Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 Review
Review Date: September 20th 2006
The new Panasonic DMC-FZ50 is a compact digital camera that offers many of the benefits of a true DSLR. There's a 12x ultra-zoom lens, equivalent to a focal length of 35-420mm, housed in a stylish and well-made body. The DMC-FZ50's Leica-branded lens doesn't just offer a massive focal range - it's also fast too, with a maximum aperture of 2.8 at wide-angle and 3.7 at full telephoto. As with all Panasonic cameras, the company's MEGA O.I.S optical image stabilisation system is present to help ensure shake-free photos. The DMC-FZ50 improves on its predecessor, the popular DMC-FZ30, by offering a 10 megapixel sensor, Venus III processing engine, and ISO 800 and 1600 speeds at full image resolution. The Panasonic DMC-FZ50 also has a High Sensitivity mode with a fastest ISO speed of ISO 3200, High Angle mode that brightens the LCD when held overhead, and a faster 1-point auto-focus system. So is the Panasonic DMC-FZ50 the right ultra-zoom camera for you? Read our latest review to find out.
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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 has a 104 megapixel, 1/1.8 inch CCD that delivers 10.1 effective megapixels. There are three aspect ratios on offer (4:3, 3:2, 16:9) with a range of image sizes (4:3 Aspect Ratio: 3648 x 2736 pixels, 3264 x 2448 pixels, 2560 x 1920 pixels, 2048 x 1536 pixels,1600 x 1200 pixels 3:2 Aspect Ratio:3600 x 2400 pixels, 3248 x 2160 pixels, 2560 x 1712 pixels, 2048 x 1360 pixels 16:9 Aspect Ratio:3584 x 2016 pixels, 3072 x 1728 pixels, 1920 x 1080 pixels). Images can be recorded as either Fine or Standard quality JPEGs, or in the RAW file format. The camera's 12x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit optical zoom lens is equivalent to a 35-420mm lens on a 35mm format camera. There is also a 4x digital zoom should you feel the need to use it. MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) is available with 2 different modes. The camera is supplied with a 32Mb SD Memory Card and also supports the MultiMedia Card format.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 offers Auto and Program exposure modes plus 17 different scene modes (Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Panning, Food, Party, Candle, Fireworks, Snow, Starry Sky, Baby1, Baby2, Snow and High sensitivity). More advanced shutter priority, aperture priority and manual exposure modes are also available. The maximum aperture is f2.8 (wide) – f3.7 (tele), and the shutter speed range is 60 secs. – 1/2000th sec. There are 5 ISO speeds ranging from 100 to 1600, an Auto option and a new High Sensitivity Mode that allows ISO 3200 at a reduced image resolution. There are 6 different White Balance presets to choose from (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, Flash, White Set), plus an Auto setting and White Balance Adjustment (150K step, -1500K - +1500K). The camera offers exposure compensation in ± 1 in 1/3 EV steps and auto-bracketing is available.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 has a normal shooting mode, Self-timer (2 secs. or 10 secs.) and 2 different Continuous modes - High (2 fps) or Low (1 fps), with a maximum of 5 images in Standard JPEG Mode and 3 images in Fine JPEG Mode for both modes. There are 4 different colour effects available (Cool, Warm, Black and White and Sepia) and Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness and Noise Reduction can all be set to one of three levels. The Macro setting allows you to focus on subjects that are as close as 5cms at the wide-angle lens setting. The camera offers 5 auto-focus systems - 1-point, 1-point high speed, 3-point high speed, 9-point and Spot - and you can choose from Normal, Manual or Macro focus. The exposure metering system is Intelligent Multiple, Center Weighted or Spot. There is an AF assist lamp to help achieve focus in low-light situations. The built-in flash offers 4 different modes (Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced On/Off) and there is a Hot Shoe for external flash-guns.
To compose your images, you can use the LCD monitor or the electronic viewfinder. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 has a flip-out 2 inch TFT LCD Display which has 207,000 pixels and offers 100% scene coverage. It also has a 0.44 inch electronic viewfinder which also has 235,000 pixels and also offers 100% scene coverage. There is a High Angle mode which allows you to hold the camera above your head and still see the LCD screen clearly, and a Power LCD mode which increases the screen's brightness. The Panasonic DMC-FZ50 can record movies at 848 x 480 (16:9 aspect ratio), 640x480 or 320 x 240 pixels, at either 30 fps or 10 fps with sound. Video is recorded in the Quicktime with audio format. The length of the video is only limited by the size of the memory card that you are using. A 5 second soundclip can be attached to an image. A histogram is available in both shooting and playback modes. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 supports the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge printing standards, and it connects to a computer via USB 2.0.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50's dimensions are 140.7 (W) × 85.5 (H) × 142 (D) mm, and it weighs 734g with the battery and storage card fitted. The camera is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 710mAh), which has an approximate CIPA battery life of 350 shots. There is a metal tripod mount in the centre of the bottom of the camera.
Finally, the standard box kit contains a Battery Charger, Battery Pack, 32Mb SD Card, Lens Cap, Lens Hood, Lens Hood Adaptor, AV Cable, USB Connection Cable, AC Cable, Strap and Software CD-ROM (LUMIX Simple Viewer, PhotofunStudio -viewer-SILKPIX DEVELOPER STUDIO, ArcSoft Camera Suite (ArcSoft PhotoImpression, ArcSoft PanoramaMaker) Adobe Reader, Quick Time, USB Driver). Note that you can only store 5 images at the highest quality JPEG setting on the supplied 32Mb SD memory card. You will therefore need to invest in some more memory cards to store your images on.
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