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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 Review

September 2006 | By Simon Joinson

Review based on a production Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50K

Announced bang on schedule exactly a year after the camera it replaces, the FZ50 is the new flagship in Panasonic's big-zoom Lumix range, upping the image size to a class-leading 10.2 megapixels and adding a couple of welcome new features. Unlike the FZ30, which represented a leap forward in design and features over the FZ20 (and closed the gap between fixed lens and SLR cameras further than ever before), the new camera is a fairly minor upgrade. Then again, the FZ30 was hardly crying out for a massive overhaul; despite a wealth of 'super zoom' competitors it really does sit in a class of its own, offering true SLR-like handling and operation and an amazingly versatile 35-420mm equivalent 12x optical zoom (with fluid-damped mechanical zoom mechanism). So let's find out if the FZ50 is a worthy successor, and if it can overcome the few complaints we had, starting as usual with the headline features:

  • 10.1-megapixel high resolution CCD
  • LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT 12x optical zoom (35-420mm equiv.)
  • MEGA O.I.S.(Optical Image Stabilizer) system
  • Venus Engine III processor
  • Full photographic control
  • 2.0-inch flip-out 207k high resolution LCD
  • High resolution electronic viewfinder
  • Fast startup and operation
  • TTL Flash hot-shoe

FZ50 vs FZ30: Main differences

Where the FZ30 was a major upgrade of the FZ20 both internally and externally, the FZ50 is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and aside from the new sensor the changes are - for the most part - minor.

  • Higher pixel count sensor (10.1 vs 8.3 MP)
  • TIFF file format dropped (RAW remains)
  • Venus Engine III (vs Venus Engine II)
  • Full resolution ISO settings up to 1600 (vs 400)
  • TTL Flash hot-shoe
  • Lower resolution (207,000 pixel) screen
  • Screen now flips down to 180°
  • SDHC support (for capacities over 2.0GB)
  • New 16:9 (848 x 480 pixel) movie mode
  • New 16:9 and 3:2 aspect ratio options for stills
  • Slower continuous shooting (from 3 to 2 fps, max images from 7 to 5 in standard)
  • 'SilkyPix Developer Studio' for RAW conversion included
  • Intelligent ISO feature

DMC-FZ50 specifications

Street price • US: $580
• UK: £399
Body Material Metal and plastic
Sensor *

• 1/1.8" Type CCD
• 10.4 million pixels total
• 10.1 million effective pixels
• Primary (RGB) color filter

Image ratios

• 4:3 (default, CCD native)
• 3:2
• 16:9

Image sizes *
(4:3 ratio)

• 3648 x 2736
• 3264 x 2448
• 2560 x 1920
• 2048 x 1536
• 1600 x 1200

Image sizes *
(3:2 ratio)

• 3600 x 2400
• 3248 x 2160
• 2560 x 1712
• 2048 x 1360

Image sizes *
(16:9 ratio)

• 3584 x 2016
• 3072 x 1728
• 1920 x 1080

Movie clips

• 848 x 480 (16:9), 30 / 10 fps *
• 640 x 480 (4:3), 30 / 10 fps
• 320 x 240 (4:3), 30 / 10 fps
• With audio
• Maximum movie clip size 2 GB

File formats * • RAW
• JPEG (EXIF 2.2): Fine / Standard
• MOV (Movies, Motion JPEG codec)
Image processor Venus Engine III
Lens

• 35 - 420 mm equiv. (12x zoom)
• F2.8 - F3.7 (minimum aperture F11)
• 14 elements in 10 groups (3 aspherical, 1 ED lens)
• Labeled as "LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT"
• Non-extending / internal zoom
• Mechanical linked zoom ring
• Focus-by-wire focus ring
• 55 mm lens thread

Image stabilization • Optical, "MEGA OIS"
• Modes: 1 (all the time), 2 (at shutter release only)
Conversion lenses Yes (screw on front of lens; 55 mm thread)
Digital zoom • 2x or 4x
• "Extra optical zoom" for smaller sizes (13.4x 8m, 17.1x 5m, 21.4x 3m) *
Focus • AF / AF Macro / Manual (switch on dial)
• Continuous AF On/Off
• Manual Focus (Ring)
• One-shot AF
AF area modes • 1 point
• 1 point high-speed
• 3 point
• 3 point high-speed
• 9 point
• Spot
AF assist lamp Yes
Focus distance • Normal: 30 / 200 cm - Infinity
• Macro: 5 / 200 cm - Infinity
Metering • Intelligent Multiple
• Center weighted
• Spot
ISO sensitivity • Auto
• Intelligent Auto
• ISO 80
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800 *
• ISO 1600 *
• ISO 3200 (High sensitivity mode) *
Exposure compensation • +/- 2.0 EV
• 1/3 EV steps
Exposure bracketing • 3 frames
• 0.3 to 1 EV steps
Shutter speed • Auto: 1/4 - 1/2000 sec *
• Program AE: 1 - 1/2000 sec *
• Aperture/Shutter priority: 8 - 1/2000 sec
• Manual mode: 60 - 1/2000 sec *
• Shutter speeds over 1/1000 sec not available with all apertures.
Aperture • Wide: F2.8 - F11
• Tele: F3.7 - F11
Modes • Auto
• Program (with shift)
• Aperture Priority
• Shutter Priority
• Manual
• Scene
• Moving Image
• Playback
Scene modes * • Portrait
• Soft Skin
• Scenery
• Sports
• Night Portrait
• Night Scenery
• Panning
• Food
• Party
• Candle
• Fireworks
• Snow
• Starry Sky
• Baby 1
• Baby 2
• High sensitivity
White balance

• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Halogen
• Flash
• Manual 1
• Manual 2

White balance fine tune Yes (except Auto)
Self timer 2 or 10 sec
Continuous shooting • Full resolution: 2 or 1 fps *
• Full resolution: max 5 images (standard mode), 3 images (fine mode) *
• Infinite consecutive (unlimited but slower shooting rate)
Image parameters • Contrast (Low, Standard, High)
• Sharpness (Low, Standard, High)
• Saturation (Low, Standard, High)
• Noise reduction (Low, Standard, High)
Color Effect • Cool
• Warm
• Black & White
• Sepia
Flash • Built-in (manual pop-up)
• Modes: Auto, Auto red-eye reduction, Slow sync, On/Off
• Range: 0.3 - 7.0 m (W), 0.3 - 5.3 m (T)
• External flash via hot-shoe
• Flash exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 0.3 EV steps)
Flash hot-shoe * • New TTL hot-shoe
• Compatible with: DMW-FL500 (GN50), DMW-FL360 (GN36) external flash
Orientation sensor Yes
Viewfinder • 0.44" EVF (electronic viewfinder)
• 230,000 pixels
LCD monitor • 2.0" TFT LCD
• 207,000 pixels *
• Flip down and twist
Record review 1 sec / 3 sec / Zoom
Playback • 2x / 4x / 8x / 16x magnification
• 9 / 16 / 25 thumbnail index
• Image rotation
• Slideshow
• Resizing
• Trimming
• Protection
• DPOF setting
Connectivity • USB 1.1
• A/V out
• DC-IN
Print compliance PictBridge
Storage • Secure Digital card, SDHC card *, MMC card
• 32 MB SD card supplied
Power • 710 mAh, 7.2V Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery
• Charger included
Weight (No batt) 668 g (1.5 lb) *
Weight (with batt) 734 g (1.6 lb) *
Dimensions 141 x 86 x 142 mm (5.5 x 3.4 x 5.6 in)
Supplied software * LUMIX Simple Viewer, PhotofunStudio -viewer-, SILKPIX DEVELOPER STUDIO, ArcSoft Camera Suite (ArcSoft PhotoImpression, ArcSoft PanoramaMaker), Adobe Reader, Quick Time, USB Driver


* Updates or changes compared to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2006 Simon Joinson / dpreview.com and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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