Panasonic Lumix ZS5
12 megapixels; 12x optical zoom; Optical image stabilization; 2.7-inch LCD monitor; 720p HD video (motion JPEG format); Venus Engine VI image processor; Full manual controls; Captures to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards; Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
With a superb zoom range, solid design, speedy performance, and strong image quality, the ZS5 is one of the best travel zooms of the past few years. This configuration is perfect for travelers and hobbyist shooters who need a little more oomph than the run-of-the-mill point-and-shoot can provide. It has a smaller screen and more rudimentary feature set than many other cameras in the class, but the value is excellent -- at least for the next few weeks, maybe months, while it's still available. It's been replaced by the Panasonic ZS8, which is another solid travel zoom, but one that is a bit expensive for its relatively modest feature set. To be clear, there are cameras with faster performance, better image quality, and richer feature sets, but the ZS5 does it all quite well for a low price. We've recently lowered the ZS5's grade to an A minus because, as is typical for discontinued products, the price started to rise as units became scarce. Still a great camera if you want it, and it's not yet more expensive than the better-spec'd current-year models, but it's not quite the value for the dollar that it used to be.