Although the body design of the FZ45 looks virtually identical to the FZ38, in fact it has been completely revised. It is several millimetres larger in every dimension, and weighs 498g fully loaded, over 80g heavier than the previous model. The body is all plastic apart from the metal collar around the lens barrel, but the build quality is well up to Panasonic's usual high standard, with tight joint seams, well fitting hatches and solidly mounted controls. The SLR-like shape includes a large handgrip and a small rear thumbgrip both covered with a leather-textured soft plastic, and the camera is comfortable and secure to grip even one-handed.
Despite the camera's slightly larger dimensions, the increased size of the monitor screen means that there's actually slightly less room for the rear panel controls, but changes to the control layout mean that they are just as uncluttered and easy to use. The most noticeable control change is the replacement of the FZ38's joystick adjustment control with a more conventional input wheel located at the top right of the rear panel, right under the user's thumb. This is used for adjusting exposure settings or exposure compensation depending on the shooting mode, and can also be pressed in to switch between aperture and shutter speed. It is much simpler and more intuitive than the old four-way control. There is now a separate button to access the comprehensive Quick menu.
Another minor but welcome change is the replacement of the previous slider switch with a simple button to access playback mode. The camera now has “shooting priority”, meaning that it will switch instantly back to shooting mode as soon as the shutter button is half-pressed. The on/off control is still a slider switch, located as before on the top panel, but the dedicated video recording button has been relocated to a more logical position on the top panel just behind the shutter button.
Main shooting mode selection is, as always, via a large mode dial on the top panel. This is mostly unchanged, with the usual program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure options, as well as Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode. There are several scene modes on the top dial, with options for portrait, scenery, sports, close-up and night portrait, each of which has several sub-options for specific conditions. As well as these there is a scene mode option, giving the FZ45 a total of 48 different scene programs, which to be honest might be too many.