Brian's Photo Blog — Article 407
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — First Impressions
Sunday 12 April 2015   —   Category: Equipment
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About a year and a half ago, I was in quest of the ideal pocket camera. My first high-end compact camera — a Canon Powershot S100 — turned out to be a failed experiment. Its replacement — an Olympus “Tough” TG-2 iHS — was a disappointment as well, although for different reasons.

I absolutely wanted a pocket camera with RAW image capability and a maximum zoom in the 15-20x range. At that time, these requirements were met by only a handful of cameras. After much research and thought, I finally settled on a Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR, which arrived at the end of August 2013. Since then I have been quite happy with my choice, even though it is lacking a viewfinder — a feature I highly value on any camera.

However, engineers do not stand idle, and progress does not stand still! At the beginning of this year, a product announcement from Panasonic grabbed my attention. Their upcoming Lumix ZS50 would feature RAW images, a 30x zoom, AND a viewfinder — HURRAY! Week after week I eagerly kept my eye on the ZS50’s product page on Amazon, even though they said the silver version would not be available until April.

One day in mid-March, I saw that a few of the silver ZS50s were available from Samy’s Camera on Amazon. I quickly placed my order, and it arrived just 3 days before my birthday! HURRAY! Shortly after I had placed my order it was once again unavailable on Amazon. Even at the time of this writing, availability is iffy.

Meanwhile, thanks to Samy’s, I have been putting the ZS50 through its paces for the past three weeks. This is the first of five article about my experiences using this camera, and the resulting images. Today I will focus on my first impressions. I will let you know ahead of time that my first impressions were somewhat on the negative side, but the more I have used the camera, the more my opinion has grown positive. After three weeks, I am very happy with it!

Despite the fact that in this series of five article I will sometimes be comparing the ZS50 to my much large and much more expensive Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera, that is not really my main objective. I bought the ZS50 to replace my well-loved Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR — it is these two pocket cameras which I intend to compare and contrast. My very first first impression when I pulled the camera out of its box was that it felt like light, cheap plastic. Not a very good first impression! Of course, I realize that both the ZS50 and the F900 are made out of plastic, but somehow the F900 feels more solid, and has some “heft” to it relative to its size. Perhaps the ZS50, being somewhat bigger, gives the impression of being less dense. Let’s take a look at the official specs of each camera to investigate further.

The F900 measures 105 x 61 x 36 mm and weighs in at 232g. The ZS50 measures 111 x 65 x 34 mm and weighs 243g. Doing some quick math, I find that the ZS50 is only 6% bigger than the F900 and weigh only 5% more. So that does not really explain why the ZS50 seems less dense and solid to me. I guess that will have to remain a mystery!

Now don’t get me wrong! I am not at all saying that the ZS50 is poorly or cheaply built! For all I know, the build quality could be better than the F900. All I’m saying is that on first impression (that is what this article is all about, after all!), the ZS50, considering its slightly larger size, somehow felt less substantial than the F900. ’Nuff said — and it really doesn’t matter anyway!
From what I had read in an excellent review of the ZS50, I already knew before I bought the camera that the viewfinder was not going to be excellent. But that doesn’t really matter, because in some situations a viewfinder is absolutely essential, and as far as I know the ZS50 is the ONLY large-zoom-range, RAW-capable pocket camera with a viewfinder. When you don‘t have anyone else in your class, you don’t have to be the best!

What do I care if a camera that is five times bigger, heavier and more expensive than the ZS50 has a better viewfinder? The point is that the ZS50 does have a viewfinder, and it is plenty good enough to get the job done. That’s the whole reason I bought it to replace the F900 (which I was pretty happy with). In fact, just today the viewfinder came in very handy when I was taking pictures in bright sunlight during my daily neighborhood walk.
#1: Zoom set to 50mm (equivalent). The tiny white blobs in the very
center are geese. Click to see the next photo at 24mm.
The 20x zoom on my F900 camera (and on my wife’s Sony DSC-HX20V) is really great, but the 30x zoom on the ZS50 is awesome! In order to get a visual on what its 24-​720​mm (35mm equivalent) lens can do, click through the series of three photos to the right, which I took while on my daily neighborhood walk.

In the first picture, the focal length was set to 50mm (equivalent), which is considered a “normal” focal length that reproduces the natural field of view of the human eye. In other words, the geese in the distance, in the center of the photo, would look the same distance away when viewed with the naked eye.

The second picture was taken at the shortest focal length, 24mm (equivalent). Wide-angle lenses cause distant objects to appear further away than they really are. The real shocker is the third photo, taken with the camera set to its longest focal length, 720​mm (equivalent).

Wow! Isn’t that amazing! Keep in mind that I did not changed position at all — I was standing in the exact same spot for all three photos. The only thing that changed was the focal length. Now you can easily picture what a 30x zoom really means! Click here to examine larger versions of these three images.

I also like that you can activate a menu setting which causes the camera, when you turn it on, to return to the same zoom setting which was active when you last turned the camera off. There have been numerous times when I wished the F900 had this feature. If you don’t want it in a certain situation, you can always turn it off.
When I purchased the ZS50, I did not pay much attention to Panasonic hyping their 5-Axis HYBRID O.I.S. image stabilization (OIS), but once I started using the camera, its capabilities definitely started grabbing my attention!

I can’t prove it scientifically, but from my few weeks of experience with the ZS50, my impression is that its OIS performance is on par with the first-rate OIS that my OM-D E-M5 is famous for — and that’s saying a lot! For a specific example, let’s look at this duck photo to the right.

This fowl was pretty far away, so I had zoomed all the way to the maximum 30x / 720​mm (equivalent) focal length. Conventional photographic wisdom would say to use a shutter speed of at least 1 / 720 in order to keep the image sharp. But because of the poor lighting on that foggy morning, I was forced to use an ISO of 800, and a shutter speed of only 1 / 25 second!

The original shot was not very sharp, but it is hard to say for sure if it was the autofocus that was the problem, the slow shutter speed / long focal length combination, or both. Nevertheless, I am quite certain that without Panasonic’s wonderful OIS technology, this photo would have been totally worthless when taken with these settings. I am very impressed and very happy!
The grip on the front of the body and the thumb rest on the back are larger, and therefore better, than on the F900.

I like the fact that there are two programmable function buttons.

The large control ring around the lens is programmable as well, and is great for adjusting a number of settings (depending on the mode dial setting), like shutter speed, aperture, “program shift” (changing the shutter speed, aperture and ISO together while maintaining the same exposure), and exposure compensation. However, it’s not so great for manual focus. More on that below.

The smaller control dial on the back, in addition to its normal use of accessing certain settings and navigating the user interface, is also sometimes used to control the same exposure settings as the large control ring, again, depending on the mode dial setting.

I like how the memory card and battery compartment lid has a latch for opening and closing it. On the F900, the lid has no latch, but it opened by sliding the cover away from the body. It is much harder to open, and often irritates me. I realize it is a minor detail, but often such details make a difference.

I don’t plug my camera into my computer to transfer the latest batch of photos. Instead, I take the memory card out of the camera and stick it in a USB card reader plugged into the computer. So I open and close that cover quite frequently. Thanks, Panasonic, for putting a latch! Overall I am happy with the ZS50 user interface (UI). There are two particular aspects of the UI which I want to highlight because I am particularly pleased with them.

#1: Zoom set to 1x. Note the 1.6 ft. minimum focus distance.
Click to see the second zoom UI screen shot.
The first is the UI for the zoom control. The default view shows the zoom level, like most consumer pocket cameras. As you can see in the image to the right, the zoom level is 1x. In a nice touch, the minimum focus distance is also displayed — in this case, 1.6 ft. In the next screen shot — click on the image to advance through the series — you can see the zoom level set at 25x, and the minimum focus distance of 4.9ft.

However, if you are an avid photographer like me, you might like to see the actual focal length displayed, rather than a 1-30x zoom level. Panasonic has users like us in mind, and has thoughtfully provided that option.

With one menu change, you can display the 35mm-equivalent focal length instead of the zoom level, as you can see in the third image — in this case 500mm and a 3.9 ft. minimum focus distance.

#1: You can rotate the large control ring on the front of the
camera or the small control dial on the back to adjust the
exposure compensation, from -2 EV to 2 EV, in ⅓ EV
increments. Click to see the second screen shot.
Each nudge of the zoom lever takes you to the next listed focal length: 24, 28, 35, 50, 70, 90, 135, 160, 200, 250, 300, 400, 500, 600 and 720​mm. The fourth image to the right shows a setting of 50mm and a minimum focus distance of 1.6 ft. I really appreciate Panasonic’s attention to detail in this way!

The other aspect of the ZS50’s UI which I really like is how it displays the details for the exposure control settings.

For the exposure compensation setting, the UI display is like the top arc of an actual control dial, as you can see in the first image in the five-photo sequence to the right. I think the graphics give a nice visual feedback.

In the case of all the other exposure settings, you get not one, but two arcs of information, as you can see in the other four images in the sequence. I won’t repeat all of the details here, so be sure to click though the sequence and read the captions. Once again, I feel that Panasonic has put some thought into their design choices. My first impression of the ZS50’s autofocusing is that it can be really slow! In all fairness, it was evening in my home office when I first tried out the camera, with dim lighting. Many consumer-level (and even some higher-level!) cameras have difficulty focusing in low-light conditions. I just tried my F900 in my darkened office, and it was having trouble as well.

After three weeks of testing, I would say that the ZS50’s focusing speed is not as bad as I had first experienced — mainly because I have been shooting in better lighting. Furthermore, in the past I have written about focusing problems with the F900, and even focusing problems with the OM-D E-M5. So at least the ZS50 is not alone, but in good company!

Like most cameras in this class, both the F900 and ZS50 have a macro focusing mode. When the F900 is set to macro, it sometimes cannot focus on objects far away. But when the ZS50 is in macro focusing mode, it can focus on distant objects. Therefore, I decided to leave it full-time in this mode. Stupid me!

Come to find out that although the ZS50 can focus on far-away objects when in macro mode, the focusing is very slow. So unless you are doing close-up photography, you will definitely want to make sure you are in regular AF mode, and not AF Macro. In addition, for the best focusing in low-light situations, you will want to make sure the AF Assist Lamp option is turned on in the menu.

Manual focusing is one feature that the ZS50 has which my F900 does not. However, I think Panasonic’s implementation falls a bit short. The ZS50 does have focus peaking — and the menu lets you choose two levels of sensitivity and six different highlight colors. But I guess I’ve been spoiled by the excellent focus peaking on Panasonic’s high-end video cameras, because the focus peaking on the ZS50 does not seem to live up to that high standard.

On the other hand, even as I am in the middle of writing this article, I just put the ZS50’s manual focus capability to good use. When I went downstairs, with camera in hand, I happened to glance up at the bird feeder hanging outside the living room window.

There I saw a large scrub jay clinging to the bottom of the feeder and greedily gobbling up seeds — even though I had duct-taped a ring of large nails around the bottom rim to keep those bully birds away from the smaller chickadees, sparrows, towhees, juncos and finches.

I’ve been wanting to get a picture of a scrub jay at the feeder, so I was very happy that I had my camera with me. But by the time it powered up, this bird had flown. I decided to compose the shot anyway, because the jay might be back at any moment. I quickly discovered that the ZS50 would not autofocus on the feeder. I can identify a few reasons for this problem.

First of all, it was early evening, and the feeder is on the north side of the house under the eaves, so the lighting was not real great. More importantly, I was attempting to shoot through double-paned glass, at an acute 30° angle to the glass.

In the past I have found that even shooting through such glass straight on at a 90° angle can be a real pain, because it degrades the image quality and makes the subject appear slightly out of focus. Being so far off the perpendicular makes matters worse, but I was forced into that position due to the placement of the feeder and the window.

The third obstacle to locking focus was the fact that the feeder was swinging wildly due to the shove the jay gave it when it flew off. The combination of these three factors prohibited the ZS50 from attaining focus automatically. I almost gave up, but then I figured I might as well give manual focus a try.

The main thing I don’t like about Panasonic’s implementation of manual focus is that you have to turn the large control ring at the front of the camera around and around many times in order to work your way through the entire range of focus. While this does allow for very small adjustments in focus, it is really too fine for practical purposes.

With the aid of the focus peaking feature I mentioned above, I was able to get the feeder into focus without too much trouble. The first photo in the series to the right shows that I focused too far towards infinity, so that the trees in the background were in focus, as indicated by the orange highlighting of focus peaking.

In the second photo of the series, you can see the orange highlighting on the feeder, on the bird snacking there, and on the gutter and eaves. You can also see a UI arc, similar to the ones mentioned above, which displays, in feet, the focus range and the current focus distance.

The third photo is the picture of the bird feeder I took with the ZS50. Because of the slow response of the control wheel, getting it into focus took significantly longer than it should have. If you are not in a hurry, manual focus could come in handy in some situations. Nevertheless, I don’t think I would use it very much, because if I really wanted that kind of focus control, I would use my much-more-capable E-M5.

For more details on my reassessment of the ZS50’s auto and manual focusing, be sure to read the special “part six” of this five-article series: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Focusing Revisited. OK, so the ZS50 is a bit slow in the focusing department. However, the real issue is not speed, but accuracy. Are the images in sharp focus? As was the case in other areas, my first impression about focus quality was not very positive. My first test shots seemed to show a somewhat soft focus — enough to make me seriously consider sending the camera back to Samy’s!

Of course, pocket cameras in general are not going to be winning any awards for razor-sharp focus. And it would not be fair to compare the image sharpness of the ZS50 to the superior sharpness of my Micro Four Thirds equipment. But still, if the image sharpness was horrible, why even keep the camera?

In order to settle the question once and for all, I did further tests to determine exactly how accurately the ZS50 could focus. There is too much to share here, so the details will have to wait until other articles in this series: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Sharpness Shootout and Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Wi-Fi Remote Control.

After a nearly-100% cropping of this photo taken at a
focal length setting of 720​mm (equivalent), the effective
focal length of the final image is about 2407mm!!!
However, I will give you a sneak preview by saying that after further investigation, I found the focus quality to be quite sufficient, and sometimes it even surpassed my expectations.

This bird photo, taken at maximum 30x zoom and then greatly enlarged by nearly-100% cropping, ought to lay any doubts to rest! I am SO glad that I didn‘t rush to judgment and send the camera back! It is definitely a keeper!

The ZS50’s predecessor, the ZS40, crammed 18 megapixels onto its 6.17 x 4.55 mm sensor. My previous pocket camera, the Fujifilm F900, had 16 megapixels on its slightly (about 10%) larger 6.4 x 4.8 mm sensor.

So what did Panasonic do to improve on these older cameras? What approach did they take to beat the competition? Did they decide to play that silly “numbers” marketing game and cram even more and smaller pixels onto the sensor — say 20 megapixels, or more? No! Thank goodness they were smarter than that!

It is apparent that Panasonic cares more about image quality than about marketing hype, because instead of increasing the number of pixels when they designed the ZS50, they went the opposite direction and actually decreased the pixel count — all the way down to 12 MP!

Why is this such good news? By putting less pixels on the same sized sensor, each individual pixel can be larger. Larger pixels mean less image noise. And less image noise means better image quality! The smaller 12 MP sensor, after the viewfinder, was one of the most important features that made me want to buy this camera.

An unprocessed 100%-crop JPG image straight out of the ZS50
camera. Although the focus sharpness is somewhat soft, the low
level of image noise is very good (compared to the Fujifilm F900).
Processing the RAW version made image quality even better!
Click on the photo to see full, final version.
After examining the more than 500 photos I have taken with the ZS50 so far, my feeling is that the sensor truly does generate less noise than the F900. In that review of the ZS50 which I referenced earlier, the author notes the improved image noise.

The F900 has noticeable image noise in almost every shot, even at ISO settings as low as 100 or 200. In contrast, there is much less image noise with the ZS50 at ISO 200. Of course, it doesn’t compete with the almost-nonexistent image noise of the OM-D E-M5 at ISO 200, but that is comparing apples to oranges. Compared to my previous pocket camera, the ZS50 is the obvious winner!

I want to make it very clear that I always shoot RAW images and I always process all of my photos in Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop. Like Ansel Adams, I firmly believe that processing is the whole other half of photography. My goal is to create the best images I can, and that rarely happens with photos straight out of the camera.

Therefore, all of the pictures I have taken with the ZS50 — a large number of which can be viewed on this Web site — have been processed to some extent or another. Starting with the RAW image, I apply noise reduction and sharpening, and adjust the white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation and other settings as necessary.

The photos I am sharing with you demonstrate what the ZS50 is capable of, after processing brings out its best, and not what JPG images straight out of the camera look like. I just wanted to make sure you understood that. Most modern cameras, especially compact consumer cameras, come with some sort of Wi-Fi and / or remote control capabilities. It was inevitable that the ZS50 would join the bandwagon. While I have nothing against such features in theory, the implementation of them often leave much to be desired.

As you might have guessed from the above images, the bird feeder in my backyard can often be a major photographic attraction. But like I said before, shooting through double-paned glass is a real pain, and results in subpar images.

For a long time I have wished my OM-D E-M5 could perform remote shooting, but it just wasn’t possible. So when I saw that my new ZS50 could (potentially) handle the job, I was eager to give it a go. Therefore, one day I attached the camera to one of my old video tripods — a Manfrotto Bogen 3246 — which can extend to an amazing 7.5 feet!

On top of these legs I attached my Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head, which allows for very precise adjustment of the position of the attached camera. All together, the tripod and head weigh about 13 pounds — definitely not a tripod to take hiking!

With this setup, I was able to get the camera up to nearly the same level as the bird feeder. Over a period of one hour I took 250 photos. Once I looked at the results, I was astounded by the quality of the photos I had taken. I was very, very pleased, happy, and even elated! The ZS50 really surpassed my expectations! And I was also quite happy with the performance of Panasonic’s remote control app on my iPad.

Well, there is too much to say about all this to fit it in here. But in the fourth article of this five-part series, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Wi-Fi Remote Control, I share with you all of the exciting details and fabulous photos. Even though my appreciation of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 got off to a slow and rocky start, by the end of two or three weeks I was completely won over. Of course, this camera is not without its faults, but then again, no camera is perfect, because every camera design involves compromises.

Even the most perfect camera in the world would have the faults, I would imagine, of being too big, too heavy and too expensive. If I could only have the image quality and the multitude of controls of the high-end, full-frame, $6,000 Nikon D4s in the lightweight, small, $400 package of the ZS50 with no compromises ... now that would be close to the perfect camera!

In order to evaluate the ZS50 properly, you must always keep in mind the class of camera it is in, and be sure to compare it with other cameras in the same class. In practice, for me, that means comparing it to my previously-favorite pocket camera, the Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR. There are three main areas in which the ZS50 wins out over the F900:
  • Most importantly for me, the ZS50 has a viewfinder, whereas the F900 does not.
  • The ZS50 has a 30x zoom, whereas the F900 has “only” a 20x.
  • Images from the ZS50 seem to have less image noise than the F900.
Even though they are in totally different classes, if you put things into perspective, the ZS50 even starts to compare favorably with the OM-D E-M5. The E-M5’s sensor size is nearly 8 times larger than the ZS50’s. In addition, the E-M5 with only one good lens cost me 6 times more than the ZS50. That camera / lens combination is many times bigger and heavier, and its build and optics are much, much better.

Despite these major differences, the ZS50 is still able to take some good-quality photos. The difference in image quality between these two cameras is not nearly as great as the differences I just listed would lead you to believe. No, all things considered, I think the ZS50 holds its own, given its much smaller and cheaper hardware! See for yourself by browsing my new Panasonic ZS50 Test Shots album. You can view additional test shots in the Portland Japanese Garden, Stereo 2015 and Bird Feeder 2015 albums.

But the story doesn’t stop here! Over the coming days I have five more articles about the ZS50 to share with you:
  1. First Photo Outing
  2. Sharpness Shootout
  3. Wi-Fi Remote Control
  4. Pros and Cons
  5. Special part six follow-up:
    Focusing Revisited
  6. Special part seven follow-up:
    Reader Responses
There are also two more albums of photos which go with those articles: Portland Japanese Garden, Stereo 2015 and Bird Feeder 2015. By the time we are done, you should have a good understanding of what the ZS50 is capable of.

Despite some negative opinions of the camera floating around cyberspace, I am the very happy owner of the marvelous little Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50!

For a look at the practical use I have put this camera to, you might like to check out these articles:
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 407
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Reader Comments
On April 19, 2015, Jack wrote:
Thanks Brian. Great review! (I saw it on Amazon) I ordered one today!

My old Nikon 8700 still works, but for some reason the software doesn't work any more. I can't get my computer to re-load the software either. I was looking for a nice point & shoot.

Have you tried the time lapse feature yet? I use that feature on my Panny H/D video cam (TM700). What a blast to it!
On April 24, 2015, Kristin Conrad wrote:
Help! I am on the verge of buying the ZS50. I presently own the ZS15, but need to replace it. (There are spots on the lens which has already been fixed by Panasonic once.) I find your articles marvelously informative and helpful. However, I'm worried by the fact that you have processed everything yourself from the raw images. I have no experience with this and like to put my time into enjoying the pictures I take by making "memory books" of and for the grandchildren. I do plan to learn more about working with the raw images, but don't want to HAVE to process them myself. Will I be satisfied by the "camera processed" photos that I take or is special treatment necessary to achieve clear imagery? Thank you for your help!
On April 27, 2015, Brian wrote:
In reply to Kristin’s comments and questions above:

I have been dealing only with RAW images from the ZS50 and not at all with JPG photos, so I don’t have enough real-life experience with the ZS50’s JPGs to give you a competent answer. My assumption is that they would be fine, but I can’t say for sure.

I would encourage you to read other reviews of the camera, including the three I referred to in my articles:
I would also point you to the excellent camera feature search on the Digital Photography Review Web site. With this interactive tool you can choose the camera features which interest you the most, and see which cameras meet those specifications. From the resulting list of possibilities, you can find links to professional and user reviews on the DPReview site, as well as a link for each camera to its page on, where you can find many more customer reviews.

I wish you all the best in your search for the perfect camera!
On May 11, 2015, Cameron wrote:
Hey Brian,

I can't thank you enough for this excellent guide on the ZS50. I've been really wanting to pick up a pocket camera for times when lugging a DSLR around just isn't practical. Your review had every bit of information I was looking for. Not only that, but it was very well written, and often humorous.

After reading your review, I decided to pull the trigger and purchase the camera! I got a great deal on it at $299, so I think it's well worth the price at that point.

Thanks again, Brian!
On May 11, 2015, Tom S wrote:
Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough review - very useful! Did you notice that the ZS50 has a special mode for shooting through glass? It might help with your bird feeder shots from indoors. Best of luck!
On May 16, 2015, Frederick Bart wrote:
Just completed this first impressions of ZS50 and much enjoyed. Have the camera on order and am trying to get some good background before it arrives. Look forward to reading the rest. Have seen notes (Amazon) saying the print on the mode dial wipes off in a few as three weeks. Have you encounter this or heard about? Now on to the first photo outing.
On May 16, 2015, Brian wrote:
In reply to Frederick's question above: The mode dial on my ZS50 seems just fine so far, like new. Of course, I don't use this camera extensively, as it is not my primary camera. I have only taken 670 photos with it. And I keep it in a case when not actively taking pictures with it. I don't spend any time rubbing the printing on top of the dial, so I'm hoping for the best! If worse comes to worse, the LCD screen shows which mode the camera is in. Hope you enjoy your ZS50!
On June 16, 2015, Rita Florea wrote:
Good info, #6 you mention that with an easy menu setting you can change how you can change to display so that you can display the 35mm-equivalent focal length instead of the zoom level, as you can see in the third image รข?? in this case 500mm and a 3.9 ft. minimum focus distance. But, you forgot to tell us where in the menu you can find this. I've gone thru the menu and can't seem to locate this. Can you help me? THANKS! There is way too much that this camera can do that I can't understand, even with reading the manual. Are there classes on how best to use this camera?
On June 16, 2015, Rita Florea wrote:

I wrote to you yesterday about the feature you describe in #6 about changing how the zoom is noted 1x vs. 750mm. I called Panasonic today for technical support on how to do that, and they said you can't do that. So I'm wondering how you got the third image on that # 6 to show mm? It would be a very helpful tool for me.

Thank you.
On June 16, 2015, Brian wrote:
In reply to Rita’s two comments above: I tried to e-mail you at the address you gave, but it was returned as undeliverable. I don’t know if you gave a valid e-mail address or not, or if there was some other problem.

Anyway, to change how the zoom level is displayed, press the MENU/SET button on the back of the camera, then navigate to the “Setup” section (bottom left) and press the MENU/SET button again. Use the down arrow on the scroll wheel to go to the last item on the second screen (2/9): “Zoom Lever Set”. Press the MENU/SET button, then choose the second of the two options, called “Step Zoom”. Press the MENU/SET button one more time to choose that option, then press the Trash Can button as many times as it takes to exit the menu system (twice I think).

Now when you zoom, you will see the 35mm-equivalent focal lengths displayed (24mm-720mm) instead of the zoom factors (1x-30x). You will notice that the zoom stops at certain focal lengths, and that you can’t choose focal lengths in between. In order to have finer control, and to see both focal lengths and zoom factors as the same time, see the Zoom Tip section in my article Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Focusing Revisited. The menu option to assign a function to the ring control is the first item on page 3 (of 9) in the same “Setup” menu.

Regarding your comment that I “forgot to tell where in the menu you can find this” ... it’s not that I ‘forgot’, but that I was writing a first impressions review and not a tutorial.

Even though you are having trouble understanding all that the camera is capable of, I would encourage you to not get too worried over it, but to enjoy the camera at whatever level you are able to, and give yourself time to discover new capabilities without a lot of stress. Also, I tried Googling “panasonic zs50 tutorial” — there were not a lot of good results (mostly manuals) probably because it is still a new camera.

For help from other enthusiasts, you might want to join a forum like the DPReview Panasonic Compact Camera Talk forum and ask your questions there. There might even be other forum members who have already asked some of the same questions that you have.

Have fun with your new camera and enjoy!
On September 29, 2015, Alan Jux wrote:
Hi Brian
Thanks for your wonderful work. I bought a TZ70 (in England) a week ago and love it.
Can you tell me how you manage to use Lightroom to process the RAW files from the camera, when Lightroom does not appear to support it (yet)?
Many thanks, Alan
On September 29, 2015, Brian wrote:
In reply to Alan's question above: I'm not sure which version of Lightroom you are using. The latest version of Lightroom CC, which came out earlier this year, does support the RAW files from this camera. I suppose you have the stand-alone version of Lightroom?

As a work-around, during the couple of months that I was using the ZS50 before Adobe added RAW support in Lightroom CC, I was using the free, standalone Adobe DNG Converter software, which converts almost any RAW file to Adobe's DNG RAW format. Once converted to DNG, you can open the file in older versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.
On June 19, 2016, Sherman wrote:
Hello, I was wondering how to turn off the AF Assist Lamp, I can't find it in the menu.
On July 1, 2016, Brian wrote:
In reply to Sherman's comments:

On the camera, go into the menu system, choose the Rec section, then scroll to the second item on page 5 of 6: AF Assist Lamp. From there you can turn that feature on or off.
On July 5, 2016, David Rosen wrote:
Glad I stumbled onto your web page. I had a home darkroom in the sixties along with a Nikon FTN and Mamiya twin lens camera. Now I have Lightroom cc and a ZS50, and a million questions. I just finished your first article and plan to study the rest as well.

My first question is whether or why one has to go into setup to change ISO sensitivity (I wish the user manual was designed as well as the camera)?
On July 8, 2016, Brian wrote:
In reply to David Rosen's comments:

Regarding ISO on the ZS50, there are two shortcuts you can use if you don’t want to delve all the way to the standard menu setting.

One way is to use the Quick Menu button. Do you realize that there is such a thing on your camera? I didn’t until someone replied to one of my articles — see Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Focusing Revisited.

It’s the Trash Can / QMENU button in the bottom-right corner on the back of the camera. Press it, and you are in Quick Menu mode.

Using the multi-function click wheel directly above, click left or right until you are at the ISO setting, and then scroll that wheel to change the ISO. Press the QMENU button when you are done.

For even quicker access, you can assign ISO to the very same scroll wheel.

Press the MENU button, choose SETUP, then scroll to the first item on page 3 of 9 — Ring/Dial Set. Press the MENU button to enter that setting screen.

On the next screen, the top on-screen button (highlighted in yellow) lets you set the function of the big control ring in front around the lens. Scroll down to the lower on-screen button so that it is hightlighted in yellow. It is for changing the function of the small scroll wheel on the back of the camera. Press MENU to continue.

In the resulting list, scroll to the second page of choices, until you reach ISO Sensitivity. Press the MENU button to select. Now press the QMENU/Cancel button three times (or however many it takes) to get out of the menu system.

Now, in P, S, A or M modes, scrolling the small wheel on the back of the camera will let you immediately adjust the ISO setting.

To undo what we just did, go back to the same place in the menu, and instead of choosing ISO Sensitivity, choose the first item on the first page of options: Default Control. Or choose one of the other options if you want.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 407
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