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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50

David D. Busch
6 min read
With top-notch picture quality for its class, excellent close-up features, a burst mode that can grab five shots in two seconds, and versatile shooting options that include a power-saving economy setting and a superfriendly Simple mode, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50 will appeal to snapshooters who want quality and convenience in a compact package. Unfortunately, significant shutter lag, middle-of-the-pack performance, and a lack of manual controls will send some snapshot photographers looking elsewhere. Not the most compact 3.2-megapixel shooter around but still easily portable in a jacket pocket, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50 has an average-looking, 7.5-ounce silver-toned plastic body. On top of the camera, a zoom toggle encircles the shutter release so that both fall under your index finger. The only other top-mounted control is the power switch; even the power-on LED has been relegated to a well-designed back panel that uses a minimal number of buttons and dials to accommodate other functions.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50

The Good

Excellent picture quality; solid macro capabilities; fast five-frame burst mode; easy operation, with clever economy options and a no-brainer Simple mode.

The Bad

No manual-exposure settings; small 1.5-inch LCD; significant shutter lag; low-res movie mode with no sound capabilities.

The Bottom Line

Excellent picture quality for its class and versatile automated operation will appeal to quality-conscious snapshooters, but this Lumix has mediocre performance and is a little chunky for a 3.2-megapixel camera.
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The power switch, the shutter release, and the zoom toggle are the only controls on top of the camera.

The clever design requires just three buttons, a mode dial, and a four-way cursor-control pad. The button trio arrayed below the 1.5-inch LCD consists of a Delete key; a Display key that turns the LCD on and off and activates a rule-of-thirds-style grid; and a Menu key that provides access to recording, setup, and playback menus designed for easy navigation.

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The Trash, Display, and Menu buttons are below the LCD. You can locate the center button by touch since there's a little raised point on it.

On the right side of the back panel are a knurled mode dial with nine shooting and playback options and a burst-mode button at its center, and a cursor control pad that rocks four ways to activate double and triple functions assigned to each direction. For example, pressing up on the cursor pad cycles between exposure compensation, a three-shot autobracketing mode, and white-balance adjustment. When the desired control appears on the LCD, you press the pad left or right to make the adjustment. Used alone, the left cursor sets the self-timer to either 2- or 10-second delay, while the right control selects the flash mode. A downward press of the cursor pad activates Review mode.

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The mode dial on the back of the camera lets you cycle easily through capture and playback options. The button in the middle activates the continuous-shooting modes.
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Each of the arrows on the four-way controller pad serves more than one purpose, making operation more efficient.

Simple mode, represented by a heart symbol on the dial, is a no-brainer mode in which the cursor pad offers only a backlight adjustment; the self-timer can be set only to 10 seconds; electronic flash modes are limited to on, off, and red-eye reduction; and the picture-review mode is simplified. Even the menu system is idiot-proofed. Descriptions such as Enlarge, 4x6, and E-mail replace resolution numbers, and more-complex setup options are hidden entirely. Simple mode is great for beginners or those occasions when you lend your camera to a friend and don't want to take the time to explain how to use it.

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The Lumix DMC-LC50 records images on SD/MMC media.

Although the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50 makes the majority of the shooting decisions for you, it offers options that will suit most picture-taking situations. For example, the mode dial switches between Normal and Simple modes, a macro setting, portrait and landscape options that minimize and maximize depth of field (respectively), and a night-portrait mode that uses a relatively slow shutter speed to add detail in the background, even when the flash is used. There's also a two-level economy mode that saves power by using tricks such as dimming the LCD and shutting it off entirely if the camera is idle for 5 to 15 seconds.

Other little touches make this camera fun to use. For example, the autoreview has an optional setting that displays each image at normal size for 1 second after the shot is taken, then switches to a 4X enlargement for an additional second, giving you the chance to check focus. During normal review, the image can be magnified 2X, 4X, 8X, or 16X with the zoom lever, and the LCD also displays a little navigator window representing the full image area, with a scrollable outline showing the part of the picture currently enlarged.

The 3X Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens provides a field of view equivalent to that of a 35mm-to-105mm lens on a 35mm-film camera. Its macro capabilities, which autofocus down to four inches--there's no manual focus--are excellent. You can even use the flash in close-up mode. The built-in speed light was accurate from 1 to 15 feet at the wide-angle setting and from 1.64 to 9 feet in telephoto mode.

Shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/2,000 second are set automatically by the autoexposure system, which can be switched from multisegment to a spot mode that uses the center of the image to calculate exposure and focus. There is no provision for manually setting shutter speed or aperture, nor is there a sports-shooting mode, which is a pity because this Lumix's high-speed burst mode can snap five full-resolution shots in less than 2 seconds. The other key settings are limited to adjustments such as exposure compensation (plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV steps), white balance, and light sensitivity (ISO 50 to ISO 400).

This is not the digital camera of choice for motion-picture buffs, unless you're a fan of silent movies; the DMC-LC50 has no microphone for recording sound and takes only relatively low-res 320x240-pixel clips at 10fps or 30fps.

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The Lumix DMC-LC50 uses two AA batteries.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50 gave its top performance in burst mode. It can snap off 5 full-resolution pictures in 2 seconds in low-speed burst mode and a blistering 10 shots in about 2.5 seconds in high-speed mode at 640x480 resolution.

This camera's worst performance figure was for shutter lag, on account of the DMC-LC50's sluggardly autofocus system. Under high-contrast lighting conditions, the lag was a mediocre 1.1 seconds. The camera performed even worse under low-contrast lighting, which seemed to stymie its non-light-assisted focus mechanism. The delay here was an abysmal 1.9 seconds. Wake-up time, at 4.49 seconds, was also on the slow side, as were the shot-to-shot times of 3.3 seconds without flash and 4.3 seconds with flash activated.

The optical viewfinder, which is adequately large and bright but has no diopter correction for people who wear glasses, offers a somewhat distorted view and clipped off quite a bit of the image. The little 1.5-inch LCD, which shows close to 100 percent of the image, is somewhat difficult to use for composing images under bright light, but its up-to-16X magnification during picture review makes it helpful for evaluating pictures after they are taken.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50 produced sharp images that were about as detailed as we could expect from a 3.2-megapixel camera. It did a great job properly exposing images both when shooting with a flash and in natural and incandescent light. The camera produced a surprising amount of detail even in inky shadows, so we'd rate its dynamic range as excellent. The automatic white balance adjusted for varying color temperatures indoors and out. Colors were rich, verging on oversaturated, even on a cloudy, overcast day. Our people pictures looked good, and flesh tones were pleasing, although the camera's red-eye prevention system didn't seem to have much effect. Noise levels were low, except at ISO 400. We did notice more purple fringing than average in high-contrast areas. In smaller prints, this flaw shouldn't be very evident.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6Image quality 8
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