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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 594
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 — Reader Responses
Saturday 1 October 2016   —   Category: Equipment
My series of six articles reviewing the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 pocket camera are some of my most popular articles. Out of a total of 594, all of those six are in the top 34, with First Im­pres­sions being rated 8th overall.

They are also the most popular articles for readers to leave comments. To my great dis­ap­point­ment, readers have left a modest 92 com­ments on only 45 articles, out of that 594 total. About one-third of those comments (30) have been made on the six Panasonic ZS50 articles. The two most heavily commented ones — First Impressions and Focusing Revisited — have received 10 each. To read the comments, visit each of the six ZS50 articles and scroll down to the Comments section near the bottom.

I also receive e-mails from readers instead of article comments. Recently I got one from a Karin in Wellington, New Zealand. Because I felt like it would be beneficial for readers to see what she wrote, and to also hear my reply, I asked her if it was OK to include her e-mail in this article. Apparently she said yes!
I bought a Panasonic ZS50 earlier this year and then stumbled upon your blog and review about the camera (people even refer to your blog in Amazon reviews of the camera!!).

I just wanted to say thanks so much for all the time and info you have put out there regarding the camera. I have found it immensely useful. You al­most have some kind of cult following for the camera even though it has been superceded now by newer models.

I am a 50-something stay-at-home mum. My Dad introduced me to pho­tog­ra­phy when I was a teenager and I learnt about photography on his Nik­kor­mat (wish I’d kept it instead of giving it to the Salvation Army!!). We used to develop our black and white photos in the laundry!

Anyway, I gave the hobby away for a while, then I wanted to revisit it re­cent­ly as I got so sick of the all the poor quality iPhone shots I was tak­ing, and other various point-​and-​shoot cameras. So I bought the ZS50.

To tell the truth I nearly gave it all away. I didn’t know where to start with using the thing, it was like a foreign language, all the modes etc. It was very daunting and I thought I must be passed my use-by date.

However, I took the camera away with me on a recent cruise round Alaska and back to Vancouver and was really pleased with the results. I downloaded the manual to Evernote and at night on the ship I read the manual, and have finally got my head round that camera somewhat.

Just thought I’d send you some of my photos taken with the ZS50. I know you will probably think they look pret­ty elementary, and they are. I don’t shoot in RAW. I’m going to buy the MacPhun suite of editors and have some fun. But just thought I’d let you see some taken by a newbie.

The zoom is amazing, the photo of the eagle was taken from way in the dis­tance on an excursion boat. I was quite pleased with that photo. Where I’m at now is that I’m trying to figure out the best two custom modes for the cam­era. I think possibly a backlit mode and maybe the shoot through glass mode will be helpful for me when travelling. I seem to come up with those situations a lot.

I’m wondering what custom settings you use for the two on the dial? Some­one wrote a review on Amazon that the key to using the camera was set­ting up your most used custom set­tings on it. BTW, I think we are born in the same year, 1962. Was a good year, the year of the tiger!
Karin’s e-mail cheered my heart. When reading her first sentence, I was quite pleased to find out that Amazon cus­tom­ers are refering to this photo blog in their reviews of the Panasonic ZS50. When she wrote that I “have some kind of cult following for the camera” it caused me to laugh out loud in delight and dis­be­lief! Even as I write this a week later, I’m still giggling and shaking my head at the thought!

I really like Karin’s night shot to the right; I’m amazed at how well the ZS50 handled the challenging lighting. Of course, the ZS50 does not always han­dle difficult lighting well, as the next photo demonstrates. Especially when you are shooting JPG instead of RAW. This illustrates what I see as the dif­fer­ence between a snapshot and a photo­graph.

I’ve written about this in a number of past articles, but I think it is so important that I need to bring it up again. In You Don’t Take a Photograph, You Make It, I pointed out that Ansel Adams believed that only half of the creative pho­to­graph­ic process occurred behind the camera, while the other half took place in the darkroom.

In our modern digital era, Ansel’s meth­od­ol­ogy is equivalent to shooting RAW images, and then processing them in digital darkroom soft­ware, like Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop, and many others.

If Adams had merely pointed his camera at a sub­ject, snapped a picture, and then called it quits, he would likely have been sitting on a pile of mediocre photos. Not only did he take wonderful shots, but he knew how to bring out the best in them during processing. Adams brought his negatives into the darkroom as the raw materials to create the mas­ter­piec­es we know today.

Even with the best camera in the world, almost every photo can be improved with a little (or a lot!) of adjustments in an image editing app. It is very unusual for me to add a picture to this Web site that is pretty much straight out of the camera. In some cases it can take quite a bit of work to salvage a photo that I would normally reject, but the results are often worth it.

If high-end cameras can benefit from shooting RAW and adjusting the image to perfection with software, how much more a relatively low-end camera like the Panasonic ZS50?! I am absolutely convinced that you will not get the best quality photos from this camera without a RAW workflow. Because I am not a professional photographer, my goal is not earning money — nor making a boss or client happy. Because I no longer enter photo com­pe­ti­tions, my goal is not winning a contest, award or recognition.

My whole motivation for photography is to have fun and to please myself. As long as I  like my pic­tures (and articles), I really don’t care if anyone else does or not. Going out and having fun while taking photos is a reward in itself. Bringing those digital negatives back home and processing a se­lec­tion of them until I’m happy with them brings great satisfaction. What more do I need?

I like what Karin wrote ... “really pleased with the results ... going to have some fun ... quite pleased with that photo ...” In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I think of Karin’s photos (or what she thinks of mine!). As long as she is having fun and is please with her results, that’s all that counts. Comparing yourself to other photographers — and even worse, feeling bad about yourself as a result — is a dead-end road to unhappiness, dis­sat­is­fac­tion and frustration. Regarding Karin’s question, I hate to admit that I have never use the custom exposure mode dial set­tings on any of my cameras over many years! For some reasons it seems complicated to set up, but I’m a computer programmer, so that really should not be a problem.

I guess that it’s because I’m so familiar with the adjustments I need to make on my cameras when taking pictures that I haven’t felt the need to save a particular configuration as a custom dial setting.

On my main camera, I almost always shoot in A(Aperture Priority) mode. Since the ZS50 is not my main camera, I tend to leave it in ‘P’ (Program) mode. In both cases, I adjust the exposure for each shot, if necessary, with the exposure compensation setting.

One nice thing about modern cam­eras is that they have so many set­tings that each photographer can use the camera in a way that makes sense for them. Some people, like the one in the Amazon review, will swear by the two custom dial set­tings. Others, like me, never use that feature. I would recommend that you do whatever works best for you.

From what I have read, the main point of the two custom dial settings is that if you find yourself re­con­fig­ur­ing a lot of your camera settings for a particular kind of photographic situation, you can save that configuration as a custom dial setting, so you can easily switch to it without having to change each camera setting individually. Since I am never it that situation, the custom dial settings have little value for me. As usual, your mileage may vary.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 594
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Reader Comments
On October 2, 2016, Stewart Wilson wrote:
Hi Brian. I’m so glad I was directed to your Blog by Google when I typed in ‘Getting clear pictures from Panasonic ZS50’. After reading your articles about the Panasonic and how shooting pictures in RAW provides so many more possibilities when editing, I began using it two weeks ago.

By the way I’m one of these guys who almost daily takes my camera for a walk because I love walking, biking, kayaking and taking pictures whenever I see something that catches my eye. I can spend an afternoon exploring a local wetland or creek. I always took my camera to school before I retired in June because there was always something going on, whether it was a class activity, kids playing at recess, or going on regular field trips in and around the community. That’s one of the reasons why I opted for the Panasonic ZS50, which I bought in July. It is my third Panasonic. Back in 2005 I bought a Panasonic FZ5, which I carried round my neck, and took what I considered were good pictures of interesting finds on field trips I did with my elementary classes, as well as on my regular walks and trips in and around Cranbrook and the East Kootenays of British Columbia, Canada.

In 2011 I upgraded to a Canon PowerShot SX30 because my wife and I were going back to Scotland, where we were both born, for the first time in over 25 years, but this time with our three adult kids. It offered a more powerful zoom but proved to be much slower when taking sequences of pictures on Burst. It was also more cumbersome than the Panasonic FZ5, so I bought a Panasonic ZS25 in 2013, which was lighter, had comparable zoom features, and was infinitely faster when using Burst. However, it got submerged when I was tossed into a river in June when my kayak capsized after hitting a log jam. Fortunately I survived, but the camera was waterlogged! Although it still worked after drying it out in an airtight bag full of rice for a week, I knew I needed a replacement. After doing some research I opted for the ZS50.

Now back to saving pictures in a RAW format instead of as a standard JPEG file. I was surprised how much memory each picture took in RAW format — around 15 MB compared to 5 MB when saving as a JPEG file. However, I was aware of the better quality of the picture when I downloaded on my Mac and used the iPhoto program. But I wonder if any of your readers use the iPhoto program too because I just discovered a helpful website — https://www.gadgetdaily.xyz/how-to-edit-raw-files-with-iphoto/ — which has given even better results.

Thank you for taking the time to keep your Blog up to date with interesting articles and great ideas for ways to improve our photographic awareness and skills, as well as sharing your own photographic experiences. I look forward to future posts!
On October 7, 2016, Edo wrote:
Hi Bri! Soon I will start a new career for myself, with a Lumix again. The last one really enriched my life making me a happier person, being a visual thinker from the start.
It must be a present for my birthday to come, so I'll make it a birds'day as well, trying to grasp the tropical birds we more and more have here. And some little bats, and of course stars. The Leiden Observatory is almost my neighbour, so...
I have no professionalism in mind, or teaching anyone anything but joy in life! Hope I can share some impressions soon, meanwhile I am still enjoying my Lumix as well, I might even bring it back to Japan if they invite me! I also have special interest in the WiFi-possibilities; I myself am from the HiFi-generation, born 54, class of 1993. Enjoy what life brings to you. Thanks for your nice articles! Greetings from the Netherlands, Edo van Dishoeck XIII
On January 11, 2017, Wolfgang wrote:
A little history: I have been taking pictures for over 45 years. I cut my teeth on 35mm and then graduated to commercial photography with 8X10 view cameras. That was my second career. I’ve had six more since then, all different. But through it all photography has been a passion, if not always a profession. I currently own a number of digital cameras including a D800 and a D7100 with a multitude of lenses.

Last week I saw a “Will not power on” ZS50 on fleabay, and purchased it for $90. It looked brand new, except for a bashed corner. I tore the whole thing apart and let me tell you, it is a wonder of design/construction. Everything is modular, connected with flex cables or push-in connectors. It was very impressive. The heavy copper plate in the middle was amazingly heavy — probably half the weight of the camera. I pulled it all apart and put it back together, testing the lens assembly and cleaning cable ends as I progressed. Soon after reassembly I had a working camera.

Just spent several hours reading through the advanced manual and setting controls to my liking. It seems to be a very capable little machine. I also tried remote control with my Android phone — what fun!! I’ve owned Panny’s before: about a half dozen different FZ series cameras, including my favorite, the FZ150. I also have a GF3 floating around somewhere which shares lenses with my IR converted Olympus. I know their repair services are a rip-off, but I have always been impressed by the “usability” of the Panasonic cameras.

I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with this little camera. Being old school, it just boggles my mind how much capability they manage to build into something so tiny today. Could you imagine having this camera in hand when I was first shooting high school yearbook photos in the late 60's?

Anyway, after the commercial gigs, I quit photography as a profession because it was getting less enjoyable. Now I have exactly the same attitude as you do — I shoot what I want, when I want and for whom I want. This makes photography most enjoyable for me. I’ll do the occasional wedding, but only for friends, and only if they ask nicely :) Oh yes, and I shoot roller derby.... Wolfgang.
On January 22, 2017, Garth Reid wrote:
I bought my Pana ZS50 yesterday and like you I noticed that the camera focussed slowly. Thank goodness I stumbled upon your blog and I can now fix the problem of using Macro AF in normal shooting. I have used several Panasonics starting with the FZ 1, then the 2, the 4, the 15, the 18, the 30, the 100 and finally the FZ 200. I'm sure I'll be pleased with the ZS50, especially after reading your blog, for which I sincerely thank you. Your articles are well written, clear and very informative. I will re-read them and I hope there will be more of your articles on this great, little camera.
On June 29, 2017, Keith wrote:
Just wanted to express my thanks for these articles, and the blog in general.

I am one of those people who loves photography, loves technology, and is also on a limited budget. An unfortunate pairing - as you probably know, the more one researches how to take the "best" photos the more expensive gear seems to be necessary! I was almost going to write off bringing a camera on an upcoming backpacking trip to the PNW, thinking that to take home decent shots I'd have to buy a DSLR camera and lenses costing more than the entire trip itself!

Instead I will be buying a used ZS50 to take with, which is much more affordable (costs less than my backpack) and I am sure will allow me to take quality photos! Sure they're not going to be pin-sharp like a full frame DSLR, but with some editing of the RAW files I'm sure they'll be more than adequate to capture the scenery! A lot of mountain landscape scenes are captured with long zooms, and that's not something I could do with my iPhone camer even with an accessory lens.

One thing I was wondering about is editing techniques to combine multiple images into one more detailed image. Have you done any experiments along these lines? I guess this would be similar to how HDR provides greater dynamic range than a camera can naturally produce, but for resolution/detail instead.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and knowledge!
On June 29, 2017, Brian wrote:
In response to Keith’s comments: In an interesting coincidence, just today I posted a new article with a new album of photos taken with the ZS50:

Regarding combining multiple images into one more detailed image. I've never done it, but I did find an article on PetaPixel.com that goes into a lot of detail about it:

A Practical Guide to Creating Superresolution Photos with Photoshop

Recent Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras have something similar built into the camera. Here is an article that gives lots of details and examples:

Olympus E-M5 II High-Resolution Mode

I have some doubts about getting good results from the ZS50, because the image sensor is so small and the lens quality is just average. It’s like a recipe I read recently for making a certain sauce. It said to only use a wine that you would drink, not some cheap undrinkable wine. A good dish needs good ingredients. I’m not convinced that the “ingredients” of the ZS50 are good enough to make a good superresolution “dish.” But I guess you would have to experiment to find out for sure.

I hope the ZS50 meets your expectations for your backpacking trip. If you would like to report back to me about your experience with the camera during your trip, I would love to hear about it! Have a great PNW trip!
 
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 594
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