Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
Lens: 30.00x zoom
(24-720mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 80 - 6400
Extended ISO: 80 - 6400
Shutter: 1/2000 - 60 seconds
Max Aperture: 3.3
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.4 in.
(111 x 65 x 34 mm)
Weight: 8.6 oz (243 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 04/2015
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic ZS50 specifications
12.10
Megapixels
30.00x zoom 1/2.3 inch
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50
Front side of Panasonic ZS50 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS50 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS50 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS50 digital camera Front side of Panasonic ZS50 digital camera

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Hands-on Preview

by
Preview posted

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Front right three-quarter view

In early 2014, Panasonic launched the Lumix ZS40, an enthusiast-friendly camera slim enough to slip in a pocket, and yet with a whopping 30x optical zoom lens. A year later, it follows on with the Panasonic ZS50 -- alternately known in some markets as the Panasonic TZ70 -- to redefine what the flagship of its compact camera line can be.

Externally, the Panasonic ZS50 looks a whole lot like its predecessor, save for a restyled handgrip that gives a more solid hold on the body. And that powerful zoom lens is retained, too. On the inside, though, there are some pretty important differences.

Sensor resolution has been reduced to 12.1 megapixels in the quest for greater image quality, the ISO sensitivity range expanded, the electronic viewfinder swapped with a much higher-resolution unit, and the LCD panel has also gotten an upgrade. In the process, sadly, the built-in GPS / GLONASS receiver has been removed, meaning that the new model is no longer location-aware.

But let's start off with that sensor. It might seem counterintuitive that lowering resolution could increase image quality, but high-res sensors are something of a double-edged sword. Potentially, the sensor could outresolve the lens at some focal lengths, gaining you nothing at all in terms of detail, and yet smaller photodiodes mean that there is less signal to weigh against readout noise.

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Front left three-quarter view

The result is an increase in noise, which must then be corrected for with more aggressive noise reduction -- robbing the image of even more detail. With photodiodes some 1.66x larger than those in the ZS40's 18.1-megapixel sensor, Panasonic believes the 12.1-megapixel, 1/2.3"-type High Sensitivity MOS sensor in its new model will actually show a near-one-stop improvement in noise levels, yielding cleaner images with less adverse noise reduction.

Data from the sensor is handed off to a Venus Engine image processor, and as in the ZS40, the Panasonic ZS50 is capable of shooting at an impressive 10 frames per second at full resolution, albeit with a cap of just 6 frames, and focus, exposure and white balance are all locked at the first frame in 10fps mode. Slower 6 and 3fps modes are available with continuous AF/AE/WB, with claimed buffer depths of up to 100 frames. There are also a couple of high-speed burst modes rated at 40fps for 30 frames and 60fps for 60 frames, but at unspecified lower resolutions.

The ZS50 also has a unique variable speed "Intelligent Burst Mode" that adjusts the burst speed automatically between 3 and 10fps depending on subject motion, that can capture between roughly 10 and 100 frames depending on how fast the subject is moving. A Flash Burst mode is also provided which can capture up to 5 frames with flash, however a rate isn't specified as that depends on the flash power required.

The sensitivity range is expanded from ISO 100 to 80 at the lower end, and at the upper end the limit of ISO 6400 equivalent is no longer considered to be an expanded range. (The ZS40 could shoot at ISO 6400 if needed, but was ordinarily capped at ISO 3200 due to image quality concerns.)

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Front view

The sensor sits behind the same far-reaching LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR 30x optical zoom lens as in the ZS40. Hence, the Panasonic ZS50 sports the same 24mm-equivalent wide-angle, 720mm-equivalent telephoto and aperture of f/3.3-6.4 across the zoom range. And of course, it retains the same minimum focusing distance of just three centimeters in macro mode.

Also retained is the same HYBRID O.I.S.+ five-axis image stabilizer, which will pay dividends when shooting in lower light or towards the telephoto end of the zoom range. (And of course, the lower noise from the sensor means you can use a higher sensitivity and shutter speed in the first place.)

As in the ZS40, the Panasonic ZS50 sports the company's Light Speed-branded autofocus system, a contrast-detection AF system that reads data off the sensor at a whopping 240 frames per second for swift focusing. As an enthusiast camera you can, however, focus manually if you desire, and focus peaking is even included to help determine if you've put focus just where you want it.

The lens itself has a retractable design with sliding lens elements that help to keep body depth to a minimum when powered off. A control ring around the lens barrel allows for intuitive control of focus, aperture, shutter speed, filter effects and scene modes.

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Rear view

On the rear panel of the Panasonic ZS50 sits an electronic viewfinder based around a 0.2" LCD, but while the panel size is unchanged, the viewfinder has much higher resolution. Where the ZS40 used a 200,000 dot panel, the ZS50 boasts a ~389,000 dot type with a field-sequential design. What this means is that every pixel switches between red, green and blue colors alternately at high speed, increasing the perceived resolution still further.

If you prefer to frame at arm's length, the rear-panel LCD monitor is still a three-inch, 3:2-aspect type, but its resolution has also been raised a little, from 920,000 to 1,040,000 dots.

As a camera aimed at enthusiasts, the Panasonic ZS50 has a pretty generous feature set. Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and fully Manual exposure modes are all available, and so is raw shooting. A total of 15 Creative Control and Creative Retouch filter effects are available, including Expressive, Retro, Sepia and Soft Focus.

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Top view

There's also an unusual Jump Shot function that uses an accelerometer in the camera to determine when you've reached the top of your jump, at which point the shutter is tripped. And perhaps most unusual of all, there's an automatic horizon-leveling function, something we've seen in certain Pentax DSLR cameras in the past, but can't remember having seen in a compact until now.

As well as still images, the Panasonic ZS50 can also shoot Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) video at a rate of 60 frames per second in AVCHD Progressive format. Handily, the five-axis stabilization system works during video capture.

The ZS50 debuts a new Time Lapse Shot feature as seen previously on the Panasonic GM5, which automatically creates a time-lapse series of images in-camera to create a single MP4-format video at 30 or 60 frames per second. There are also two high-speed modes: 120fps (4x slow-mo) at 1,280 x 720 pixels, and 240 fps (8x slow-mo) at 640 x 480 pixels.

Panasonic ZS50 Review -- Battery and card compartment

As with its predecessor, the Panasonic ZS50 boasts integrated Wi-Fi connectivity with which to get photos onto your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. For easy setup with Android devices, an NFC radio is included; Apple fans will instead be able to use a QR code captured using the smartphone's camera. Sadly, the GPS / GLONASS geolocation capability of the earlier camera has been dropped, however.

Panasonic rates battery life for the ZS50 at some 300 images, unchanged from the earlier camera. Images are stored on SD cards, or in 86MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include high-def Micro HDMI and standard-def composite video outputs, and the latter also doubles as a USB data connection.

The Panasonic ZS50 will be available in early spring, listing for ~US$400.

 

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