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The other reason for the LZ5’s somewhat corpulent dimensions is of course the big 6x optical zoom lens with its optical image stabilisation system. I’ve used the Panasonic Mega OIS system before, and found it to be very effective, providing shake-free pictures at shutter speeds about three stops slower than would otherwise be possible. This means it is possible to shoot hand-held at the full 222mm-equivalent zoom range at about 1/30th of a second, which is very useful in low-light situations. The system has two settings, one which only uses stabilisation when the shot is taken, and the other which also stabilizes the view on the monitor screen.
On the subject of the monitor, I have to say that I was not impressed by its performance. As Panasonic claims in the advertising blurb on its website, it does indeed have a wide angle of view; I would estimate it to be about 160 degrees, but with just 85,000 pixels to cover a 2.5in diagonal size it is very low resolution. As a comparison, most other similarly sized camera monitors have at least 150,000 pixels, and some have as many as 230,000. The surface of the monitor is also highly reflective, which makes it very difficult to see in bright sunlight. I get the impression that the quality of the monitor is one of the corners that were cut to reduce the price of the camera. The refresh rate is also a bit on the slow side, which can cause problems when attempting to photograph fast moving subjects.
Focusing is also a little sluggish, although I have encountered slower AF systems. In good light and with a high-contrast subject it takes a good half a second to focus, giving a total shutter lag of almost a second. This might not sound like much, but it is definitely toward the slower end of the scale when compared to other current models. In low light it is even slower, but thanks to the AF illuminator it can focus in total darkness at a range of about two metres.
Overall shooting speed isn’t too bad. In high speed continuous mode it shoots six frames in just under three seconds, while in infinity mode it can shoot at about 1.3 frames per second and keep this speed up until the memory card is full.