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Testing / Performance
*Equipped with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50, proper studio lighting, and a GretagMacbeth color chart, we tested the camera’s ability to reproduce accurate colors. We took several pictures of the chart using the FX50, then uploaded them into Imatest Imaging Software, which analyzed them and compared the pictures to the original version. The program modified the chart, shown below, to show the original colors in the vertical rectangle of each tile. The Panasonic FX50’s colors are shown in the outer square of each tile, with the inner square showing the ideal color as corrected for luminance by the software.
Nothing looks awful in the chart, but just to be sure our eyes aren’t fooling us, Imatest output another more quantitative chart. This graph shows the ideal colors of the original GretagMacbeth chart as squares. The FX50’s colors are depicted as circles. The two shapes are tethered together with a line that represents the degree of error; sometimes only the circle shows up because it is directly atop the square, meaning that the particular color is very accurate.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 performed extremely well with an impressive overall color score of 9.87. In general, Panasonic cameras have been getting better and better at reproducing colors without completely over-saturating them. The FX50 had a mean color error of 6.77 and over-saturated by 11.4 percent, which is still within normal limits. These results are much better than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX5’s 8.58 color score, 6.99 mean color error, and 37.9 percent over-saturation.
The Panasonic FX50 has three color modes, but these results come from the default Standard color mode. There are Natural and Vivid color modes as well; these basically tweak the saturation of the colors more than anything else. The first mode dulls colors and the latter mode boosts it.
**Still Life Scene
**Below is a shot of our still life scene, captured with the Pansonic Lumix DSC-FX50.
Click on the image above to view the full size image.](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=FX50-StillLifeLG.jpg )
*The Panasonic comes with an advertised 7.2 megapixels of resolution on its image sensor. Because not all sensors are created equal and some pixels are more effective than others, we tested the FX50’s resolution with an industry standard resolution chart. In our optimal studio lighting, we took pictures of the chart and uploaded them into Imatest. The program analyzed the files and determined how many pixels were used in each.
Imatest output the results in units of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). This measurement shows how many alternating black and white lines of equal thickness the camera can image without blurring them together. The image sensor isn’t the only component to play a part in resolution either; the Leica lens has to "see" a sharp picture and not distort it.
Click on the chart above to view the full resolution image
We took lots of pictures of the resolution chart at various focal lengths and apertures, but the sharpest picture was taken using a focal length of 16.8 mm and an aperture of f/5.6. On the longer horizontal plane of the image, the FX50 resolved 1342 lw/ph and under-sharpened by 12.6 percent. On the vertical plane, the camera read 1232 lw/ph and under-sharpened by 17.2 percent. This performance is disappointing, especially when compared to other compact digital cameras with similar pixel counts. For example, the Canon PowerShot A620 read 1708 lw/ph horizontally and 1787 lw/ph vertically. The Panasonic Lumix FX50 received a poor resolution score of 2.40 and shouldn’t be counted on for printing enlargements.
Noise – Auto ISO* (4.18)
*The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 did a decent job metering the brightly lit scene, as it automatically chose an ISO 100 setting. However, the FX50’s ISO 100 setting has more noise than most other models. So instead of achieving an amazing score, the camera received an average automatic ISO noise score of 4.18.
Noise – Manual ISO* (10.63)
*The FX50 has sensitivity options ranging from 100 to 1250. We tested the noise level at each of these while shooting in optimal lighting. The noise levels are depicted on the vertical axis of the chart below, with the manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis.
There is a steady curve across the entire range. Images are good and usable through the ISO 800 setting, but get muddled at the highest 1250 setting. We used the results of each ISO’s noise level and input them all into a regression analysis, which came up with the overall manual ISO noise score of 10.63. This is very respectable and shows a big improvement over previous Panasonic digital cameras. The noise control may could be better, however, it is at the expense of detail. Pictures weren’t nearly as sharp as other manufacturers’ models at ISO 400.
**Low Light ***(6.0)*
All of our other testing is done in perfect studio lighting. Because most point-and-shooters won’t snap pictures in optimal studio lighting every day, we switched things up by testing the camera in low light. We dimmed the lights to 60, 30, 15 and 5 lux. Many photographers shoot at 60 lux, which is about the lighting found after dusk in a softly lit living room. 30 lux is also common; many restaurants turn the lights down after dusk to the point that reading the menu is a stretch. 15 and 5 lux are uncommonly dark, but show us any limitations the image sensor may have.
There are several ways to shoot pictures in low light without the flash. We mounted the Panasonic FX50 on a tripod to keep it from shaking, used the self-timer to eliminate any shake from pushing the shutter release button, and used the optical image stabilization system within the camera. We also boosted the ISO to its top setting: 1250. Below are the color charts as shot in 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux, respectively.
All of the images remain illuminated and fairly well focused in low light. While subjects will be visible in low light, they will be plagued by the awful noise that creeps into pictures with the higher ISO sensitivities.
***Start-up to First Shot (7.81)
*The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 certainly isn’t very speedy. It takes 2.19 seconds to boot up, stick its telescoping Leica lens out, and snap its first shot. This is quite slow compared to other digital cameras, so users of the FX50 will have to have the camera powered up and ready to go long before any action takes place.
*Shot to Shot (9.39)
*The Panasonic FX50 has a so-called high-speed burst mode, but it snaps just over two frames a second. The camera took a shot every 0.41 seconds for its three-shot burst. The burst doesn’t last very long, so users need to be sure the action they want recorded isn’t going to last longer than a second and a half.
*Shutter to Shot (7.4)
*Like so many other compact models, the Panasonic FX50 has substantial shutter lag. The auto focus system takes its time.― 0.8 seconds of time, to be exact. This shutter lag will surely capture more than a few blinked eyes.
The front of the Panasonic FX50 looks unassuming with its matted texture, chrome finger grip, and telescoping lens. The top left corner of the camera has a Lumix logo with a thin flash to its right. Almost centered beneath the logo is the chrome finger grip; it has a gold center just to add some color. On the right side of the front is the lens, with its specs circling the barrel and an outer rim with a "Mega O.I.S. Wide" label. The lens’ specs are as follows: "Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 1:2.8-5.6/4.6-16.8 Asph." In the top right corner is an auto focus assist beam and in the bottom right corner is a gold square with an "L" in it to showcase the Leica branded lens.
The back of the camera is almost completely taken up by the display screen. There is only a half-inch of space on the right side for control buttons. The space does bow outwards though, perhaps to add some visual variety or to enhance handling comfort. In the top right corner is a mode dial that is roughly the size of a dime, but is mostly hidden within the camera body. Only a tiny bit pokes out the back, with the icons visible from the top and the grooves of the dial visible from the back. Below the mode dial are nine tiny plastic bumps designed to be a thumb grip. Below this is a circular button that controls the display and LCD mode. Below this button is a fat joystick centered in a round platform. The platform has icons on four sides: the exposure compensation on the top, flash on the right, review on the bottom, and self-timer on the left. To the bottom left of this multi-selector is a tiny LED indicator. At the very bottom of this thin control strip is a button with deletion and burst icons next to it.
**Left Side ***(7.0)*
The left side is void of features. There is a bright silver band that runs down the center of the dulled silver body.
**Right Side ***(7.0)*
The right side also has a bright silver band running down its center, but this side has some features. At the top is an indentation that acts as an eyelet for the included wrist strap. Below it is an unlabeled door that springs open when pried to reveal the USB/AV and DC jacks.
The top of the camera is labeled with the manufacturer and model name on the left: "Panasonic DMC-FX50." To the right of the text are four holes that make up the built-I speaker, followed by another hole that acts as the microphone. Almost centered on the top is the power switch. To its right is the shutter release button, which is surrounded by a zoom switch. On the right edge is a tiny button with a shaking hand icon next to it; this activates and changes the optical image stabilization modes. There is a bright silver center surrounded by a duller color on the top; all of the aforementioned features rest on the bright silver band. Towards the back of the camera on the right side, the mode dial protrudes slightly from the top. The mode dial peeks out from the dulled silver colored portion of the body. The dial is probably the size of a dime, but only three icons are visible from the top, at a time.
The left side of the FX50’s bottom has a door with a sliding lock that keeps it firmly in place. When unlocked, the camera springs open to reveal the battery and SD card compartments. On the right side is a metal quarter-inch tripod mount. Littered around the entire bottom are various logos and legal info.
The Panasonic FX50 uses its massive LCD screen’s live preview as its viewfinder. With its compact form and big screen, there’s no space for an optical viewfinder. And with a 100 percent accurate view on the huge screen, no one would want an optical viewfinder. In the setup menu, users can choose to add composition guide lines to the view. There are two patterns: the standard tic-tac-toe-type lines and another that adds two diagonally crossing lines. The live view has several viewing modes that can be controlled by the button directly right of the screen and above the multi-selector. When pushed quickly, the display changes to show shooting information, composition guide lines, and a live histogram. When pushed for a full second, users can choose from a High Angle viewing mode and a Power LCD mode. The High Angle mode works well for those occasional shots above the head, but is impossible to see when shooting at the hip. The viewing angle is so specialized to shooting above the head that when viewed straight on, the screen looks washed out in this mode. The Power LCD mode adds contrast and a backlight to the screen so that it can be more easily viewed outdoors. Amazingly, it actually works. Lots of compact digital cameras have backlight features that supposedly make them simple to view in daylight, but none of them are as impressive as the FX50’s Power LCD function. Overall, the large live view is a big plus on the FX50.
LCD Screen ***(8.5)*
**The viewing modes described in the previous section are effective in both recording and playback modes on the LCD screen. The display is enormous: 3 inches takes up nearly the entire back of the camera. The resolution is also great at 230,000 pixels. The polycrystalline TFT LCD’s brightness can be adjusted up or down by three steps in the setup menu. When pictures are taken, the screen blacks out for about a quarter of a second – or longer for extended shutter speeds like in the Night Scenery mode. After the shot is snapped, the FX50 can be set to automatically display the picture for 1 or 3 seconds, or to display the zoomed center to check the focus. Overall, the screen’s size and resolution make it easy to view and provide a fine interface for menus as well.
The FX50’s built-in flash is small and centrally located on the front of the camera. Well, almost centrally located. The flash is slightly left of the center, and that shows in the pictures. Subjects just right of the center of the frame will be brighter than the left portion of the frame. The flash’s light can illuminate from 1.97 to 13.1 ft at the widest focal length and using an auto ISO setting. Users can control the flash with the right side of the multi-selector. Pushing the joystick to the right while in recording mode will display the flash options: Auto, On, Off, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync with Red-Eye Reduction. The flash’s coverage may not be beautifully even, but it does a good job of eliminating red eyes (although it takes its time). The red-eye reduction flash settings send out a single pre-flash about a quarter of a second before the actual flash and accompanying exposure. The flash takes about a second and a half to recycle for the next shot. Overall, the flash is decent for a compact digital camera but it isn’t anything extraordinary.
**Zoom Lens ***(7.25)*
The camera is equipped with a nice Leica 3.6x optical zoom lens. The length of the zoom is just okay. Most compact cameras still have a 3x lens, so this is just slightly longer and this lens is much wider. Most lenses have a widest focal length of 36-38 mm. The Lumix FX50’s widest focal length is 28 mm; this makes fitting extended family into a group portrait much easier! The Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens has a focal range from 4.6-16.8 mm, which is equivalent to 28-102 mm in 35 mm format. The lens is controlled by a zoom ring that surrounds the shutter release button. The control is quite sensitive, as it allows users to stop at about 21 different focal lengths within the 3.6x range. More stops are available in the extended zoom. This is impressive, as most compact models still only allow for about six focal lengths in a 3x range. The lens makes a tiny audible sound as it zooms in and out. It is at the telephoto end of the lens that the noise is a little strange: it sounds like something rubber inside the lens barrel is being squashed.
The lens is built from 7 elements in 6 groups with 4 aspherical lenses and 4 aspherical surfaces. It does have some color fringing in its images, along with a slight pincushion effect noticeable only in the macro mode. The lens is nicely complemented by two cool features: extended zoom and image stabilization. The extended zoom feature works only when the image size is not at the top resolution; it works like a digital zoom but without degrading image quality. In the 4:3 format at the 5-megapixel image size, the FX50 can zoom up to 4.4x. For smaller sizes in 4:3, 3:2, or 16:9, 5.5x optical zoom is available. (Just to note, there is true 4x digital zoom but image quality deteriorates so much that it isn’t recommended to ever use it) Like other Panasonic Lumix digital cameras, the FX50 comes with Mega optical image stabilization. It has its own designated button atop the camera on the right edge. The button is tiny, and accesses two modes. The first mode operates continuously, while the second mode activates only when recording a picture or video. The image stabilization system can be turned off too, but it works so well that users won’t want to do that. Indeed, the difference between having the system on and off is definitely noticeable. It can keep videos from looking like they’re on a caffeine buzz and keep still pictures nice and clear. The lens is not compatible with conversion lenses.
Design / Layout
**Model Design / Appearance ***(7.0)*
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 comes in silver and black colors and is built with a combination of metal and plastic parts. Most of the components are metal, but the rear panel surrounding the display screen is plastic. The overall look of the body is quite plain. There are a few highlights, like the chrome finger grip and the shiny rim around the lens. But the matte look is all too familiar and the shape is something like a week-old bar of soap with its rounded edges. So while the FX50 doesn’t scream "homely," it certainly isn’t anything a celebrity would be caught carrying.
**Size / Portability ***(7.0)*
The FX50 is able to fit into a pocket, but it will be a tight squeeze. It measures 2.25 x 3.85 x 0.99 inches. The camera has more heft than one would think, but it’s no paperweight either at 6.28 oz fully loaded. The Panasonic FX50 has an eyelet on its right side that is small, but is still easy to loop the wrist strap through. The included strap isn’t the best quality; it’s the same material used to make cheap lanyards. Overall, the FX50 is easily portable but isn’t the type of camera that will comfortably slide into the pocket of those tight pants.
Handling Ability ***(6.0)*
**The Panasonic FX50 is shaped like a week-old bar of soap, but handles a bit better than soap. For one, its matte texture ensures that it won’t slip. Secondly, there are a few more dips and bumps on the surface that aid in handling. There is a set of bumps on the back side for the thumb to grip and a protruding half-pipe-type feature on the front for fingers to grip. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 is compact, but not tiny enough to cause hand cramps or anything. Overall, this digital camera is fairly comfortable for a compact model but still doesn’t have the plush hand grip or other features larger SLRs are endowed with.
**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size ***(5.5)*
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 keeps its controls atop and on the rear of the camera body. The top has a power switch that requires a serious push to turn on; this is good because the camera will be unlikely to boot up in a backpack or pocket. Also atop the camera is the shutter release button, surrounded by a zoom ring. There is a tiny nub on the ring where users are supposed to place their finger to push, but the nub is so small that it requires a little too much effort to zoom in and out with this control. Even still, the control itself still provides a good interface for the lens. The shutter release button is not domed like on some models, but its top is flush with the zoom ring. This makes it just a bit more difficult to push in. On the right edge of the top is a tiny button with a shaking hand icon next to it; this chooses between two image stabilization modes. The placement of the button is a little strange and users aren’t likely to use the button often, so this feature could have very well been accessed from a menu. Perhaps Panasonic wanted to showcase its flagship feature by giving it a designated button. From the top, users can see the mode dial – although it is technically controlled from the back because that’s where the grooved edge sticks out for fingers to rotate. Its rotation isn’t entirely smooth. The dial is very stiff and requires a lot of force to move it from one mode to the next.
The back of the camera is home to the multi-selector, which consists of a single joystick that can move in all directions and can be pushed in. The joystick is large enough that it won’t hurt fingers to push around, and there is a big enough difference between pushing side to side and pushing inward that the camera won’t accidentally make a selection. There are two other buttons on the back: one changes the display screen and the other activates the burst mode while recording or deletes photos while in playback. Overall, the FX50’s controls has its ups and downs. The ups include the fat joystick and nice power switch. The downs include the flat shutter release, the stiff mode dial, and the excessive force required to activate many of the controls.
Panasonic’s menus are quite colorful when compared with those of other manufacturers. The Lumix DMC-FX50’s menus have folder tabs on the left side to keep options organized and easy to find. Each tab has a simple icon or letters ("SCN") to designate what options can be found there. At the top of the screen is a red horizontal bar showing the name of the menu being currently viewed and the "page number" (eg. ¼). At the bottom is a blue bar with arrows and directions on how to navigate through the menus and exit.
The menu in the Normal mode shows the most options available, as it is similar to a Program mode. The following is its menu.
There are live views for the white balance and color effects choices. The text and font of the menu is so large that only five options can fit on the screen at a time. The font gets even larger in the Simple mode, where only four options can fit on the screen. The Simple mode’s menu is dumbed down quite a bit.
The scene mode menu hosts all of the 18 scene options, but also has a tab for other recording options. There is no control over ISO and white balance, but users can still adjust the aspect ratio, picture size, auto focus mode, assist lamp, and occasionally the slow shutter speeds. As users scroll through the scene mode menu, they can view explanations and tips for each mode. This is helpful for beginners. In the setup menu, users can choose whether or not the scene menu appears automatically or not. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50’s setup menu is available from one of the tabs at the left, and the length of the menu requires four screens of scrolling.
The playback menu is just as easy to access and navigate. It also allows users to get into the setup menu.
All menu navigation is done by pushing side to side with the joystick and selections are made by pushing it inwards. Overall, the menu system is nicely organized and has a large enough font and screen that users’ eyes won’t be straining to change the white balance mode.
**Ease of Use ***(7.5)*
The Panasonic FX50 lends itself to ease of use by including a Simple mode that can be found on the mode dial displayed as a heart icon. The heart icon isn’t the most telling graphic of what the mode actually does, but it is still easy to use once found. The mode makes the FX50 a bona fide point-and-shoot with little to worry about; if users are feeling frisky enough to enter the menu, they can only change the image size, beeping noise, clock time, and whether pictures just taken are automatically shown on the LCD screen for a quick review. Outside of the Simple mode, the camera really isn’t that difficult to operate. The menus are nicely organized and the controls are straightforward.
**Auto Mode ***(8.0)*
This digital camera has a so-called Normal mode that is designated on the dial by a camera icon. Usually, this is the symbol for the auto mode. The Normal mode is more like a Program mode though, as it allows full access to the menu and is this camera’s closest thing to a manual mode. The Simple mode, designated by a heart icon, is most definitely the most automatic mode on the FX50. The menu options are extremely limited and the camera becomes nothing more than a point-and-shoot. Even the options on the multi-selector have limited functionality: the exposure compensation turns a backlight on and off, and the flash can be turned to auto or off. For technophobes who see the camera as a necessity but don’t really want to delve into more advanced controls, this is the perfect Auto mode.
**Movie Mode ***(6.5)*
The movie mode has its own spot on the dial indicated as a film strip icon. It records television quality video of 640 x 480 pixels at a rate of 30 or 10 fps. A smaller, more email-friendly 320 x 240 pixels is available too. And for those proud parents who want to show little Bobby toddling across the lawn on the new widescreen television, the Panasonic FX50 is equipped with a widescreen optimized 848 x 480-pixel mode too.
The screen sizes and frame rates are great, as are a few other aspects of this camera’s movie mode. The menu in the movie mode provides access to white balance, so video clips at Cousin Sue’s wedding don’t include a yellowish dress. The auto focus mode and color effect can be selected too. A big help to the movie mode is the optical image stabilization, which keeps the image looking like the photographer isn’t jostling around – even if they are. Well, the system is effective on normal hand shake, but certainly can’t correct waving in the air and such extreme movement. The image stabilization worked noticeably well at the top frame rate, but was useless at the slower 10 fps rate because it looked choppy already. The movie mode does have its flaws. There is no zoom available – optical or digital. The audio is terrible. Subjects more than about ten feet away sound awfully muddled, and even when the photographer speaks the audio just isn’t clear. Movies in bright light look pretty good, except for a tendency to wash extreme whites out. In low light, the video is full of dancing noise and doesn’t look good at all. Thus, the movie mode works best for neutral lighting like a cloudy day at the park or a brightly lit classroom. The movies, also called "Motion Pictures" by the camera, can be viewed with included QuickTime software on the computer or in the playback mode.
**Drive / Burst Mode ***(6.5)*
The burst mode has its very own button on the back of the camera, but it has to be really jammed in there for the camera to register that it is being pushed inward at all. Once pushed in, users can choose between these options: Off, High Speed, Low Speed, and Unlimited. The High Speed choice snaps 3 frames per second for up to 6 images at a time at the finest image size. When the top image size is downgraded to standard compression, the burst lasts to 8 frames. The Low Speed and Unlimited options both operate at 2 fps, so it is unclear why anyone would ever want to use the Low Speed choice. These speeds are for SD cards only as MMC cards cannot read and write quite as fast. Overall, the speed of the Panasonic FX50 is quite impressive for a compact model in its price range. Also of note is the camera’s self-timer available from the left portion of the multi-selector. 2 and 10-second options are available, and the orange LED on front indicates when the picture is about to be taken.
**Playback Mode ***(6.75)*
The FX50’s playback mode has its own home on one end of the mode dial. There are plenty of ways to view pictures, with the scrolling one at a time method being the most obvious. The view is controlled by the zoom ring. When pushed to the right, the image can be magnified up to 16x – enough to see all the noise this camera produces. Pushing the control once to the left will display 9 thumbnails. Pushing a second time will show 25 thumbnails on the screen. Pushing yet once more will enter a calendar mode, where the first picture taken on each day appears on a real calendar layout. There is also a unique dual display view in the playback menu that displays two images side by side; each can be controlled to scroll to different pictures.
There are some editing options available for still images, including rotation, resizing, and trimming. Users can also attach up to 5 seconds of audio with each picture and protect them from deletion. Deletion is done with an on-camera button. Pushing it once gives users the option to delete a single frame or cancel. Pushing the button twice lets users scroll through thumbnails and tag certain ones to delete or gives users the option to delete them all at once.
There are no editing options for movies. Those can be played back, stopped, fast forwarded or rewound, but they cannot be divided. The volume can’t even be adjusted; users have to dig into the setup menu for that. Slide shows can be played with the pictures showing up for 1-5 seconds and four different transition effects. The audio to movies and memos can be turned on or off.
Files can be tagged as favorites within the playback menu, and pictures can be added to a print order much in the same way as they are deleted: all at once, one at a time, or selected from a scroll view. The playback mode has some neat viewing options, but its editing features and slide show mode are standard fare.
Custom Image Presets* (8.0)*The scene modes have their own space on the mode dial. Users can choose in the setup menu whether the selection menu appears automatically when the dial is turned to "SCN" or if users must push the Menu button manually after the scene mode is entered. Either way, when the custom image presets are displayed in the menu there is an explanation for each. An arrow to the right of each scene prompts users to push the joystick right and check out the help guide. It is as follows. At 18 scene modes, that’s quite a lengthy list. It takes up 5 screens of menus. Its selection covers all the basics and then branches out into the more specific modes like Aerial Photo and High Sensitivity. The latter mode uses up to ISO 3200 to keep subjects properly exposed without using the flash. The Baby scene modes aren’t interesting for their imaging capabilities. Their best feature is the file information, which stores the birth date of a child and displays the exact age down to the day. Overall, the scene mode selection is great and the menu interface is interesting. There is a help guide for beginners and tiny icons next to the text that move when scrolled upon. For instance, the High Sensitivity mode shows a dancing ballerina, the Starry Sky mode shows falling stars, and the Baby modes show babies crawling. Sure, it isn’t the most sophisticated animation – but it keeps things interesting.
**Manual Control Options
**The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 isn’t designed for total manual control, although it does have some bright spots. Its modes are mainly automatic, with its most manual mode being the Normal shooting mode. This provides access to a host of ISO options and even more white balance options. Interestingly, the FX50 is geared toward point-and-shooters with its 18 scene modes but it still has Kelvin temperature adjustments and a manual white balance mode.
***Auto Focus (5.25)
*The auto focus system works well as long as the lighting is good. The camera is fitted with an orange auto focus assist lamp, but it isn’t very powerful or even effective. There are five auto focus modes selectable in the Normal shooting mode: 1-point, 1-point high speed, 3-point high speed, 9-point, and spot. There is a noticeable difference in speed between the normal and "high speed" modes; both work well in bright light and not so well in low light so users might as well just use the faster auto focus modes. Normally, the FX50 can focus from 50 cm at the widest focal length and 120 cm from the most telephoto. The range shortens in the macro mode, which can be found on the mode dial as a flower icon, when the camera can focus as close as 5 cm in wide and 30 cm in telephoto. Overall, the auto focus system works well in bright daylight or when the flash is used. Otherwise, it is quite unreliable. Even when the green indicators on the LCD screen show that the camera is focused, subjects appear fuzzy and slightly blurred when not using the flash and not in optimal light.
*Manual Focus (0.0)
*There is no manual focus mode on the Panasonic FX50.
The exposure compensation is easy to find on the multi-selector. It has the typical +/- 2 adjustments available in 1/3 steps – except for in the Simple mode where a "backlight" is either on or off. This just brightens the image. For users who aren’t sure exactly what exposure value they should use, there is an auto exposure bracketing option available when the joystick is pushed up toward the exposure compensation icon twice. Like the white balance fine tuning, this option is quite hidden. Still, the lucky users that find it have access to a sort of "burst" mode that snaps three pictures in increments of +/- 1/3 to +/- 1. Users can also be conscious of the current exposure by pushing the LCD Display button and viewing the live histogram. The FX50 doesn’t have manual control over shutter speed and aperture to adjust the exposure, but for being a point-and-shoot it still fares well with its other options. Our biggest complaints are that the exposure bracketing is hard to find and the live histogram is also somewhat buried.
The FX50’s metering system is directly linked to its auto focus system. The camera meters from the points which are in focus. That means it can be one point, three points, or up to nine points. Panasonic’s "Intelligent Multiple light metering" system seems to work well. As long as the auto focus mode is correctly set, the subjects should turn out properly exposed. For instance, backlit subjects should use the spot or central auto focus modes; as long as that happens, subjects will look fine.
The Panasonic FX50 has a wider ISO range than Lumix cameras manufactured before this year. This model has 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1250 manual ISO settings. There are also two automatic settings: a standard automatic and a new feature called Intelligent ISO. According to the user manual, "The ISO sensitivity is adjusted according to the movement of the subject and the brightness" in the Intelligent ISO mode. Most digital cameras adjust the ISO according to the brightness only, so Panasonic’s concept of adjusting the ISO based on the subject’s movement is quite unique. This feature is another way, in addition to the image stabilization, to keep moving subjects from blurring. There is also a High Sensitivity scene mode that uses up to ISO 3200 settings for those low light shots without the flash.
**White Balance ***(7.0)*
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 has more manual control over white balance than would be expected from a mainly automatic point-and-shoot digital camera. There are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, and White Set (custom) modes, as well as a fine tuning adjustment available in the preset modes. Pushing the joystick toward the exposure compensation icon three times enables the white balance fine tuning. There are 21 steps from -1500 to +1500 Kelvin temperature from red to blue. There is a live view, of course, so making this adjustment is simple. The custom setting is also simple to set with the on-screen directions. Overall, the white balance selection is decent and seems to be accurate too.
**Shutter Speed ***(0.0)*
The Panasonic FX50 does not allow users to manually adjust the shutter speed most of the time. There are a few exceptions. The Starry Sky mode has choices of very lengthy exposures: 15, 30, and 60 seconds. There is also a Slow Shutter option in all of the recording modes except Starry Sky, Night Scenery, and Fireworks. The Slow Shutter lets users choose between four options: 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 second. Besides these two manual adjustments, the shutter speeds are otherwise controlled automatically between 8-1/2000th of a second. This is an adequate range for this type of digital camera.
The Panasonic FX50 has a two-step aperture system that cannot be manually controlled at all. Instead, the camera chooses either f/2.8 or f/8 at the widest focal length and f/5 or f/16 at the most telephoto. This two-step aperture setup doesn’t provide a lot of flexibility in terms of depth of field – especially when there is absolutely no manual control over it.
**Picture Quality / Size Options ***(7.0)*
This Lumix has a variety of image sizes available because it can shoot in three different aspect ratios. The default is 4:3 and these are the choices: 3072 x 2304, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, and 640 x 480. There is a 3:2 ratio optimized for printing 4 x 6-inch pictures. There are two image sizes at this ratio: 3072 x 2048 and 2048 x 1360. The last aspect ratio of 16:9 is designed for displaying pictures on widescreen televisions. The following image sizes are wide: 3072 x 1728 and 1920 x 1080. Pictures can be captured as Fine or Standard JPEG compressions. Overall, there are plenty of image size options on the FX50.
**Picture Effects Mode ***(7.5)*
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 has several picture effects modes on it. There are two options toward the bottom of the Normal recording menu that can tweak the image. The Color Effect mode offers Off, Cool, Warm, Black & White, and Sepia choices. There is a live view when scrolling through that menu. The Picture Adjustment menu choice provides Natural, Standard, and Vivid options; these are more of a saturation adjustment than anything else. Standard is the default, with Natural under-saturating tones and Vivid over-saturating them. There is no live view when scrolling through these, so it’s hard to tell the difference between all of the settings without exiting and re-entering the menu several times.
Connectivity / Extras
*The included CD-ROM has a bunch of photo management and editing software on it, along with a USB driver for the Panasonic FX50 digital camera. The Lumix Simple Viewer program is extremely basic and really only works when the camera is directly connected to the computer. This program transfers images to the computer and allows users to view them.
To do more, users will have to access the other programs. There are three ArcSoft programs included. ArcSoft PhotoBase 4.5 is a great organizational tool. There are tools to sort photos by name, type, size, date, title, keyword, and description. Users can also rename, resize, or convert entire batches of images simultaneously. Simple editing can be done in this program too. Rotation, cropping, resizing, red-eye reduction, text additions, brightness, contrast, drawing, and automatic enhancement can be achieved with the editor tool.
PhotoImpression 5 allows users to get photos and enhance them. The program isn’t as intuitive as the PhotoBase software. The PhotoImpression allows for more manual control over manipulating the image though. There are magic wand and lasso tools to select areas of an image to enhance. The simple stuff can be done here too: cropping, resizing, rotating, etc. Users can also add a host of interesting color filters, effects, frames, clip art, and text. From this software program, calendars and photo books can be made. There are plenty of templates to work from that make it simple. Printing and emailing can be done from PhotoImpression too.
ArcSoft’s PanoramaMaker 3 is also included. This program gives step-by-step instructions to load several photos and automatically create a panorama. The program allows for fine tuning, but it does a decent job of lining images up. The only problem with the program is that images must be added one at a time into the software, then one at a time into the storyboard.
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 has great software offerings ranging from the novice Lumix Simple Viewer to the more manually oriented PhotoImpression software.
*Jacks, ports, plugs (4.5)
*The Panasonic FX50 has a single door on its right side that springs open. This isn’t one of those flimsy rubber covers. This is an actual sturdy protective door. Beneath it are two ports. The top one hooks up to USB 2.0 and AV-out cables; both are included with the camera. The bottom port connects to an optional DC-in adaptor, which is not included in the package. Users who are piping their pictures into widescreen televisions will be happy to know they can do it pretty much anywhere in the world. The FX50 has NTSC and PAL output signals for the AV-out cable so images can be displayed on televisions with the North American or European standards.
*Direct Print Options (6.0)
*Images from the Panasonic FX50 can be printed fairly easily. Print orders can be made within the playback menu. An option called "DPOF Print" lets users select single or multiple images for printing. The multiple images choice shows six thumbnails per page. Users can scroll through those thumbnails and push upwards on the joystick to select them for printing. Pushing continually upwards selects the number of prints that can be made from each image. The FX50 allows users to choose up to 999 prints for each image! That’s quite a print order! If users would like to display the date on the pictures, on-screen directions prompt them to push the LCD Mode/Display button. Users can delete print orders from that menu option as well. The actual transfer of images is done when the FX50 is connected to a PictBridge compatible printer and the mode dial is set to the printer icon. If users haven’t created a print order in the playback menu, they can do it while connected to the printer in the printing mode. It is from the printing mode’s menu that users can choose whether to print each picture with the date, how many of each picture to print, what size paper to print on, and what sort of layout to print. The top of this menu is where the transfer actually begins: "Print Start." Overall, the printing method is fairly intuitive with the printing done from its own position on the mode dial and on-screen directions to walk beginners through the process.
*The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 comes with an extremely overpriced lithium-ion battery, so don’t lose it! The 3.7V, 1150 mAh battery gets about 300 shots per charge. That is decent, but it retails on the Panasonic web site for $69! Most other manufacturers sell their battery packs for $20-30. This battery comes with a small wall-mount charger that takes about 2 hours to recharge the battery. In the camera’s package, there is also a small plastic carrying case for the battery. Overall, the slim battery does fairly well but its large price tag makes it an item never to be lost.
Many other compact digital cameras have internal memory, but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 does not have such a luxury. Instead, the camera is packaged with a 16 MB SD card. That is enough memory to store only 3 full-resolution pictures, so purchasers will also want to look into buying extra memory. The Panasonic FX50 accepts SD, MMC, and SDHC cards, but its burst performance suffers when MMC cards are used.
**Other features ***(2.5)*
Still Image Recording with Audio – In the Normal recording menu, users can turn on and off the Audio Recording function. When turned on, it records five seconds of audio immediately after the picture is taken. It isn’t simultaneous; there is a slight delay. Voice memos can be added in the playback mode, but the audio recording feature while shooting images allows parents to capture the "Happy Birthday" chorus along with a picture of the birthday cake.
The Panasonic FX50 retails for $399, which seems slightly overpriced for what it is. What is it? The FX50 is mainly an automatically controlled point-and-shoot digital camera. It does have some pricey features like optical image stabilization, 7.2 megapixels of resolution, and widescreen movies. However, many of its competitors are offering lucrative features in one form or another. The overall value of the FX50 is below average, but for users who want widescreen movies and optical image stabilization above all else may think this is a bargain.
*Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 – *This model has many of the same features such as the 7.2-megapixel image sensor and 3.6x optical zoom lens. As a Panasonic digital camera, it is also equipped with the image stabilization system. The Leica lenses on these cameras have the same focal lengths and apertures. The FX07 and FX50 have the same exposure modes and settings. Besides a slightly longer battery life on the FX07 (320 shots), there are only stylistic changes. The FX07 has a smaller 2.5-inch LCD screen with 207,000 pixels on a body that measures 3.7 x 2 x 0.95 inches. It also weighs slightly less. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 retails for $349 and comes in four trendy colors, including red and blue.
Canon PowerShot A710 IS – Canon’s popular A-series was recently infused with optical image stabilization on its flagship digital camera. The 7.1-megapixel camera has a longer 6x optical zoom lens but a smaller 2.5-inch LCD screen. The display screen is totally different though. Rather than having a High Angle mode like the Panasonic, the Canon A710’s LCD screen folds out from the camera body and rotates. The Canon’s camera body is larger than the FX50’s. The A710 has 20 shooting modes ranging from the fully manual to priority and preset modes. The Canon PowerShot A710 IS retails for $399 and would be a good option for photographers who want a little more manual control.
Casio Exilim EX-S770 – Similar specs are available on the Casio S770, which has 7.2 megapixels. Its lens is shorter with the standard 3x zoom and its display screen a bit smaller at 2.8 inches. The screen has the same 230,000 pixels of resolution as the Panasonic FX50’s. The Casio S770 is able to record widescreen movies and has a vast amount of Best Shot scene modes(34 of them to be exact). There is even a branded eBay scene mode that shoots and stores images at the recommended size to upload directly into the online auction site. The Casio Exilim EX-S770 is thin and trendy and comes in three colors. It retails for $379.
*Kodak EasyShare V705 – *The FX50 has a wide angle lens, but the V705 beats it out with "the world’s smallest ultra wide angle lens of 23 mm," according to Kodak. The EasyShare actually functions with two lenses that work together. The Kodak Retina technology posts a total of 5x optical zoom to complement the 7.1 megapixels. The Kodak camera comes with digital image stabilization that isn’t known to be as effective as the optical system included on the Panasonic model. The camera is almost a perfect rectangle and has a 2.5-inch LCD screen on the back with 230,000 pixels of resolution. The V705 has 22 scene modes along with its standard movie mode. This camera is also equipped with Kodak’s Perfect Touch technology that can edit pictures in the playback mode to reduce red-eye, blur, and exposure issues. The Kodak EasyShare V705 retails for $349.
Nikon Coolpix L5 – The 7.2-megapixel Nikon L5 offers a cheaper option to consumers who want a point-and-shoot but don’t want to starve for three weeks to buy it. The L5 has a similar boring design to the FX50, but has a smaller 2.5-inch LCD screen and a longer 5x optical zoom lens. This Coolpix has a vibration reduction system and a one-touch portrait button that activates a host of Nikon technologies. Digital red-eye reduction and face-priority auto focus are activated with the button in recording modes; the button fixes exposure problems in the playback mode. The Nikon Coolpix L5 retails for much less than the Panasonic model at $299.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters – *With its 18 scene modes and even a Simple mode that automates just about everything, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 is designed with point-and-shooters in mind.
*Budget Consumers – *The FX50 certainly isn’t cheap. It retails for $399, which isn’t exactly a bargain. Still, it has pricey features like optical image stabilization and a 3-inch LCD screen.
Gadget Freaks – There aren’t many gadgets on this digital camera. These consumers would be totally bored.
*Manual Control Freaks – *The FX50 has some manual features attractive to this crowd, such as its custom white balance and Kelvin temperature adjustments. But in the end, the true manual control freak will still not be satisfied.
*Pros/ Serious Hobbyists – *Professionals won’t even look at this model. It just doesn’t have the crystal clear and clean image quality that they’re looking for.
The Panasonic Lumix FX50 is an average digital camera with a few above average features and below average image quality. The camera itself has a 3.6x lens, optical image stabilization, and 3-inch LCD screen packaged in a bland design. Still, the chunk of plastic and metal is less than an inch thick and slides into pockets and purses for easy transportation. In that way, it is a very convenient camera. Better still, it is easy to use. It has 18 scene modes, a Simple mode that automates just about everything, and a simple direct printing interface. Everything about the FX50 isn’t this good though. Its images are so noisy that they look like painted pictures with messy brush strokes. The auto focus system doesn’t handle low light well at all, so pictures are bound to be blurry despite the image stabilization and wide manual ISO range. If the FX50 were reasonably priced, all of this might be okay. However, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 has a retail price tag of $399 which is much too high for a point-and-shoot that doesn’t take gorgeous pictures.
Specs / Ratings