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Design and Handling

Visually there is not much difference between the TZ5 and its predecessor. Here and there a button has changed, appeared or vanished but the basic shapes and dimensions remain largely unmodified. The TZ5 is still an amazingly compact camera for its long 10x zoom range and comes with a well built full metal body that is available in silver, black or blue.

Handling

The TZ5 is sufficiently compact to hold it comfortably in one hand. The small rubberized grip does a good job but the due to the fairly big lens the weight of the body is distributed in a slightly unbalanced way. So you might want to use the supplied wrist strap to prevent gravity from taking its toll. The shutter release and zoom lever are well placed and the control layout generally leaves very little to complain about. Just be careful to not cover the flash with your fingers when firing it.

Key body elements

The TZ5 does not offer manual control over shutter speeds, apertures or focus but still comes with a range of useful features. Thankfully the most useful ones such as flash, AE compensation or self-timer get their own external control buttons. The TZ3's FUNC menu has been expanded and relabeled 'Quick Menu' now giving you direct access to 9 parameters including White Balance, ISO and drive mode.

The top plate is home to the shutter release (which sits inside a circular zoom rocker), main power switch, mode dial and the new Easy Zoom button which lets you jump to maximum zoom range at one press. On the mode dial you can save your two favorite scene modes. It is quite easy to move the mode dial accidentally. Check it's in the right position when you take the camera out of your bag.
The 3.0-inch screen's resolution has been doubled to 460,000 pixels. It is now even better than the predecessor's already excellent display. The image is clear and bright and works well in all situations bar direct sunlight when you'd wish the TZ5 had an electronic viewfinder. Like the TZ3's screen the new model has a special mode that allows you to see it from an acute angle when the camera is held above your head.

The TZ5 features the same 10x zoom lens as its predecessor. It covers an enormously useful zoom range of 28-280mm equiv.

 

The onboard flash has a range of 5.3m at wide angle and 3.6m at the tele end (using Auto ISO). There are Red-eye Reduction and Slow Sync settings. Due to its location next to the grip it is quite easy to accidentally cover the flash with one of your fingers, be careful.
The controls are located to the right of the screen and pretty straightforward. There are buttons for exposure compensation, flash, self timer and macro mode on the four way controller. The quick menu button gives you access to the most important settings including ISO, White Balance and drive mode. Like on the TZ3 the engraved icons can be difficult to see in some lighting situations.
The battery and card slots are located together under a fairly sturdy lockable door. The TZ5 has 27MB of internal memory for those occasions on which you forget to bring the memory card.

Controls & Menus

Panasonic's user-interface has been slightly tweaked for this latest generation of cameras but the essentials remain the same. The menus are well designed and intuitive. New users won't take long to find their away around and owners of a previous Panasonic model will feel at home right away.

As usual pressing the DISP button lets you choose the amount of information overlaid on the live preview screen. This ranges from nothing at all to this fairly comprehensive display, complete with histogram. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the AF area used and the aperture/shutter speed chosen. You'll also get a warning if camera shake is a danger. Here you can also see the useful grid option.
If you turn the mode dial this 'virtual dial' appears on the screen - useful if you want to have your eyes on the screen at all times. The quick menu gives you fast access to IS mode, burst mode, focus, white balance, ISO, intelligent exposure, aspect ratio, image size and LCD mode. This the (expanded) equivalent of the TZ3's FUNC menu. It is normally displayed as on overlay to the preview image.
There are 22 scene modes in total, and an option in the setup menu allows you to choose between seeing this menu when you turn the dial to the SCN1 or SCN2 position. If you choose not to, the last selected scene mode for each position on the dial is remembered, allowing you to set the two SCN positions on the dial as your two favorite scene modes. The four-page record menu covers options such as white balance, sensitivity, picture size/quality, focus modes and image adjustments.
Switching to the 'Intelligent Auto' mode gives you a cut-down version of the record menu. In this mode most decisions are being made by the camera.

The 'Clipboard' feature has been taken over from the TZ3. It allows you to shoot low res images and save them in a special area on the internal memory - the idea being you snap train timetables and so on for use later. It remains questionable if this feature really

needs to be featured on the mode dial.

As when in record mode you can choose the amount of information displayed in playback mode - from nothing at all to full data and histogram (as shown here). Move the zoom lever and you zoom into your images up to 16x magnification, certainly enough to check the focus.
If you move the zoom rocker the opposite way you get a 4x3 or 6x5 thumbnail view, there is also a calendar view. There is a new, separate menu for choosing a playback mode. Apart from the customizable slide show there is a dual play mode for viewing two images at the same time and category play which filters your images by category (i.e. portrait, scenery etc.) This is based on the scene modes the pictures were taken in.
The three-page playback menu offers the usual printing, erasing and protecting options. There's also the option to add sound to saved files, as well as crop (trim) and resize them. The setup menu - accessible from either playback or record mode - has five pages of basic camera-related settings, from monitor brightness and auto review settings to power management, sounds and date and time settings.
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