The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 is the successor to the highly popular FZ30. The FZ30 justifiably earned itself many loyal owners thanks to its huge 12x optically-stabilised zoom in a relatively compact package with plenty of manual control. It was – and continues to be – a compelling alternative to an entry-level DSLR, with the additional benefits of a live flip-out screen and movie mode.
The new FZ50 sensibly keeps its predecessors optics and body shape, with only a few minor external tweaks. The flip-out screen can now be folded down and turned around for self-portraits, and there’s a few adjustments to controls including a Function button which gives quick access to common settings. There’s now also a TTL-capable flash hotshoe and support for widescreen video recording.
A major criticism of the FZ30 was its maximum sensitivity of only 400 ISO. Panasonic’s addressed this with an increase to 1600 ISO and even a 3200 ISO option in a High Sensitivity Preset. This allows the FZ50 to combat camera shake with both optical stabilisation and faster shutters thanks to higher sensitivities. A new Intelligent ISO option can also detect motion and adjust the ISO to achieve a shutter which will freeze the action.
The FZ50 also features an inevitable increase in resolution, from 8 to 10.1 Megapixels – indeed this is the headline new feature. We describe this increase as inevitable, because so much digital camera marketing is sadly based on Megapixels despite higher resolutions often resulting in compromised noise levels, or noise reduction. Since the FZ30 struggled to produce clean images above 200 ISO, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how a sensor with the same surface area will cope with both an increase in resolution and sensitivities up to 3200 ISO. Panasonic’s latest Venus Engine III has been given the unenviable task of keeping it all under control.
Will higher resolutions and sensitivities be a step too far for the FZ50, or indeed a step backwards from the FZ30? Find out in our full review where we’ll compare it against the FZ30 along with the latest DSLRs. For an overview of the headline features, check out our Panasonic FZ50 video tour.
Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test cameras unless otherwise stated, the Lumix FZ50 was set to 10M Fine JPEG mode, Auto White Balance, and Multiple Metering, with all four Picture Adjustment options including Noise Reduction set to Standard; in our Noise pages we have additionally included results with the FZ50’s Noise Reduction set to both High and Low.