Panasonic TZ5

My old Sony P200 (only 2 1/2 years old so not much) was a good camera for me but had developed some dead pixel issues that meant every picture needed cleaning up before publishing. Not that I need an excuse to upgrade gadgets but that was good enough for me to try the Panasonic TZ5. I’ve had it for over a week now so thought it was time to publish some thoughts so far.

Panasonic TZ5The camera is a pretty typical point and shoot but has a couple of key features that really appealed to me. It has a 10x optical zoom which for a camera this size is very nice to have. It also shoots 720p video which while I don’t intend doing a lot of is still a plus point compared to other camera’s at this price point. It also allows you to shoot pictures in 16:9 format which is also a useful feature.

Build Quality
The camera feels good in the hand. One handed use is very comfortable and there’s a nice grip strip at the front of the camera. The zoom controls surround the shutter which makes it really quick to zoom, focus and take a picture. However there a couple of things I don’t like. Firstly the main control dial feels a bit cheap compared to the rest of the camera. It’s like a bit of plastic stuck on to the camera and doesn’t give much feedback when used. Worse is the lens cover. While it looks quite substantial if you give it a poke you realise its very flimsy indeed. A camera case or a secondary lens cover is essential which is a shame as the camera doesn’t come with one as standard. The rest of the controls are well positioned and I really like the large screen. Clarity is excellent even in daylight. One other negative – the microphone quality is shocking. I’d go as far to say useless. Thankfully thats the main negatives out of the way.

Software
The software has so far performed very well. The menu system is intuitive and tells you exactly what the option is and what you are changing. The dial only has six options, far fewer than other camera’s which keeps it nice and simple. For me, the type of pictures I’ll be taking and also my knowledge of photography, this is excellent as it keeps things pretty simple. I’ve hardly touched the manual since getting the camera but then again that might be obvious when you look at the pictures.

The image stabilisation worked very well. This has always been an issue for me – taking a steady clear picture. With the Sony I ended up almost always using burst mode taking 4-5 pictures to guarantee that I got at leas one steady non-blurry photo. While this worked it meant a lot of post editing and also there were times when this method didn’t work. The TZ5 has two levels of stabilisation ans so far I’ve found the lowest level to be perfect. One issue I do have which may be down to skill level is that I can have difficulty in getting the TZ5 to focus close up on objects, with the software focussing on background objects instead. There are different focussing settings but I haven’t tried these yet. It could be I’m expecting to much from the camera – time will tell. What’s also worth mentioning is no RAW support and also no full manual controls. This may be a short coming for some but it’s something I’ll never miss.

There’s some nice preview modes on the camera – side by side, a calendar view and an ability to copy photo’s to an internal clipboard and keep photo’s. All I can think off is things like maps or contact details but it’s not something I’m likely to take advantage off.

There’s some impressive burst mode settings but again I’ve not tried them although the modes do drop the pixel counts as you bump up frequency and amount. There’s also more flexibility with shutter speed when compared to my old Sony which should give greater control over pictures.

Where’s the photo’s?
Well, time to post some pic’s. So far I’ve been very impressed with the image quality. The noise levels, often mentioned as an issue in other Panasonic camera’s, are very good and I’m really impressed with the colour reproduction so far.

Orchid

I’ve been using the camera around the house and also took a few shots round Glasgow, mostly trying to show the difference between 3x and 10x zoom. It’s been pretty chilly out in the last few days so today I ventured to the Botanic Gardens for some photography in the warmth – lovely.

Flower

The following show no zoom, 3x, 10x and 16x zoom. The first three are all optical zoom while the 4th is a 16x digital zoom.

View from the office without zoomFrom the office - x3 ZoomFrom the offie - x10 Zoomx16 Digital Zoom

For me the difference between 3x and 10x is excellent and really sets this camera out form other point and shoots of this size. The quality of the pictures is good at all optical zoom settings although I’m not sure I’d use the 16x digital zoom, probably sticking to 10x and editing down to suit. Here’s an example below again comparing 3x and 10x zoom.

From Park Circus - x3 ZoomFrom Park Circus - x10 Zoom

The full sets are available on Flickr – Home Tests, Around Glasgow and Botanics.

Video’s?
So the TZ5 does 720p HD recording. I’ve done a couple so far but they aren’t quite ready to publish and I also need to do some editing to them but I’ll upload them soon. One problem I have found is that the TZ5 will continually try to auto focus, moving ever so slightly in and out of focus. Switching off Continuous AutoFocus will however sort that issue. The microphone is very poor though. If your buying this camera solely due to HD recording then I would say avoid and pick up a camcorder instead. However the video quality is very good and I’ve been impressed so far – it’s far better quality than I expected.

Overall
It’s only been a week and some build quality issues aside I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the camera and the images I’m getting out of it. So far I’ve hardly scratched the surface with it, not really changing any of the default settings. However it’s enough to tell me it’s a very good camera and certainly the best I’ve ever owned. I’m loving the 10x zoom, a great feature for a camera this size and I would certainly recommend at least considering the TZ5 if your in the market for a new camera. All I need to do now is get out more and use the camera which I hope to do. I’ll finish with another flower photo, this time from our garden. The next photo’s posted will hopefully not just be flowers.

Tulips

4 Comments

  1. Cracking review Ian. Pulling it back a stage though, what were the others in the shortlist and what made you swing towards the Panny? My old man bought my mum an FX07 a year ago (?) having never shopped outside of Canon previously (as they do good greens, so he says). She’s been chuffed with hers and its not suffered for being in her handbag all day long!

    I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a new compact (my decrepit Canon Ixus v2 is never out of Oliver’s hands although we got him a Polaroid Pixie from the States for Christmas. Unfortunately that wasn’t quite as robust as we hoped. 😉

  2. I guess the Panasonic was always a favourite for me. I loved the spec of the TZ3 when it came out and using Flickr I could see the quality of the images. With the Sony failing and the TZ5 announced I waited until sample images and other users fed back their thoughts on TZ5.

    Other camera’s considered: Canon IXUS, Fuji something or other as i can’t remember the exact model number and Ricoh R8. It came down to Ricoh and TZ5 as they both had better optical zoom…and it eventually came down to TZ5 due to user feedback and I liked the images that I saw others take.

    One other consideration was go for a point and shoot or DSLR. DSLR provides the far better image and also flexibility but cost and size issues were too much for me. Once I had decided that, it was then down to the shortlist above.

    I can’t see any camera being robust enough for kids 🙂

  3. Hi Ian, interseting review.. well i guess im looking for some reasurrance really! currently in the market for possibly the high end compact or SLR.. if there wasnt a cost issue would u have gone for a slr ?? im tied between the two also .. thanks for your time.

  4. Hi Adam. Removing the cost would alter things. The SLR’s that my friends have produce some stunning images but that’s using some expensive lenses also. You also get more flexibility when shooting but I’m just happy with a small compact and taking occasional shots. You need to think about how often and when you’ll be taking images. I just can’t see me carrying around all the gear needed for an SLR just to take some photo’s – thats why the TZ5 fits my needs so well. If cost wasn’t an issue I’d end up with an SLR…and a compact for the times when the SLR isn’t practical.

    The TZ5 gives me good pictures, the zoom is great to have and it is portable. However the images from an SLR will always be better. Good luck with whatever you choose.

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