Choosing a super-zoom camera (part 4)

3/26/2012 9:20:57 AM

Choosing a super-zoom camera (part 4)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ48

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5 stars

$426 including VAT

Although it risks being overshadowed by the pricier FZ150, the FZ48 is a powerful package. Its lens is extremely sharp, and ranked among the leaders in the ability to resolve details at a full telephoto zooming position, regardless of its 24x zoom range. It also benefits from what Panasonic calls a nano surface coating, which reduces lens gleam when taking outdoors pictures. Its performance was not as fast as FZ150, but was still speedy, taking a photo every 0.9 seconds in our tests. Continuous mode ran at 3.7fps and, even though it was limited to seven images, with a fast SDHC card, it was ready for another shot in less than 2 seconds.

Having full control over manual exposure is wonderful for creative photography, perhaps it is even more important than video recordings, where control over the shutter speed is essential to manipulate the blur motion; FZ48 and FZ150 are the only two cameras in this category to provide it. With a 30-minute clip length, extremely low noise in low lighting and high-quality stereo soundtrack, this is a much better video camera than any common camcorders. There are lots of buttons for quick access to main settings and expansive scope to refine image quality, including erratic noise reduction and the ability to set the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed. It is a great feature for passionate photographers, so it is disappointing that RAW capture mode is not available, especially when FZ48’s predecessor had it.

Fortunately, FZ48’s JPEG was a good start. The lens showed perfect focus throughout its zoom range and lively abundant colors. There is small sign of lens distortion and no chromatic aberrations. Noise reduction blurred delicate textures in well-lit photos and smudged details in darker lighting conditions. However, indoor shots were still above average. FZ48’s image quality is only surpassed by the much more expensive Canon SX40 HS and FZ150. Its picture quality is not the only reason to consider paying more for other costly models, but if your budget is £300, FZ48 is a reasonable choice.


Verdict. Excellent photos, even better videos and fast performance – everything we want in an ultra-zoom camera with a sensible price.

Ultra-zoom digital camera. 12 megapixels (4.000x3.000), 24x optical zoom (25-600mm), 3-inch LCD (460.000 pixel), SDXC slot (70MB internal), Li-ion battery, 80x120x105mm, 498g, one-year RTB warranty.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

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5 stars

$608 including VAT

FZ150 bases on the brilliant FZ48 with some additionally interesting features and a huge performance boost. Raw capture mode is an important feature, and is an irritatingly rare one in this year’s ultra-zoom cameras. 3-inch screen is completely articulated, especially useful for video recordings. Videos also benefit from the 1080/50p ability, although it is not a generally supported format; 1080/50i video recording is available, too. We would prefer the 1080/25p option, but it is a small complaint. There is a microphone jack and a hotshoe to hold an external microphone or a flashgun. You can also capture 3.7-megapixel photos without interrupting video recording.

Autofocus speed and performance was amazingly fast. We measured the image-to-image time of 0.65 seconds, while RAW capture started at 0.9seconds, coming down to 2 seconds after 15 photos. Continuous performance is at 12fps for 12 consecutive images, or 5.5fps while autofocus updates between each shot. This mode lasts for 22 JPEGs before falling to 2.7fps. This is the fastest super-zoom cameras we have ever seen.

The picture quality is much improved over its predecessor, FZ100, thanks to its 12-megapixel background-illuminated CMOS sensor. Super noise reduction made a big difference to low-lighting image quality, and even more improved in bright lighting conditions. Since we first review the FZ150, it has had a firmware update, giving it an advantage over the FZ48. Only Canon SX40 HS can beat it for photo quality, although FZ150’s output processor closed the gap. Moreover, FZ150 offers sharp focus, splendid colors and excellently rated automatic exposure. The Intelligent Auto Mode made life easy, while other modes offered extensive control over picture quality.

SX40 may be on top for basic photograph quality, but being given the FZ150’s faster performance and RAW capture mode, it will likely result in better images. Plus its elite video mode, FZ150s becomes our most favorite ultra-zoom camera.


Verdict. Over-the-top performance, reliable image quality, significant controls and top video mode made this camera worth every penny.

Ultra-zoom digital camera. 12 megapixels (4.000x3.000), 24x optical zoom (25-600mm), 3-inch LCD (460.000 pixel), SDXC slot (70MB internal), Li-ion battery, 82x123x111mm, 528g, one-year RTB warranty.


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