Compared to... Panasonic DMC-FZ30

Below you will find a studio comparison between the Panasonic FZ50 its predecessor the FZ30 at ISO 400.

Studio scene comparison (@ ISO 400)

  • Panasonic DMC-FZ50: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 400, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.66 EV
  • Panasonic DMC-FZ30: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 400, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.66 EV
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Panasonic DMC-FZ50
Panasonic DMC-FZ30
ISO 400, 1/320 sec, F5.0
ISO 400, 1/250 sec, F5.6
3,499 KB JPEG
3,951 KB JPEG

A 1/1.8" chip with 8 - or 10 - million pixels is always going to be noisy, and unless you want a super zoom camera with a lens the size of a trash can you simply have to accept that there will be a limit to the usefulness of high ISO settings. Things are made worse by the fact that Panasonics sensors are noisier (though only by a small margin) than the Sony or Fujifilm equivalents, and that Panasonic's approach to this problem is to use very aggressive noise reduction that blurs away fine detail (especially low contrast detail such as hair or foliage). The Venus III used in the FZ50 has already been seen in action in cameras such as the TZ1, so it came as no surprise to see that the results are much more 'smeary' than the FZ30 (though the amount of detail lost is roughly the same). They're certainly less noisy, but they're no better (in fact the color bleeding in red areas is actually pretty unpleasant). Again, there are noise reduction settings on offer (though they don't allow you to turn it down much), and you can always shoot raw (if you can live with the performance penalty), but at the end of the day anything over ISO 200 has to be used in the knowledge that fine detail ain't gonna be recorded, and you're going to be restricted to fairly small prints. Fine for social snaps, but not for serious photographic work.