Compact cameras can be great for travel, either as your primary camera if you travel light, or as a backup to your DSLR. I recently wrote an article comparing my impressions of two really nice compact travel cameras – the Sony HX50 V and the Lumix ZS 40.
As you probably know, nothing in the world of digital cameras, or tech in general, stays the same for long. Companies are always building or developing the newer and better version. And so it is with the cameras I just reviewed. There is a new “updated” version of the Lumix ZS40 – the new one is called the Lumix ZS 50. I contacted Sony to see what was going on with the HX50V, hoping they hand a new update in the pipeline, Unfortunately I was told that it had been discontinued and oddly, they said there was no update or replacement model available.
For more background on the Lumix and the Sony compact travel cameras, take a look at my previous comparison article http://travelandphototoday.com/2015/03/25/compact-travel-cameras-sony-vs-panasonic/. Now that there is a newer version of the Lumix compact travel camera I wanted to give a brief update of my impressions.
In many, many ways the Lumix ZS50 is exactly the same as the ZS40. It has the “Super Zoom” with 30x optical zoom. It shoots HD video with stereo sound. It has the same Leica lens and all the “scene” settings you want. It will shoot full manual and well as aperture or shutter speed priority and includes “P” as well as “intelligent” auto modes. Unlike other cameras in it’s class, it will also shoot in RAW as well as JPG just like the ZS40. It is the same size and has an almost identical appearance. Unless you really know where to look you can’t really tell the two apart. On the outside, the most noticeable difference is the larger “grip bump” on the the front. This grip device was very small on the ZS40 and provided little, if any assistance in giving the shooter a more firm and stable grip. The Sony HX50 has a much better, larger, and nicely integrated “grip bump” – an advantage I mentioned in my earlier comparison review. Apparently I wasn’t the only photographer who noticed this issue. The new Lumix ZS50 has a much larger “grip bump” as you can see in the comparison below.
Lumix ZS 40 Lumix ZS50
The new grip is an improvement, much better than the ZS40. But it is still an “afterthought” approach – simply a grip bump which is glued onto the main camera body. The Sony, on the other hand, had the grip bump molded directly into the body and is still better than the grip on the ZS 50.
Probably the most significant change on the ZS50 is the sensor size. The ZS40 had an 18 mp sensor. The ZS50 has a 12 mp sensor. At first blush this might seem like a “downgrade”. And in strict terms of megapixels it is. But the reasoning behind this change, while not obvious, is interesting. The actual size of the sensor is the same on both the ZS 40 and the ZS 50. What that means is they are packing many more photodiodes into that space on the ZS 40 compared to the ZS 50. To make that happen the photodiodes are smaller and packed closer together on the ZS 40. The result of this tight fit is an increase in “noise”. There’s a lot of physics and engineering behind all this. But the bottom line, this new sensor should provide noticeably improved low light images with less noise than the previous version while still producing images with very good resolution.
The ZS 50 retains the inclusion of an optical viewfinder. In fact, the view finder has been improved providing a brighter and more detailed view. The optical view finder is a major plus for many, including myself. The Sony was limited in the area, having only the LCD screen for framing your shots which was next to impossible in bright light conditions.
Ever hear the saying “you win some, you loose some?” Well, that’s the case with the ZS 50. It “won” with a sensor improvement for low light conditions and a better hand grip. But it “lost” in another area. The ZS 40 has a built in gps system which could be used to gps tag your photos. Sadly, the gps system was removed from the ZS50. Not a big deal for me and my type of photography. I generally turned the gps feature off because it was an unnecessary drain on the battery. But some may miss this gps feature. There is a work around available. The ZS 50 can be paired with your smart phone using the camera’s built in wifi (also a feature on the ZS40) and you can then tag your images using the synced gps data from you iPhone. Sounds like a bit of a hassle to me – but if you really need gps tagging for your photos it can be done.
I’ve done some basic, subjective comparisons of images from the new ZS 50 with the ZS 40 and also the Sony HX 50. Again, in many ways they are essentially comparable. You have to look really hard to see any differences. And of course – all three of these cameras are special use cameras. They are multi-function and cram a lot of features into a very small package. They are great for what they do – they make a very good compact travel camera. But if you want them to produce an image equal to your DSLR – well “forget about it.” They are good, and provide really nice images, but not DSLR quality. That said, I’m very happy with the ZS 50. The changes from the ZS 40 work for me. There is better quality in low light or higher iso scenarios with less noise. The grip is better and the optical viewfinder, which was already a great feature, has been improved.
I plan to do some active shooting with the ZS50 in the future. I’ll give another update once I’ve spent some more time with the Lumix.
Side Note: I have to admit that I was sorry to learn that Sony has no planned update for the HX 50. In many ways I liked the Sony, and still do. An update – along the lines of what Panasonic did with the Lumix ZS 50 would seem to make a lot of sense. If they put an optical viewfinder on the HX 50 and improve the low light ability it would be an outstanding camera. I’m going to continue to watch Sony – I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out with something along those lines. If they do – I’ll be writing about it.
Disclaimer: This site receives no compensation for this, or any reviews. Both the Sony HX 50 and the Lumix ZS 40 remain available through various outlets including Amazon (HX50 – ZS40 – ZS50) . Any purchases through Amazon will help support this site.
Have Camera, Will Travel …………. Enjoy The Adventure!
Dr.B, The Photo Trekker
© 2015, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.