PANASONIC Lumix DMC-FZ5 review
Panasonic's sleek Lumix DMC-FZ5 is one of the most compact ultra-zoom cameras available.
Its plastic construction helps keep its weight down to a waif-like 325g, so it's easy to carry around, while the barrel design and rubber-coated grip make it extremely comfortable to hold, with zoom, shutter, mode and exposure functions all close at hand. The 1.8" screen is used for navigating the logically arranged menu system and framing photos, although there is also an LCD viewfinder if you prefer. This is fine in bright conditions, but in low light it can be hard to make out enough detail to frame your photo accurately.
The Lumix DMC-FZ5 has a 12x Leica lens, which has a zoom range equivalent to 36mm-432mm on a 35mm film camera - more than enough to put you in the thick of the action. Thankfully, the camera incorporates an effective image-stabilisation system, which makes shooting sharp photos at maximum zoom or with a slow shutter speed possible without resorting to a tripod.
A 5-megapixel sensor records images at a maximum resolution of 2,560x1,920 in either low- or high-compression JPEG or lossless TIF format. As you can't even save a single photo in the latter format on the 16MB SD card supplied, you should budget £30 for a 512MB card, which would provide enough storage for around 25 photos in the high-quality TIF format.
In Burst mode you can record two frames per second (fps) continuously until the memory card is full, or 3fps in a short-burst high-speed mode. This is perfect for capturing fast-paced sporting shots or nature photography.
Considering the wide range of shooting controls, it's surprising that the DMC-FZ5 has no manual focus control. The wide range of auto-focus options makes this less of a problem, though. You can activate a continuous focus system if you want to follow a moving subject or take photos with minimum shutter lag, and there are four other static focus modes. There is no hotshoe for a separate flash, but the integrated flash mounted above the lens barrel has a range 0of 4.5m and can be adjusted to suit lighting conditions.
A top-mounted dial navigates between the FZ5's various shooting modes. If you want to take a quick snap the Simple mode, signified by a heart symbol, does a good job of metering and white balance. The Macro mode lets you focus down to 5cm for really close work and produces excellent results. The camera also offers Program, Aperture priority and Shutter priority modes, providing the level of control we'd expect from a camera in this price range. Video can be recorded in 320x240 resolution at 30fps. This is good enough for recording a quick video message, but the FZ5 is primarily a photgrapher's camera, and the video capture function is little more than a gimmick
The Lumix DMC-FZ5 produces superb results across the board. Auto focus and metering works like a dream, and the fast focus option is a particular boon. The image stabiliser makes an enormous difference to telephoto and slow-shutter photography. Low-light shooting produces noise-free images up to ISO 200, although an acceptably low level of noise creeps in at ISO 400. Night scene shots are clean and sharp, even when using the maximum shutter time of eight seconds, and daylight photography turns out lush, crisp pictures.
With its 12x zoom lens and 5-megapixel CCD, the DMC-FZ5 looks great on paper and delivers fantastic results in practice. If you want an affordable, high-zoom camera, this is an excellent choice.