The metal shell of the camera has a pleasant matte sheen, with gloss details and the slim profile is impressive considering the 4x zoom lens that’s enclosed in the case.
It’s one of the smaller cameras on the market and easily fits into a shirt pocket, yet is just as easy to hold, with small but mostly easily pressed buttons, thanks to their raised profile. A n exception is the menu button, which is set almost flush into the body but can still be easily pressed.
The top plate features the power switch the shutter release button with a zoom ring around the outside. It’s a little tricky to get an accurate zoom action thanks to the stepped and over eager speed of the lens action, but I’d rather have a faster action than a ponderous zoom. A new addition on the top plate, and to the range is the E-Zoom button, which quickly extends the zoom from the wide to telephoto in one press. Press again and it goes back to wide. Lovely.
On the back of the camera is the 2.5″ LCD. It’s not the biggest on the market, (the FS20 is identical but with a 3″ LCD), but it’s bright and fairly easy to see in most conditions. I had some trouble in very bright sunlight, partly due to the highly glossy screen, but on average it’s one of the best I’ve used.
The menu system has had a slight makeover since the last round of Panasonic cameras, with an easy to read and bright system, with a white background and black tyeface, with large type. A smaller quick menu is also available for those users that like to play around with the photographic controls.
Images are pretty good for a Panasonic, usually notable for their high noise levels – especially on higher resolution models. Lower ISOs are fine, and even ISO 800 is relatively clan. By ISO 1600 though the noise reduction system turns the images a little mushy. They’re usable but detail gets lost as the NR attempts to hide any image grain.
Colour is good, with punchy and saturated colours, they’re warmer than some cameras, but tests have shown that consumers prefer this, so it’s understandable.
The 10MP sensor captures plenty of detail and the lens maintains good sharpness across the image frame, with minimal image falloff at the picture edges, though there is signs of very faint fringing in some areas on close inspection. On the whole the images are pretty sharp though I found the macro mode’s focussing accuracy can be hit and miss. On the other hand the face recognition is very good and always hit the spot.
The built in flash is useful and along with the exposure system I rarely got a duff exposure.
This is a good-looking camera with some genuinely useful technology under the bonnet, rather than the gimmicks found on other cameras. I’m not generally a fan of many high-resolution compacts, finding images can look too ‘digital’ but the Panasonic FS5 produces natural looking images with plenty of punch and not too much noise.