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Panasonic FZ5 Review
Date: Sep 27, 2005
to Serious Amateur
Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- Panasonic FZ5
- 16MB SD memory card
- Shoulder Strap
- Lens cap and Lens Hood (with included Adapter)
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery and Battery Charger
- Interface Cables: A/V, USB
- English and French Instruction Manuals: Operating
- Software CDs: ArcSoft PhotoImpression, ArcSoft
Panorama Maker, ArcSoft PhotoBase, SD Viewer,
USB Driver 1.0
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 feels intuitive
and user-friendly. From the moment I pick it up,
it feels right, and it only takes a couple of
minutes to set it up the way I like and to start
A 16MB SD card is included in the box and will
store about 5 full-res 2560x1920 pixels images.
I recommend that you buy as large a memory card
as you can afford. It's a one time buy and you
may never have to remove it from your camera.
A 1GB SD card will hold approx. 408 full-res images.
The included Li-Ion battery recharges in about
2 hours in a battery charger that plugs directly
into the wall electrical outlet. CIPA (Camera
& Imaging Products Association) estimates
a fully charged battery lasts approx. 150 min.
or enough to take about 300 pictures, which is
very good. I've gone on a day's photo shoot and
at most 2 notches (out of 3) have been used up.
This number will vary depending on how you use
the camera, so it's always a good idea to bring
a spare (and fully charged) battery with you for
any lengthy photo shoot.
To transfer images from the camera to my PC running
Windows XP, all I have to do is simply connect
the USB cable from the camera (turned off) to
the PC. I then turn the Mode Dial to Playback,
turn on the camera and the camera is immediately
recognized as an external drive. Then it is simply
a matter of drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer.
Or, use ArcSoft PhotoImpression to transfer and
index the images. However, be sure to specify
where you want your pictures to be saved (by default
it saves to C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\My
Documents\My Pictures\). You can view you rimages
different ways: folder, single photo, large thumbnails,
small thumbnails, details, full screen.
EXIF Info is accessed by Right-Clicking on an
image and selecting EXIF Properties. You can conveniently
save the EXIF info as a text file.
Once all the images have been transferred, I
click the drive icon on my task bar and wait for
the signal that it is now OK to unplug the cable
at both end.
To erase all pictures from the memory card, I
put the camera in Playback Mode, then press the
Delete button twice - ALL DELETE - Yes. Or, if
you need to ensure all images are completely wiped
out on the memory card, simply reformat everytime.
Formatting a 1GB card takes a surprisingly very
short time, only a few seconds.
I take the time to set the Panasonic FZ5 to the
way I would like to use it. Notice that this is
using the P mode on the Mode Dial. If you usually
use the Auto/Simple (heart symbol) mode, I encourage
you to switch to P, which is Auto on steroids.
If you don't understand when to change ISO, then
set it to AUTO here. At ISO 80, the camera delivers
the lowest noise.
METERING MODE is set to MULTIPLE. If you find
your images turn out a bit too dark for your liking,
try CENTER WEIGHTED.
AF MODE is set to 1-AREA (HIGH SPEED). At this
setting, autofocus is lightning fast!
PLAY ON LCD is set to ON so that when you switch
to Playback or Review mode, the images will always
show on the LCD monitor even if you are currently
using the EVF.
HIGHLIGHT is set to ON so the potentially overexposed
bright areas will blink when the image is viewed
in Review mode.
I prefer to use Program AE (P) instead of AUTO
(A) mode. The P mode works just like the A mode,
but gives you more control over the settings,
e.g. to select the ISO.
Press and hold the hand button down a few seconds
to bring up the STABILIZER options.
If your camera is on a tripod, turn image stabilization
OFF; select MODE1 if you like to see the stabilizing
effect live; the most effective image stabilization
is obtained using MODE2, when image stabilization
is engaged at the time of recording the image.
Yeah, as you can guess, I don't very much like
most of the beeps, bleeps, and other sounds on
digital cameras. Unless the shutter can be a soft,
almost imperceptible kachunk, I turn them
all off in the SETUP menu. Note that even though
you turn the VOLUME to OFF, movies will still
be captured with sound. Just remember to set VOLUME
back up when you replay a movie to hear the sound.
72mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/400 sec.,
F4.5 and ISO 80
The 1.8 in. LCD is pretty good, with enough resolution
(130,000 pixels) to help me determine whether
I have a good shot or whether to reshoot. Yes,
I can actually tell an image is not sharp, and
you see the image snap into focus on the LCD.
The viewfinder is electronic (EVF), so displays
all exposure info. The frame coverage is almost
100%, but I've noticed that I crop valuable info
at the very top of the frame on a number of occasions.
On further investigation, I determine it is my
own fault -- when I depress the shutter release
button, the camera sometimes moves slightly down
and crops the top part of the framed picture.
Which brings me to the shutter release button.
The shutter release button is much improved,
having moved from its previous arkward position
on previous FZ models to its current position
on the FZ5. I believe there is still some room
for improvement and a slight angled rotation toward
the front will give a more natural index finger
placement. The shutter release button is also
surrounded by a rather deep well, which I find
gets somewhat in the way when I need to fully
depress the shutter release button. So, instead
of a light gentle squeeze of the button with the
flat part of the index finger, I end up having
to push hard with the tip of my index finger,
causing the above mishap with cropping off of
top part of the picture.
The control buttons on the Panasonic FZ5 are
many and mean you don't need to access the menu
for most of the important settings. Placement
and use are very intuitive.
We don't say that often, but the Operating Instructions
manual of the FZ5 is very good. Though the type
is small as in most other manuals we've seen,
the manual is logically organized, with lots of
white space, and finding anything using either
the Table of Contents or Index is both quick and
easy. Explanations are clearly illustrated with
The Panasonic FZ5 takes about 3 sec. to startup,
which is not pretty fast, but not bad for a long
zoom lens. But it has one of the quickest AF we've
seen in a consumer digital camera and no practical
shutter lag -- which makes taking candid pictures
possible. The AF positively snaps the image into
focus, even in low-light situations.
Movie mode is 320x240 at 30fps with sound, recording
time limited only by size of memory card. Image
stabilization MODE1 can be activated. You cannot
zoom during filming.
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Besides full exposure flexibility, the Panasonic
FZ5 also features easy-to-use Scene Modes. There
are in all 9 scene modes, including two for the
most difficult types of pictures to take with
any digital camera: Fireworks and Panning.
In case you need to know when to use a particular
scene mode, pressing the Left Arrow on a highlighted
scene mode will give you a short helpful description.
One last feature I will mention is Manual mode.
I remember when I started photography a long time
ago, Manual mode was always a scary proposition.
After all, how would you know when you had correct
exposure? The Panasonic FZ5, as in a few other
digital cameras, provides "Manual Exposure
Assistance." How this works is that when
you half-press the shutter release button, a scale
ranging from -2 to +2 displays with a yellow/orange
indicator pointing to either 0 (indicates correct
exposure), a +ve number (indicates overexposure),
or a -ve number (indicates underexposure). What
you want to do is to align that indicator to point
to 0. Press the Exposure button and use the Up/Down
arrows to change the aperture, and the Left/Right
arrows to change the shutter speed, until you
have correct exposure. It's that easy! It's an
approximation but this makes using manual exposure
a snap. Give it a try!
The Panasonic FZ5 is definitely a best value
for money. In a compact and light, but solidly
built body, it includes all the features desirable
in a digital camera and throws in a couple that
are hard to find in many other digital cameras:
an effective image
stabilization (the real type) and an accurate
High Speed AF. All of this wrapped in an interface
that is easy to understand and intuitive to use.