New picture box

Panasonic DMC-TZ5In recent posts, I have mentioned my new camera. If any of you are camera buffs, you might like to know what I have bought. On the left is a picture of the model, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5.

I already had a digital camera, the one I have used for the photos I posted here, and when I bought it some years ago it was leading-edge technology. By now, however, it was looking rather old-fashioned and I felt a need to change.

I decided that I wanted a small camera, with a good zoom and a good ISO range.

Small size is important. If a camera is big, then you have to make an effort to take it with you with the result that you only take it on special occasions. If you have a tiny camera, you can put it in your bag or pocket and forget about it until you want to use it. This means you always have a camera to hand when you see something worth capturing.

I like photographing details on buildings, old clocks, gargoyles, weather vanes, etc.; I also like photographing birds and animals. You usually can’t get very close to these subjects and so a good zoom is essential. In general, too, a zoom is useful in enabling you to frame the subject nicely.

I wanted a good ISO range because I don’t like using flash. It’s makes you noticeable for one thing! I would rather wedge myself against some solid object and take a slow exposure than use flash. I therefore wanted a camera that would cope with reasonably low-light situations.

On the recommendation of a friend, I betook myself (or rather Tigger took me as I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag unaided) to the excellent London Camera Exchange where I spoke to a very knowledgeable and helpful assistant. When I explained my requirements, she showed me the Panasonic DMC-TZ5. It seemed to fill the bill admirably.

First, the camera is certainly small enough to go in my handbag or pocket. Secondly, it has a 10X zoom, which is pretty good for a camera of this format. In fact, you can go further still, up to about 16X with the “Extra Zoom” button, but you are warned that picture quality falls off at this level. Also, the greater the zoom, the more likely pictures are to suffer from camera shake even though this camera has image stabilization.

Thirdly, the ISO range is pretty good and I have already taken some low-light shots though the flash performs quite well too. The Leica lens is wide-angle and I still tend to gasp when I look at the preview screen to see how much of the scene is included. I use the zoom to home in on the subject. The zoom mechanism is very smooth and also very fast: I tend to overshoot a little too easily.

The camera of course has “Intelligent Auto” but there are many other settings, either macros (prepared settings for different sorts of subject) or settings you can choose from menus. It can even do movies with sound. The settings are fairly easy to use and there are so many of them that it takes time to get to know them all. Generally speaking, the ones you want to use most often are the quickest to get to, which makes sense.

Moorhen, MatlockThe camera is quite heavy for its size but I like that. I feel I have something solid in my hand. I have the wrist loop on it and always slip my hand into this first so that there is no chance of dropping the camera as I pull it out of my bag and lean over the side of a tram or peer over a bridge to photograph a moorhen!

My old camera had a small preview screen but it also had a direct viewfinder which I used all the time. Viewfinders are as rare as hen’s teeth in cameras of this format so I have had to give it up, reluctantly, in exchange for the other benefits. The preview screen is big and bright but in sunlight or in low light conditions I still sometimes have trouble locating and framing the subject.

Viewfinders have two great advantages. Firstly, if you can see something with your eyes, you can see it with the viewfinder. This is not always true of preview screens. Secondly, when you use a direct viewfinder, you hold the camera against your head and this stabilizes it marvellously. No one can take a steady picture when holding a camera away from the body. Modern cameras have image stabilization, of course, but this will always be second best. The solution is to use a tripod or monopod but then you lose the advantage of having a small camera.

The TZ5 can record photos on its internal memory or on an SD card, so I bought one of these, with 4GB capacity. That should be enough for a day’s shooting! Thinking about it, though, I finally decided to buy another card as a backup in case we went somewhere for several days and the first card filled up. I also bought a spare battery. These wonderful things recharge in 2 hours at the most and I think would last well over a day even with plenty of activity but having a spare makes me feel more comfortable.

If you have read this far, you are probably feeling pretty bored, so I will stop. For more information, just look up “Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5” on the Web. There are plenty of sources (for example, here) as a lot of interest is being shown in this camera.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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5 Responses to New picture box

  1. athinkingman says:

    It looks a really impressive piece of kit. Powerful zoom + 10 million pixels + 28mm wide angle + powerful zoom + good lens – seems you couldn’t ask for anything more. Happy shooting. I continue to look forward to seeing the results.

  2. David says:

    I like the looks and the specs. I also miss a viewfinder. Nice to read this and thanks!

  3. emalyse says:

    My Dad bought himself this camera (or maybe it’s the TZ3) as he wanted a good optical zoom range to catch the birds in the garden though was probably drawn in by the Leica name on the lens.It’s a substantial (heavy) build and he seems to get on with it (& he’s quite technophobic). Taking some good bits of movie too.I’ve used it a few times and particularly love the 28mm wide aspect. Originally I missed the lack of optical viewfinder but the size of the LCD probably makes up for it (like you I still find it odd to take pictures at arms length). Hope you enjoy using it.

  4. Ted Marcus says:

    Reviews of this camera consistently show that the TZ5 is a fine choice, although you need to be aware of a limitation inherent in all cameras of this type. Manufacturers can produce small and light cameras like yours by building them around a sensor the size of a pinkie fingernail (or a frame of old-fashioned super 8 movie film). When you cram a lot of megapixels onto such a tiny chip, the laws of physics mandate a very noisy image. Once you get above the lowest ISO setting (64, 80, or 100– I’m too lazy to look up which is the lowest on your camera), the noise becomes excessive and the camera’s attempts to remove it during JPEG processing results in blurry pictures with smeary color.

    Fortunately, the reasonably fast lens and image stabilization make the low ISO settings usable in most light, so you can get sharp colorful pictures most of the time. (But keep in mind that image stabilization only reduces the effects of shaky hands at slow shutter speeds. It won’t do anything for a fast-moving subject.) In dull light (including a stereotypically gray British day?) you may have no choice but to increase the ISO. But try to keep it as low as possible. ISO 800 and 1600 are more useful for camera marketeers than for users.

    With that caveat, I do hope you’ll get lots of fine piccies of your various journeys!

  5. SilverTiger says:

    Thanks for your comments and encouragement.

    To athinkingman: A particular reason for restarting photography was in order to have pictures to illustrate my blog, so, yes, you will be seeing more of them! (Oh, no…!)

    To David: Yes, viewfinders make life much easier, I find….

    To emalyse: I’m glad your father gets pleasure out of photographing birds too. I haven’t used the movie function seriously yet, though we did take one of Tigger waggling her foot the other evening! The nice thing about these cameras is that they are so easy to use yet have loads of functions for serious photographers.

    To Ted Marcus: Yes, I realize there are going to be limitations in a camera of this size and design. You have to select the best compromise for what you want to do and as I want to carry a camera everywhere with me in my bag or pocket, it has to be small with whatever disadvantages this supposes. My style is “Bumbling Amateur” rather than “David Bailey” so I think this camera will be perfectly adequate…!

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