The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5 is a compact digital camera that's comfortable to hold and simple to operate. It has a large 16Mp sensor and a 28mm wide angle lens (f/3.5) with a 5x zoom. It's a convenient and fun camera that can be used for happy snaps, concerts, or even travel photography, but its image quality isn't great.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5 has a basic and easy-to-use control layout. Its shutter button has a distinct two-step feel that allows you to easily focus on your subject before pushing all the way down to take the shot. We think this is a shining example of how all shutter buttons should work. Some compact cameras we have reviewed recently, such as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W570, have had very poor shutter button designs. Around the LUMIX DMC-FH5's shutter is a zoom ring and next to that is the power switch.
The rear of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5 has a 2.7in LCD screen that can be very hard to see when shooting outdoors on a bright day (like many compact cameras), but its clarity is high. To the right of the screen is a five-way control for navigating the menu and directly manipulating popular functions such as the flash, timer and macro modes; there are only three other buttons (mode, display and Q.Menu) along with a switch for playback and recording modes. There is ample space on the rear to rest your thumb while you take a photo and this, along with the excellent shutter button is what makes this camera so comfortable to use - despite being small, it doesn't feel cramped.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5 doesn't have a manual or a semi-manual mode. To take photos, you can select from normal mode, intelligent auto mode, flash burst (a burst mode that allows you to use the flash) and scene mode. There 28 different scene modes to choose from and this includes three art modes: pin hole, film grain and high dynamic range.
Pin hole mode
Grainy film mode
High dynamic range
You also get modes that can add a frame to your photos. Use them at your own risk
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5's power-on time was swift and its shot-to-shot performance was reasonably good in our tests - there is a slight delay after you take a photo as it shows you the preview before it allows you to shoot again, but we never felt like the camera was holding us up. Its zoom was steady and relatively smooth, and its focusing performance was fast.
The camera focuses constantly, which means that shots will appear in focus on the screen even before you press half-way down on the shutter button. We like the tracking mode that it offers. Using this mode you can lock on to practically any object in the frame and track it to another location within the frame while keeping it in focus. This worked well in our tests, but sometimes the tracking was lost when we moved a little too quickly.
The picture quality of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5 is reasonably good; there isn't any noticeable chromatic aberration and images have reasonably good clarity. You won't want to crop images too closely though, as definition is lost when pictures are viewed at the native size, but the clarity is good enough for photos to be displayed on a Full HD television or uploaded to social networking sites. The camera doesn't handle highlights well, especially in photos with a lot of dynamic range, and this was shown when we took photos in bright daylight conditions - highlights were often blown out.
You can see that a lot of the highlights in this photo are noticeably blown out
The low-light performance of the LUMIX DMC-FH5 is good, but unlike some higher-end LUMIX cameras, the FH5 doesn't have an ISO limiting function. Without a limiting function, you can't tell the camera what its maximum ISO speed should be when in automatic mode. In our tests, we found its quality up to ISO 400 to be relatively clean, but it produced noticeably blurry shots at ISO 800. The camera has built-in optical stabilisation, which helps to fight blur when the shutter speed is low and also when you are zoomed in. In our tests, shots down to around 1/8sec were acceptably clear.
LUMIX DMC-FH5: ISO performance
You can shoot high-definition video with the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH5 up to a resolution of 1280x720. Its quality is not too bad when the camera is steady and the light stays consistent, but dramatic lighting changes can wreak havoc on the exposure. Like most compact cameras, when the camera is moved while a video is being shot, the picture will tend to look very choppy. You can't zoom once you've started recording.
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