One area where the FZ48 takes a large step backwards from the FZ45 is the removal of the ability to record images as lossless sensor data. We’re a bit stumped as to why Panasonic has done this. Perhaps the company wants to put more light between its entry-level and flagship superzoom models. Or perhaps there’s an assumption that Raw recording simply isn’t a priority with the FZ48’s target audience of point-and-shooters. Either way, the removal of Raw recording is a loss and certainly diminishes the overall flexibility of the FZ48. Hopefully Panasonic will reinstate it with the next entry-level FZ model.
The FZ48’s 24x optical zoom offers exactly the same focal reach of the FZ45. Unlike the FZ45 however, the FZ48’s optic benefits from the addition of Panasonic’s Black Box Nano Surface Coating technology, which helps to control problems with ghosting and lens-flare. Internally, it’s constructed from 14 elements in 10 groups and offers a range of between 25mm to 600mm in 35mm terms. While this offers good telephoto capabilities, the FZ48 is far from being the longest lens of the superzoom pack, at least as far as its optical zooming capabilities go.
Rival models such as the Fujifilm HS20 (c.£300) and Sony HX100V (c.£390) for example, both offer 30x zooms, while the Canon SX30IS (c.£300) and soon-to-be-released SX40IS (c.£460) both offer 35x. Beating all of these is the Nikon P500 (c.£300) with its class-leading 36x zoom.
The FZ48 does have a few tricks up its sleeve though, should you want to extend the zoom beyond its 24x optical capabilities. The first option is to use the camera’s Intelligent Zoom feature. This enables the FZ48 to reach 32x with pretty good results so long as you’re viewing the resultant images at a sensible size.
Combine the Intelligent Zoom with the Digital Zoom and you’re up to 127x, although overall image quality does begin to take a hit. Now dial in a lowered ‘EZ’ resolution setting and it’s possible to push the FZ48 right up to a frankly silly 249x. Obviously, at this level of (primarily digital) magnification overall image quality is fairly dreadful.
Given the huge amounts of telephoto power on tap, it’s reassuring to find that the FZ48 gets Panasonic’s Power Optical Image Stabilisation technology that not only counters camera shake when shooting still images hand-held at slower shutter speeds or at extended telephoto setting, but also suppresses hand-shake when shooting videos too. We’ve always found Panasonic’s implementation of this technology to work very well and the FZ48 is no exception.
On the shooting mode dial you’ll find the regular quartet of semi- and fully-manual shooting modes: Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual. For those who’d prefer let the camera do all the work, the FZ48 also offers Panasonic’s iAuto mode along with 18 individual Scene modes, five of which (Night Portrait, Close-Up, Sports, Scenery and Portrait) get their own unique position on the shooting mode dial for speedier access.
One new feature, not found on the FZ45, is the addition of eight Creative Control settings. These are essentially digital filters that can be applied to your images to get the following effects: Miniature Effect, Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic, Pinhole Camera, Film Grain (B&W).
While the FZ48’s 3in LCD monitor doesn’t quite get the same vari-angle functionality of the FZ150, overall resolution has been increased from the 230k-dots of the FZ45 to a much more credible 460k-dots. It’s a 16:9 aspect so movies (and stills shot at 16:9) will fill the whole screen, with other aspects leaving black bars on either side. Still, overall screen quality in both live view and playback modes isn’t to be sniffed at.
Should you prefer it (or need it on sunny days when the rear monitor is hard to see clearly), the FZ48 also offers a electronic viewfinder (EVF). While it’s certainly functional and offers 100% scene coverage, the actual view through EVF is rather small and in poor light the screen is prone to display excessive noise. It doesn’t deal at all well with fast-moving subjects either, with fluid movement reduced to a kind of juddering slow-mo.
Movie recording is, as is so often the case with Panasonic cameras, a particularly strong point of the FZ48. The top setting sees the camera able to record Full HD at 50p, with files saved in either the AVCHD or MP4 format and sound recorded in stereo. Unlike the flagship FZ100 there’s no external microphone port.