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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic FZ5

Panasonic Digital Cameras


Panasonic FZ5 Review

Review Date: Sep 27, 2005

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Panasonic FZ5

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2005 Award 


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. prints.

12x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 36mm Telephoto 432mm
Wide-angle 6mm
(36mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 72mm
(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.

Dandelion Seeds
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 new distance.

There is no AF Area mode (where you can position the AF frame to any position on the screen).

Metering Modes

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 blown.

White Balance

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.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Custom WB
AWB Custom WB

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.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 80
ISO 80
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

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.

Chromatic Aberrations

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.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
6mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern, 8 sec., F2.8, ISO 80
Manual WB, Macro, Self-timer 2 sec., Tripod Used

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 bandwidth. Thanks!


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