Panasonic FZ200 vs Canon SX50 HS Comparison

September 26, 2012

Panasonic FZ200 and Canon SX50 HS cameras with lions in the background

The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 is in my opinion the only real contender for the Canon SX50 HS. Panasonic is probably among the few companies that I admire to their innovation. You just don’t know what to expect next, and that’s a good thing. In this article I will be comparing the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 versus Canon PowerShot SX50 HS..

 

Constant F2.8 Aperture – Oh WOW!

The first mind blowing fact about the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 is that it has a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25-600mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens. Yes, a constant F2.8 aperture that covers all the zoom range – Brilliant! – Some of you probably want to know why everyone is so excited about this F2.8 aperture?

For those who don’t know what fast F2.8 aperture means, let me explain it to you with a few sentences. The aperture is the hole from which the lass passes through.  The wider the aperture is the more light reaches the sensor.  The aperture controls two things: the amount of light that passes through the lens onto the sensor and control the depth of field. The bigger the aperture is (lower f-number) the more shallow is the depth of field. The f-number is a ratio. This is an indication of the entrance pupil of the lens compared to focal length.

Aperture is written in f-stops (e.g. f/2.8, f/5.6, f/22). The smaller the f-number is, the larger is the size of the aperture hole and as I’ve mentioned, the larger the aperture the more light passes through the lens to the sensor. So in order to get more light to reach the sensor,  you need to shoot with a lower (or some say faster) aperture number.

Modern lenses use a standard f-stop scale: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, etc.  Each element in this sequence is one stop lower than the f-number to its left. One stop is equal to twice amount of light. That means that f/2.8 will allow twice the amount of light to pass through the lens compared to f/4 and four times the amount of light compare to f/5.6, and so on. It’s also worth mentioning that aperture f-numbers are comparable across sensors of various sizes, so f/5.6 for example will omit the same amount of light per square millimeter regardless of the sensor size of the camera you are shooting with, whether its a DSLR or superzoom compact camera.

A constant f-number means that you can shoot with the largest aperture (also referred to as maximum aperture) for all focal lengths that the lens offers, or all the zoom range. If it’s a prime lens (fixed focal length, no zoom) so its only for that specific focal length (e.g. 50mm f/1.4).

Before the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 was announced, all of the zoom compact digital cameras had a variable aperture, not a constant aperture. That means that when you zoom in, the aperture gets smaller. This optical engineering design had to be made like this to keep the lens and camera design small.

It’s worth mentioning that the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 lens is actually 4.5-108mm f/2.8, but the FOV is equivalent to 24-600 mm on 35mm camera. Furthermore, the focal length is directly responsible for the size of the lens. So with a 600mm f/2.8 lens with a dSLR you get a 600 / 2.8 = 214mm, which is the minimum size of the largest glass that must be used. But 21.4 cm is much bigger than the size of the FZ200 lens. But don’t forget that the actual focal length of the FZ200 lens is 4.5-108mm, which means that the largest glass has to be 108 / 2.8 = 38.57 mm = ~3.6 cm, which is of course much smaller than a full frame DSLR lens and certainly fits compact superzoom cameras like the Panasonic Lumix FZ200.

If you want to be amazed just take a look at the photo below:

600 mm lens

Canon 5D Mark III + Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 (can you notice the difference)

 

Can you notice the size difference between the 5D MK3 with the EF 600 mm f/4L lens compared to the FZ200,  I guess you can 🙂

This just gives you a good understanding about what it takes to shoot with a fast 600 mm lens with a DSLR vs the FZ200. You can see that specific comparison on camerasize.com here.

This amazing lens is constructed with 3 ED lenses and 5 aspherical lenses with 9 aspherical surfaces. Using this lens you can achieve relatively much shallower depth of field (background blur) compare to superzoom with non-constant aperture and slower aperture f-number.

Another important advantage or fast lenses the ability to shoot at faster shutter speeds and the ability to get well exposed image at low light conditions, even without bumping up the ISO, so you also get less noise. Of course this lens is also combined with Panasonic Power O.I.S. optical image stabilizatino to help you get sharp images and minimize the effect of camera shake. The Image stabilization also works extremely well when shooting videos.

Now that you understand one of the most important features of the FZ200, let’s dive deeper into the comparison.

 

Panasonic Lumix FZ200

The new Panasonuc DMC-FZ200 is more than just a great lens. Panasonic really knows how to stuff a large amount of useful features and technologies into their little superzoom digicams.  Let’s take a look at the most important features and later on we’ll jump to the comparison itself.

Panasonic FZ200

Some photographers won’t touch a camera if it doesn’t have an EVF. Let’s admit it, most of compact cameras’ EVfs are awful. I sometimes ask myself why they put them in the first place. However, even with a low quality EVF, it makes it easier to shoot photos in bright daylight instead of the rear LCD. There is nothing close to the experience of shooting via a Viewfinder. Many DSLR photographers will tell you the same.  Panasonic really made a big difference here and upgraded the FZ150 201,600-dots EVF to a 1,312,000-dots EVF with max. 60 fps. Furthermore, the response time has been decreased and you can now shoot fast-moving subjects with confidence.

I know how important it is for enthusiasts to have such high-res EVF. That certainly an important feature that most of you will appreciate or learn to appreciate when you first use it.

The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 was designed to be fast and responsive. It features 0.95 sec. Quick start-up time, features Panasonic Light Speed AF for fast and accurate autofocus so you capture every essence of the scene or any unique movement that you want to capture.

The FZ200 can shoot at 12 fps in full resolution. This is the same speed performance that you get with a flagship DSLR, but that’s not all. You can even shoot at 60 fps but in reduces resolution of 3.5MP. AF speed is decreased to 5.5 / 2 fps when you use AF tracking. Panasonic also implemented an ‘Intelligent Burst Mode’ that automatically adjusts the frame rate according to the subject’s movement.

 

The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 is really in extraordinary digital camera. I personally think that it’s the most interesting digital cameras in many years, at least in the ‘consumer’  category.

 

 

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

To be honest, if the Canon SX50 HS didn’t exist, I would probably recommend my blog readers to get the Panasonic FZ200 and put the end to their decision making suffering. The fact is that although the SX50 HS doesn’t feature a constant aperture across all the zoom range, it still have plenty to offer and it’s certainly a viable competitor to the Pana FZ200.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS camera

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 50x zoom superzoom camera

Before the SX50 has announced, the Nikon P510 was holding the crown of being the digital camera with the longest zoom, with 1000mm at the telephoto end and total of 41.7x optical zoom range. This doesn’t prevent some people to get the Canon SX40 HS which has proven to be even an overall better camera,  especially in the image quality department. Now the SX50 HS comes to rival the P510 and it does that with an enormous 50x (24-1200mm) optical zoom – Yes, mid blowing super ultra long 1200 mm focal length!

When we thought that it just not possible to go any further, Canon comes and proves us wrong.  I mean, how much longer can you stretch the zoom and keeping the overall size of the camera small. I personally think that it’s a great achievement.  More about the differences read my Canon SX40 vs SX50 HS comparison.

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS features a 12.1MP BSI-CMOS sensor, and yes, Canon didn’t opt to increase the resolution, but that’s a very smart decision. Canon designed this camera for great low-light performance and image quality as the SX40 HS was, but now even better.

The SX40 HS was criticized for having a small and low-res LCD and Canon improved it with a 2.8-inch 461K-dot articulated LCD. I must admit that I am a bit disappointed, I really want to see a 3-inch 921K-dots LCD on current generation cameras by default, especially on a superzoom flagship camera, don’t you agree?

Canon engineers also worked to improve the AF performance of this camera, and according to Canon, this was improved by 50% (0.38 sec. vs 0.19 sec.) and shooting lag reduced by 445 (0.45 sec vs 0.25 sec.) compared to the SX40 HS.

Another thing that you probably already noticed is the change in the overall exterior design of the camera. I wasn’t a big fan of the SX40HS design, but the SX50HS looks much better, more stylish, rounded and seems like a better ergonomic design that fits the superzoom category. Ergonomics is very important too because it helps you better stabilize the camera and minimize hand-shake which leads to sharper images.

The main selling point of this camera will certainly be the huge optical zoom and as for the time of writing this article, the Canon SX50 HS is the digital camera with the World’s longest telephoto zoom lens.

 

Canon SX50 HS vs Panasonic Lumix FZ200

OK, you’ve become familiar with the basic aspects of both cameras but now you won’t be able to make up your mind without knowing the differences between the two. You probably can already see that the Canon SX50 HS has a much longer zoom, but the FZ-200 has this amazing f/2.8 constant aperture across all the zoom range. I know that you probably saying to yourself: “I wish that there was way to combine both camera’s features into one amazing superzoom camera..”, but there isn’t.  As you are going to make compromises, you need to know that camera manufacturers have their own compromises to make.

I know that some photographers will but the Canon SX50HS due to its bigger zoom, others won’t hesitate and get the FZ200 because of its constant f/2.8 aperture.  For those who still have hard time making a buying decision, I recommend that you continue reading this comparison until the end.
Let’s take a look at a Canon SX50 HS vs Panasonic FZ200 side by side specs comparison table:

 

Canon SX50 HS and Panasonic FZ200 side by side comparison

[table "57" not found /]

 

By going over the specs comparison table you can clearly see how the two cameras differ.  The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 is certainly the more equipped camera of the two. Panasonic just puts many software-based technologies that suppose to help you get better looking photos, as well as help beginners who don’t know anything about photography, enjoy taking gorgeous photographs. The 3D Photo mode, Handhels nigh shot, Intelligent HDR, all are very cool features that certainly add to ‘wow’-factor of this camera.

Of course the big difference lies in the lens itself. It’s very tempting to purchase the Canon SX50 HS  for its much longer zoom, but it’s also tempting to get the FZ200 for its f2.8 constant aperture. The first thing I would like you to understand is the difference between 24x and 50x zoom, or actually the difference between 600mm and 1200mm (35mm equivalent) which is the longest magnification that those two cameras can reach.

 

Difference Between 1200mm vs 600mm

Canon focal length simulator

Canon focal length simulator web app

In order to give you a good understanding about the difference between 600mm and 1200mm I recommend visiting Canon’s Focal Length Comparison web app. At the bottom you have the option to select a focal length and you can see how it reflects on the magnification of the subject in the image. Te higher the focal length is, the higher the magnification and therefore the closer the subjects appears in your image. Just click 600m and then click 1200mm to see the difference.

As you can see, there’s quite a lot of difference there, and just point your mouse to 28mm and then back to 1200 mm to really understand what this huge zoom is all about. Now you can understand why so many travelers bought the P510 and SX40, because they give you the ability to shoot objects hat are far far away from the camera.  Giving the 1200 mm focal length, the SX50 is a traveler’s dream, the perfect camera to take to an holiday and shoot amazing shots. Of course that can be said about the FZ200 as well.

So in general, there is a marginal difference between 1200 mm and 600 mm, but it’s not huge. What matters most is actually the image quality, lens performance of the lens at these focal lengths. Remember that lenses with more complex construction tend to perform less than lenses with smaller zoom factor.

Having said that,  ultra-zoom cameras are more about getting great shots, not about getting the sharpest image and printing it on a large poster. Most of the people who buy those type of cameras just won’t to be able to get great images and share it on facebook, twitter or even makes some small prints. Some of you might share those image on your travel blogs, etc. So the thing is that you probably shouldn’t be too picky, checking out the image corner softness and such, but I will pay attention to the image quality at the center of the frame and make sure that it satisfy my needs.

As I told you earlier, I recommended the SX40 HS over the P510 for a few reasons, but one of the main reasons was image quality in both stills and videos. It was just that the SX40 HS image quality was so good and ourperforms the P510 in a way that I was just drawn to the SX40 HS, even tough that the P510 has a bigger zoom.

 

Image Quality / Sample Images

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 and Canon PowerShot SX50 HS were designed to be top performers when it comes to image quality.  The combination of new generation sensor, high quality lens and advanced image processing engine, all should lead to performance that is better than previous models.

The Panasonic DMC-FZ200 image quality is just superb.  Take a look at some FZ200 sample images from Flickr.

 

Panasonic FZ200 Sample Images

ISO 250 | f/2.8

Panasonic FZ200, Tall Ships Festival, Vieux-Port, Montreal, 15 September 2012 (25)

 

ISO 100 | f/4.0

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

 

ISO 100 | f/4,0

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

 

ISO 200 | f/2.8

Panasonic FZ200, Magie des Lanternes 2012, Botanical Gardens, Montreal, 9 September 2012  (117)

 

Panasonic Lumix FZ200

 

ISO 100 | f/2.8

Panasonic FZ200, Monarch Butterfly, Botanical Gardens, Montreal, 9 September 2012 (6)

ISO 1600 | f/2.8
Last Import-66

 

Summary: Gorgeous saturated pleasing colors,  image is very sharp, even at the long tele end. Even at ISO 1600 you can get some decent photos for small prints. I highly recommend visiting proacguy1’s photostream on Flickr where you can find tons of high quality pictures shot with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. The image quality is just mind blowing.  I was personally blown away with the colors and low light capabilities of this camera. All those shots from the Botanical Gardens in Montreal really give you a good glimpse at the FZ200 low light capabilities.

Update: Having said that, the FZ200 performs great under ISO400, but above it the image quality start degrading by quite a lot. You’ll witness lots of noise and details start to become smudgy. So although you can get some nice shots for the web, I wouldn’t recommend shooting at above ISO400, the image quality just suffer too much. This get worse with complex scenes where you have many fine details like grass, trees, etc. This is probably the Fz200 most problematic downside, and that’s quite a shame because it seems like the sensor is the result for that. With a much better ISO performance, this could have been my favorite superzoom camera.

You might be able to shoot those photos on the SX50 HS, but you will have to bump up the ISO and/or lower the shutter speed, which can certainly lead to more noise and blurriness, and who wants to carry a tripod with this camera?

So for low light shooting (e.g. indoors, candle light, concerts, churches, museums, etc.) I personally choose FZ200, although notice the remark about the high ISO performance regardless of the f/2.8 aperture.
Let’s watch a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 1080p AVCHD video sample (50 fps Progressive AVCHD / PAL) and continue our discussion afterwards.


OMG!! – What is that.. wait..breath..breath.. 🙂 video quality is just superb, even at 600 mm and at F2.8 it looks great! – Can you ask more than that?  Do you need to?

 

Canon SX50 HS Sample Images

Not so many SX50HS pictures are available on the web at the time of writing this review, nevertheless, there are some images that can certainly gives us a good impression about how good the image quality is.

Canon SX50 HS portrait small SX50 HS portrait image, small

The two SX50 HS test shots are portrait pictures of a women from Canon.jp website. The image quality is second to none when it comes to color reproduction and details. The above test shots where taken at ISO80 @ f/4 and f/5 respectively.

Update:

I visited ephotozine Canon PowerShot SX50 HS sample photos page in order to know how good the high ISO performance is (see here). Here’s my observation’s conclusion:

ISO 80/100  – clean image, but some color fringing are visible, very good color definition and well saturated colors. The ISO 100 sample image with the toys and stuff looks amazing. Look at the crumpler camera bag, at the texture.. the sharpness is also excellent and small text are very readable

ISO 200 – excellent results, hard to tell the difference between ISO100 and ISO200, which is a good thing of course

ISO 400 – noise start kicking in, move evidence in the dark areas of the image (look at the blacks)

ISO 800 – Still looking very good but at the dark areas we can see color noise patterns (red, green..), but at mid-tones the noise levels are relatively low and contrast and color definition is high

ISO 1600 – From this point on the image start degrading in a faster paste. Much more noise, losing details and we can see smudging of details especially in the dark areas of the image. You can still get great small prints out of this, and contrast and colors are almost indistinguishable from ISO 800, which is amazing.  Overall great performance!

ISO 3200 – more noise of course, but again, the pattern of the noise is very good, small dots instead of smudgy appearance, which means that it’s easier to remove with noise reduction software. Dynamic range is reduces, but the overall color definitions is very strong

ISO 6400 – I wouldn’t shoot at ISO6400 unless it was impossible to get the shot otherwise.  What I was surprised to see is how well the contrast and color accuracy are maintained across all the ISO range.

 

I am very impressed with the Canon SX50 HS high ISO performance, which is something I can’t say about the FZ200, sorry Panasonic fans. It looks like Canon given very high attention to the image quality as it did with the SX40 HS, and even improved upon it.  The Canon SX50 HS High ISO performance is incredible considering it’s sensor size. So although the SX50 HS didn’t win in the ‘features’ category, it wins hands-down in the high ISO category. For some of you this will probably be the reason to get the SX50 HS, others might not be sold by it. I personally was WOWed, but I am an image quality freak 🙂

 

Dilemma: Canon SX50 HS or Panasonic FZ200?

Choosing between the Canon sX50 HS and the Panasonic FZ200 can be quite hard, I know. I am personally a superzoom fanatic and every year I upgrade to a new camera.  What really attracts me about the FZ200 is the excellent high-resolution electronic viewfinder (great for those who wear glasses) and constant F2.8 lens. The FZ200 might be the better camera for indoor shots and shooting concerts, mainly due to its fast aperture. However, there is a difference between the zoom range, and I think that the SX50 HS would be better for bird shooters, those who mainly shoot outdoors and need the extra reach. Also note that the FZ200 high ISO image quality isn’t that good, start suffering quite a bit at ISO400 but above it you can definitely see quiet a lot of noise and details are getting smudgy. Luckily this camera can shoot at fast aperture and prevent us from shooting at above ISO400.

Both cameras produce sharp, contrasty and well saturated looking photos. I find the FZ200 more appeal to my personal needs because I love shooting low light photos like the ones that you’ve seen on proacguy1’s photostream on flickr.  Those shots were taken at f/2.8, 1/15 sec shutter speed and ISO 200, which result in relatively very clean image, high dynamic range and sharp details. That also shows how good the image stabilization is on the FZ200 – I’m impressed.

F2.8 can be an advantage even when you don’t shoot in dim light, but for some of you the 1200mm focal length will appeal more than the constant f2.8 aperture. Those who need to get even closer to their subject. Believe me that although the difference is not huge, still, for some type of shots you just wish you have that extra reach.

The Panasonic FZ200 is also the more feature-rich camera (faster shutter speed, 60p Full HD videos – video looks SUPERB!, better battery life and software based features) . The new EVF is another reason why you want to take a look at the FZ200, it’s just way better than the SX50.  For some people this might even be a deal-breaker, especially those who only shoot via the EVF.

The difference between the cameras is ~$50 with the FZ200 being the more expensive camera of the two. It’s really comes to personal preference here, because those two cameras are targeting the same category but have their differences. If you want my opinion, I would personally get the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS over the Panasonic FZ200,. After investigating the image quality, I feel that the Canon SX50 HS perfectly fits my needs.

I hope that this comparison helped you get to know those two cameras better and help you make a choice. If you enjoy reading this article, please share it with friends. Thanks guys!



Amazon Ads