Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 Review
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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 is a slim, metal-built digital compact camera with a 10x 25-250mm optical zoom, 14 megapixel resolution, 720p HD video recording and wifi connection that allows remote shooting via your smartphone, wireless playback on a TV, automatic image transfer to a computer and back up to online cloud services. Priced at around £180, the Panasonic DMC-SZ5 is available in silver and black.
Ease of Use
When Panasonic first ventured into the digital compact camera market, the cameras were exquisitely retro in their design. The features were avant garde with a top resolution (usually around 2-3 megapixels), a 3x optical zoom and Leica lens. In recent years, the lovely vintage styling has gone but luckily the other aspects of the cameras remain.
The Lumix DMC-SZ5 is a prime example. It has a thin body with a metal front in matte effect that is split in the middle by a chrome band running the circumference of the camera. The lens is a 10x optical zoom Leica DC Vario-Elmarit. It boasts a 25mm wide-angle view and Mega O.I.S (Optical image Stabilisation). A few years ago, Panasonic announced and started to integrate Power O.I.S which has a higher tolerance for shake. It looks like the technology isn't quite ready for dropping this far down the range just yet. However, Mega O.I.S is still very effective.
The left side of the Panasonic DMC-SZ5 is designated to the wifi system. Panasonic have made sure that they use the wireless system as much as possible by integrating “Lumix Link”. It's an app for smartphones (iOS and Android) that allows you to shoot remotely by viewing the camera image on the screen of your phone. You can also use this app to view pictures on a (compatible DLNS) TV, get GPS information, add images to social networks and - if you join the special club - you can back up to the Panasonic cloud service.
To use the wifi system, press the wifi button in the top right corner on the back of the camera. There are three options. The first is to set-up the wifi system. You can connect to a wireless network, rename or connect to the Lumix Club as well as other options. The wifi button can be designated with a different task as well. The options to shoot using your smartphone or transferring images is also available in the original menu when first pressing the button.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5's top plate has been kept simple with only the power - which is small and square that sits flush with the body to avoid accidental pressing, shutter release and video recording buttons. The zoom rocker sits around the shutter release for convenient zooming. These three buttons are located towards the right shoulder while the microphone and speakers are found towards the other side.
On the back a traditional layout has been used with the central navigation pad surrounded by four buttons. They're more about the operation of the camera than actually taking pictures such as playback, shooting modes, Q. Menu (function menu) and display options. The buttons on the navigation pad are centred around shooting such as self-timer, flash, macro and exposure compensation. Access to the main menu is gained by pressing the centre button which also acts as a confirmation of tasks.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 has an overall metal build with some elements of plastic here and there. The tripod bush is one such example, along with the USB cover. The latter is a snap shut type, though, and not simply a piece of rubber you have to push into a slot. The battery door has a lock on it which is nice to see and it hides the lithium ion battery and SD slot. The Lumix DMC-SZ5 accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
The screen is bright enough although we did get issues when the sun was directly overhead or behind us. However, in the Q.Menu, there's a Power LCD option which will increase the brightness of the screen so it can be seen in these conditions. It works well but will zap your power quicker so remember to switch it off when you're not using it.
The Lumix DMC-SZ5 has been designed with the layman in mind. It seems ideal for the type of person that doesn't have much interest in learning photography but they still want to document their life and hold onto some memories. The menu has been split into four easy factions: Record, Motion Picture, Set-up and Wifi. Record simply allows you to make changes to how the camera reacts when taking pictures such as resolution, ISO, white-balance, AF modes, continuous shooting, red-eye removal, that kind of thing. There are four pages of options to choose from, so there's plenty to do. Motion Picture has only two options for video quality and AF.
Choosing the Wifi option takes you to the same menu that is opened when pressing the wifi button in the right corner. The Set-up menu option accesses the more permanent features of the camera such as date & time, volume, auto review or auto power off. These are the types of features that will stay permanently that way unless you change them here.
Get yourself a top-level Panasonic camera and pressing the Q.Menu button opens up a host of options on the screen. To the photographically inclined, this poses no problem, but if that's not you, the Lumix DMC-SZ5 is perfect. The Q.Menu only has six options for resolution, ISO, white-balance, AF options, burst mode and power LCD.
Start-up time is pretty average at 2.5 seconds. This includes turning the camera on, focusing and taking a picture. The Lumix DMC-SZ5 has three burst modes: Burst, Hi-Speed burst and Flash burst. In Burst mode, the camera takes 16 images in a ten second period averaging the rate at a respectable 1.6fps (frames per second). In Hi-Speed burst mode, the resolution is lowered to 3 megapixels - so this can't be a subject you want to print a big picture of - so there's less file information for the processor to deal with. It takes around 7fps in this mode.
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The final burst mode incorporates flash, so it runs slower to accommodate the flash recharge cycle. Still, we managed to get ten frames in a ten second period but - and here's the unusual bit - after 5 frames, the camera stops and if you want to carry on, you have to take your finger off the button and start again. Not unusual in itself, but the second time round, the camera worked faster to still get 5 frames in the remaining four seconds. Panasonic have ensured that all the modes work to a point that the camera can cope with buffering and download. It only took the Lumix DMC-SZ5 a second or so to finish downloading to the card after we'd released the button.
Typically, playback on a digital compact camera can be enabled two ways. Panasonic usually opt for a switch between record and playback, then pressing the power button when the switch is on playback prevents the lens from opening. The Lumix DMC-SZ5 doesn't have such a switch - it's generally reserved for higher spec cameras - but if you press the playback button when the camera is off, the pictures you've taken will come onto the screen for you to review and the lens won't pop out.
Pressing the menu button will open up three options. Two of which are accessible in record mode; Set-up and Wifi. In the Playback menu, you can add GPS data if you have it, Upload images to the internet, resize, crop and add favourites, protect or copy images.
Alongside the camera in the box there's a lithium ion battery, wrist strap, battery charger and two basic guides; one for the camera and one for the wifi usage. The CD enclosed provides a full user guide, a trial version of LoiLoScope and PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.4 SE which is Panasonic's editing program.