Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-FZ5 is an upgrade to the popular DMC-FZ3, and brings with it a higher resolution CCD and a slightly tweaked design.
Although seemingly identical to its predecessor, closer inspection reveals a more substantial grip and a better-placed shutter button.
While it has the same outstanding Leica 12x optical zoom lens as before, the change from a 1/3.2in 3Mp CCD to a 1/2.5in 5Mp sensor has slowed the aperture to F2.8-F3.3 (the DMC-FZ3 was F2.8 throughout).
In use, the camera is very responsive, with a fast startup (about 3sec) and marginal processing time between shots. The improved optical image stabiliser is a useful accompaniment to the long zoom, with none of the fringing that this feature caused in previous models. However, despite claims of improvement, we found the autofocus a little sluggish and not always accurate. A full manual focus mode would help, but that's a feature reserved for the more expensive DMC-FZ20.
That aside, the DMC-FZ5 provides a range of advanced controls, including shutter/aperture priority and full manual modes, live histogram display, three metering modes and six autofocus settings. Image quality is extremely good - although you'll notice pronounced barrel distortion at wide angle - and if you're not happy with the default colour balance, you can increase or decrease the saturation, but not the sharpness.
Verdict: Despite some minor issues and an absence of manual focus, we like this camera. It offers simplicity, but has plenty of features for the ovice to grow into, and takes great shots - which is what matters most. Laurence Grayson
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5
Price: $879 VENDOR:Panasonic URL: www.panasonic.com.au SPECIFICATIONS: 5Mp, 1/2.5in CCD; 2560x1920 max resolution; 12x optical (4x digital) zoom; F2.8-F3.3 aperture; 1.8in LCD; 8-1/2000s shutter speed; ISO 80-400; integrated flash; Li-Ion battery; 16MB SD card supplied; 326g inc. battery; 108x69x85mm
FEATURES: 8 VALUE: 8 OVERALL: 8