Overall the FZ48 is identical in size to the FZ45 and slightly smaller than the flagship FZ100. Its corners and edges are slightly more angular than its bigger brother though, and it also lacks a hot-shoe meaning you’re limited to using the pop-up flash when it comes to lighting up subjects in the dark. Weighing in at 494g with a battery and SD card (450g without) the whole package feels quite weighty in the hand.
As with all FZ models styling is very much from the DSLR school of design, with the deep finger grip easily able to accommodate two or three fingers. The finger-grip and thumb-rest on the back further benefit from a texturised rubber finish to aid grip. Overall, it’s a very comfortable camera to hold.
Buttons are well placed and well spaced for the most part, although the control wheel is set quite deeply into the camera body which means you have to apply quite a lot of pressure to it. Elsewhere, we approve of how the Q. Menu button can be used to skip straight to regularly used settings. It’s hardly a new feature on Panasonic models, but it remains a valuable shortcut nonetheless, with the icon-led UI proving as easy to use as ever.
The main Menu system sticks with the traditional navigation format and will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s used a Lumix camera before. Using the directional keys navigation is quick and easy, with the number of options you can access and change directly determined by the shooting mode you are using the camera in (more options for PASM, fewer for iAuto).
One of the FZ48’s biggest improvements over its predecessor is the addition of Sonic Speed AF. This technology is derived from Panasonic’s G-series of compact system cameras, and offers exceptionally fast and noticeably smooth AF performance in all but the dimmest of light conditions. When light levels drop beyond the AF module’s capabilities an AF Assist light is located on the front of the camera to help out with finding focus for in-range subjects.
Autofocus options include automatic 23-area AF, single-point (central) AF, Face Detection and an improved Tracking AF mode that can follow moving subjects. Should you wish too there’s even the option to manually focus the FZ48 using the control wheel and the directional keys to shift the plane of focus. Unless you’re using a tripod to shoot a motionless subject, this can be a bit fiddly though, and while trying it for ourselves (hand-held) we were pleased to discover that the Focus button on top of the camera can be called upon to override MF at the press of a button.
Start-up time is a very respectable two seconds. Panasonic claims a continuous shooting capability of 3.7fps up to a maximum seven frames, however in our testing we found the FZ48 to be closer to 3fps, up to a maximum seven frames. Dropping the resolution down doesn’t seem to make any difference to overall speed either, as we managed exactly the same 6fps at 2MP as we did at 12MP. In single-shot mode we were able to record approximately one frame a second.