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.
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.
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.
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.