• Price When Reviewed: 297

  • Pros: Fast and powerful zoom lens; image stabilization and full set of features.

  • Cons: Body feels a bit cheap.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

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The first time you pick up the FZ5, its lightweight body feels like it’s made out of plastic, especially when you compare it with the more robust and similarly featured Sony CyberShot H1 (reviewed here). You almost wish Panasonic had put a bit more weight in the camera.

Once you get past the body, however, you find there’s a whole lot to like. First, there’s the lens. Not only does its 12x zoom – with a 35mm equivalent range of 36-432mm – give you the flexibility to go from reasonably wide all the way
to zeroing in on a distant subject, but it’s also very fast for a lens at this price.

With a range of f2.8 at the wide angle to f3.3 at maximum zoom, you can make the most of the camera by controlling depth of field and being able to use the full zoom power of the lens in less-than-favourable light.

To further enhance the usefulness of the lens, Panasonic has equipped the camera with OIS. This is its image stabilization technology, which lets you continue to hand hold the camera at full zoom, but with a much lower shutter speed than you’d normally use, without blurring due to camera shake.

Without image stabilization, the traditional wisdom is that you must use a shutter speed that is the inverse of the focal length being used, so that if you are at full zoom, roughly equivalent to 400mm, you’ll need a speed of 1/400 to avoid camera shake. But OIS means you can drop that right down – you can capture a sharp images at 1/200 while at full zoom.

Image quality is generally good. The lens performs well, with just a touch of barrel distortion at the wide end. Some purple fringing is noticeable in high-contrast areas, but it isn’t excessive. Images are sharp, with natural colours. The only major gripe with image quality was that the camera tends to over-sharpen images slightly and you can’t turn sharpening off. Otherwise this is a very effective unit, if a little flimsy.

CCD effective resolution: 5mp

Maximum output size: 2,560 x 1,920

Lens zoom: 12x

Lens 35mm equivalence: 36-432mm

Maximum aperture: f2.8

Max frame rate: 3fps

ISO sensitivity: 80-400

Storage media: SD card

Monitor size: 1.8 inches

External Flash: none

Accessory lenses: No

Weight: 290g

Dimensions: 108-x-68.4-x-84.8mm