The TZ5’s performance is very good. It starts up in approximately two and half seconds and shuts down again in just under two seconds. In single-shot mode and maximum image quality the shot-to-shot time is approximately 1.8 seconds, which is respectable, but in unlimited continuous mode it can shoot at nearly two frames a second and appears to maintain focus, which is very fast. It also has a three-shot burst mode which is slightly faster, at just under 3fps.
The TZ5 has multiple autofocus modes, including nine-zone wide, single and three-zone high speed, single zone normal, centre spot and face detection. It is respectably fast in all modes, and its low-light performance is excellent, focusing quickly and accurately in all light conditions. It has one of the best AF assist lamps I’ve seen, enabling it to focus in complete darkness at a distance of around four metres, even with relatively low contrast targets.
For battery duration, Panasonic claims 300 shots on a full charge from its 1000mAh Lithium-ion cell, but in fact this may be slightly conservative. I took around 200 shots with it over the course of several days, many of them with the flash, and it was still reading two out of three bars when I’d finished.
Panasonic’s recent cameras have shown significant improvement in image quality, and the TZ5 continues this trend, although image noise is still something of a problem at higher ISO settings. There is a noise-like pattern visible in darker areas even at 100 ISO, although this may be an artefact of the image processing. Oddly shots at 200 ISO actually appear slightly cleaner, but the noise reduction kicks in at 400 ISO and fine detail begins to deteriorate. At 800 ISO the image looks like it’s been blurred and re-sharpened a few times, and at the maximum 1600 ISO colour reproduction is very poor and the image quality is very poor.
However as long as you stay under 400 ISO the TZ5 is capable of producing excellent shots, with good colour, above average dynamic range and plenty of fine detail. The Leica-branded lens is as good as ever, with superb sharpness right across the frame and producing no distortion at any focal length, which is a remarkable achievement in such a compact lens system.
Over the week that I’ve been using the Panasonic TZ5 I have come to really like it, and will miss it when I have to give it back. It is a well designed and solidly made camera which is tough enough to survive quite a bit of rough treatment. It handles superbly, performs exceptionally well and is a genuine pleasure to use. Apart from its zoom range it’s a bit limited in terms of creative features, but has a good range of automatic functions that produce good quality pictures in almost any situation. It is quite expensive, but it is a product of real quality and as a general purpose snapshot camera it is hard to beat.
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