The TZ5 is really a pretty simple camera, designed to be quick and easy to use. It has no manual exposure options, and only three main shooting modes with a correspondingly simple control layout. Main mode selection is via the control dial on the top plate, offering a normal program auto mode, two scene mode settings so you can quickly switch between different shooting conditions, and the Intelligent Auto mode in which the camera automatically selects the appropriate scene mode, ISO setting and exposure mode. As well as these there is the Clipboard mode, which shoots a low-res 2MP picture and saves it to the camera’s internal memory. According to the manual this is intended for taking photos of maps and timetables, but why this needs a special separate function is a mystery to me.
Frequently used shooting adjustments, such as ISO setting, drive mode, white balance, exposure mode and picture quality can be quickly set using a simple on-screen live menu. Most of these can also be adjusted via the extremely comprehensive main menu, along with the usual basic set-up functions.
The zoom action is especially nice. It is controlled by a rotary bezel around the shutter button, and is not stepped. The control has a two-speed action; move the bezel a little and the zoom moves slowly, move it further and the zoom moves faster. This makes accurate framing both quick and accurate, and it is a pleasure to use.
One unusual feature that might come in handy is the travel date and location setting. Before you go on holiday you can enter your travel dates and location using a simple text entry interface, and this is recorded along with your pictures, so when you display your photos on the monitor or the supplied PhotoFunStudio software they appear with a superimposed caption, such as “Paris, France, 3rd day”, which can optionally be added to the picture as a text stamp. When you’re not on holiday, a similar function in the Baby and Pet scene mode allows you to add the child or pet’s name and age to your photos.
The TZ5 has a good video mode, capable of shooting at up to 1280 x 720 pixel resolution at 30fps. The camera has a component video output socket so you can view your movies on a HD TV in superior quality, although the cable required to connect it is an optional extra.
The camera’s LCD monitor is exceptionally sharp; in fact with a resolution of 460,800 dots it is around twice as sharp as most other camera monitors, including the one on the TZ4. It is also nice and bright, and I had no trouble using it in bright daylight. The angle of view isn’t too great but it has a high-angle setting which helps if you need to shoot over a crowd.