Panasonic LZ5 - Standard
Panasonic LZ5 - Natural*
Panasonic LZ5 - Vivid*
Our second Imatest chart shows essentially the same test information. The small squares show the ideal rendering of the color chart's colors, while the circles show the color that the LZ5 produced. The longer the line between the two, the less accurate the color. The LZ5 over-saturated colors by 6.1 percent. Though we're always impressed to see a point-and-shoot camera score close to a perfectly accurate 100 percent saturation, the LZ5's 106.1 percent score is very respectable among compact cameras. It over-saturates reds and oranges more than other colors, which ought to yield rosy complexions and bright flowers. Though our standard is precisely accurate color, we assume that the LZ5's inaccuracy is intentional – many users will like the healthier-than-real skin tones the camera produces.
Panasonic LZ5 - Standard
Panasonic LZ5 - Natural*
Panasonic LZ5 - Vivid
In Natural mode, the LZ5 scored an excellent 5.09 mean color error, indicating that, even though the reds and oranges are a little too bright, they are very close to the correct tint. The only colors that were significantly shifted were blue-green tones. Again, this is a user-friendly error – we don't think that most LZ5 owners will object to the error in these colors.
The LZ5 delivered this impressive performance in Natural color mode, not the Standard mode, which is the camera's default setting. Fortunately, Panasonic included multiple modes for users to select from – Natural, which produces accurate colors, Vivid, which yields heavily saturated colors, and Standard mode, which offers a mix of the two.
**Still Life Scene **
The Panasonic LZ5's view of our not-at-all lifelike "still life" scene is reproduced below.
Click on the images above to view the full resolution versions.
*Digital cameras are often marketed and priced by the number of megapixels they deliver. The number of megapixels on the chip is a rough guide to the amount of detail a camera can deliver, but to really tell a camera's resolution, we test it. We photograph a standard resolution test chart, and use Imatest software to analyze the resulting images. Imatest reports resolution in line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which tells theoretically how many parallel lines the camera could resolve in a single image. For many reasons, the result is always smaller than the result that an absolutely perfect lens, sensor and image processor would deliver.
In the case of the LZ5, we tested the camera's three aspect ratios. The LZ5 was about average among compact cameras in the 6-megapixel range, delivering 1653 lw/ph horizontally and 1504 lw/ph vertically in 4:3 mode. We'd expect it to produce sharp 5x7-inch prints, and 8x10's that most users will enjoy. We got our best results with the zoom set at 16.1mm (equivalent to 98mm in 35mm format) at f/2.8. The results deteriorated a bit in other image formats. At 3:2, the LZ5 delivered 1423 lw/ph horizontally and 1430 lw/ph vertically. At 16:9, we detected 1353 lw/ph horizontally and 1269 lw/ph vertically.
Click on the image above to view the full res. file](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=PanaLZ5-4.3-ResCH-LG.jpg )
The link above leads to a full-resolution test chart. It's worth noting that the edges and corners of the image are darker than the middle. We also see color fringing in the image – flaws in the lens design add red and blue halos to the edges of objects. It's easiest to see on high-contrast subjects like the test chart.
All digital cameras sharpen images as they record them, and Imatest detects this as well. Compact cameras tend to over-sharpen, and the LZ5 follows the trend. Interestingly, its over-sharpening is minor in the standard 4:3 format and 3:2, but jumps to an excessive level for 16:9 shots. At 4:3, it over-sharpens 5.86 percent horizontally and only 1.78 percent vertically. At 3:2, the numbers are 5.53 percent horizontal and 3.11 vertical, but at 16:9, it oversharpens 14.1 percent horizontally and 12.8 percent vertically.
Noise – Manual*(4.42)
*Noise in photos is the random variations in brightness and color from pixel to pixel that isn't present in the subject matter. It can look like the grain in a photo taken with film, or like the distracting texture in the image from a poor television signal.
Noise results can vary, depending on a camera's parameter settings, so we tested the LZ5 in both Standard and Natural mode. Again, we use Imatest software and the GretagMacbeth test chart to produce standardized results. In Natural mode, the camera performed better than any other Panasonic Lumix camera we’ve tested. Noise levels were a bit higher than desirable at low ISOs, but ISO 200 and 400 handled noise reasonably well. Standard mode was not as good, but still slightly better than other Panasonics. We also tried the Vivid setting, which significantly boosted just about every problem we could identify in image rendering.
The chart below displays the LZ5's noise performance at its various sensitivity settings; the horizontal axis shows the ISO setting used, while the vertical axis displays the corresponding noise.
Oddly, the LX5 performed better at ISO 100 than 80 in the noise tests. This result was constant across modes.
Noise – Auto*(1.67)
*With the ISO set to automatic, the LZ5 produced images that would roughly equate to ISO 180 on the manual side. This is not bad as far as metering performance goes, but the camera also produced a good deal of lower sensitivities. In general, images shot with the LZ5 in our well-lit studio setup contained more noise than we would expect in those conditions.
Low Light Performance* (5.25)
*We tested the Panasonic LZ5’s low light performance by taking series of exposures at various light levels. We test at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux, to approximate typical low light conditions. 60 lux is looks like a moderately lit bedroom, while 30 lux is about the same amount of illumination as a 40 watt lightbulb. 15 and 5 lux are near darkness and force the camera to prolong exposures to achieve proper tonal levels. We shut off the camera's flash for this test, and set the camera to its highest ISO. The LZ5's manual controls wouldn't allow us to set long enough exposure times for the tests, so we had to use the Night Scene mode, which sets the ISO to 80.
Because of the low ISO setting, the LZ5's images showed less noise than competing cameras. Unfortunately, the shots also show remarkably bad color performance – at 60 lux, saturation jumped to 140.7 percent with a mean color error of 14.6, with an exposure time of only 0.625 seconds. At 5 lux and a 4-second exposure, over-saturation was still unacceptably high at 134.4 percent, and mean color error had jumped to 20.3.
*Dynamic range is the difference between light and dark. On a photo print, that's the difference between the pure white of the paper, and the darkest black the ink or pigment can produce. In the real world, the dynamic range is much wider – there might be both sunlit snow and a black object in shadow, both in a single scene. One of the challenges cameras face is translating such brightness differences from the real world to a convincing photo. We test dynamic range by photographing a target that shows a row of progressively darker rectangles. The target shows more than 13 stops of brightness, which exceeds the range of the cameras we have tested. We analyze the images with Imatest software, which shows how many stops the camera renders with High Quality and with Low Quality. These results show the maximum dynamic range that each camera can capture. It is unlikely that any camera would match its results on this test in real-world shooting, but the tests provide a standardized means of comparing cameras.
The Panasonic LZ5 gave us unexpected results in the Dynamic Range test, and we really can't quite explain what we see. In general, the test shows the LZ5 to be typical of compact cameras – it performs best at low ISO, and, generally, higher settings look worse. However, oddly the LZ5 showed more dynamic range at ISO 200 and looked better than 100. Part of the issue may be that the LZ5's performance at ISO 80 and 100 is poor, while it reaches more average performance at 200.
*Panasonic LZ5 - Dynamic Range, ISO 80
Panasonic LZ5 - Dynamic Range, ISO 400*
**Speed / Timing
***Start-up to First Shot (7.46)
*The Lumix LZ5 takes 2.54 seconds to start up, from sliding the power switch to capturing an image, so users ought to turn it on before they get into a situation where sudden photo opportunities pop up.
*Shot to Shot Time (9.67)
*The Lumix LZ5 has three burst modes: H, L and Infinite. In our testing, H, or High, mode recorded 3.4 frames per second for 6 frames; L, or Low, mode captured 2.5 frames per second for 6 frames, and infinite shot at 1.2 frames per second until the SD memory card was full. All the tests were done with a standard 128MB SanDisk SD card and fresh NiMH batteries.
*Shutter to Shot Time (8.24)
*The Lumix LZ5 is a bit slow to take a shot when the user doesn't pre-focus. From pressing the shutter to grabbing the shot, the clock ticked 0.4 seconds when the Lumix LZ5 wasn't prefocused. With focus already set, the LZ5 got off the shot much faster – in 0.04 seconds.
*The Panasonic DMC-LZ5 is a compact camera with Panasonic's typical understated styling. It's available in black or metallic-flake finishes. The model we tested is black, which goes nicely with the brushed metal accents. The lens assembly is brushed metal in a couple of different tones. The optics peek out of a rectangular window in the telescoping assembly. The widest ring of the assembly is labeled "MEGA O.I.S." in red, and the smallest ring reads, "LUMIX DC VARIO 1:2.8-4.5 / 6.1-38.6 ASPH," indicating the lens's specs. A small autofocus light sits along the right edge of the front, just below the narrow flash window. The handgrip on the left is a smooth, curving bulge that's decorated with a horizontal stripe of metal. Along the top edge, to the right of the grip, there is a "Lumix" logo. At the lower right, there's a script "L" on a gold badge. At the lower left, between the lens and the grip, the Lumix LZ5 is labeled "6x Optical Zoom."
*The Lumix LZ5 has a 2.5-inch, 85,000 pixel LCD that takes up most of the back of the camera. To the right of the LCD is the Lumix LZ5's four-way controller, which is made up of four directional buttons arranged in a ring and a "Set" button in the middle. A status lamp that shows memory writes is above and to the right of them. Two buttons with dual functions, display/high angle and burst mode/deletion, are below the four-way. There's a small ridge at the top right that forms a thumb rest. It's a neat, functional layout.
Left Side* (7.5)
*The Lumix LZ5's left side features a spring-loaded plastic door, which covers a terminal for USB connectivity and analog video out and a jack for an external power supply, which is not included with the camera. The door is flimsy. It's more likely to break than anything else on the camera. We would rather see a rubber flap, which would seal against dirt and be more durable.
**Right Side ***(7.5)
*The right side of the Lumix LZ5 forms part of the grip, so it's very good that the features on the side are set flush. They don't get in the way, no matter how the user holds the camera. The features are a wrist strap lug and the SD memory card door. The strap lug is high and toward the back, which is a convenient spot for it. The card slot door slides toward the back before swinging open, so it is more secure than the port door on the left side. We still prefer latched doors. The decorative metal strip on the front wraps halfway around the side, and doesn't do any harm.
*The top of the Lumix LZ5 features a small, flat mode dial, just right of center and hanging slightly off the back edge. The 8-position dial rotates easily. The shutter release to the right is a large chrome button surrounded by a black zoom ring, which also controls image magnification in playback. The image stabilization button is at the far right of the top. The power switch is a small slider toward the back. Sliding switches are better than push buttons – it's less likely that the Lumix LZ5 will be accidentally turned on with a switch than a push button.
A small hole near the mode dial is apparently the microphone, which doesn't bode well for the Lumix LZ5's sound quality.
*The Lumix LZ5 has a battery compartment in the handgrip. The access door is on the bottom of the camera, and opens via a firm press and slide motion. We'd still rather see a latch, which is more durable, but the Lumix LZ5's door seems pretty tough. There is a tripod socket at the far left. It's made of a very hard plastic that may compare well to metal in terms of durability. It would be more effective to line up the camera on a tripod if the socket were centered under the lens.
*The Lumix LZ5 has no optical viewfinder. The camera’s LCD is meant to fill this role.
LCD Screen* (5.5)
***A 2.5-inch LCD has become standard on compact cameras, but it's rare to see one that size with resolution as low as 85,000 pixels, so in this way the Lumix LZ5 is particularly disappointing. The color and contrast are fine – the color is saturated, to appeal to snapshooters who like their color bold. Still, there isn't nearly enough resolution to judge sharpness. The angle of view is limited, particularly from above and below. Panasonic compensates for this with a high-angle setting that boosts the brightness significantly, which makes the image completely washed out when viewed straight on, but it works to make the view useful when the camera is held overhead. It's a good feature, but it would be a great feature on a higher-res LCD.
*The flash is tiny and close to the lens, which is too bad. Small light sources cast harsh light, which isn't good for portraits because it accentuates wrinkles and blemishes. Close placement near the lens helps cause red-eye. The Lumix LZ5 offers a red-eye reduction mode with a pre-flash. Pre-flashes are effective, but they delay the actual shot by a half-second or so, and they're even more annoying to the subjects than a regular flash.
The Lumix LZ5's flash has a range of almost 14 feet with the zoom set to wide angle, and it’s about double that in high-speed mode, which boosts the maximum ISO. In telephoto, the range is less than half as far. The flash can be set to automatic, automatic with red-eye reduction, forced on, forced on with red-eye reduction, long exposure with red-eye reduction or off.
*The Lumix DC Vario Zoom’s focal length runs from 6.1 to 36.6, which equates to 37 to 222 mm on a 35mm camera. The wide angle capability is limited – 37 mm won't squeeze in a whole room in a typical home, for instance. A 222mm telephoto is pretty long, though. It ought to catch squirrels on a bird feeder, or get a close-up of the bride and groom from a few rows back in a medium-sized church.
The maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.5 from wide angle to telephoto. This is not unusual for a 6x zoom, but it means that the Lumix LZ5 is less able to take low light pictures in telephoto, with flash or not.
Panasonic includes MEGA O.I.S. on all its Lumix cameras. This optical image stabilization system is the Lumix LZ5's major selling feature. An optical element in the lens moves as the picture is taken to compensate for camera shake and prevent blurry images. Though optical stabilization is becoming more common this year, Panasonic pioneered it in low-cost compact cameras, and the MEGA O.I.S. system works very well. It has two modes, one that stabilizes the cameras only while the picture is taken, and one that works all the time, even for focusing and framing. The picture-only mode works a bit better, but the always-on mode helps the user frame the shot more easily. Picture-only probably extends the Lumix LZ5's battery life, too.
The Lumix LZ5 has a 4x digital zoom feature, which enlarges the center of the image to imitate the effect of a more powerful telephoto lens. It also significantly lowers image quality. A better feature is the Lumix LZ5's Extended Optical Zoom, which extends the reach of the camera when the image size is set below the maximum. The Extended mode uses a cropped central area of the image sensor, instead of resampling the image the way the digital zoom does. Without resampling, the extended optical zoom doesn't degrade quality the way digital zoom does.
Model Design / Appearance* (7.5)
*The Lumix LZ5 follows Panasonic's typical design restraint. There isn't much extra decoration or detail on the LZ5, so its typical compact camera layout looks attractive yet not intimidating. The black model looks better, because of the contrast between the metal parts and the black plastic.
Size / Portability* (7.0)
*The Lumix LZ5 is 2.44'' x 3.94'' x 1.77'' when it's turned off, so it's a pretty small compact, though not one of the tiny pocket cams. Panasonic lists its weight as "0.41 lbs," which translates into 6.56 ounces, or 186 grams. The camera is small and convenient to carry, though it should be kept in a case to protect it from dust and moisture – its doors and lens are not sealed well against these, and definitely not well enough to protect it in a backpack or purse.
Handling Ability* (6.75)
*The Lumix LZ5's simple, thoughtful design is a big practical advantage. It's not an intimidating camera for casual snapshooters. Controls are clearly marked, and its conventional shape is easy to hold. It would be a bit more secure if it had some rubber texture on the grip. Even cameras as light as the Lumix LZ5 perform better when they're held with two hands. The plain top and left sides of the camera make it easy to find a comfortable place for the user's left hand, though there is a risk of covering the flash – and covering it completely, given how small it is.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size* (6.0)
*The shutter release and zoom ring feel good in use, but they wobble a little, which suggests that they may not last. The mode dial is easy to turn, but stiff enough so that it shouldn't accidentally change settings. Unfortunately, it wobbles too, and strikes us as the most vulnerable control on the camera. The control buttons on the back feel more durable, and they're comfortable to use.
I found the image stabilization button a little too convenient to use. It's odd to say that a button is too convenient, but I think it's unlikely that users will switch the stabilization setting much, so I don't think the button needs such a prominent placement. Really, the only times a user should turn it off are those rare occasions when the Lumix LZ5 is on a tripod. It appears as though the button is up on top, near the shutter, only to remind users that they have stabilization – or to help camera salespeople nudge purchasers toward the Lumix LZ5.
*Since the Lumix LZ5 doesn't have many manual options, the shooting menu is short, and it includes some options that more complicated cameras bury in setup or customization menus. Two examples are the Slow Shutter limit setting, which prevents the user from shooting long exposures, and Picture Adjust, which sets the saturation.
Interestingly, basic controls including burst mode and EV compensation aren’t present in the menus – they’re only accessible through direct controls.
A separate menu comes up in Playback mode.
Ease of Use* (6.5)
*The Lumix LZ5 is designed for casual users, so it automates many functions and omits or hides features that make for complicated choices. Among the missing features are some fundamental ones: there is no choice of metering modes and no manual exposure control. Its scene modes include help screens that beginners will find useful. The result is a camera that is very easy for beginners to use, but limiting for advanced photographers. That's a marketable design: many casual snapshooters complain that even simple cameras are overloaded with options and controls they don't understand or want.
Unfortunately, Panasonic's user manual for the Lumix LZ5 should be much more helpful than it is. The graphic design should indicate the divide between quick start instructions and advanced information more clearly. Sample pictures should be larger and reproduced better. The quick start section should have shorter, clearer text. The whole thing needs proofreading as well – there is no data in the memory capacity charts, and several specs that were supposed to show both metric and English equivalents show real metric figures, but only placeholders for ounces and inches. Our review sample camera is probably from the first manufacturing run, but we don't see errors like these from other companies.
Auto Mode* (7.75)
*The Lumix LZ5 has three very automated modes in addition to its custom image presets. Its Simple mode takes over exposure, white balance, autofocus pattern and ISO – leaving the user to compose the picture and press the shutter. Standard shooting mode and energy-saving mode automate exposure, but allow the user to set ISO, autofocus pattern, white balance, burst mode, exposure compensation, exposure bracketing and color parameters.
Movie Mode*** (7.0)
*When it records to an SD card, the LZ5 can shoot at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolution, at 30 or 10 frames per second. 640 x 480 at 30 fps is comparable to a regular television signal. When recording to the internal memory, smaller resolution and slower frame rate options will make much smaller video clips, but with much lower quality. The LZ5 does not zoom while shooting video. The microphone is under a single hole in the top of the Lumix LZ5, so it does not produce high-quality sound. Movies can be shot with all the color effects available for still photos.
Given the poor sound quality and the lack of zoom, the Lumix LZ5's video capability falls in the range of a novelty – fun every once in a while, but not a tool for shooting quality clips of important events.
Drive / Burst Mode* (7.0)
*The LZ5 features three burst modes, labeled High, Low and ∞ [infinite]. High takes 3.4 frames per second, and low takes 2.5 fps. Both had maximum bursts of 6 frames. The camera will record continuously at 1.2 frames per second until the memory card is full.
*The playback mode on the LZ5 has a thumbnail feature that shows 9 or 16 images at a time. It can show shooting information including ISO, exposure, image number and histogram.
The slide show option doesn’t offer transitions or other advanced features. It will display either all the images in memory or selected ones, but the selections must be made individually. The playback mode does not sort by date or file name. The interval can be set for 1, 2, 3 or 5 seconds, and the show can be looped. The first frame of each movie is shown as a still.
Images can be shrunk to the cameras' smaller resolutions and can be cropped. The Lumix LZ5 can record audio notes associated with images. Images can be deleted one at a time, as a selected group, or all of them can be deleted at once. Images can also be copied to the camera's internal memory.
Custom Image Presets*(7.75)
*The Lumix LZ5 has Panasonic's typical list of image presets, designed to help casual users take the sorts of pictures most snapshooters enjoy most. It also includes a few that users might enjoy playing with.
**Manual Control Options
**The Lumix LZ5 is an automatic camera. It has several controls that can influence the shot, but they modify the automated settings, rather than allow the user to directly input settings manually.
***Auto Focus (6.5)
*The LZ5's autofocus system operates continuously. Like most compact camera autofocus systems, it's quick. In part, that's because the lens is small – at 6 to 38.6 mm, its parts don't have to move very far to focus. We found that the Lumix LZ5 performed better than much of its competition in low light and low contrast situations, reaching sharp focus when others got confused. Tracking focus (keeping a moving subject in focus), particularly in low light, is not something it's up to, but compacts don't generally handle that well.
The Lumix LZ5 offers several focusing area patterns. The 5-point mode looks for focus in the central half of the view, checking in 5 areas. A 3-point mode checks a row of areas across the middle of the frame. There are two 1-area modes, high-speed and regular, but we couldn't notice a difference in speed. There is also a spot mode, which measures a narrow area at the center of the frame.
*Manual Focus (0.0)
*The Lumix LZ5 does not offer manual focus.
*The Lumix LZ5 has an evaluative metering pattern, which takes readings from several areas of the image and compares them to arrive at an exposure value. Evaluative patterns are usually the best for automatic exposure, so it's an appropriate choice for the Lumix LZ5. Cameras with more manual features than the Lumix LZ5 offer more modes – usually spot and averaging – which aid manual exposure control. Other modes like these aren't usefully in a fully automated camera such as the Lumix LZ5, but it's a measure of how limited the manual provisions are.
*The LZ5 offers exposure compensation in 1/3 EV steps from 2 EV below the metered exposure to 2 EV above. That's as close as it comes to manual exposure – there is no aperture priority or shutter priority mode. The Lumix LZ5 will bracket exposures in the same range of adjustment as the exposure compensation control.
****White Balance* (7.5)
*The Lumix LZ5's white balance can be set to daylight, cloudy or halogen. Most compact cameras offer more presets than that. Shade is a common one that's useful, and some fluorescent settings give pretty good results, so the Lumix LZ5 would probably be better off with more presets. The auto setting did better than the presets on the Lumix LZ5, and creating a custom white balance, which is a simple thing to do, did better still. Panasonic also includes a white balance fine tune on the Lumix LZ5, which is not a universal feature even on DSLRs. Though it requires judging color on the LCD, it will be a useful feature for snapshooters who are picky about color. It's accessible via the exposure compensation button. Pressing the button three times brings it up.
*The LZ5 has manual ISO settings of 80, 100, 200 and 400. In the high-sensitivity scene mode, the camera accesses settings of 800 and 1600, but they are only available in that mode. Auto mode keeps the ISO as low as possible, which is a good thing on this camera, because its noise performance is poor and deteriorates even further at higher ISOs.
**Shutter Speed ***(0.0)
*The LZ5 has shutter speeds from 1 second through 1/2000, in 1/3 EV increments, in most of its shooting modes. The Fireworks scene mode sets a fixed exposure of about 3 seconds, and Starry Sky scene mode offers 15-, 30- and 60-second exposures. The camera can also be set to lock out speeds under 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 of a second.
*The Lumix DC Vario 1:2.8-4.5 / 6.1-38.6 has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at wide angle and f/4.5 at telephoto. The minimum aperture is 2 stops smaller than the maximum at any given focal length. There isn't any manual aperture setting, but Panasonic reports that the aperture is set in two steps – it's either all the way open or set to the minimum.
Picture Quality / Size Options* (7.75)
*The LZ5 offers the following image sizes for 4:3-format images: 2816 x 2112, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 and 640 x 480. It also offers longer formats: it can shoot 3:2 images at 2816 x 1880 and 2048 x 1360 and 16:9 images at 2816 x 1584 and 1920 x 1080.
The LZ5 saves Fine and Standard quality JPEGs. We notice a significant quality improvement at Fine.
Picture Effects Mode* (7.25)
*The Lumix LZ5 has two mechanisms for color adjustment. The "Picture Adjust" menu allows the user to set color saturation to Natural, Standard and Vivid. The "Color Effects" menu includes black-and-white, sepia, cool tone and warm tone. All these effects work in movie mode as well as on stills.
*Panasonic bundles ArcSoft PhotoImpression, PhotoBase and Lumix Simple Viewer with the Lumix LZ5. The software provides options for downloading, sorting, editing and printing JPEGs from the Lumix LZ5, as well as combining images shot for panoramas. The software is straightforward, but not as capable as the most popular image software.
*Jacks, Ports, Plugs (7.0)
*The Lumix LZ5 has a USB / A/V port that allows both digital and analog connections. In USB mode, the camera can connect to either a computer to download images or to a PictBridge printer to make prints. In A/V mode, the Lumix LZ5 can connect to a television to display single images or slide shows. The Lumix LZ5 also accepts a DC power source, though Panasonic does not include one with the camera.
*Direct Print Options (6.0)
*DPOF and PictBridge are enabled on the Lumix LZ5. It's possible to print the date on images, to choose the paper size, to print with or without border, and to print multiple copies of an image on a single sheet of paper.
*The Lumix LZ5 requires 2 AA batteries. It ships with Panasonic's Oxyride batteries, which are not rechargeable, but in our experience seem to last much longer than typical disposable batteries. The Lumix LZ5 will also accept rechargeable NiMH AA batteries, which are an economical choice for power-hungry digital cameras.
*The Lumix LZ5 has 14 MB of built-in memory for storing snapshots on the camera. It accepts SD memory cards, which are the most common memory format for compact digital cameras. SD cards are small, relatively inexpensive and come in a range of capacities.
Live Histogram -* The Lumix LZ5 can display a real-time histogram while shooting, to help the user evaluate exposure.
*Composition Guide Lines - *The camera's Composition Guide Lines show up onscreen to help keep the horizon level in the final shot.
Extended Optical Zoom - This feature provides the benefit of a digital zoom, but since it doesn't resample the image, it doesn't degrade image quality. It's available when the camera is set to any of its lower resolutions, and it simply crops the sensor image instead of resampling.
*With a list price of $279.95, the Lumix LZ5 is not the cheapest snapshot camera around, but for what it offers, it's a bargain. Its 6x zoom and 6 megapixel resolution are unique at that price, and image stabilization really separates it from its competition.
What's puzzling about the Lumix LZ5 is its lack of manual controls. It's common to see cameras at the very bottom of a product line so limited, but with this resolution and zoom range, we expected more options.
**Canon PowerShot A700 -The Canon PowerShot A700, with an online price in the $350 range, has a 6x zoom and a 6 megapixel sensor, like the Lumix LZ5. It lacks the Lumix LZ5's optical image stabilization, so strictly in terms of specs, it makes the LZ5 look like quite a bargain. On the other hand, the A700 has a much more complete feature set for manual controls, and Canons generally deliver lower noise than the Lumix line. The A700 also features a 2.5-inch, 115,000 pixel LCD. Though that resolution isn't great, it's much better than the LZ5's 85,000. All told, Canon doesn't make a case for the A700 to cost $70 more than the Lumix LZ5.
Canon PowerShot SD700 IS - Canon introduced an image-stabilized compact this year, but they want $499 for it -- $210 more than the Lumix LZ5. The SD700 features a 4x zoom, which is considerably shorter than the Lumix LZ5's. The SD700 has a very good LCD, with a resolution of 173,000 pixels, a bit more than twice the Lumix LZ5's. Like the A700, the SD700 has manual controls that put the Lumix LZ5 to shame. The SD700 has its share of unusual features, including a range of slightly goofy picture effects, and a 60 frames-per-second movie mode at 320 x 240 resolution. Still, the Lumix LZ5 makes it look expensive.
Nikon Coolpix S4 -* The Nikon Coolpix S4 is a 6 megapixel compact camera with very limited manual controls. To that extent, it's like the Lumix LZ5. The S4 has a 10x zoom, which seems like a big advantage until one notes that the S4 lacks image stabilization. The prospect of using a 380mm-equivalent lens on a camera with no viewfinder pretty much begs for stabilization. With an online price of $320, it runs for substantially more than the Lumix LZ5, but in terms of basic features, it doesn't beat the Lumix LZ5 at much, and lags behind it in several ways.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters - *The Lumix LZ5 is a point-and-shooter's camera. Its two key features – image stabilization and simplified controls – should be very appealing to casual users who have trouble holding a camera steady, and who don't want to be confronted by complex controls.
Budget Consumers - Again, the Lumix LZ5 will find part of its market share among consumers who like hoard their nickels. It's remarkably high-res and has a long zoom for a camera under $300, and only Panasonic offers optical image stabilization at such a low price.
Gadget Freaks - The Lumix LZ5 is somewhat limited in geek appeal. Optical image stabilization is its only distinctive technology, and that can be found on trendier cameras with other new technology.
*Manual Control Freaks - *With little control over exposure, and none over focus, the Lumix LZ5 is the sort of camera manual control freaks should avoid.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists - The Lumix LZ5 doesn't have the controls or the image quality for this market segment at all.
**The 6 megapixel, 6x zoom Lumix LZ5 could be a good fit for casual snapshooters who don't plan to enlarge images or shoot much in available light. If they can avoid situations where they will run into the camera’s noise problem, they will probably be happy with the zoom range, the very effective image stabilization, and the generally simple, thoughtfully-implemented user interface.
Though other manufacturers are introducing image stabilization in low-end cameras, they haven't caught up yet with Panasonic. We think Panasonic has made a good bet with low-cost image stabilization. Camera shake is a major annoyance for snapshooters, and addressing it for under $300 is a unique advantage – one that ought to outweigh the Lumix LZ5's problems with image quality.
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