Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ48
• Great design
• Intelligent Auto Mode
• Crisp HD video
• Excellent features
• Quite large & bulky
• No RAW option
• High noise levels
Panasonic’s new bridge camera, the Lumix PZ48, is a step up from its predecessor and is close to a DSLR in many ways, but unfortunately falls a little short on the images produced at higher ISO levels.
The Lumix DMC FZ48 is the latest high-end compact camera from Panasonic. It is two years since the Lumix DMC-FZ45 was released, and Panasonic have made some key updates to help make their latest model an even more impressive camera. We take an in depth look below to see how this new bridge camera performs.
Features & specifications
The Lumix PZ48 is crammed full of features, the majority of which are very useful, especially if this is your first foray into the more advanced photography. The main feature is the wide-angle 24x zoom lens, that is combined with a 12 megapixel CCD image sensor. 1080p Full HD video and a built in stereo microphone is now available, as is Intelligent Resolution technology , a range of creative effects (such as Instagram style photos) plus the excellent Intelligent Auto Mode (more on this below). The PZ48 does, however, lack a RAW shooting mode, which is disappointing for a camera of this level.
Design & build
When you first set eyes upon the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ48, you would be forgiven for thinking it resembles a shrunken DSLR. Panasonic no longer produce DSLRs, but they have incorporated some of the ergonomics and technology that you would expect of a larger camera. The 24 x zoom lens dominates this camera, meaning it is too large to carry around in your pocket, but this is a camera aimed at people moving away from small compacts, and onto something more professional.
The body of the FZ48 is made out of high-quality plastic, with a soft rubber coating for the finger grip. The build feels very solid and robust, and whilst this is a fairly bulky camera (measuring 120.3 x 79.8 x 91.9 mm), it is still reasonably light to carry around at just under 500g.
The controls on the camera are set out very similarly to those on the previous Lumix model. On top of the camera there is a large shooting mode dial, where you can access 14 different shooting options. These include most options you would expect (Manual, Aperture Priority, Portrait etc.) as well as one mode that can be customised and stored, and the Intelligent Auto Mode.
Next to the shooting mode dial is the power switch. When switched on, the rear LCD lights up and the zoom lens extends to its maximum wide angle setting, so you are ready to shoot in just over 1 second. The main shutter button is located on the top of the camera grip, which is very responsive and there is no noticeable shutter delay when taking pictures.
The 3 inch LCD monitor on the rear of the camera has a resolution of 460,000 dots, which is double the resolution of the screen on its predecessor, and works well even in quite bright conditions. Menus are very clear with large text and are easy to navigate using the directional buttons on the back of the camera. There are also quick-access buttons for ISO sensitivity, focus modes, self timer, AF/AE Lock , exposure compensation and a function menu all on the rear of the camera.
Whilst the FZ48 is one of the best designed cameras in its field, it can’t quite compete with the big hitters Canon and Nikon in terms of image quality unfortunately. At low ISO levels images are good and crisp, but once the sensitivity is raised to ISO 400, some noise is visible, and at ISO 800 images are softened dramatically due to the noise reduction that tried to tame the noise creeping in. Shots taken at ISO 1600 contained coloured noise levels and were very smudged around fine details. Photos taken at ISO 400 are fine if for smaller prints, but for anything larger than 10x8 inch prints we would recommend keeping the sensitivity level low.
We found that the Lumix FZ48 handled chromatic aberrations very well, as we only experienced slight purple fringing around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations.
The Intelligent Auto Mode on the FZ48 works very well, determining a number of key elements for you in order for less experienced photographers to get fantastic shots. ISO, image stabilization, exposure and auto-focus are all determined for you to great effect, and we were very impressed with how accurately this worked in different conditions.
Video & sound
The Lumix DMC-PZ48 is capable of crisp HD video recording, and has a built-in stereo microphone to record stereo sound. The one touch record button is superbly located as it is within easy reach to quickly press, but is unlikely to be pressed by accident when taking photos.
The FZ48 comes with a DMW-BMB9E rechargeable lithium ion battery, with a mains charger provided also. Industry testers CIPA claim this should be good for approximately 400 pictures from one charge, which is just what you would expect from a bridge camera.
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix PZ48 is a solid, well built camera with some excellent features and a great zoom lens. The Intelligent Auto Mode is excellent for people getting to grips with camera, and the HD video is very good also. Images, however, cannot compare to some of the higher-rated bridge cameras around, especially when taken at higher ISO levels, and the size of the camera means that an entry level DSLR might be a better option.
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