We found overall image quality to be good but not outstanding, and while the 24x optical zoom is certainly useful there is a price to pay for this flexibility in terms of sharpness of images.
The FZ48 produces its best results in bright but evenly lit conditions. Its dynamic range is rather limited though, and this leads to exactly the same kind of metering dilemmas so common among compacts. We found that when faced with direct sunlight or high-contrast scenes, there is a tendency for the FZ48 to overexpose and to lose highlight detail as a result. Thankfully the camera offers up to three stops of positive or negative EV compensation (in increments of 1/3EV), which can help out in these situations.
Used on the ‘Standard’ Photo Style setting, we found colour was relatively muted and tonality a touch flat. Many images shot with the FZ48 just seem to lack ‘pop’. Thankfully, each of the Photo Styles can be individually customised. In this way it’s possible to fine-tune the Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation and Noise Reduction settings for each of the Photo Style presets.
In darker conditions when the camera is used at higher sensitivities, images begin to progressively lose both colour and detail at ISO 400 and above. While it is possible to get acceptable results for internet and other small-size low-resolution usage at the maximum setting of ISO 1600, these images quickly begin to reveal their deficiencies once you start enlarging them.
We’d really rather hoped that the reduction in overall resolution would result in better high-sensitivity image quality but sadly this doesn’t appear to be the case, certainly not to the extent that we’d hoped for anyway. To get the best out of the FZ48 it really needs to be kept at ISO 100 or ISO 200, and of course in the real world this isn’t always possible.
While the telephoto reach of the 24x optical zoom is certainly useful we did find that many images lacked sharpness. As might be expected this is most prevalent when the camera is being used at its maximum possible aperture at or around 25mm, although performance at f/5.8-f/8 isn’t the best we’ve seen either. Macro performance, however, is very good, allowing you to get as close as 1cm away from your subject, with the Macro Zoom feature enabling you to capture your subjects in great detail.
One further issue, not only with the FZ48 but with Lumix compacts in general is that the Automatic White Balance has a tendency to make images a little on the cool side and to sometimes imbue them with a slightly green (occasionally magenta) colour cast. We haven’t noticed this problem with the company’s G-series of micro system models, although we have seen it previously on Lumix compacts. It’s certainly something Panasonic would do well to address with future updates.
With the flexibility of a 24x optical zoom, solid Hi-Def movie recording abilities and a good range of shooting modes and easy-to-use digital filters, the FZ48 looks to have plenty going for it. Image quality is a little disappointing though, as is the removal of Raw recording. Overall, while the FZ48 is certainly competent, it’s not a camera that really excites us. If you’re intent on a superzoom and have a £300 budget then then it’s certainly worth a look. If, however, image quality is more important than maximum telephoto reach, then there are better cameras out there at this price point.
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