White Balance

The Z5 has six white balance presets: daylight, cloudy, flash, fluorescent, tungsten and auto. There is also a 'custom' (manual) white balance function. In most of our test shots the auto white balance worked perfectly - certainly when photographing under natural daylight (though some shots had a mild, but noticeable color cast). Under artificial lighting the Z5 didn't fare so well, producing distinct color casts under fluorescent and (especially) incandescant lighting. In fact in most cases we'd recommend switching to one of the white balance presets, or using the custom setting unless you're shooting in daylight.

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red 0.3%, Blue -2.6%

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 3.7%, Blue -10.8%
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 13.6%, Blue -18.6%

Flash Performance

Flash performance is something of a mixed bag - there is a distinct (and very noticeable) warm color cast (which produces slightly more flattering flash portraits), but exposure - even at very close distances - is excellent. The range isn't that impressive (using auto ISO it'll reach around 11.8 ft at wideangle and only 7.2 ft at telephoto) and we found that a lot of our social flash shots suffered from rapid flash fall-off, resulting in very dark backgrounds. The good news is that you can add a more powerful flash unit as the Z5 has a dedicated flash accessory (hot) shoe, though it is of course the proprietary 'Maxxum/Dynax' D-series fitting, which restricts your options when choosing a flashgun.

Skin tone
Slight magenta color cast, good exposure
Color chart
Slight red color cast, very slight underexposure

Macro Focus

In standard autofocus mode the Z5 can focus down to about 60cm/2.0 ft (wide end of the zoom) and 1.6M/5.2 ft (at the tele end of the zoom). Pressing the macro button enables the standard macro mode, which gets you down to around 10cm/4 inches from the subject at the wide end of the lens or about 1.2M at the telephoto end. Macro performance is actually best if you zoom in a little (to about the 70mm equivalent setting). Super Macro mode (see below) gets you much closer - as near as 1cm/0.3 inches from the front of the lens - but you cannot use the zoom. Overall we were very impressed with the macro capabilities, and the quality of the results (though there were inevitably occasional focus errors when working very close to the subject, and the lens barrel often casts a shadow on the subject when you're very close).

Wide macro -
106 x 80mm coverage
24 px/mm (608 px/in)
Distortion: average
Corner softness average
Equiv. focal length: 35 mm
Tele macro -
130 x 97 mm coverage
20 px/mm (500 px/in)
Distortion: low
Corner softness: average
Equiv. focal length: 420 mm
Super macro -
45 x 34 mm coverage
56 px/mm (1427 px/in)
Distortion: average
Corner softness: average
Equiv. focal length: 62 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

For such a large zoom range the Z5 manages to keep distortion remarkably low - there is no measurable distortion at the telephoto end, and fairly minimal (1.3%) barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom.

Barrel distortion - 1.3% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 35 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 420 mm

Noise Comparison

Here for visual comparison are four identical shots taken at 50, 100, 200 and 320 ISO settings in our studio. As you can see there is visible noise even at ISO 100, and at ISO 200 things are beginning to look rather unpleasant, and at ISO 320 noise is simply too strong to allow the use of this setting in anything other than an emergency. Thankfully the AS (Anti-Shake) system means you can get away with lower ISO settings most of the time.

ISO 50 100% crop ISO 100 100% crop
ISO 200 100% crop ISO 320 100% crop