Product Review: Panasonic Lumix FZ5

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April 18, 2005 The digital camera market continues to grow at an astonishing rate and the major competitors continuing to shoehorn new features into new cameras at an ever more affordable price – one example of just how far we have come in such a short period of time is the Panasonic FZ5, a camera we recently spent some time with. The 5.0-megapixel FZ5 LUMIX has a 12 times zoom lens – that’s equivalent to a zoom lens on a traditional camera having a ranbge from 36mm to 432mm. As it is TINY, and weighs 320 games with battery and memory card included, Panasonic has also included an Optical Image Stabilizer to compensate for handshake. The result is a camera that’s more than good enough for professional quality imagery – at a street price under US$450.

The high zoom market is currently growing much faster than the overall digital camera marketplace – the market seems to have been kickstarted by people experiencing the high zoom capabilities of digital video cameras and picked up pace from there.

Available now, the DMC-FZ5/FZ4 is the heir to the 3.1-megapixel DMC-FZ3, but enhanced its excellence not only with the total number of pixels but also with other innovative technical improvements such as faster AF.

Panasonic is introducing the incoming model DMC-FZ5 with MEGA O.I.S., that compensates the handshake, incorporating a newly developed 12x optical zoom ( (FZ5) / 35mm to 420mm(FZ4) on a 35mm film camera) lens. and various design development on the grip or the position of shutter button, to encourage higher-level shooting with comfortable operation. Panasonic has already introduced the DMC-FZ20, 5-megapixel 12x optical zoom model in 2004 for high-end prosumers. DMC-FZ5, however, makes clear distinction in the point of body size and usability, by which nonexclusive users can enjoy the deeper world of photography.

The remarkable 12x optical zoom combined with 4x digital zoom magnifies images by as much as 48x and can capture large frames of photo subjects even a long distance away. Furthermore, Panasonic’s MEGA O.I.S. assures stability of the magnified image and resolves the problem of blurring when the zoom photography is operated by hand without the assistance of a tripod. Same as the FZ20, the camera is equipped with a LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens for high resolution imaging with very little distortion. Moreover, the combination of 3 aspherical lenses preserves an astonishingly compact body size even for a 12x optical zoom digital still camera.

The engine, or the brain, driving high picture quality and quick response of the camera is once again the leading-edge image processing LSI Venus Engine II, which boasts excellent resolution in the horizontal and the vertical, in addition to the diagonal. An industry-leading release time lag of 0.008(FZ5)/0.006(FZ4) sec minimum and shutter interval of approx. 0.4(FZ5)/0.3(FZ4) sec minimum, allowing you to precisely capture your target subject. What’s more, consecutive shooting performance boasts the capability of sequential shots at a rate of 3(FZ5) / 4(FZ4) frames per sec at full resolution. An unlimited consecutive shooting function allows you to take photos in succession until the memory card or built-in memory is full.

The LUMIX DMC-FZ5/FZ4 are the higher-resolution model out of FZ3, retaining the advantages of compactness and ease, but still satisfying 12x powerful zoom and MEGA O.I.S., to use for every level of users in need of a digital still camera a cut above ordinary ones for shootings of the subject at a distance like child’s sports activities.

The number of recordable picture depends on the memory card size, battery life, picture size, and compression.

1. A Remarkable 12x Optical Zoom in a Compact Body

The LUMIX DMC-FZ5/FZ4 digital camera is equipped with 5.0(FZ5)/4.0(FZ4) megapixel CCD and newly developed LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens offering 12x optical zoom (equivalent to 36mm to 432mm(FZ5) / 35mm to 420mm(FZ4) on a 35mm film camera) with aperture of F2.8 to F3.3. The combination of 3 aspherical lenses, the crystallization of Panasonic’s optics technology, generates high optical performance while preserving the compactness of the unit. The zoom range can be totally extended to 48x when combined with 4x digital zoom.

2. MEGA O.I.S. – The Essential Feature for Digital Cameras

MEGA O.I.S., which we strongly believe indispensable for a high-magnification model, is subsumed with 2 selectable modes. In “Mode 1”, the O.I.S. lens continuously compensates the vibration, and in all Panasonic’s own “Mode 2”, the O.I.S. lens suppresses hand-shake only at the moment the shutter button is pressed. In this mode, the lens can move in all directions at the moment to maximize its effect, and higher-resolution image can be taken by capturing the image as close as to the center of the lens. Venus Engine II also encourages this advantageous performance in the point of enhancing the accuracy of hand-shake detection, consequently, even without using a tripod, it allows you to reduce the shutter speed more than 3 steps compared to the conventional cameras without O.I.S., while assuring clear images. It is difficult to capture crisp and clear images in shootings with high-powered zoom or with macro mode without using a tripod. The shutter speed tends to slow when shootings in low-lit indoor or of nighttime scenery. However, MEGA O.I.S. enables you to easily take clear, beautiful pictures in such situations.

3. The Venus Engine ll Leads the Industry for its Quick Response

The engine, the brain of digital camera, driving high picture quality and quick response of the camera is once again the leading-edge image processing LSI Venus Engine II. Panasonic has achieved great improvements in both resolution and response compared with the performance of previous Venus Engine. In the previous Venus Engine, the luminance signal was extracted from all RGB pixels to improve the diagonal resolution by 50%. In addition to that, the Venus Engine II gains new imaging process which adds the luminance signal extracted only from the G pixels upon detecting the horizontal / vertical lines in the image. This results in the improvement of the horizontal and vertical resolution by more than 10% compared with the former Venus Engine, while maintaining the 50% improvement in the diagonal resolution.

The multi-task image processing LSI realizes outstanding response of industry-leading release time lag of 0.008(FZ5)/0.006(FZ4) sec minimum and a shutter interval of approx. 0.4(FZ5)/0.3(FZ4) sec for achieving more stress-free operation. It also boasts high consecutive shooting performance, providing shooting at 3(FZ5)/4(FZ4) frames per sec at full resolution. The Unlimited Consecutive Shooting function allows limit-free consecutive shooting up to the capacity of the memory card or built-in memory.

The number of recordable picture depends on the memory card size, battery life, picture size, and compression.

4. The Industry-leading Short AF Time for a High Zoom Model

An AF method can be selected according to the shooting situation: 9-point, 3-point high-speed, 1 point high-speed, 1-point normal-speed and Spot. In the newly incorporated 1 point high-speed AF, the shutter time lag (including AF speed i.e. the time from “shutter full pressing” to “capturing picture”) has dramatically been reduced to one-third the level* of the previous DMC-FZ3 model, and has resulted in achievement of industry-leading short shutter time lag for a high zoom model.

Although screen-freeze in high-speed AF is now minimized, if you take the picture of subject with fast movement, you can select 1 point normal-speed AF which does not have any screen-freeze while focusing. In addition, AF assist lamp is equipped for expanding the AF ability even at night or under the low-light conditions.

5. Variety of Settings with Mode Dial and Scene Modes

9 scene modes that meet most any shooting situation can be appropriately selected thanks to the newly installed Scene Mode Help screen. This shows the description of each mode on the LCD monitor, makes it easier to select the mode that best fits the shooting conditions.

Manual functions such as aperture-priority AE, shutter-priority AE or manual exposure, are selectable directly by the mode dial and offers smooth control. On the other hand, it also offers easy shooting even to the entry-level users by providing the Simple Mode, in which most settings are made automatically. You just aim at the subject, zoom in or out, and press the shutter button.

6. High-End Usability Satisfies a Wide Range of Photographers

LCD monitor has become 1.8-inch* in size for an improvement in visual image confirmation. And a battery life of 300 images (CIPA) gives the FZ5/FZ4 more staying power than the FZ3.

Auto angle detection, another new feature, records whether an image was taken horizontally or vertically. This ensures that when playing back on the LCD monitor and displaying images on your TV by connecting your LUMIX with an AV cable**, vertical images are automatically displayed vertically and horizontal images are automatically displayed horizontally.

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