Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5

Digital camera history has several eras, and one of them was the mega-zoom camera that looked like a DSLR. That was no mistake — it attracted buyers who would have liked to own a DSLR but weren’t thrilled by DSLR prices. Cameras like this sold for significantly less. That’s not to say such cameras were inexpensive. This Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 sold for about $500 when it was introduced in 2005. DSLRs just cost a lot more than that then.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5

For its time, the FZ5 was well specified. Its 5-megapixel, 1/2.5″ CCD sensor yielded images at 2560×1920 pixels. It packed a 6-72mm (36-432mm equivalent) f/2.8-3.3 Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens that offers “Mega OIS” image stabilization. It’s set in a shutter that operates from 8 to 1/20000 sec. (although shutter speeds over 1/1300 sec. are strangely available only at apertures greater than f/4).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5

Around back you’ll find a 1.8-inch LCD and an LCD viewfinder; press the EVF/LCD button to switch between them. There’s also a built-in pop-up flash. To activate it, press the Flash Open button on the back. It offers automatic, manual, red-eye reduction, and slow sync modes. There’s also a self timer, and controls for exposure compensation and white balance.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5

A traditional mode dial sits atop the camera, with the usual Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes. Setting shutter speed and aperture in the non-Program modes is a pain, You press and release the tiny Exposure button and then use the D pad with its ▲, ▼, ►, and ◄ buttons to adjust the values.

To use the FZ5 as a point and shoot, set the mode dial to ♥️. SCN opens a menu on the screen that lets you choose from among nine scene modes. You can also choose movie and macro modes with the dial. Unfortunately, the FZ5 shoots video only at a paltry 340×240 pixels, and you can’t combine macro mode with manual or semi-automatic exposure.

The FZ5 also offers a clever flip-animation mode, which you activate using the menu. It creates a video of up to 20 seconds from a series of still images that you shoot.

The FZ5 saves images as low- or high-resolution JPEGs, or as TIFFs, but offers no RAW mode. It saves images on an SD card. It uses a proprietary battery, and comes with a charger.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 may look like an SLR, but it is far smaller at 2.7 x 4 x 3.3 inches. It weighs just 11.5 ounces. It was available in black or silver.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5

The FZ5 came with a lens hood that made the camera far longer than it was wide. The proportions are almost comical. Even with the lens hood, this camera is known to suffer from a little flare when the sun isn’t perfectly behind the photographer.

If you like vintage digital cameras, I’ve also reviewed the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here) and C613 (here), the Canon PowerShot S80 (here) and S95 (here), the Nikon Coolpix 950 (here), and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 (here) and FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

This camera was a gift from a friend — it had been her father’s, and she gave me all of his photo gear after he passed away. I took this Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 with me on a number of outings. On a neighborhood walk, I made this image on the tennis court.

On the tennis court

I live in the thick of suburbia, and can walk to any number of chain stores and restaurants like this McAlister’s.


Sometimes I used the screen, and sometimes I used the electronic viewfinder, to compose images. The EVF suffered from a strong blue caste which I didn’t enjoy, so after a while I stopped using it.

Green house

The flash works well, illuminating the scene evenly. That’s my camera cabinet on the left, and the desk at which I write this blog on the right.

Flash test

I was surprised by how much barrel distortion this lens displays at its wide end. The more you zoom in, the less distortion you get. Given the processing every digital camera does, I can’t believe that the FZ5 doesn’t fix this in camera.

Old Navy

I shot this Lowe’s building at maximum zoom — every line is perfectly straight. The onboard image stabilization works well, too. As you might expect, it’s challenging to compose at maximum zoom. Even the slightest movement of the camera results in a large shift in what the camera sees. I shot this scene five times before I was satisfied with the framing.


Without moving from where I stood, I then zoomed all the way out to make this photo. That’s one heck of a deep zoom!


I was shocked by how dingy the images were straight out of the camera. It’s as if I had a gray filter in front of the lens. I recently bought a Photoshop plugin called Radiant that does a bunch of adjustments at once to brighten an image. Use the slider on the image below to see the image straight out of the camera (left) and after processing with Radiant (right). It’s a shocking difference.

The camera handled okay. It wasn’t difficult to carry around given its small size and light weight. On the other hand, the camera is so light and plasticky that it feels like a toy. The strap that came with the camera was too short for my taste, so I wrapped the strap around my hand to carry the camera. The shutter button is right where my finger expects it to be. The zoom control is the collar around the shutter button, so it, too, is easy to reach and use. Zooming is responsive and fairly precise. I experienced only occasional slight overzooming.

Road Closed

I went to visit my old friend Michael in Terre Haute, and as I headed home I made some night photos with the FZ5. Charlie’s is pretty much a Terre Haute institution. They make a terrific cheeseburger they call the Tweety Burger. I ate hundreds of them during my time living in Terre Haute in the early 1990s.


I shot this Firestone service center from the open window of my car. It’s on the main drag in Terre Haute — old US 40 and the old National Road. I like being back in Terre Haute; it always feels like home.

Firestone neon

The FZ5 does a reasonable job in available light, despite its maximum ISO of 400. It helps a lot that I have a steady hand and the camera has image stabilization.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer

I love macro photography so of course I tried the FZ5’s macro mode.

Warning Macro

With the lens hood on, I touched the end of the lens to this manhole cover and zoomed in step by step until the FZ5 would no longer focus. This is as close as I could get.

Manhole Cover Macro

Because the lens has to extend on startup, and then the lens has to focus, it takes a couple seconds before you can use the camera. The same happens when the camera is on but goes to sleep, because the lens retracts. Pressing the shutter button partway reactivates it, but it takes time to extend and focus. I seldom absolutely need instant response from any camera, but the FZ5’s slow start was annoying just the same.

Eagle Church

To see more from this camera, check out my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 gallery.

DPReview liked the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5 when it was new, and gave it a Highly Recommended rating. Maybe it was a great camera in its time, but today it has more compromises and limitations than anyone who loves old digicams needs to put up with.

That’s not to say this is a bad camera you should avoid. The FZ5’s images are sharp and full of detail, with natural colors. They have an unusually strong gray tint, but a little Photoshop action brightens them right up.

Still, I wouldn’t seek out one of these. If you come upon one for ten bucks, buy it and have a little fun with it. Its deep zoom is certainly useful.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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17 responses to “Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’ve always found the idea of these cameras attractive, just not with what I thought were the ridiculous zooms on them. No one, not even a professional, needs a zoom that goes from 36mm to 400mm or over! This camera would have been quite attractive with an equivalent zoom of 36mm to maybe 85mm or 100mm. The lens probably would have been about a third of the size. I hate what I call the “coffee can on a credit card” sizing, completely annoying to try and hold. I can’t tell you how many of these I looked at from different manufacturers back in the day, trying to find one I liked. Gotta say though, plus one for .tiff files! As a guy that spent his entire career shooting transparency, I wouldn’t even consider a camera today that can’t shoot native .tiff, and it’s usually always available only on the highest end cameras a pro would be likely to buy. It should be available on more…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      When I was in Denmark last year, I was very happy to have my 200mm zoom and sometimes wished for more. There are just times you can’t walk closer! But for everyday photography, yeah, you don’t need anything like that. And +1 on tiff files.

  2. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Don’t be too disappointed with it; the EVF colouring and faded images are most likely a result of ageing, which gets us all in the end. I have two old ‘bridge’ cameras: the Kodak P850 and the Nikon P610. I like them both, but they are suffering the effects of time. And yes I DO need a 65X zoom!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My beloved Canon S95’s colors aren’t as bright as they were when the camera was new in 2010, either. I guess this is just a thing we have to expect from older digitals.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I wonder if this is more prevalent in CMOS or CCD chips?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Good question!

          1. Andy Umbo Avatar
            Andy Umbo

            Back in the day, pros I knew that had early ccd units claimed the color and saturation was superior to cmos units. No technical proof, just a lot of Kentucky windage. From a quick one hour read online, looks like there’s still proponents of ccd saying ancient ccd chips seem to be holding on to their saturation and contrast over early series cmos. Brand new cmos vs. ccd chips seems to be able to be made to have the same ability to capture color and saturation, but cmos needs more post processing to match, it may be additionally processed in the cameras to equal what a ccd might be able to produce with less. Being a semi-retired pro, and still shooting occasionally for publication, I’m pretty much used to the ad agency pre-press or pre-online department making the image look any way they want it to.

  3. DennyG Avatar

    Seeing you review a digital camera was a mostly pleasant surprise. I say “mostly” because I’m still processing the realization that what I think of as a recently retired trusty companion is now officially vintage. I bought one of these in 2005 as a replacement for a Canon Powershot A75. I used it as my primary camera for about a year and a half until I dropped and broke it. It was replaced with a very similar DMC-FZ8 which lasted about eight years. It was also my primary camera initially but the purchase of a low end DSLR relegated it to the belt-bag jacket-pocket middle camera role. I really liked the long zoom and not-too-large size of these cameras and even tried one more generation when I found a closeout DMC-FZ70 for $150 (The FZ5 had been $400 and the FZ8 $340.) but by then the line had physically outgrown its slot in my lineup. It was impressive and very capable but too big for its role. I ended up giving it to my daughter. BTW, there is evidence that some of this is old news to you :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m positive I read your review when you posted it, but clearly I have no memory of it now! This camera was a donation from someone I know. I’m sure I would have loved this camera when it was new.

  4. adventurepdx Avatar

    I’ve got a later version of this camera, the DMC-FZ28, which is my only digital camera. It was my girlfriend’s, forgotten about probably when she got an iPhone. It’s not too bad, a bit higher res at 10 MP. I shoot mostly in “intelligent auto” as trying to manually adjust exposure settings is quite the pain. Though I notice that in auto it likes to shoot in as low of an ISO as possible (usually 100), which means a lot of shots are at f/2.8. To combat that, I’ve programmed aperture priority to shoot at f/8. That’s the only other mode I regularly use.

    I wrote about it here:

    When I finished that post, I realized that these cameras were not talked about much back in the day, maybe a few reviews on photography websites, then quickly forgotten. And besides posts like ours, not much in the way of retrospectives–yet. Compare that to how many gallons of digital ink have been used to wax lyrically about the Nikon F2…

    I doubt I’ll get another digital camera soon, especially since I just got an iPhone 14 to replace my aging iPhone 8.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, these days a dedicated digital camera has to offer something concrete over the iPhone to rate continued use. Megazoom does it for some applications. FX sensor can do it. Avoiding the wonky wide angle of the iPhone can do it.

      1. adventurepdx Avatar

        Yes to all of that! I was on a site visit in a park, and saw a red-tailed hawk on a roof. I’m glad I had the Lumix with that optical zoom to capture it!

  5. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    One of the best bridge cameras was the now cult Sony R-1. It had an APS size sensor and a spectacular zeiss zoom lens. I used one from the office for a few years. The files still look very good.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      The Sony was the only one of these I actually considered. Large sensor compared to the competition, and I’m a Zeiss guy from way back. I thought I could get by in the closing moments of my career by shooting something like this until I retired, but eventually had to get a DSLR. Still like the R1, tho…

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I looked up that camera — it looks like it was terrific in its day. $999 though, a chunk of change.

  6. Ted Shideler Avatar

    I know this camera is outmoded, but I’m taking photos for online viewings only and find this zoom to be extremely compelling. I’d be all over a K-mount lens for your Pentax that offered similar performance, and I haven’t really looked into whether there is at the price point of this entire camera or not, but I might pick one of these up in the case that there’s not a lens available at less cost.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Heck dude, I’ll just give you this one. Email me a mailing address. I won’t keep it anyway.

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