Panasonic Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 Gordon Laing, September 2011
 
   
 

Panasonic Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 verdict

The Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 is the latest in Panasonic's popular line of FZ super-zoom cameras. From the outside it closely resembles its predecessor, the FZ40 / FZ45, and indeed shares the same 24x (25-600mm equivalent) lens range of its predecessor, along with much the same body. But new to the FZ47 / FZ48 are 1080i video recording, a selection of special effects which can be applied to photos or video, a claimed boost in continuous shooting speed, a higher resolution screen, and revealingly, a slightly lower resolution sensor: 12 Megapixels compared to last year's 14.

Panasonic explains the drop in resolution is in order to support 1080i video and quicker continuous shooting, but it also allows the camera to enjoy slightly lower noise levels at higher sensitivities. Don't get too excited: it's not a dramatic improvement by any means, but as you'll see in my FZ47 / FZ48 noise results page, there are visible improvements over its predecessor if you look closely. And as for actual detail recorded, there's virtually no perceptible difference between the 14 Megapixel FZ40 / FZ45 and the 12 Megapixel FZ47 / FZ48. So while the FZ47 / FZ48 still exhibits visible noise artefacts pretty much throughout its ISO range when pixel-peeped at 100%, it is at least a small step in the right direction.

The jump from 720p to 1080i video recording is a welcome upgrade and genuinely allows the FZ47 / FZ48 to capture higher resolution movies than its predecessor. This extra resolution builds upon what were already excellent movie capabilities with zooming while filming, a decent stab at continuous autofocus and the capable Intelligent Auto mode which seamlessly and sensibly switches between scene and AF modes as you film. If you prefer, you can also film in PASM modes, allowing full manual control over exposure. On top of this you now also get a selection of special effects which can be applied as you film, including the ubiquitous miniature / tilt-shift mode.

   
 


The boost in screen resolution from 230k to 460k dots won't improve your picture quality, but it's always nice to compose and play stills and movies on a more detailed screen. I also found it much easier to frame precision compositions with the FZ47 / FZ48 than its predecessor, thanks to the higher resolution screen.

On the downside, the claimed boost in continuous shooting speed failed to materialise during my tests. Panasonic claims up to 3.75fps at the full resolution compared to 1.8fps on its predecessor. In my tests the FZ47 / FZ48 squeezed-out 2.3fps even with quick shutter speeds and a fast Class 10 memory card. Coincidentally this virtually matched what we measured for the earlier FZ40 / FZ45, despite a lower quoted specification. Perhaps what's happening here is the older model out-performed its specs, so Panasonic simply decided to adjust the quote for the new model without actually changing a great deal inside. I can't say for sure, but I can tell you in my tests the FZ47 / FZ48 shot at roughly the same speed as its predecessor.

Panasonic may have fractionally lowered the noise levels thanks to a slightly lower resolution sensor, but as mentioned at the top, there's still noise artefacts across pretty much the entire ISO range if you're looking closely. These become particularly apparent in the Intelligent Resolution with i.ZOOM option which digitally extends the focal range, but with some undesirable artefacts when viewed at 100%. You can see this in action on the main review page. To be fair, the situation is no worse than rival super-zooms, but if you like crisp, clean images viewed at 100%, you'll really need to sacrifice the super-zoom and go for a larger sensor camera.

There are however many enthusiasts who are willing to work around image quality issues to enjoy the undoubted draw of a super-zoom camera, but many will be disappointed - nay, infuriated - to discover Panasonic has removed RAW support from the FZ47 / FZ48. The ability to shoot in RAW was always something which the Lumix FZ series enjoyed over the competition, but since Panasonic split the line into two versions, it was almost inevitably going to be reserved at some point for the higher-end model. So in the current line-up, the Lumix FZ150 gets RAW, whereas the FZ47 / FZ48 does not.

Which brings me to my comparison with rival models.

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

     
 
 
     

Last year Panasonic split its Lumix FZ series into two models: the standard super-zoom and a premium version with extra features. This year it's continued with this strategy, so alongside the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 is the new higher-end Lumix FZ150.

As with their predecessors, both cameras share the same 24x (25-600mm equivalent) optical zoom packed into roughly the same body - although there's now an additional side-mounted zoom lever on the FZ150. As before, the major advantages of the FZ150 over the standard model are superior video, faster continuous shooting, a fully-articulated screen and the presence of a flash hotshoe.

Since the FZ47 / FZ48 already offers 1080i video, the only place for the FZ150 to improve on it is with support for 1080p video at 50 or 60fps depending on region, with a high 28Mbit/s encoding rate; there's also a mic input. The Continuous shooting speed is much quicker than the FZ47 / FZ48 at up to 12fps at the full resolution (albeit only 1fps quicker than its predecessor, the FZ100), and there's also faster options at reduced resolutions up to a 220fps QVGA mode.

Previously the older FZ100 enjoyed a higher resolution screen along with full articulation. This time the FZ47 / FZ48 gains the same 460k panel, but remains fixed in position, whereas the FZ150 can continue to flip and twist in any direction (and is also more visible in direct sunlight). The FZ150 also continues to offer a flash hotshoe over the simpler model.

A new benefit to the FZ150 over the FZ47 / FZ48 is support for RAW recording. Last year both the FZ40 / FZ45 and FZ100 supported RAW, but now it's been removed from the simpler model to further differentiate them.

Both cameras share the same 12 Megapixel resolution, interestingly two Megapixels fewer than their predecessors. As before though, each camera employs different sensor technologies: CCD on the FZ47 / FZ48 and MOS on the FZ150. MOS sensors have the advantage of quicker readout, allowing the FZ150 to support 1080p video and quicker continuous shooting, while also avoiding vertical streaks in video. In my tests the still image quality was similar at lower ISOs, but the FZ150 took a small lead at the highest sensitivities. An added 'bonus' on the FZ150 is 3200 ISO at the full resolution.

So ultimately the FZ150 takes the FZ47 / FZ48 and adds 1080p video, an articulated screen, flash hotshoe, mic input, RAW recording, faster continuous shooting, higher 3200 ISO sensitivity at the full resolution, and a new side-mounted zoom lever in addition to the main one at the top. All are desirable features for enthusiasts, who'll justify paying the extra.

See my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 review for more details.

 

Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V

     
 
 
     

A tough rival for the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48, not to mention the higher-end FZ150, is Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V. This is Sony's flagship super-zoom camera and it doesn't pull any punches in the features department.

In its favour, the HX100V features a 30x optical zoom range, and while its widest equivalent focal length of 27mm isn't quite as broad as the 25mm of the Panasonics, at the other end, the maximum 810mm telephoto comfortably out-reaches the 600mm on the Lumix models.

Both cameras feature 3in screens, but the HX100V's is more detailed (920k vs 460k) and can tilt vertically too; note the FZ150's screen features greater articulation, but remains lower resolution than the Sony. Both cameras can record Full HD video, but the Sony captures 1080p progressive video, compared to 1080i interlaced on the FZ47 / FZ48; again though, this is an aspect where the FZ150 matches the HX100V. The Sony also boasts much faster continuous shooting than the FZ47 / FZ48 at 10fps compared to 3.7fps (or less in my tests); once again though the FZ150 represents closer competition, boasting 12fps continuous shooting.

Both cameras can generate 3D images, but the Sony additionally allows high resolution panoramas to be created with its innovative Sweep Panorama feature. The HX100V also boasts a built-in GPS to tag images with location details. Interestingly Panasonic has resisted the temptation to equip an FZ-series with GPS despite pioneering it in the TZ-series.

A big difference between the Sony and Panasonics regards resolution with the HX100V sporting a 16 Megapixel CMOS sensor compared to the 12 Megapixel CCD and CMOS sensors on the FZ47 / FZ48 and FZ150 respectively. I hope to test them all side-by-side in the future, but by checking our Sony HX100V noise results, you'll see they're actually fairly close in quality.

About the only things in the favour of the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 over the HX100V are slightly wider-angle coverage, and a lower price point. The FZ47 / FZ48 comes-in about 10-20% cheaper, and to be fair the closer comparison against the HX100V is the higher-end Lumix FZ150.

Look out for a future direct comparison between these two models here at Cameralabs, but in the meantime check out our Sony Cyber-shot HX100V review for more details on one of the most feature-packed super-zoom cameras around right now.

 

Compared to Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

     
 
 
     
One of the biggest rivals for the FZ47 / FZ48, not to mention the higher-end FZ150 is Canon's latest PowerShot SX40 HS. This builds-upon last year's popular PowerShot SX30 IS, and like Panasonic's latest super-zoom, most of the changes are internal, predominantly concerning the sensor. As such the major differences between them read similarly to last year's comparison.

The biggest advantage of the Canon SX40 HS over the competition is its enormous 35x optical zoom range, which may be the same as the SX30 IS before it, but remains very impressive. It delivers an equivalent range of 24-840mm, matching the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 and FZ150 at the wide-end, but significantly out-reaching them at the telephoto end by over a third. This alone will swing the decision for those who want to get really close to distant action, and to minimise the wobbles, Canon has also updated the stabilisation to detect various subjects and conditions and adapt accordingly.

As before, another physical benefit to the Canon is a fully articulated screen which can twist and flip in any direction, giving it greater compositional flexibility over the FZ47 / FZ48, although the FZ150 matches it in this regard. The SX40 HS and FZ150 also sport flash hotshoes, allowing them to mount external flashguns, something the FZ47 / FZ48 is lacking.

Both the SX40 HS and FZ47 / FZ48 share the same 12 Megapixel resolution, but with different types of sensors. Panasonic has stuck with a CCD on the FZ47 / FZ48, while Canon has switched to a CMOS for the SX40 HS. This allows the Canon to support faster continuous shooting at up to 10.3fps (for eight shots).

In terms of video, both cameras can shoot Full HD 1080, although Panasonic has opted for interlaced video at 50i or 60i depending on region, whereas Canon has gone for progressive at 24p. This decision may seem a little odd to some, but film-makers love capturing at 24fps, and having this capability in a super-zoom gives an added weapon in their arsenal. Both cameras also support live effects to be applied to videos, including a miniature mode.

In its favour, the SX40 HS additionally offers high-speed video capture at 120fps in VGA resolution or 240fps in QVGA resolution, each played back at one quarter or one eight normal speed respectively. Neither camera however supports RAW recording - indeed of the current crop of super-zooms, only the Panasonic FZ150 and Fujifilm HS20 enjoy that privelege.

It's not all one-sided though, as the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48's screen may not articulate, but it's both bigger (3in vs 2.7in) and more detailed (460k vs 230k). The Panasonic also offers manual control over exposures in its movie mode and most importantly of all is cheaper too. That's the thing: the FZ47 / FZ48 may be out-featured by the SX40 HS, but Panasonic also has the higher-end FZ150 available which matches many of the Canon's features, albeit still with a shorter 24x zoom. So while most of its rivals put all their super-zoom eggs in one basket, Panasonic gives you the choice of two models with the same zoom, but different features depending on budget. Interestingly Canon actually did the same thing with its earlier SX1 IS, but now the SX40 HS is the only model with the really big zoom.

But by equipping the best-selling SX30 IS with a new sensor which deliver 1080p video, faster continuous shooting and which also claims lower noise than before, the SX40 HS looks set to be another popular super-zoom. See my Canon PowerShot SX40 HS preview for more details.

 

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 / FZ48 final verdict

Panasonic's Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 represents a small upgrade over its predecessor: the all-important lens range remains the same, as does the body, so the only major changes are a higher resolution screen, a boost in video resolution from 720p to 1080i, support for 3D image capture, a selection of special effects filters, an increase in continuous shooting speed and a small drop in sensor resolution.

Of these, the more detailed screen, higher resolution video and special effects are the highlights. The 460k screen allowed me to more easily frame precision compositions than its predecessor, the video genuinely captured greater detail, and the live effects were great fun, especially the Miniature mode when applied to video.

The minor reduction in Megapixels was a sensible move, slightly reducing noise without compromising detail, but you really need to pixel-peep to notice the difference. Meanwhile the boost in continuous shooting speed didn't present itself in my tests with the FZ47 / FZ48 firing at roughly the same rate as its predecessor. It's not all a move forward either, as the FZ47 / FZ48 loses the RAW recording capabilities of its predecessors, a feature that's now reserved for the premium FZ150 version of the camera.

The upgrades may be fairly minor - and of course there's the annoying absence of RAW - but the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48 still mostly builds upon what was already a highly capable super-zoom camera. The lens range may now be out-gunned by most rivals, but really there's very little you can't capture with a 25-600mm range, and those extra mm at the wide-end genuinely capture more than models which start at 27 or 28mm. Meanwhile Panasonic's excellent Intelligent Auto continues to perform confidently for stills and movies - there's little that will fool it, and there's still full PASM modes if you prefer greater control.

As such while the FZ47 / FZ48 is out-featured and out-zoomed by several rivals, it remains a highly confident, responsive and usable camera in practice - and crucially one that's cheaper than the competition. It's important not to be swayed too much by specifications, or you may reject what's still one of the best all-round super-zoom cameras around. That said, a relatively conservative upgrade in features - not to mention removing RAW - means it misses out on our top award, but I can still easily recommend it to anyone who's looking for a solid super-zoom camera with decent performance at a good price.

 



Good points
Great quality 25-600mm 24x zoom.
1080i movies with zooming and effects.
Detailed 3in 460k screen.
Foolproof Intelligent Auto mode.

Bad points
No RAW mode. Only now on FZ150.
Continuous shooting below spec.
No hotshoe for external flash.
Shortest lens range of peer-group.




Scores

(relative to 2011 super-zooms)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20

83%


   

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