Expert Recommendation

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Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $300
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
April 5, 2009 Updated: April 6, 2009
Overview

With its excellent Leica DC Vario-Elmar 10X zoom lens, optical image stabilization, 9.1 megapixel sensor, 3 inch hi-res 460,000 dot LCD and a plethora of features and parameters, it’s no wonder the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 is a Best-in-Class pick.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5’s Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.7-47mm F3.3-4.9 (28 - 280mm, 35mm equivalent) lens has a remarkable 10X zoom range and produces images with such low distortion that few, if any, other cameras in its price range can match it. Coupled with a 9.1 megapixel (effective) image sensor, in-the-lens optical image stabilization, and really intelligent AUTO exposure control makes getting good pictures the first time, every time a pleasure.

If total auto isn’t your thing, the DMC-TZ5 has 21 scene modes, 7 image parameters, 5 white balance presets plus custom set, 6 AF modes, 3 metering modes, ISOs from 100 to 1600 (up to 6400 with boost), and shutter speeds from 8 seconds (15, 30, and 60 in Starry Sky mode) to 1/2000th second. There’s even a built-in flash with 5 modes. Plus, there are movie clips up to 1280x720 (HD) at 30 fps and a fantastic 3” high resolution, 460,000 dot LCD to view everything on. It all makes for a pretty impressive little camera that will handle just about any shooting situation that comes along.

Of course, there are a couple of caveats. First, and it’s not really a bad point, but battery life is about average with about 300 shots typical, less if flash is used or image stabilization left on continuously, before it poops out. Since there is no optical finder, the LCD stays on for viewing and composing, and that eats power, too. But for your average snapshooter, 300 images is probably three times more than they’ll shoot in a day anyway.

The second caveat is a big one: image noise. As with all small, high density image sensors, not just this camera’s, noise is a real problem even at the lower ISOs, but Panasonic has controlled it well up to ISO 400 with images being sharp, of good color with minimal noise and smearing. Higher speeds should only be considered for emergency situations where flash is not possible or unwarranted.

Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 is the perfect, all-in-one camera for those on a budget who want a more for their money.

Comparison with Samsung HZ10W

Newly release in January 2009, Samsung’s HZ10W is a worthy competitor with a 10.2 megapixel sensor, 10X 35mm equivalent 24mm - 240mm zoom lens, and similar features, size and weight. Its only failing is a smaller, conventional 2.7” 230,000 dot LCD.

Pros
  • +
    Price
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    Lens
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    Optical Image Stabilization
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    720p HD movie mode
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    Zooming of lens in movie mode
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    3" 460,000 dot Hi-res LCD
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    Live View
Cons
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    Average battery life
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    Noise
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    No optical finder
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 is the Best Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 9.1MP
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Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5
2
Samsung HZ10W
Customer Rating
Price $129.95
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Effective Sensor Resolution
9.1 megapixels 10.2 megapixels
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
28 mm 24 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
280 mm 240 mm
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Dual
Min ISO Setting 100 80
Max ISO Setting 6400 3200
HD Video Available Yes Yes
Max Video Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels 1280 x 720 pixels
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 2.7 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 460000 pixels 230000 pixels
Size (W x H x D) 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 4.1 x 2.5 x 1.5 in.
Weight (with batteries) 8.5 oz 8.8 oz
2
Samsung HZ10W

The 10.2 megapixel Samsung HZ10W with the excellent Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan 4.2 - 42 mm F3.3-5.8 10X zoom lens (24mm-240mm 35mm equivalent) is a good alternative to the TZ5, if you need a wider view in your pictures. The equivalent 24mm focal length is very wide and something rarely found in a point-n-shoot of this price. If the standard 2.7” 230,000 pixel LCD is not a concern, then this features laden camera is a good buy.

Samsung HZ10W is one of the Best Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $300
Where to buy
Samsung HZ10W
  • Best Price: $129
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 10.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 24mm (46% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
More
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