Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Review
Look and Feel
The Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a fairly large super zoom camera with a body made of a mix of plastic and metal. It's lightweight, and easy to hold, thanks to its large right hand grip. The camera has a lot of buttons (and some are on the small side), though most are clearly labeled and serve one function. The most important controls (shutter release, zoom controller, and movie recording button) are all within each reach of your fingers.
Now let's see how the FZ47 compares to other super zooms in terms of size and weight:
The DMC-FZ47 is about average in terms of both bulk and weight compared to other super zooms. It's slightly smaller and lighter than the FZ150, most likely due to its fixed (rather than rotating) LCD display. None of these cameras will fit in your pockets, but they travel just fine over your shoulder or in a bag.
Ready to tour the FZ47 now? I know I am, so let's begin:
While the FZ47's massive 24X zoom lens has the same specs as what was found on the FZ40, there is one notable change. The lens now has a nano surface coating, which helps reduce flare and ghosting. Otherwise, this is an F2.8-5.2 Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens, with a focal length of 4.5 - 108 mm -- equivalent to 25 - 600 mm. The lens natively supports 52mm filters, as well as conversion lenses with the optional adapter.
A camera with a lens this big absolutely needs image stabilization, and Panasonic has built their Power OIS lens-shift system into the FZ47. Sensors inside the lens detect the tiny movements of your hands that can blur your photos -- especially at the telephoto end of the lens. The camera shifts a lens element to compensate for this "camera shake", which results in the higher likelihood of a sharp photo. Image stabilizers can't work miracles, though. It won't prevent blur when your subject is moving, and it won't allow for multi-second handheld exposures, either. Still, it's way better than nothing at all. Here's an example of the Power OIS system in action:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
Both of the above photos were taken at the relatively slow shutter speed of 1/8th of a second. As you can see, the Power OIS system did its job, producing a much sharper photo. You can also use Power OIS in movie mode, where's there's an "active mode" that helps reduce the severe camera shake that can occur when the photographer is in motion. You can see our usual sample video of the IS system performance in movie mode here.
Directly above the lens is the camera's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The flash has a working range of 0.3 - 9.5 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 5.1 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). That's pretty strong, though images may be noisy at the Auto ISO setting. You can't attach an external flash to the FZ47 -- for that, you'll need to step up to the FZ150.
The last thing to see on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp, located just below the "FZ47" logo. The camera uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations, and it also doubles as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
On the back of the camera is a 3-inch LCD display with 460,000 pixels. As you'd expect, the screen is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility was quite good, especially if you have Auto Power LCD turned on. In low light, the screen brightens up fairly well, so you should still be able to see your subject.
Just above the LCD is the camera's electronic viewfinder (EVF). This is a small LCD that you view as if it's an optical viewfinder. Unfortunately, EVFs are rarely (if ever) as clear or bright as an optical viewfinder, but they're par for the course on super zoom cameras. The EVF here is 0.2" in size, which is a bit small, and has a resolution of 201,600 pixels, which is on the low side. Still, the EVF was perfectly usable, and its 100% coverage means that what you see is what you get when you take a photo. I did notice a bit of a "rainbow effect" when I blinked or panned the camera around, which is due to the sequential field display technology used on the EVF. The viewfinder protrudes far away enough from the back of the camera that your nose won't smudge the LCD. There's a diopter correction knob on its left side which helps focus the image on the screen.
Now let's talk about buttons. To the left of the EVF is the release for the pop-up flash. On the opposite side you'll find buttons for switching between the LCD and EVF, and for locking the exposure and focus. Next to that is the camera's control dial, used for adjusting the exposure (among other things).
Manual focus, with center frame enlargement
Moving downward, you'll find a button for toggling the focus mode. Your choices are autofocus, autofocus w/macro capability, macro zoom, and manual focus. While I'll discuss macro mode later, I should mention that in manual focus mode, you will use the rear dial to set the focus distance. A distance guide is displayed on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged (and you can move this area around), so you can confirm proper focus.
Next up we have the Display (toggles what's on the LCD/EVF) and playback mode buttons, with the four-way controller below that. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, reviewing photos you've taken, and also:
- Up - Exposure compensation (-3EV to +3EV) + auto bracketing (increments from ±1/3 to ±3EV) + flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV)
- Down - Function (customizable, adjusts Photo Style by default)
- Left - Self-timer (2 or 10 sec, 10 sec/3 pictures)
- Right - ISO (Auto, Intelligent Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- Center - Menu/Set
Two quick notes about those. The auto bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. Using this feature will help ensure proper exposure in nearly every situation.
Why are there two Auto ISO modes? Regular Auto mode boosts the ISO based on brightness, with a max of 400. Intelligent ISO analyzes the scene and increases the sensitivity based on both brightness and subject movement (the latter will require a higher boost), with a max of 1600 (though you can select something lower).
The last button on the back of the DMC-FZ47 opens the quick (shortcut) menu while in record mode, and deletes the selected photo while in playback mode. The quick menu lets you, well, quickly access these settings:
- Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
- Burst shooting (on/off)
- Metering mode (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
- AF mode (Face detection, AF tracking, 23-point, 1-point)
- White balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, shade, flash, incandescent, custom 1/2, color temperature)
- Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1)
- Picture size (see chart later in review)
- Movie quality (discussed later)
- LCD mode (Off, Auto Power LCD, Power LCD)
The first thing to see on the top of the DMC-FZ47 is the speaker, located at the far left, and the stereo microphone, which sits on top of the flash.
Moving to the right, we find the mode dial, which is chock full of options. They include the following:
Plenty to talk about here. If you want the camera to do all the work for you, look no further than Intelligent Auto mode. This is arguably the best auto mode on the market, with the camera selecting the scene mode, detecting faces, reducing blur, brightening shadows, and applying "smart sharpening" to your photos. All you need to do is press the shutter release button.
If you want to select a scene mode yourself, there are plenty to choose from. Some of the notable ones include:
- Panorama Assist: helps you align photos for later stitching into a single panorama (on your PC)
- Baby / Pet: saves the name and age of your children or pet into the metadata of photos
- High sensitivity: lowers the resolution to 3MP or less and sets the ISO to 1600 - 6400; my advice: don't do it
- High-speed burst: lowers the resolution to 3MP or less and shoots at 7 or 10 frames/second; ISO is boosted so results may be noisy
- Flash burst: lowers the resolution to 3MP or less and takes five flash photos in rapid succession
- Starry sky: allows for long exposures of 15, 30, or 60 seconds
- 3D photo: pan the camera from left to right and the camera will save an image ready for viewing on a 3D television (in MPO format)
There are also new Creative Control modes, which have the same special effects that you'll find on most cameras these days (pin hole, film grain, miniature effect).
What about manual controls? The FZ47 has the full set, allowing you to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or both. About the only thing missing is a bulb mode, though the Starry Sky mode is somewhat of a substitute for that.
Returning to our tour now -- the last things to see on the top of the camera are the power switch, focus, movie, and shutter release buttons, and the zoom controller. The focus button lets you pick the focus point from anywhere in the frame (save for a margin around the edges) and adjust the size of the focus point, with four sizes to choose from.
The FZ47's lens can move at two speeds: normal and ludicrous (hopefully someone got that reference). At full speed, the lens moves from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.8 seconds. If you take it slow, you'll find that there are well over fifty stops in the 24X zoom range, which allows for very precise adjustment of the focal length.
The only thing to see on this side of the camera are its I/O ports, which are kept under a rubber cover. Despite the HDMI label, there's more than just an mini-HDMI port under the cover -- you'll also find the USB + A/V output port.
The lens is at the wide-angle position here.
Nothing to see here, though I will mention that the lens is at full telephoto here.
On the bottom of the DMC-FZ47 you'll find a metal tripod mount as well as the battery/memory card compartment. The plastic door over this compartment is of decent quality, though don't plan on getting at its contents while the camera is on a tripod.
The compact DMW-BMB9 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.