We have had the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 for about a year and a half now. Recently we wanted to be able to take some video, but I'm not keen having a large camcorder, and I had already been impressed by the quality of the video that the TZ3 took. The TZ3 however has some drawbacks, the main one being that it doesn't allow zoom adjustment, once video recording is started. The TZ5 was bought because this limitation has been removed, and zooming can be done whilst filming, but there was a surprise: The zoom on the TZ5 is variable speed, like a camcorder. This was a pleasant bonus and made film zooming more controllable, as the last thing you want (apart from no zoom at all) is a zoom that has only one speed.
Recommend this product?
There is another advantage to the TZ5 that was expected and that is the ability to record 720p HD video at 30 frames a second. However this if course fills up the memory very quickly, so large SD-cards are the order of the day, and we are using a 16GB class-6 SDHC card from Innov8. Its not all brilliant though. As you are probably aware an SD-card is formatted in a FAT-32 format, which means it is limited to file sizes of 2GB. So the recording on the TZ5 is limited to clips of 2GB or 15 minutes, whichever happens first. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred this will not be a problem. One of the rules for home-video taking is to use short clips anyway, and ten minutes would be a long clip. Do not expect to use the TZ5 for recording longer events and shows though. It is a shame that the camera doesn't automatically start a new file as one is filled up, then longer clips would be possible. Maybe in a future model!
I have found the microphone in the TZ5 to be ultrasensitive, too sensitive in fact. The TZ3 it is possible to hear the autofocus and image stabilisation motors in film clips, but the TZ5 was awful. I had to turn off the image stabilisation to reduce some of the noise and then I thought it would be acceptable. The camera was used to film my wife doing a dance show with a live band. The TZ5 didn't cope at all with the music, and recorded lots of distortion. It was so much worse than the TZ3, that I am planning to return the camera to the shop and exchange it for another to see if I simply had a defective one. I hope it is that, because in all other respects this is a very good camera.
The TZ5 has had some controls moved around. The dial on top is only for selecting recording modes. The camera is switched between record and playback by a small slide switch on the back of the camera. The new switch means the menu down button is no longer a quick preview button.
The TZ5 does not have an image stabilisation button on top, but has an E.ZOOM button. To be honest, I don't see the need for the change. The OIS button on the TZ3 was sometimes useful, but the E.ZOOM button is not. The first press of E.ZOOM takes the camera straight to X10 zoom. The next press puts the camera into a digital zoom mode and goes up to X16.9. I have never found digital zooms on any cameras useful. They simply seem to magnify pixels, and I fail to see the benefit in that!
I don't know if it is my imagination, but the TZ5 seems fractionally smaller and lighter than the TZ3, but you can see that they come from the same stable. I did however choose a black one this time, so that it doesn't get confused with the TZ3.
The Intelligent Auto mode of the TZ5 has new auto focus functionality in it. The TZ5 has face recognition like a lot of new cameras nowadays, and it does seem to work. The higher resolution sensor naturally produces larger more detailed images, but to be honest those from the TZ3 were far better than I needed anyway. Most of our pictures are never printed. Those that are printed, end up on 6x4 prints, that are probably not making full use of the high resolution either. A majority of the pictures don't go anywhere other than websites and emails. A high resolution does offer more flexibility for image cropping though.
Using the cameras side by side the view screens are a similar size, but the TZ5 seems to have much richer colours. I have yet to take similar pictures on both, that is a project for a another day.
Other little things:
I can use all the memory and batteries I have for the TZ3. We have five batteries, which can keep both batteries going for many hours of use. The 16GB card is very useful, but hardly a function of the camera except to say that like the TZ3 the TZ5 supports SDHC cards up to 16GB. It is quite odd to look at the back of the camera and see that you have space for 3500 pictures!
Amount Paid (US$): 280
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts