Compared to... Panasonic DMC-FZ30

Let's look first at how the FZ50 compares with the camera it replaces, the 8MP DMC-FZ30. The lens is the same, but the new model has a different sensor and a different processor, so we would expect to see some difference... We've included examples at each camera's lowest ISO (100 and 80) and ISO 400. To find out about the FZ50's higher ISO performance see later in the review.

Studio scene comparison (FZ50 @ ISO 100, FZ30 @ ISO 80)

  • Panasonic DMC-FZ50: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 100, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.66 EV
  • Panasonic DMC-FZ30: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.66 EV
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Panasonic DMC-FZ50
Panasonic DMC-FZ30
ISO 100, 1/80 sec, F5.0
ISO 80, 1/40 sec, F5.6
4,735 KB JPEG
3,241 KB JPEG

Unless you shot raw, the FZ30 didn't offer a significant improvement over the FZ20 despite its extra three million pixels. The FZ50 has another two million pixels, and again there isn't a huge quality leap (to put things into perspective the FZ50 images are 384 pixels wider and 288 pixels taller - that's around 11% in each direction). Then again, the FZ30 - and the FZ20 before it - offered superb output, richly detailed and colored, so we've no complaints that the quality improvement is only small!

What's interesting is that, whilst there isn't really any significant difference in detail (the FZ50 is pulling a tiny amount more out, but unless you're in the habit of viewing at 100% you won't see it), there is a subtle difference in the 'look' of the images, with the FZ50's output cleaner and slightly more vivid. My impression of the default settings when looking at 'real world' shots was that the FZ50 produces slightly 'nicer', thought arguably more processed-looking (and slightly softer) images than the FZ30. They are more consumer-friendly, but I personally think they're a little too high on the contrast, saturation and sharpening scale. Good job, then, that you can turn all three down.

The really good news is that - despite the FZ50's sensor being marginally noisier (from an examination of the raw files) than the FZ30's, at base ISO it produces images that are less noisy, yet don't suffer from any obvious noise reduction artefacts - at least not in our studio comparison shot. I was very worried indeed that the FZ50's Venus III processor would cause problems at low ISO settings, but it doesn't seem too painful (see the section on noise reduction for a more thorough examination of the effect on low contrast detail). We did, however, see evidence of noise and noise reduction in 'real world' shots taken in lower light.