Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 / ZS5 verdict
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 / ZS5 is a 12 Megapixel pocket super-zoom camera. Released in January 2010, alongside the higher-end TZ10 / ZS7, they're the most recent models in Panasonic's enormously popular TZ series which introduced the 'travel zoom' classification.
The TZ8 / ZS5's stand-out feature is a 12x optical zoom. It also has a wide range of exposure modes including full manual control, very effective optical image stabilization and can shoot 720p HD video. These are all features it shares with its more capable sibling, the TZ10 / ZS7, but the latter additionally sports a 3 inch screen, built-in GPS, HDMI connector and AVCHD video encoding.
As well as its impressive hardware specification and advanced controls, the TZ8 / ZS5 is packed with consumer-friendly features including a wide range of auto exposure and scene modes, Scene recognition, face detection and recognition and a Q.menu that provides quick access to commonly used settings. Now let's see how it compares with its rivals...
Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55
The TZ8 / ZS5's maximum image size of 12 Megapixels numerically falls below the Cyber-shot H55's's 14 Megapixels. But unless making big prints is imperative, the difference in pixel resolution is largely irrelevant, with actual delivered image quality being more important.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ8 / ZS5 also has a huge 12x optical zoom, matching the Cyber-shot H55 for wide-angle performance and out distancing it at the telephoto end by 50mm. In one sense, the TZ8 / ZS5 provides the best of both world's - the H55's wide angle perfomance with the COOLPIX S8000's telephoto reach.
In handling terms it's very difficult to choose between these two models. They are almost identical in size and have very similar styling, with both providing a good range of automatic exposure and AF modes combined with fully manual exposure control. Both have accessible menu choices - though we think the Lumix wins out with its Q Menu system - and both are similarly priced.
Both also have 720p HD video with the option to use the optical zoom during shooting. The one thing that might decide you is the difference in approach to mode selection - the Lumix TZ8 / ZS5 switch-based system preventing easy switching to shooting modes, not to mention giving the camera a slightly dated look. In terms of quality it's also a close -run contest. Here we'd give it to the Cyber-shot H55 by a whisker, but again the broader zoom range of the Lumix might nail it for you.
For more information, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 review.
Compared to Nikon COOLPIX S8000
On paper, there's more to separate the COOLPIX S8000 and Lumix TZ8 / ZS5. First, the TZ8 / ZS5's maximum image size is 12 Megapixels compared with the S8000's 14 Megapixels. But unless making big prints is imperative, the difference in pixel resolution is largely irrelevant, as the actual image quality is much more important.
Both cameras feature super-zooms, but the Panasonic Lumix TZ8 / ZS5 has a huge 12x range, matching the S8000 at the tele end of the range and out-reaching it at the other with a 25mm super-wide angle.
We also preferred the TZ8 / ZS5's handling to the S8000. Of all three cameras, the TZ8 / ZS5 is the one that best combines ease-of-use with advanced features. It has point-and-shoot auto modes with scene recogniton and face detection, but also provides a good range of exposure over-rides extending all the way to full manual control.
Like the H55, the TZ8 / ZS5's optical zoom remains fully functional during video shooting and both it and the Cyber-shot performed better in our real-life resolution and high ISO noise tests. Do remember though, it's not all one-sided, as the Nikon S8000 enjoys an HDMI port and a higher resolution screen than the Panasonic, not to mention the ability to recharge over a USB connection with your computer.
See our Nikon COOLPIX S8000 review for more details.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7
Like its predecessor, the TZ8 / ZS5 was launched alongside a more sophisticated version at a hgher price. The pricier TZ10 / ZS7 features the same 12x 25-300mm equivalent zoom with Power OIS stabilisation packed into the same pocketable body. Both share the same sensor resolution with adjustable aspect ratios. Both also offer the same shooting modes with full PASM options along with the enhanced Intelligent Auto mode with Intelligent resolution. So far so similar, but there are of course a number of key differences.
The cheaper TZ8 / ZS5 is lacking the GPS capability of its pricier sibling, and is equipped with a slightly smaller and less detailed 2.7in / 230k screen (3in / 460k on the TZ10 / ZS7). There's also no AVCHD movie mode (nor the one-touch record button) on the TZ8 / ZS5, although it still offers the Motion JPEG modes, including the HD option at 720p. So you can still film in HD, but only to a maximum file size of 2GB which limits you to about 8 minutes per clip. There's also no HDMI port. On the upside though, battery life is improved to around 340 shots per charge.
If you can live without HD movies which last longer than 8 minutes, GPS capabilities, an HDMI output and a large, detailed screen, then the TZ8 / ZS5 is well worth considering. It gives you the compelling lens range and compact body of the TZ10 / ZS7 without its extra frills at a more affordable price. But if you're sold on the idea of GPS in a travel compact, not to mention longer recording times, an HDMI port and a nicer screen, then it's worth spending the extra on the TZ10 / ZS7.
For more information, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 / ZS7 review.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 / ZS5 final verdict
Panasonic may no longer be the only player in this market niche, but the TZ8 / ZS5 remains a very attractive proposition. Fundamentally, travel zooms are about packing the biggest zoom range into the most compact body. While the competition may have a marginal size advantage it's hugely outweighed by the ability of the TZ8 / ZS5's zoom to go where others can't follow.
Often cut down versions of more capable models, in this case the TZ10 / ZS7, involve compromises that are hard to swallow, but if you can live without built-in GPS and a bigger screen, the TZ8 / ZS5 retains almost every other feature of its more expensive sibling. Where it doesn't, for example the lack of an HDMI port and AVCHD video encoding, these don't affect the functionality of the camera in a major way.
Though it isn't the best in terms of handling, the inability to switch from playback to shooting mode by pressing the shutter is a pain and the menu system can be long-winded, the TZ8 / ZS5 is extremely versatile. It has all of the consumer-friendly friendly features you'd expect - often features like Face recognition are hobbled on economy versions of flagship models, but not here. And at the other end of the useability spectrum , where many models fall short of 'proper' manual control the TZ8 / ZS5 goes all the way with DSLR-style PASM modes.
Finally, with its up-front positioning of the Travel mode tab and it's associated features, Panasonic has made a noteworthy attempt to make the TZ8 / ZS5 a real traveller's camera. All in all, the TZ8 / ZS5 represents a very capable compact travel zoom with wide appeal that deserves to, and almost certainly will be, hugely popular.
Fully manual PASM exposure modes.
Effective optical image stabilization.
Quiet 12x optical video zoom.
340 shots from a fully charged battery.
'Fixed' playback mode.
No direct movie button.
Limited continuous shooting.
Mono mic susceptible to wind noise.
(relative to 2010 compacts)
18 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
18 / 20
17 / 20