Looking at its specifications, the DMC-FZ50 has a lot going for it. It sports a 10.2-megapixel sensor plus a Leica 12x optical zoom, from 35-420mm (35mm equivalent). The lens has optical image stabilisation and the zoom is fluid damped for smoothness.
It’s a chunky camera, similar in size to the Fujifilm S9600, and weighs almost as much at 726g. It has an SLR-like feel and offers plenty of manual control. Zooming and focusing are controlled via the lens barrel. Manual focusing is surprisingly accurate, although the enlarged centre portion is useful only if that’s where you want to focus. Once you’ve taken a photo, there’s a two-stage instant review – first the whole frame, then zoomed in so you can check focus.
The Lumix has a proper li-ion battery pack rather than using four AAs. But it doesn’t last as long as you’d expect – Panasonic claims just 360 shots between charges. Also, there’s only a paltry 2in LCD, which looks small compared to a 2.5in screen.
Handling isn’t perfect either. Although it’s nice to see two command dials for quickly changing settings, the rear one is too far to the right and doesn’t fall naturally under your thumb. Pressing the Function button brings up a menu to quickly alter focus, metering, white balance, ISO and quality settings (including RAW mode), and there are also three custom presets you can quickly switch to for common scenarios.
The DMC-FZ50 is the quickest of the super-zooms, starting up in little over a second. It’s also capable of good quality, and the optical stabilisation is effective. We found resolution was excellent and colours were faithfully reproduced, if a little oversaturated. The flash was powerful too, and there’s a proper hot-shoe on top as well. Above ISO 400, though, the noise reduction makes images soft and, in anything but the brightest light, that’s the level of sensitivity the DMC-FZ50 tends to use.
At $640, the Panasonic doesn’t quite encroach on DSLR territory, but if you want a camera with SLR-like handling and control it’s worth spending the extra on Canon’s 400d or Nikon’s D40x. Of course, the FZ50 wins out for its bigger zoom and ability to shoot video clips, but the Olympus offers a lower price, longer zoom and more compact design.
This Review appeared in the October 2007 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing