Given how favourably Panasonic’s proprietary Light Speed AF technology has been received, it’s not all that surprising to find that it has been extended to the FZ62. First seen on the company’s high-end compact system cameras, it’s one of the quickest AF systems on the market with focus lock speeds as fast as 0.09secs throughout the whole of the FZ62’s 24x focal range. If you’re looking to capture a fleeting moment, then sluggish autofocus can sometimes make this impossible; with Light Speed AF on board, however, you’re much more likely to get the shot. That said there is a bit of a downside and while focusing speeds are undoubtedly fast, accuracy can be a bit of an issue at the telephoto end of the zoom.
With a resolution of 460k-dots the 3in LCD monitor on the rear of the camera performs well, and also offers a good views in difficult lighting conditions. The screen gets a 3:2 aspect ratio however, which is a bit out of step with the 4:3 aspect of the sensor, resulting in slightly smaller on-screen images. If you decide to shoot in 16:9 to utilise the full area of the screen, then bear in mind that you’ll have to shoot at a lower overall resolution of 14MP.
In addition to the Light Speed AF and quick start-up and response times, the FZ62 offers a generally pleasing user experience. The in-camera menu system is intuitive and well laid-out, making it easy to find what you’re looking for and to make changes. Aiding and abetting this is the presence of a Quick Menu button on the back of the camera, which at a stroke calls up a sub-menu of all the most regularly accessed settings from where you can make a number of quick changes without having to open the main in-camera menu.
While the maximum continuous shooting speed claimed by Panasonic is 10fps, it’s worth bearing in mind that it can only be used to capture three consecutive images at a time. Images can also be captured at a continuous shooting speed of 5fps, although that rate is also only available for a limited number of frames before the camera buffer fills up and the speed drops.
Using the camera in any of the manual or semi-manual PASM modes offers some advanced functionality for those with a bit more camera experience, however Panasonic’s own iA mode is also very useful for point-and-shoot photographers. When used in iA mode the camera selects what it considers to be the correct Scene mode depending on conditions and automatically applies all its own settings. Should you want to use a happy medium between the two then iA mode allows you to adjust colour and brightness settings to give your images a more personalised feel.
Overall, we were quite impressed with the image quality produced by the FZ62, although there are a few areas where things could be improved. The FZ62’s metering module can be set to Intelligent Multiple area, Centre-weighted and Spot and performs well, producing generally balanced exposures. Dynamic range is impressive too, especially given the small 1/2.3in sensor. Straight from the camera, processed JPEGs show pleasingly lifelike tonal qualities.
One drawback of superzooms, or indeed any camera sporting a zoom lens with a big focal range, is that some lens-based aberrations can occur. These usually manifest themselves as purple fringing on high-contrast borders and a loss of critical sharpness (usually most visible at the telephoto extremes). While the FZ62 does also suffer from these problems to some extent the camera largely manages to do a good job of keeping the, in check. Fringing, although evident at the wide-angle and tele end of the zoom, is generally well controlled throughout the majority of the focal range. Edge sharpness is also maintained well, although there is a slight softening towards the more tele end of the zoom.
The Panasonic Lumix FZ62 is another worthy addition to Panasonic’s already well-regarded superzoom range. It’s a well-featured model that offers something for both enthusiast and novice photographers, while image quality remains good in a variety of lighting conditions. There are a few chinks in its armour, such as the lack of a zoom control on the lens barrel, however none of these are what we would consider critical flaws. Perhaps the biggest complaint we can make is that there’s no provision for Raw capture, although the FZ62 is hardly the only superzoom on the market to omit this useful feature. Overall though, the FZ62 is an excellent superzoom that combines a pleasing user experience with good image quality.