The attractions of the 9-megapixel Panasonic Lumix
DMC-TZ5 are almost irresistible: it's compact,
yet packs a 10x zoom lens and boasts some very interesting
shooting features. It's available for around £190.
Extremely similar to its less-expensive sibling, the DMC-TZ4, the TZ5 offers higher 9-megapixel resolution -- compared with 8 megapixels for the TZ4 -- plus a 1,270x720-pixel resolution movie-capture mode and a larger, 76mm (3-inch) LCD. It's only slightly wider and heavier.
A dial lets you switch among camera and movie modes, as well as two slots for scene modes -- these have the same choices, but allow the camera to remember two of your last selections -- and Intelligent Auto and an odd Clipboard mode which captures low-resolution photos to internal memory for fast display.
One of our few complaints about the design of the TZ5 is the placement of the microphone on the top left of the camera. Given that Panasonic states "do not block the microphone with fingers" a whopping five times in the manual, the company must be aware that there's a problem with its location. Despite the many warnings, our fingers still tend to wander over there while recording movies.
The Q(uick) menu button brings up a subset of options, which are also available in the full menus. The full menu adds more shooting settings, including colour effects and AF assist as well as setup screens.
Several of the TZ5's options are quite useful. We especially like the minimum shutter speed setting; you can set it as slow as 1 second or as fast as 1/200, and though it doesn't prevent the camera from shooting when exposure drops below the threshold, it does blink a warning message. Intelligent ISO lets you set a maximum for the auto of ISO 400, ISO 800 or ISO 1,600.
The various AF area-mode selections are pretty practical as well, though more for limiting the range of subjects the AF system chooses to focus on than for speed. For instance, the 9-area AF will frequently choose incorrect subjects, where the 3-area AF, which limits the focus areas to the middle row of the frame, will probably choose correctly more often -- most people simply point at their subject, which puts it in the middle of the frame.
On one hand, the TZ5's face detection seems more robust and faster than other implementations we've seen. On the other, it still doesn't seem to be more efficient or easier than using centre-spot focusing and recomposing.