, take a few more) the battery will last MUCH longer. If you desire to use the camera for extended periods of time I would buy another spare battery pack to increase shooting time. Personally, I wish ALL digital cameras also had a regular viewfinder and the ability to switch off the digital one to save the battery.
I already have a Cannon PowerShot A480 which is a more full-featured regular-size that also does good point-and-shoot but it's nice to have this camera for either my own use when I want something I can easily slip in my pocket, or let someone else with less gadget experience literally turn it on, point, and shoot. I plan on taking a trip to Disney World in September with my wife and will use the Cannon myself and let her use the point-and-shoot. It will be interesting to see who gets more good pictures...
If you want a truly easy to use point and shoot camera and can live with the viewfinder and short battery life if you don't turn it off between shots, this is the camera for you. It's a lot of camera for the money.
I am not a digital camera expert...admittedly I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital revolution. When I pick up a camera, I expect to be able to point and shoot, with no hassles and no complications. Well, this camera definitely works for me!
For the beginner, the camera is easy to work with, taking excellent pictures that are easy to download to your laptop. The battery life is quite good, allowing me to carry the camera around all day and use it as the spirit took me - though I was careful to turn it off when I finished taking pictures.
So, as an amateur photographer (VERY amateur) I must say that I was very pleased. This is now my camera for vacations and whatnot, and I am very glad to have it.
(Review of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH5 16.1 MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom with 2.7-Inch LCD)
on April 27, 2012
I ordered this camera from a big box store after reading all the reviews here on Amazon. I'm disappointed that the 16mp do not come close to the 10mp Norcent camera I had prior to this one. I've only had this model a few days and I am not happy with how grainy the pictures come out. When blowing up a photo, you'd think 16mp would keep the image crisp and sharp, not so with this camera. Everything had a bad grainy appearance to it, and I did try many different settings. Also disappointed that I cannot use the Macro setting unless its on "normal" mode. So what that means is all those "cool" scene modes will not allow Macro to work. I did have the image stabilizer engaged, while it did help ensure photos were not blurry (in most settings, cannot use it on High Dynamic scene mode) it does not matter overall if the entire image looks dull. So glad I didn't go with the pricier, very similar Panasonic model I was looking at because if I had spent more money and had these results, I'd be very upset. The camera is going back to the store!