Performance turns out to be this camera's Achilles' heel. By the numbers, it's slow -- nothing egregious, but overall more sluggish than its competitors and about the same as the TZ3. It took about 2.4 seconds for the TZ5 to wake up and shoot. Time to focus and snap under optimal conditions ran about 0.7 seconds, while that ran 1 second in lower-contrast circumstances. It required 2.1 seconds to shoot 2 sequential shots, which bumped to 2.5 seconds with the flash enabled.
The TZ5 has two burst shooting modes, a standard and Free, which adjusts white balance and exposure between shots. The standard, faster mode is fixed to a 3-shot maximum at highest quality and tested out at 2fps. We didn't test Free, which can shoot until the card fills, because it's slow enough that the buffer never becomes the bottleneck. The battery is rated at about 300 photos, a reasonable figure for its class.
The TZ5's large LCD remains viewable in bright sunlight and Panasonic has a specific setting that improves viewability when holding the camera off-angle, above your head. However, in addition to modest test performance, we frequently found the TZ5's autofocus behaviour slowing us down.
With point-and-shoot models, we try to prefocus as frequently as possible since that speeds up shooting. For whatever reason, either a twitchy forefinger or odd shutter behavior, the TZ5 often insisted on refocusing just before shooting even after we'd prefocused. It wasn't just a minor tweak -- occasionally, it would hunt the entire focus range again. Every now and then it shot without locking focus at all.
In addition, the TZ5 delivers very nice movies -- provided you don't put your fingers over the microphone -- in both the wide-aspect 1,280x720 pixels and VGA modes. Connecting directly to an HDTV to view the 16:9 recordings requires an optional, proprietary component video cable. Plus, unlike many competitors, it can zoom while recording over its entire range.
records QuickTime movies with a 2GB maximum on clip size;
clips run about 11 minutes per gigabyte for the HD clips and 28 minutes
per gigabyte for VGA. Panasonic recommends a 10MB/sec or faster SD
card for movie capture.
Overall, despite excessive image noise on certain types of shots, the TZ5 produces very pleasing photos with which most shooters will be happy. Even in bright, contrasty light exposures look good, colours appear saturated and relatively accurate and when it focuses correctly, the TZ5 produces sharp photos.
You may be better off saving £50 and sticking with the cheaper TZ4. Still, as far as truly compact superzooms go, these two are pretty much your only options and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 acquits itself well.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday