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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


User's Experience

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 Instructions
  • 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 shooting.

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.

REC 1/3 REC 2/3 REC 3/3

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.

Ducks: 1/400 sec., F4.5 and ISO 80
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 appropriate drawings.

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.

SCN 1 of 3 SCN 2 of 3 SCN 3 of 3

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.

Fireworks info Panning info

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.

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