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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Review

How Does it Compare?

It's been a while since I've reviewed a Panasonic super zoom camera, but Panasonic hasn't lost their touch: the Lumix DMC-FZ47 offers a lot of camera for just under $400. Some of the "big" features include a "giant" 24X, 25 - 600 mm lens, optical image stabilization (and you'll need it), manual and automatic controls, robust performance, and a Full HD movie mode. Photo quality is good by compact camera standards, though images are on the noisy side (though details remain intact until higher sensitivities). The only other real downsides are yellow or brownish color casts in artificial light (common to Panasonic cameras, unfortunately), a lack of RAW support, and a few bundle annoyances. All things considered, the FZ47 is a very nice super zoom camera, and one that I can definitely recommend.

The Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a fairly large super zoom camera. The body is made of a mix of plastic and metal, and feels solid in most respects. Controls are well-placed, though some buttons could be a bit larger. The main event on any super zoom is its lens, and the one on the FZ47 does not disappoint. This F2.8-5.2, 24X Leica lens has a focal range of 25 - 600 mm, which covers virtually every shooting situation imaginable. The FZ47 supports telephoto and close-up conversion lenses (plus filters), though you'll need the inexpensive conversion lens adapter in order to use them. A big lens needs a good image stabilization system, and Panasonic's Power OIS system did the job. In addition to reducing blurry photos, it has an "active" mode to reduce severe shake in your movies. On the back of the camera is a 3-inch LCD with 460,000 pixels. The screen is nice and sharp, and outdoor visibility is quite good (as long as you have Auto Power LCD turned on). You can also compose and review photos via a 0.2" electronic viewfinder. While it won't win any competitions due to its size and relatively low resolution, the FZ47's EVF does the job just fine. The camera's built-in flash is quite powerful and seems to avoid redeye problems, though if you want to add an external flash, you'll have to step up to the more expensive DMC-FZ150.

The FZ47 is so loaded with features that they ran out of room on the mode dial. Beginners will find plenty to like, including an Intelligent Auto mode that literally does everything for you (scene selection, face detection, shadow brightness, sharpening, and more), tons of scene modes, fun Creative Controls (read: Art Filters), and easy movie recording courtesy of a dedicated "red button". Manual control lovers can adjust the aperture and shutter speed, white balance (including bracketing and fine-tuning), and focus, and there's a customizable button on the back of the camera, as well. The one thing really missing here is support for the RAW format -- guess which model you need to buy to get that? Two other features worth mentioning are Intelligent Resolution, which improves photo sharpness, and can also give you 1.3X worth of extra zoom power, with a minimal drop in image quality. Intelligent Dynamic can be used to brighten shadows, though your subject really needs a bright backlight in order for it to work. The FZ47 has a top-notch movie mode as well, recording Full HD video at 30p using the AVCHD or MPEG-4 codec with Dolby Digital stereo sound. The camera can focus continuously, and you have full access to the optical zoom and image stabilizer. If you put the camera into Creative Motion Picture mode, you can also adjust the aperture, shutter speed, or ISO used for movie recording.

Camera performance is very good. The FZ47 is fired up and ready to go in just 1.5 seconds. Focus speeds are super-snappy, ranging from 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle to 0.5 - 0.8 seconds at full telephoto. Low light focusing is accurate, with focus times hanging around the one second mark. Shutter lag was not an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were very brief. The continuous shooting mode is quick (3.9 fps) but the buffer fills up after just seven shots. While battery life was about average on the FZ47, that's a big drop from the DMC-FZ40 that came before it.

While it won't take home any awards, the FZ47's photo quality is still very good in its class. Exposures were accurate on most occasions, though you will encounter occasional highlight clipping, as you will on all compact cameras. Colors looked good in natural light, but Panasonic cameras tend to show a yellow/brown cast in artificial lighting. Sharpness is decent with Intelligent Resolution turned off, and much more pleasing with it turned on. Noise is a bit of a problem on the FZ47 -- even at low ISOs -- but that's better than what you used to find on Panasonic cameras, namely detail smudging. You can safely use ISO 100 - 400 without worrying about a big drop in image quality, but I'd pass on everything above that, unless you're really desperate. Distortion, purple fringing, and (thankfully) redeye were all not major issues on the FZ47.

There are two last things to mention before I wrap up this review. First, you won't be able to access the memory card/battery compartment while the camera is on a tripod. In the bundle department, I'm a bit annoyed with the lack of a full printed manual and $3 A/V output cable in the box. Some Mac software would be nice too, but let's face it: iPhoto is going to be better anyway.

As you can see, I really had to struggle to find things on the DMC-FZ47 to complain about. The bottom line is that the camera offers a lot of bang for the buck, and whether you're a beginner or enthusiast, photographer or videographer, you'll certainly find something to like about it. If you're in the market for a super zoom camera, then the Lumix DMC-FZ47 is definitely worth checking out.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Monster 24X, 25 - 600 mm Leica lens
  • Power OIS image stabilization, with "active" mode for movies
  • 3-inch LCD with 460,000 pixels, good outdoor visibility
  • Full manual controls (save for RAW support), with numerous ways to adjust white balance, plus a customizable button and spot on the mode dial
  • Intelligent Auto mode does it all for you, including scene selection, face detection, blur reduction, shadow brightening, and smart sharpening
  • Robust performance, especially focusing and shot-to-shot speeds
  • Lots of scene modes and special effects
  • Intelligent Resolution sharpens photos,and gives you a 1.3x boost in zoom power with a minimal drop in image quality
  • Intelligent Dynamic brightens shadows (though not in all situations)
  • Fast burst mode, though buffer fills quickly
  • 3D still capability
  • Redeye not an issue
  • Records movies at 1080/60i (30p sensor output) with stereo sound and continuous autofocus using AVCHD or MPEG-4 codecs; manual controls available; optical zoom and image stabilizer can be used while recording
  • Support for wide-angle and close-up conversion lenses and filters
  • HDMI output

What I didn't care for:

  • Photos are on the noisy side; highest sensitivities should be avoided
  • Images have yellow/brownish cast in artificial light; still no fluorescent white balance option
  • No RAW support
  • Buffer fills after just seven shots in burst mode
  • No redeye removal tool in playback mode (though you may not need it)
  • Can't access memory card while camera is on a tripod
  • Full manual on CD-ROM (it's not very user-friendly, either)
  • No composite A/V cable or Mac software included

The closest competitors to the FZ47 include the Kodak EasyShare Max Z990, Nikon Coolpix P500, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V. Some other super zooms worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, Fuji FinePix S4000, and Olympus SP-810UZ.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Lumix DMC-FZ47 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out the DMC-FZ47 photo gallery to see how the image quality looks!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.