Panasonic DMC-FZ48 £320

22nd Aug 2011 | 11:56

Panasonic DMC-FZ48

Does the latest Lumix super-zoom bridge live up to expectation?

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

The low performance at high ISO sensitivies is a shame, as everything else about the camera is well implemented. The build quality and lens are excellent, the control method is intuitive, and there is a vast range of features to keep even experienced photographers happy.

Like:

Good build quality; Intuitive controls; Excellent lens with an impressive zoom range; Fast to focus; Image stabilisation and autofocus during video recording

Dislike:

Noise at high sensitivities; Artefacts around fine details at all sensitivities; Subdued colours with default settings

Overview and features


Bridge cameras fill a niche due to the huge zoom ranges that can be achieved when designing a camera around a small sensor, while keeping the camera body relatively compact.

The Panasonic DMC-FZ48 is very similar to the previously released Panasonic FZ45, which currently retails at around £250. It has the same 24x lens, providing an angle of view equivalent to a 25-600mm lens on a 35mm camera and the same 'Sonic Speed AF' system, which promises fast and accurate focusing.

The Panasonic DMC-FZ48 is very similar to the previously released Panasonic FZ45, which currently retails at around £250. It has the same 24x lens, providing an angle of view equivalent to a 25-600mm lens on a 35mm camera and the same 'Sonic Speed AF' system, which promises fast and accurate focusing.

The updated FZ48 retails for around £320, which is competitively priced when compared to direct competition.

The major differences lie in the sensor, which is a modest 12.1 megapixel CCD in the FZ48, while its predecessor sports a 14.1 megapixel sensor.

Panasonic dmc-fz48

The logic behind reducing the resolution must be to improve the camera's performance at high ISO sensitivities, although the choice of a CCD sensor over the latest back-illuminated CMOS technology is a little baffling. Supported ISO range settings cover ISO 100 - 1600, with no option for expansion.

The ability to take images in RAW format is also missing from the FZ48 camera, which may be limiting for more experienced photographers who enjoy the flexibility that RAW images offer.

Video recording is also improved in this updated model from the 720p recording offered by its predecessor. The FZ48 outputs 1080p HD footage at up to 25 frames per second in either AVCHD or Motion JPEG formats.

A connection for HDMI output direct to a high definition TV is supplied, and if you're lucky enough to own one of the latest 3D televisions, pictures taken in the 3D photo mode can be displayed in all their depth.

This mode works by taking multiple images as you move the camera in a straight line from left to right. The FZ48 pieces the images together, displaying them in 2D on the 3-inch LCD screen.

Panasonic dmc-fz48

If the 24x zoom range supplied isn't enough, extra zoom range can be bought at the expense of resolution. Resolutions that support this feature are labelled with 'EZ' and will provide extra digital zoom until the resolution drops to the level specified by you in the menu.

Optical stabilisation is a necessity with high-zoom cameras such as the DMC-FZ48. Using default settings, the optical image stabilisation does a grand job of ironing out camera movement when shooting stills. The stabilisation and auto focus systems are amongst the most intuitive to use whilst shooting video.

Stabilisation is automatically enabled and the auto focus tries its best to keep up with changing distances, only taking a around a second to adjust to a sudden changes in subject distance. Stereo sound is recorded via the built-in microphone on top of the camera, but unfortunately there's no way to attach an external microphone.

Panasonic dmc-fz48

The built-in flash extends roughly one inch above the camera, which should help to reduce red eye when taking images at close distances. The flash doesn't pop up automatically when required - the choice whether to use it or not is left up to you.

Enthusiasts will be pleased to see that manual exposure modes are available alongside the FZ48's huge selection of scene and automatic modes. This makes this camera suited to photographers with a wide range of experience.

Build quality


The FZ48's SLR-shaped body is constructed from high-quality plastic, which feels quite solid and robust. The deep finger grip has a soft rubberised coating, which provides a firm grip of the camera.

The control layout is typical of Lumix bridge cameras, with the zoom control located on a bezel around the shutter release and a small thumb dial located on the rear for adjusting exposure.

Panasonic dmc-fz48

Video recording is initiated via the one-touch recording button - marked in red on top - just behind the shutter release. The placement of this control is excellent, as it ensures that video recording won't be started accidentally, but is still within easy reach of an index finger.

Panasonic fz48

A three-inch LCD monitor fills much of the FZ48's rear, and although the resolution is only a modest 460,000 dots, it's plenty clear enough for composing images and it is easy to see in bright lighting conditions.

The electronic viewfinder located just above has a resolution of 201,600 dots and is easy to use, even with spectacles. A dioptre adjustment dial is provided for those who prefer not to use their glasses.

Menus are clear and easy to navigate - in large, bold text - with the directional buttons on the rear of the camera. Quick-access buttons are provided for focus modes, AF/AE Lock, self timer, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity and a function menu containing options for contrast, colour and noise reduction.

Panasonic dmc-fz48

Pressing the Q.Menu button also reveals a wide array of settings that are also found in the menu system - which is a nice touch, as it allows quicker access to many common adjustments.

Continuous bursts of shots can be taken at a respectable 3.7 frames per second for a burst of seven images, which can be useful for capturing action.

The FZ 48's Sonic AF system performs really well, locking onto subjects quickly and accurately, even at the telephoto end of the zoom range and in low light conditions. Face detection can also be enabled, which does an excellent job of finding faces in the frame and focusing rapidly.

Performance

Panasonic fz48

The FZ48 isn't one of the best performers with noise levels at high sensitivities. Even at low sensitivities, images seem to contain artefacts and smudging around fine details, which is a little disappointing - but it is a bridge camera not an SLR.

These artefacts are only visible on very close inspection, and images at taken at sensitivities up to ISO 400 should be suitable for producing respectable 10 x 8-inch prints.

Raising the sensitivity to ISO 800 results in a marked increase in softening due to noise reduction, and many fine details are lost. ISO 1600 should be kept as a last resort, as coloured noise begins to affect images, and the noise reduction system starts to attack coarser details in an attempt to keep noise under control.

Panasonic fz48

Intelligent multiple, centre-weighted and spot metering options are available through either the main menu or quick menu. The FZ48's intelligent multiple metering option does a good job of producing balanced exposures in a wide range of conditions, only being completely fooled by very harshly backlit subjects. An exposure compensation range of plus or minus three stops should provide ample adjustment range for most scenarios.

The sensor shift stabilisation system employed in the FZ48 does an excellent job of taming camera movement, especially when shooting video and using the telephoto end of the zoom. It manages to keep the viewfinder image very steady indeed.

Panasonic fz48

The auto white balance performs well both indoors and outside, creating natural, neutral looking images in daylight and with only a mild colour cast under artificial lighting. Colours are generally rendered a little on the subdued side using default settings, so many may with to increase the colour saturation a little to lift their images.

Distortion is kept well under control, with a little barrelling creeping in at the wide-angle setting and a little pincushion distortion visible at the telephoto end. The level of distortion shouldn't pose too many issues for casual snappers, as it's remarkably well controlled for a lens covering such a wide zoom range.

Panasonic fz48

To aid creativity in-camera, eight creative control modes have been incorporated into the camera, which recreate a wide range of special effects including, a miniature effect, expressive, retro, high key, sepia, high dynamic range, pin hole and a film grain effect.

These can be a lot of fun to use, creating similar effects to the popular Instagram app that many now use on their mobile phones.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ48, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Panasonic DMC-FZ48 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Panasonic dmc-fz48 resolution iso 100

Panasonic fz48 resolution iso 100

ISO 100, score: 20 (see full image)

Panasonic dmc-fz48 resolution iso 200

ISO 200, score: 20 (see full image)

Panasonic dmc-fz48 resolution iso 400

ISO 400, score: 18 (see full image)

Panasonic dmc-fz48 resolution iso 800

ISO 800, score: 16 (see full image)

Panasonic dmc-fz48 resolution iso 1600

ISO 1600, score: 14 (see full image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using the DXO Analyzer software.

Signal to noise ratio

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

Panasonic dmc-fz48 snr

JPEG images from the Panasonic FZ48 show consistent results for noise performance across the sensitivity range. From ISO 400 upwards only the Nikon Coolpix P500 show a better result.

Panasonic dmc-fz48 dynamic range

This chart indicates that JPEGs from the Panasonic FZ48's have a lower dynamic range than all but the Fujifilm Finepix HS20's JPEGs up to a sensitivity of ISO 400. From ISO 400 results are comparable with the Sony HX100V and Nikon P500.

Sample images

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

The macro function enables frame filling close-ups

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Colours can be quite subdued using default settings

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

The 24x zoom lens is great for isolating distant subjects

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

A 25mm wide angle as found on the FZ48 is useful for landscapes and shooting in tight spaces

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Distortion is very low, especially for a lens covering such a huge range of focal lengths

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Levels of detail are maintained well throughout the zoom range

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Balanced exposures are produced by the Intelligent Multiple Metering system

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

The AF system is just fast enough for adequate quick snatch shots like this

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Shutter lag is minimal, even when using the flash, once the camera is correctly focused.

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Creative Control Sepia.

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Creative Control High Dynamic.

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Creative Control Pinhole.

(See the full-res image here)

Panasonic lumix dmc-fz48 sample image

Creative Control Film Grain.

(See the full-res image here)

Specification

Sensor

1/2.33-type CCD sensor / 12.5 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter

Lens

24x f= 4.5 - 108 mm (25 - 600 mm in 35 mm equiv.) F2.8 - 5.2 / Multistage Iris Diaphragm / (F2.8 - 8.0 (W) / F5.2- 8.0 (T))

Memory

Approx. 70MB Built- in Memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card

Viewfinder

Colour EVF (201.6K Pixels equiv.), Field of View : approx. 100%, Lens 19.6x LCD Screen 7.5cm(3.0") TFT Screen LCD Display (460K dots) / Field of View : approx. 100%

Video resolution

HD Video 1920 x 1080 pixels

ISO range

100-1600

Focus modes

Normal, AF Macro, Zoom Macro, Quick AF On/Off (On in Intelligent Auto), Manual Focus (Jog Dial and cursor key button), One shot AF, AF Area Select, AF Tracking

Max burst rate

3.7 frames per second for 7 frames

Shutter speeds

60 - 1/2000 sec

Weight

Approx 498 g with Battery and SD Memory Card

Dimensions

120.3 x 79.8 x 91.9mm

Power supply

Li- ion Battery Pack (7.2V, Minimum: 895mAh)

Verdict

Panasonic fz48

Although priced competitively at around £320 and sporting some excellent features, the Panasonic DMC-FZ48 falls short of many of its peers in one important area.

For a camera with a long telephoto zoom such as this, performance at high ISO sensitivities is important, as a lens with an angle of view still requires higher shutter speeds to achieve sharp images - even with image stabilisation.

We liked

A well-designed, well-built camera with an impressive 24x zoom lens and great range of features.

We disliked

Image quality issues at high sensitivities, especially when compared to the latest competition.

Camera Compact Panasonic Lumix
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