Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 Review

 
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color, though an occasional slight warm cast. Some oversaturation of strong reds and blues, but generally good results.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 does oversaturate the strong red tones, and certain blues a little, but results are still pleasing overall. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Skin tones are just a tad pinkish, but still quite good overall.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Though the FZ50 sometimes produced a slightly warm color balance, and pushed reds toward orange slightly and cyan toward blue for good sky color, overall results were quite accurate.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Very good color with the Manual white balance setting. About average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto WB +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV Manual WB +1.0 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was a bit reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and quite warm with the Incandscent setting. However, with the Manual option, results were much more accurate. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 required an average amount of positive exposure compensation, at +1.0 EV. Though overall color is quite good here, skin tones are just a tad pink and the blue flowers are quite dark and purplish. (Many digital cameras have trouble with the blue flowers in this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Bright colors overall, with nearly accurate color balance (if slightly warm). Generally good exposure accuracy, though high contrast under harsh lighting.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 produced good overall color, though color balance was a hint reddish. Exposure-wise, the DMC-FZ50 performed well, requiring less the than the average amount of positive exposure compensation here. Though contrast is a little high, with strong shadows and highlights, overall exposure looks pretty good. Shadow detail is moderate, with some noise suppression. The camera's low contrast adjustment has a small effect on the overall contrast, but does bump up shadow detail slightly.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,600 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,600 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height, with extinction not occurring until past 2,000 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. A small amount of noise suppression visible in the shadows.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with visible edge enhancement. There's also some odd dithering around high-contrast areas. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 captures sharp images, with only a small amount of edge enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows a small amount of noise suppression in the darker shadows, but detail is good in other areas.

ISO & Noise Performance
Generally low image noise, though high noise at the highest sensitivity settings (as you might expect).

I. ISO (200) ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 produces fairly low image noise overall, though some blurring from image noise is visible at the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 800, image noise is high, with strong blurring and yellow blotches are beginning to appear in the hair, but chroma noise (random color noise) has been removed from the scene. At ISO 1,600, image noise is quite high with very strong blurring, and though chroma noise isn't much in evidence, horrible unnatural yellow blotching makes this ISO setting unusable, at least for indoor shooting. See our Output Quality section for our evaluation of how the images look when printed.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, and fairly good shadow detail. Excellent low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and even near darkness.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 produced high contrast with slightly washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the harsh lighting of the test above. Large specs of luminance noise and chroma noise suppression are visible in the shadows. Though some areas look a little dark at +0.3 EV, the image at +0.7 had too many blown highlights for my preference, especially in Marti's face. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.) The camera's low contrast setting did tone down contrast slightly, and without producing odd color gradations in skin tones.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
100
Click to see FZ50LL0103.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0104.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0105.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0106.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0107.JPG
30 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see FZ50LL0203.JPG
0.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0204.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0205.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0206.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0207.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see FZ50LL0403.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0404.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0405.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0406.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0407.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see FZ50LL0803.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0804.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0805.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0806.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL0807.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
Click to see FZ50LL1603.JPG
1/15 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL1604.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL1605.JPG
0.5 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL1606.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see FZ50LL1607.JPG
2 sec
f2.8

Low light:
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 captured bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night) at all ISO settings. The Panasonic FZ50 was unable to keep the exposure as even as we're used to seeing, with the shots that had more available light underexposing, even at ISO 1,600, while shots in lower light are better exposed. The meter just wasn't as accurate. Overall color looks good with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just below the 1/4 foot-candle light level even with its AF assist light turned off, requiring the AF-assist light on for the lowest light levels. Keep in mind that the very long shutter times necessary here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its 10-second self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required a little more than average exposure compensation for flash exposures. Pretty good range though.

35mm equivalent 420mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.3 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.3 EV

Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, and out of range for our viewfinder accuracy/flash coverage target at telephoto (thanks to the long 12x optical zoom range). Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Lumix DMC-FZ50's flash underexposed our subject a fair bit at its default setting, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. There's a bit of a pink cast from the background lighting, but overall color isn't too bad. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required the same amount of positive exposure compensation, and the longer exposure resulted in a slightly stronger orange/pink cast.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see FZ50FL06W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL07W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL08W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL09W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL10W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL11W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see FZ50FL12W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL13W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL14W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL15W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.8
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see FZ50FL06T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL07T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL08T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL09T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL10T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL11T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see FZ50FL12T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL13T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL14T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL15T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL16T.JPG
1/30 sec
f3.7
ISO 100

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50's flash was fairly bright and powerful, with good intensity all the way to 16 feet at ISO 100.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see FZ50FL12W.JPG
12 feet
ISO 100
Click to see FZ50FL09T.JPG
9 feet
ISO 100

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. Panasonic rates the flash range of the FZ50 as 12.1 feet at wide-angle, and 9.2 feet at full telephoto, using ISO 100. Though the telephoto shot might be a little dark, this outcome might be due to the reflection from the tape in the shot. Both exposures were taken at the Auto setting, and the camera was able to maintain ISO 100 for both. Our standard testing showed the flash to be effective from up to 16 feet away.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, good 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 images are still quite good at 11x14, ISO 800 are still good at 8x10. ISO 1600 are best kept to 5x7 or smaller

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images onscreen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Panasonic FZ50, we found that it had enough resolution to make good looking 13x19 inch prints. At 16x20, its prints were softer looking, but probably fine for wall display. ISO 400 shots are still usable at 11x14, and ISO 800 shots make great 8x10s; 11x14s at this ISO are passable at arm's length. ISO 1,600 shots are better left to 5x7 or smaller. Incandescent shots left odd yellow blotches in Marti's hair that were still visible at 5x7, though, so be warned that ISO 1,600 can be unpredictable.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Panasonic DMC-FZ50

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