The photo quality from the ZS5 is very good with the understanding that this is a compact camera--regardless of its features. Photos shot at ISO 80 and 100 are great, they're sharp with nice color and fine detail. When you jump to ISO 200, photo subjects get slightly softer, but the images are still very good. At ISO 400, noise starts creating color issues including yellow blotching, though detail remains good. When you go up to ISO 800, its photos get pretty bad; they're soft and yellowy with visible noise. Forget about using ISO 1,600 unless you're shooting in black and white and don't mind graininess. In other words, if you're looking for great low-light photo quality or if you typically do a lot of heavy cropping, the ZS5 will disappoint you.
The ZS5 has a High Sensitivity mode for shooting in very low light. It can capture up to a 3-megapixel image using ISOs from 1,600 to 6,400. This was taken at ISO 3,200. The yellow blotches are from noise and occur even at lower ISOs in this mode. Basically, it's there for getting a shot without using a flash, but the results aren't good for much more than Web use at small sizes.
As long as you're shooting at ISOs below 400, photo colors are just shy of accurate and overall rich and pleasing. Exposure is also very good. And if you're not happy with the results there are controls for adjusting sharpness, contrast, saturation, and noise reduction.
Panasonic's Intelligent Resolution feature automatically detects outlines, detailed texture areas, and soft gradation areas and performs "optimum signal processes" to each area. I've been thinking of it as smart sharpening and it definitely works. On the left is with the I.R. off, the shot on the right is with it on. With it on, the fleece has more texture and looks sharp and clear. Occasionally, its shots appear oversharpened and crunchy, but in general the results were very good.
The lens starts at a wide 25mm-equivalent (top) and zooms out to 300mm-equivalent (bottom). These are the full photos, not crops. But the quality doesn't get better when viewed at 100 percent.
Panasonic uses the Intelligent Resolution to extend the range of the optical zoom from 12x to 16x by cropping in on the center of the frame, what it calls Intelligent Zoom. The outcome is a better digital zoom, but it's still not great; fine if you really need to get a little closer, but not something you'd want to rely on.
The ZS5 has semimanual and full manual shooting modes. Shutter speeds go from 1 minute to 1/2,000 second and aperture ranges are f3.3-6.3 (Wide) and f4.9-6.3 (Tele) with two apertures at each step of the zoom.
With the ZS5's shooting features, there are plenty of opportunities for experimenting. Panasonic includes a few scene modes to add to the mix, too. For example, this is the Film Grain mode that boosts sensitivity to ISO 1,600 and captures in black and white. These aren't new options, but they are full resolution; it used to be limited to 3-megapixel photos.
Lastly, Panasonic includes a High Dynamic mode with three options: Black and White, Standard, and Art. The top photo was taken in Intelligent Auto; the bottom was shot with the Art filter in High Dynamic mode. The results pretty good, so definitely something to use when you have a subject with a wide range of highlights and shadows.