First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50
- Great sharpness, Good colour performance, Nice continuous shot mode, Big screen
- Lots of noise
While the FX50 did exhibit a lot of noise, it was extremely small and it performed well in all our other tests, so unless you're magnifying your shots to a great degree it may be a contender.
Price$ 769.00 (AUD)
Buy now (Selling at 33 stores)
The Lumix DMC0-FX50 is another solid 7 megapixel compact camera from Panasonic. Part of their new range, it appeared to be very similar to the FX07 which we looked at recently. That is until we ran our imaging tests and discovered that unlike its compatriot, the FX50 performed quite well in some of our image tests. Its sharpness and colour results were exceptional, however sadly, it achieved a very poor score in our noise testing. Panasonic has also included their usual feature set, which is quite robust, making this a reasonable purchase for day-to-day photography.
As we said, by far the most disappointing element of this camera was its noise performance, where it scored a massive 1.20% in Imatest. This is much higher than any compact we've looked at recently, however it isn't as bad as it sounds. Noise can take many different forms, from huge, blotchy, colourful patches to tiny fine grains. The noise produced by the FX50 is the latter, and thus isn't as visible as the noise we've seen on some other units. At high magnifications the picture has a very grainy look to it, so we wouldn't recommend this unit for making big enlargements, but the noise is less of an issue in smaller prints.
At these smaller sizes the pictures look quite reasonable. The FX50 achieved a score of 1415 in our sharpness test, as well as a low chromatic aberration result of just .79%. These are excellent results for a 7 megapixel model, particularly in terms of chromatic aberration. We saw no visible evidence of it in our shots, and apart from some minor fringing caused by the image noise (which was only noticeable when zoomed right in), our shots were crisp and had extremely well defined edges.
The FX50's performance in Imatest's colour test was almost as impressive, where it achieved a score of 6.83. Anything below 7 is a great result as only a handful of compacts have achieved similar scores. The green and red spectrums were the two areas with the most inaccuracy, while blues, yellows and the greyscale shades were almost flawless. We were extremely impressed with how vibrant and well balanced our shots were.
Our speed tests were slightly less remarkable. The 1.5 second shot-to-shot time and 1.6 second power-up time were quite impressive, but the .11 second shutter lag was a little disappointing, as many units we've looked at recently have scored .05-.09 seconds.
The FX50 comes with a standard Panasonic feature set, which includes their extremely effective optical image stabilisation. Our tests indicate it works very well and it had a noticeable impact on our shots. Other features include white balance presets with a custom mode, ISO settings up to 1250, 18 scene modes and a variety of auto-focus options. The continuous shot modes are excellent too, with one high speed setting operating at 4.5 frames per second for six shots, and the others at three frames a second for an infinite number. This is far better than the burst modes on most other compacts, and is a big selling point of this unit. It also has a fairly solid video mode, which records in 640x480 at 30 frames per second.
However, despite all these excellent features, the thing that really stands out about the FX50 is its massive three inch screen. This is the key physical difference between the FX07 and this model, and it is quite an appealing feature. The 230,000 colour LCD was crisp and sharp, and exhibited only minor signs a ghosting; a very common characteristic of camera screens. A big display really helps line up your shot and makes the whole user experience more enjoyable.
The rest of the design is a fairly standard Panasonic affair, with the body being completely constructed of metallic silver. It looks quite good and is extremely sturdy. Panasonic has continued with the raised control theme seen on the FX07, with the menu button doubling as a thumbstick and protruding several millimetres from the body. This works extremely well, and makes navigation fluid and intuitive. The rest of the controls are extremely simple, with a separate button for image stabilisation and a function wheel to switch between modes.
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