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Timing & Performance

The DMC-FZ5's predecessor featured the debut of Panasonic's new Venus II engine, which - amongst other things - is designed to speed up operation (something it does very well). Like the FZ3, the FZ5 feels very responsive in use - certainly better than we might expect from an 'entry level' super zoom. The only slightly disappointing results are those for power up and power down, which are mostly taken up with the extending and retracting of that big 12x zoom. Once the camera is powered up it is able to keep up with all the action (save for the occasional focus hunting when using the long end of the zoom in low light).

New 'High Speed AF'

One crucial improvement over the FZ3 is focus speed, using a new 'High speed focus mode. This delivers real, measurable (and noticeable in use) speed increases, making it a clear class-leader. Our tests indicate that switching to high speed AF mode cuts focus times at wideangle by around two-thirds, and at the tele end by at least three-quarters. Our side by side tests indicate that in High Speed mode the DMC-FZ5 consistently outperforms the Konica Minolta Z5 (famed for its focus speed), putting it firmly at the top of its class for focus speed (and accuracy). The only disadvantage is that you can't have the full nine-area autofocus system (high speed only works with one or three area AF) and a momentary freezing of the screen/EVF during focusing. To be honest this 'freeze' is so brief that at first I didn't even notice it, and it really is a small price to pay for such a significant focus speed improvement. A real, and very impressive performance boost that effectively removes the only serious performance issue found on the FZ3 (sluggish telephoto focus).

Timing notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2560 x 1920 Fine JPEG image (approx. 2,015 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 512MB SanDisk Extreme (aka Ultra II) SD card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   3.2 *2
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 1.5 *3
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 4.1 *2
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty 2.0 *2
Record Review Image displayed ~0.5
Mode: Record to Play   1.2 *3
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~0.8
Play: Magnify To full magnification (8x) ~1.2 *1
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~0.5 *3
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails 0.9

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 35 to 420 mm (12 x) 2.3 *3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, nine point AF ~0.7
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, High speed 3 point AF < 0.2 *2
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto, nine point AF ~1.6
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto, High speed 3 point AF ~0.35
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~0.1 *2
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Viewfinder ~0.1 *2
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~1.0
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~3.1 *2
Shot to Shot Flash off 0.9 *2
Shot to Shot Flash on (red eye off) 1.2 *2
Shot to Shot Flash on (red eye on) 1.4 *2
*1 This is about as fast as you can do it using four separate presses of the zoom button
*2 Measurably better performance than the DMC-FZ3
*3 Measurably worse performance than the DMC-FZ3 (the differences are very minor)

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. Media used for these tests was a 512MB SanDisk Extreme (aka Ultra II) SD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

In burst mode the FZ5 shows a brief review image for each frame taken, but the live preview does not work between frames. There are three continuous drive modes; High (H), Low (L) and No Limit (∞).

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
2560 x 1920 JPEG Fine Continuous H 3.3 fps 4 ~ 1.3s pause*3
2560 x 1920 JPEG Fine Continuous L 2.3 fps 4 ~ 1.3s pause*3
2560 x 1920 JPEG Fine Continuous ∞ 2.3 fps limited by card capacity n/a
2560 x 1920 JPEG Standard Continuous H 3.3 fps 6 or 7 ~ 1.3s pause*3
2560 x 1920 JPEG Standard Continuous L 2.3 fps 7 ~ 1.2s pause*3
2560 x 1920 JPEG Standard Continuous ∞ 2.3 fps limited by card capacity n/a
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine Continuous H 3.3 fps 4 ~ 1.1s pause *3
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine Continuous L 3.0 fps 4 ~ 1.1s pause *3
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine Continuous ∞ 2.35 fps limited by card capacity n/a
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine Continuous H 3.3 fps 4 ~ 1.3s pause*3
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine Continuous L 2.5 fps 4 ~ 1.3s pause*3
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine Continuous ∞ 2.3 fps limited by card capacity n/a

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 In H and L mode continuous shooting stops when the buffer is full (4 or 7 frames according to the file size/quality setting. This is the delay before the next burst
*2 The delay of around one and a half seconds is mainly down to the need to refocus before the next burst. By switching the focus trigger to the focus button you can reduce this to ~0.8s.

Pretty impressive stuff for a compact in this class, though not as fast as the FZ3 (I suspect that the buffer size hasn't been increased to take into account the larger files, so the number of shots per burst has fallen). We actually found that with a reasonably fast SD card you can actually do better than the 3 fps max quoted by Panasonic. The buffer may not be very big, but it clears very quickly, and most of the delay between bursts is due to the fact that you cannot just hold down the shutter and wait - you have to take your finger off the shutter and press it again. This means waiting for the camera to refocus. By moving the focus trigger to the alternative (delete) button you can avoid this refocusing and reduce the time between bursts to under a second. If you want to take a really long burst with no pauses you can always switch to the 'no limit' mode (which averages around 2.3 frames per second).

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 512MB SanDisk Extreme (aka Ultra II) SD card. .

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
512MB Card
2560 x 1920 TIFF ~3.0 ~0.7 14,416 KB *3 31
2560 x 1920 JPEG Fine ~1.3 ~0.6 2 014 KB 202
2560 x 1920 JPEG Std ~1.3 ~0.5 927 KB 396
2048 x 1536 JPEG Fine ~1.2 ~0.6 1,172 KB 312
2048 x 1536 JPEG Std ~1.1 ~0.5 573 KB 606
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine ~1.0 ~0.5 949 KB 507

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.
*3 All TIFF files are 14,416 KB, and each is saved with a 900KB (std quality) JPEG

With write times averaging around 3 seconds for a 5MP TIFF, the FZ5 is pretty fast - approximately 4800KB/s. Very impressive stuff, and proof that the Venus II engine is more than mere hype.

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