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Timing & Performance

The FZ30 represented a big leap forward in performance over the FZ20, and the FZ50 carries on the good work, generally matching its predecessor (there are minor differences; some areas are slightly faster, some - mainly due to the larger files - slightly slower). Like the camera it replaces the FZ50 feels very responsive indeed, and rarely - if ever - keeps you waiting. The high speed focus works brilliantly (the only downside being that the live display freezes for a fraction of a second during focusing, something I find easy to live with) and the shutter lag is even better than the FZ30. Incidentally if you're wondering why the measured shutter lag (around 0.07 seconds) seems a lot higher than the 0.009 secs quoted in Panasonic's press release, it's because the LCD has a slight lag (as they commonly do), so what you're seeing on the screen or in the EVF is a fraction of a second 'late'. The actual shutter lag is under 0.01 seconds, but since there is no optical viewfinder it's a moot point. The only disappointment, performance-wise, is that the continuous mode, though still fairly decent, isn't as good as the FZ30 (larger files being to blame).

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3648 x 2736 Fine JPEG image (approx. 4,600 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record   0.9
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 1.5
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 1.6
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty 1.9
Record Review Image displayed ~0.8
Mode: Record to Play   1.2
Mode: Play to Record   ~0.7
Play: Magnify To full magnification (16x) ~1.0 *1
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~1.2
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails 0.5
Play: Thumbnail view 5 x 5 thumbnails 1.8

Action Details
Time, seconds
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, Hi speed AF ~0.2 - 0.3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle, Standard multi-area AF ~0.7
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto, Hi speed AF ~0.3 - 0.5
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto, Standard multi-area AF ~1.0
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view or EVF , IS mode 1 ~0.08 *1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view or EVF , IS mode 2 ~0.17*2
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~0.4
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~1.6
Shot to Shot Flash off ~1.4
Shot to Shot Flash on ~1.6
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye mode) ~2.6
*1 Magnifying requires four turns of the front dial - this is about as fast as you can do it.
*2 Using OIS mode 2 roughly doubles the shutter lag compared to shooting with OIS off, or set to mode 1.

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. Media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

In burst mode the FZ50 shows a brief review image for each frame taken, but the live preview does not work between frames. There are three continuous drive modes; High (H), Low (L) and No Limit (∞). Burst mode cannot be used with RAW images. Performance is roughly the same no matter what image size you use (3 frames per burst in Fine quality mode, 5 per burst in Standard), though the recovery time (between bursts) gets gradually shorter as you move down the megapixel scale.

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
3648 x 2736 JPEG Fine Continuous H 2.3 fps 3 ~1.6 sec pause*3
3648 x 2736 JPEG Fine Continuous L 1.3 fps 3 ~1.6 sec pause*3
3648 x 2736 JPEG Fine Continuous ∞ 1.8 fps limited by card capacity n/a
3648 x 2736 JPEG Standard Continuous H 2.3 fps 5 ~1.4 sec pause*3
3648 x 2736 JPEG Standard Continuous L 1.3 fps 5 ~1.4 sec pause*3
3648 x 2736 JPEG Standard Continuous ∞ 1.8 fps limited by card capacity n/a

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release). Average figure (the FZ30 speeds up slightly after the first shot in a burst).
*2 In H and L mode continuous shooting stops when the buffer is full (5 or 9 frames according to the file quality setting. This is the delay before the next burst
*3 The delay of around 1.5-2.3 seconds is mainly down to the need to refocus before the next burst. By switching to manual focus you can reduce this to ~1.0s.

Not quite up to the standard set by the FZ30 (slower frame rate, fewer shots per burst), the FZ50's high speed continuous shooting mode is nothing special, but it's better than they suggest in the literature (which claims 2 frames per second). Then again, the buffer clears very quickly, and most of the delay between bursts is due to the fact that you cannot just hold down the shutter and wait - you have to take your finger off the shutter and press it again. This means waiting for the camera to refocus. By switching to manual focus you can reduce this to around a second. It's an annoying quirk shared with the FZ30 and FZ20; if the camera can clear the buffer so quickly why not let you continue shoot, albeit at slightly lower rate without having to take your finger off the trigger and start again? If you want to take a really long burst with no pauses you can always switch to the 'no limit' mode (which averages around 1.8 frames per second).

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
1.0 GB Card
3648 x 2736 RAW ~3.6 ~0.8 20,020 KB *3 42
3648 x 2736 JPEG Fine ~1.6 ~1.2 4,600 KB 200
3648 x 2736 JPEG Standard ~1.3 ~0.8 2,150 KB 400
2560 x 1920 JPEG Fine ~1.2 ~0.7 2,270 KB 404
2560 x 1920 JPEG Standard ~1.0 ~0.5 1,050 KB 793
1600 x 1200 JPEG Fine ~0.9 ~0.3 850 KB 998
1600 x 1200 JPEG Standard ~0.8 ~0.3 450 KB 1,935

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.
*3 RAW files are saved saved with a 2,150 KB (std quality) JPEG

With write times averaging around 3.6 seconds for a 20.4MB raw file the FZ50 is very fast indeed for a 'compact' digital camera - approximately 5500KB/s. This is definitely a camera it is worth buying a fast card for. And although shot-to-shot times of around 4 seconds aren't ideal, the FZ50's raw performance is a lot better than most non-SLR cameras, and I found it perfectly usable.

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