The Panasonic FZ48 adds super-fast autofocus to the already impressive FZ-series feature set. How does the latest 24x Lumix superzoom perform? The What Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix FZ48 review...
Panasonic Lumix FZ48 review – Performance
Switch the FZ48 on and it’s ready to go in little time. The Sonic Speed AF keeps the onus on speed and delivers on its super-fast focusing promise when shooting at the wideangle end. Zoom in further, however, and there’s a noticeable slow down in achieving focus, though it’s still very swift. So long as you don’t anticipate the same top-speed focusing from front to back of the zoom range you’ll be pleased with the results overall.
There are four main focus types: 1-Area for a single point that can be moved around the screen by using the ‘Focus’ button and d-pad; 23-Area where the camera auto-selects from the 23 available focus areas; AF Tracking that can select a target on screen and maintain focus even when the subject moves (it’s only possible to select from the centre point of the screen however); and Face Detection for identifying faces and adjusting focus accordingly. The level of user control is good, only slightly let down by the inability to move the AF Tracking area around the centre initiation point and a small bordered-off area to the screen’s edge when using the 1-Area focus mode. Saying that, these aren’t Panasonic-exclusive restrictions and, compared to much of the competition, the FZ48 provides a faster and more accessible focusing system overall.
The FZ48’s lens is smooth in use and presents the magnification (2x, 3x, etc) at the base of the screen while zooming. Minimum focus starts at 30cms from lens (at 25mm), dipping to 2m from 10x (250mm) and beyond. Flip the camera into Macro mode, however, and this is turned on its head – at the wideangle setting the lens can touch the subject and still focus, decreasing to 1m at the telephoto end. An additional ‘AF Macro Zoom’ mode retracts the lens back to its widest-angle setting and utilises a 3x digital zoom for getting extra close into subjects – though the quality diminishes and it’s not a mode that we’d recommend. Add the highly effective POWER OIS optical image stabilisation system and the FZ48’s ideal for snapping telephoto shots.
The new screen with its 460k-dot resolution looks detailed in playback and has a very good angle of view that allows for viewing angles far steeper than the direct line of sight. Couple this with the 0.2in, 201k-dot electronic viewfinder and there are always options to shoot even if sunlight causes issues viewing the rear LCD. The viewfinder isn’t especially large, but it’s good enough to do the job and has further use to add extra stability when shooting at the telephoto end of the zoom.
The FZ48 also sports a 1080i movie mode that captures motion at 50 fields per second (50i PAL/60i NTSC). This ups the resolution over the previous generation model and also provides a 17Mbps data rate – that’s high up the quality scale for a compact camera. It’s also possible to zoom in and out during recording, with continuous autofocus maintaining good focus throughout.
The battery also sees improvements to maintain power for longer, with the quoted 410 shots per charge quite proving reasonable. However leaving the camera on for prolonged periods and shooting movie clips will cut that figure down. Weigh this battery up against the latest Lumix Compact System Camera, the GF3, and the FZ48 offers some 30% more shooting per charge.