Most helpful positive review
908 of 912 people found the following review helpful
Great Travel Camera
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.