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Panasonic FZ5 Review
Date: Sep 27, 2005
to Serious Amateur
The Panasonic FZ5 is a digital camera
targeted to beginner and serious amateur photographers.
It has 5.0 megapixel resolution on a 1/2.5 in.
CCD image sensor, and a 6-72mm (36-432mm, 35 mm
equivalent) 12x optical zoom lens, with a maximum
aperture of F2.8(W)-F3.3(T).
We find the image quality of the Panasonic FZ5
to be very good with lots of detail. Noise is
slightly visible as fine grain when viewing the
images at full size on screen, but did not detract
from the pictures, and is not visible in 4x6 in.
(36mm, 35mm equivalent)
(432mm, 35mm equivalent)
The Panasonic FZ5 has a 12x optical zoom lens
for very clear and detailed images. In the above
pictures, we show the coverage for 35mm, and then
420mm. It's one of the longest reach in consumer
digital cameras, plus it comes with a very effective
image stabilization, permitting hand holding without
camera shake at long focal lengths.
6mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/80
sec., F2.8, ISO 80
Macro can be as close as 5 cm (2 in.) at wide-angle
or 1 m (3.28 ft) at max telephoto. Interestingly,
you'll find that you don't always need to select
macro mode on the Mode Dial to move in close.
AF is fast (especially when using the 1-area
High Speed AF) and works very well even in low-light.
In extreme low-light, the AF Illuminator automatically
(if you've set it ON in the menu) kicks in to
help achieve focus. Auto focus is very accurate,
except at the extreme long telephoto end when
it can sometimes hunt a bit to achieve focus.
If you are taking images of objects at a fixed
distance (say, fireworks at infiniti), a handy
feature is to set the AF trigger to the Focus
button (default is half-press of the shutter release
button). The difference between using the shutter
release button and the Focus button to lock AF
is this: when you use the shutter release button
(half-press) to lock focus, focus is reset
after every image you take. When you use the Focus
button to lock focus, once you press the Focus
button, focus is locked at that particular distance
for every image you take and will remain
so until you press the Focus button again at a
There is no AF Area mode (where you can position
the AF frame to any position on the screen).
There are three metering modes:
Multiple (Multi-Pattern), Center-weighted, and
Spot. I use mostly Multi-Pattern and find it very
accurate, though as is common in these cameras
with small image sensors, the highlights are usually
Besides Auto white balance, you can select Daylight,
Cloudy, Halogen, Flash, PreSet, Manual. Once you've
set the Manual WB, you can select it at any time.
As the above two pictures show, the Auto White
Balance (AWB) indoors under normal tungsten bulbs
tends toward the warm yellow. The Panasonic FZ5
allows WB to also be set manually via the Menu:
Preset WB allows us to correct the colours to
real white. AWB works very well in natural light.
You can set the ISO on the Panasonic FZ5 from
80 to 400. The 100%
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrates that noise at ISO 80 is under control,
though finely visible at full image size. Noise
starts to be more visible at ISO 100 but is usable.
At ISO 200 and 400, the presence of noise takes
the form of coloured splotches.
CA is not apparent in everyday shots. Out of
the 400 or so sample shots we took with the camera,
we found only one, so not a cause of concern.
In the above photo, the corner delimited by the
red top left square, and reproduced at 100% crop
at bottom right, shows purple fringing.
|6mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern,
8 sec., F2.8, ISO 80
Manual WB, Macro, Self-timer 2 sec., Tripod
The Panasonic FZ5 allows the use of a moderately
long shutter speed of up to 8 sec. Generally,
with CCD image sensors, noise usually becomes
more prominent at slow shutter speeds. Note that
in P mode, the slowest shutter speed is 1/4 sec.
To use slower shutter speeds than that, you need
to switch to one of the other modes.
We decided to take a low-light indoors shot.
Light is from two normal tungsten bulbs on the
ceiling. To obtain a long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm
under my desk in the shadows. I obtained focus
lock easily since the Panasonic FZ5 has an effective
AF Assist Illuminator. The noise reduction works
well, giving a smooth black background.
With well exposed, sharp, beautiful colours,
and lots of detail, the images of the Panasonic
FZ5 score a very good rating in our books. Yes,
there is some noise visible at ISO 80 at full
image size, but they are very fine and not distracting.
The pictures in the Panasonic FZ5 Photo Gallery
page provide a good sample of what the camera
is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600
pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop
Elements) as well as the 2560 x 1920 pixels original
size (click on the image for the original version).
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod (due to the effective image stabilization,
the use of a tripod was restricted to the long
shutter speeds). Any image that is adjusted for
levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted"
appended to the file name (though the original
sized image is, of course, not adjusted).
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious