Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 Review
The Panasonic ZS5 is basically a stripped down version of the ZS7. To the casual consumer, they're basically the same camera with a few differences. For starters, the ZS5 has a smaller LCD screen: 2.7 inches with 3.0 inches. It's missing a built-in GPS system. And there's just 1 custom scene modes, rather than 2.
The design is similar to the ZS7 with a few changes. Like the ZS7, the ZS5 is small and compact. It might be a tad big for your pant pockets, but shouldn't be a problem for most jacket pockets. Buttons are located in intuitive places. The shutter button and zoom lever are where you expect them to be. To the left of the shutter button is where you'll find the mode dial, where you'll find program auto and manual, as well as aperture priority and shutter priority modes. In the top panel, in the bottom right is the on/off power switch. It's an actual switch where you slide it to turn it on or off. Quite convenient and definitely beats those tiny power buttons we're used to in other cameras.
On the back panel is the LCD screen. As mentioned, the LCD screen is a tad smaller at 2.7 inches, but it's still a very good LCD screen. It's quite intelligent in that is automatically adjusts the screen brightness depending on the environment's lighting. Some back panel buttons you'll find include the Exposure button, used for changing the aperture and/or shutter. There's the E.Zoom button used for zooming into intelligent zoom range. Below a 4-way navigation control is the display button, used for navigation through LCD options. To the right is the Q. Menu button, which enables you to make quick changes to options.
If you just want to sit back and let the camera do all the work, you can use the intelligent auto mode. In this mode, the ZS5 recognizes the situation you're trying to capture, and optimizes the setting for that situation. There are many scene modes as well - in fact 29 of them.
If you want to tweak with settings, you can do so of course with the traditional manual controls. Even though this is technically a point & shoot camera, the ZS5 gives you lots of flexibility. With the aforementioned exposure button, you can tweak shutter and aperture with the 4 arrows. Shutter speeds ranges from 1 minute to 1/2000 second, and aperture goes from f3.6-6.3 to f4.9-6.3. ISO sensitivities can be adjusted to 200, 400, 800, or 1600, and you can fine tune the minimum shutter speed as well.
Let's talk about image quality. Overall, the ZS5 does a great job of rendering accurate colors. We shot a few photos and noticed no over-saturation. Typically, cameras like to oversaturate certain colors, such as red to make them more vivid and brighter than they really look. But the ZS5 didn't do so, and rendered colors very accurately, as it really appeared. If you prefer those "punchier" colors, just adjust the saturation yourself.
We were also pleasantly surprised with the noise performance of the ZS5. When we used ISO up to 400, details were retained and distinct. Even when we upped it to 800, we still were happy with the details, though more noise crept in, as expected. We wouldn't recommend using ISO 1600 unless you're okay with very apparent graininess. In general, the ZS5 doesn't excel in low light situations. It does have a high sensitivity mode which is supposed to help with low light. However, when we used this mode, we noticed a lot of yellow blotches generated from noise. This even was the case when used the low ISO settings. If you absolutely need to get a shot in low light, and you can't use a flash, we would use this mode, but don't expect great results unless you print in very small sizes.
The ZS5 also has a feature called Intelligent Resolution, which sharpens edges, and outlines. It definitely really gives textured subjects much better definition. A few times, photos were too sharpened, but in general we liked this feature that Panasonic installed.
For those that are going to print their images, here's what to expect: In general, pictures shot at ISO 80 and 100 will look great at print size 16 X 20. For ISO 200, stick with 13 X 19 prints. For 400, 11 X 14 inches. For ISO 800, stick with 8 X 10 prints. And for ISO 1600, you can still squeeze in good quality prints at 5 X 7. Overall, we were happy with the high ISO/noise performance.
The performance is solid, and it won't be an issue for you. Start up to first shot takes 1.3 seconds, pretty good. Shot to shot is 1.7 seconds with no flash, and 4.8 seconds with the flash. Shutter lag is .6 seconds in bright light, and .7 seconds in dim light. Full resolution continuous burst mode clocks in at a good 1.6 fps, but you just have 3 shots at fine quality. So, the camera is not ideal for capturing fast action shots. Flash recycle time was a bit sub-par - it recycles in 7 seconds after a full-power discharge.
The ZS7 does cost a bit more, and you should consider upgrading if you think the extra features are worth the price difference. Unlike the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5, the DMC-ZS7 has face detection technology, and more scene modes for movies. The ZS7 also uses the more efficient AVCHD Lite format, instead of Motion JPEG. As mentioned, the LCD display is 3 inches, while the ZS5 has a 2.7 inch display. For us, the price difference doesn't warrant the extra features, but to each his own. Each has its merits.
- 12.1 megapixels
- ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, auto (1600-6400) - 4 X digital zoom
- Zoom lens with 12 X optical zoom
- 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 dots
- Many things to experiment with
- Compact, sleek design
- Lots of autofocus modes
- Convenient power switch rather than button.
- Great macro mode
- Good noise profile
- Only supports Motion JPEG movies
- No dedicated button for recording movies
The ZS5 is certainly one of the best compact cameras. With lots of cool features, great photo quality, and solid performance, matched with a sleek design, it's a no-brainer if you're looking for a good value.
Plus, the 12 X Leica Zooms lens is awesome, and gives you a huge wide angle that will come in handy when shooting distant shots. It's a great compact camera that does its job, period.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Where to Buy It:
Lowest Price: Amazon for $206.70.
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Prices last updated on: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:17:31 PST