Conclusion - Pros
- Very versatile 28-280mm equiv. zoom range
- Excellent lens, good edge-to-edge sharpness and little distortion
- High quality build, full metal body
- Little (if any) color fringing
- Good flash performance
- White balance fine tune option
- Feels fast and responsive in most situations
- Quick and reliable focus
- Excellent, bright, high-resolution 3.0-inch screen
- Superb High Definition movie mode with 1280 x 720 pixel 30fps wide screen option
- Optical zoom usable in movie mode
- Effective image stabilization system
- Ergonomic layout of external controls and buttons
- Excellent on-screen menus and control system
- Good resolution, generally clean output
- Easy - and fun - to use
Conclusion - Cons
- Heavy noise reduction at all ISO settings (although less than predecessor)
- Smearing of fine detail (caused by NR) even at base ISO
- Macro mode less effective than competitors'
- Unreliable Auto WB performance under artificial light
- Inconvenient location of the flash right next to hand grip
- Occasional highlight clipping in high contrast scenes
- Continuous shooting slower than predecessor
- Focus slow down and occasional hunting in low light
- Battery life not brilliant
- Sound quality in movie mode not great
While the step from the TZ1 to the TZ3 was quite a big one the upgrade from TZ3 to TZ5 is more evolutionary. The main changes are an increased megapixel count, a higher resolution screen, and an improved movie mode, now offering HD quality output. The newest member of the TZ family, like its predecessor, is a fast and extremely versatile camera that is also compact enough to carry it anywhere you go, and it's now even more fun to use.
The 28-280mm 10x zoom makes the TZ5 an ideal travel companion covering an enormous array of photographic assignments, from wide angle landscape shots to wildlife photography (well, as long as the wildlife remains fairly stationary). But the Leica badged lens has not only an impressive zoom range, it also offers admirable edge-to-edge sharpness across the zoom range. Combine that with very little distortion even at wide angle and you've got a truly excellent lens.
Unfortunately, as before, what's behind the lens does not entirely match the glass. Although image quality has again been slightly improved with the new model (noise reduction at higher ISOs is a lot less intrusive) all is still not rosy in Panasonic's garden. The tiny sensor means that noise and a general softness caused by noise reduction is visible in the TZ5's output even at base ISO. Of course things don't exactly get better at higher sensitivities and anything higher than ISO 400 should be avoided if you plan to print your images at a decent size or publish them online at a high resolution.
Other than that though we could not identify any major issues. The TZ5's output is well balanced with neutral colors but if you like it a little more punchy you can set the color mode to vivid or add a tad of contrast and saturation in post processing. There is also some leeway for extra sharpening. As a user the TZ5 gives you plenty of options.
On the plus side the TZ5 is very well built with a full metal body that should withstand the occasional knock and comes with with a very intuitive user interface. There are external buttons for access to a range of important features and the excellent quick menu lets you change all essential shooting settings in an instant. The entire interface is very user friendly and even if you're new to Panasonic you should find your way around it in little time.
In conclusion the TZ5 is a versatile, user friendly photographic tool that can produce good results outdoors in decent light but struggles when it comes to taking pictures indoors and in low light (the flash performs quite well though). If you are looking for a travel or walkaround camera that is quick enough for the occasional spontaneous street shot and can also produce great quality HD video you should definitely have a closer look at the TZ5. If low light photography or indoor social snapping is more your thing or if you're into 'pixel-peeping' you might want to look out for alternatives.
In any case, if you want a similarly versatile zoom range in an equally compact body currently your only other option is the Ricoh R8 which is not quite perfect itself. The TZ5 is easy to use, versatile with great ergonomics and most of all fun to work with and that's enough, despite the minor image quality issues, to earn itself our Highly Recommended rating, by a whisker.
|Detail||Rating (out of 10)|
|Ergonomics & handling||8.5|
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