Originally Posted: September 4, 2011
Last Updated: July 2, 2012
The Lumix DMC-FZ47 ($399) is Panasonic's "standard" super zoom camera, sitting just below the newly introduced FZ150. This camera, the replacement of the DMC-FZ40, features a 24X optical zoom lens (equivalent to 25 - 600 mm), manual and automatic controls, Full HD video recording, and much more.
A family portrait showing the FZ47 (left) and higher-end FZ150
To show the differences between the old FZ40, the FZ47 that I'm reviewing here, and the top-of-the-line FZ150, I put together the following chart:
So there you have it! As you can see, the FZ47 is generally a nice improvement over its predecessor, and that doesn't include a 35% increase in autofocus performance that's not listed in the chart. One thing that's really gone downhill is battery life, though it's not clear why that dropped so much.
Is the Lumix DMC-FZ47 a super zoom camera worth considering? Keep reading, our review starts now!
What's in the Box?
The DMC-FZ47 has a pretty standard bundle for a point-and-shoot camera in the year 2011. Here's what you'll find inside the box:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-FZ47 digital camera
- DMW-BMB9 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Lens hood
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio 6.3 HD Lite Edition and Super LoiloScope trial
- 43 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)
Panasonic has built 70MB of memory into the DMC-FZ47. That'll hold fifteen photos at the highest quality setting -- enough for emergencies, but not daily use. Thus, you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The FZ47, like all Panasonic cameras, supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend a 2GB card if you're mostly taking stills, and a 4GB or 8GB card if you'll be taking a lot of HD movies. A high speed (Class 6 or faster) card is recommended for best performance.
The DMC-FZ47 uses the same DMW-BMB9 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. This battery holds 6.5 Wh of energy, which is fairly good for a camera in this class. The chart below shows how the FZ47 fares in terms of battery life compared to other super zooms:
The DMC-FZ47's battery life is a bit above average in this group. As the comparison chart in the review introduction showed you, the old FZ40 had much better battery life than the FZ47.
Like most of the cameras on the above list, the FZ47 uses a proprietary battery. These batteries are expensive, with an average price of around $45. In addition, should you main battery die, you can't get something at the corner store to get you through the day. If you want a camera that doesn't have either of those issues, then you might want to consider the Fuji or Kodak cameras listed above, which both use AA batteries.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. This charger, which plugs directly into the wall, requires 155 minutes to fully charge the DMW-BMB9.
As you'd expect, Panasonic includes a lens cap (and retaining strap) to protect that 24X zoom lens.
Panasonic also provides buyers with a lens hood, which comes in handy when you're shooting outdoors.
As usual, there are plenty of accessories available for the DMC-FZ47, though not as many as on last year's model. The highlights include:
That's a pretty good selection, if I do say so myself. If you want support for an external flash, you'll need to pony up for the DMC-FZ150. Also, thumbs down to Panasonic for not including an composite A/V cable with the camera.
PhotoFunStudio 6.3 HD Edition
Panasonic includes version 6.3 of their PhotoFunStudio HD Edition software with the Lumix DMC-FZ47. This Windows-only software handles basic tasks fairly well, though the whole "wizard" system gets old quickly. On the main screen you'll see the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos by folders, date, or by things as specific as scene mode. The software can learn to recognize faces (much like the camera itself), which offers you another way to browse through your pictures. Other options on the main screen include slideshows, creating "short movies" (basically video slideshows), printing, e-mailing, or uploading to YouTube or Facebook. You can also copy photos and movies to SD cards or DVDs.
Editing photos in PhotoFunStudio
Above you can see the still photo editing screen. Here you can quickly crop, rotate, or change the aspect ratio of your photos, as well as adjusting color, brightness, saturation, and more. You can apply special effects to photos, overlay text, or remove redeye. PhotoFunStudio can also be used to create panoramic images that you've taken on the camera.
Movie editing features include the ability to trim unwanted footage from a clip, turn a video frame into a still image, or convert a video to MPEG-2 format.
I want to briefly discuss how to work with the videos produced by the DMC-FZ47. The camera records video in two formats: AVCHD and Motion JPEG. The former allows for unlimited recording time (outside of Europe) and looks great when you plug your camera (or the memory card) into your HDTV, but it can be difficult to edit on your computer. Even finding the video files themselves is difficult -- try looking for MTS files in the /PRIVATE/AVCHD/BDMV/STREAM directory on your memory card. Thankfully, Panasonic also gives you the option of using the MPEG-4 codec (a change from M-JPEG on previous models), which is easier to edit and share on your PC. The only real downside to MPEG-4 is shorter recording times.
I already told you that PhotoFunStudio can play and edit the videos produced by the FZ47. Other options for video conversions in Windows include Handbrake, CoreAVC, or AVS Video Converter. For editing, Windows users will want to use something like Adobe Premiere, Pinnacle Studio, or Sony Vegas (there's a complete list here).
Mac users don't get any video viewing/editing software with the camera. If you just want to view the AVCHD movies, try downloading VLC. If you want to convert them to other formats, try Handbrake, SmartConverter, or Toast Titanium 10 (which can also burn the movies to DVD or Blu-ray). You can edit the AVCHD videos using iMovie or Final Cut Pro, though do note that your not natively working with the MTS files -- the software converts them to another codec first.
The documentation for the DMC-FZ47 is, unfortunately, split into two parts. Inside the box is a 43 page "Basic Owner's Manual" that has enough information to get you up and running. If you need more details, you'll need to load up the full manual, which can be found on an included CD-ROM in PDF format. Neither manual is what I'd call user friendly, as they're loaded with lots of fine print and other "notes". Instructions for the bundled software are installed onto your computer.
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.
Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47
It takes just 1.5 seconds for the DMC-FZ47 to extend its 24X optical zoom lens and prepare for shooting. That's pretty quick.
A live histogram is available on the FZ47
Way back in the introduction to this review I told you that the FZ47 focuses 35% faster than its predecessor. Since the FZ40 was no slouch, that should tell you about what kind of performance you can expect from the DMC-FZ47. Expect wide-angle focus times of 0.1 - 0.3 seconds, with telephoto times of 0.5 - 0.8 seconds, in most cases. Low light focusing was consistently accurate, with times hanging around the one second mark.
I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot times were very brief. You'll wait just one second before you can take another photo, and maybe half a second longer if using the flash.
There is no way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.
Now let's take a look at the various image size and quality options available on the DMC-FZ47. To simplify this table, I'm only listing the options for the default 4:3 aspect ratio -- there are three other ratios available. Do note that the field-of-view will vary depending on what aspect ratio you're using. And with that, here's the table:
I can't imagine dealing with nearly 30,000 photos on one memory card, but I seriously doubt anyone's shooting VGA these days.
The FZ47 does not support the RAW format. If you want that feature, you'll need to step up to the FZ150.
As with all Panasonic cameras, the FZ47 supports the Extended Optical Zoom feature. By lowering the resolution, you are able to get additional zoom power, with no reduction in image quality. For example, dropping the resolution to 5 Megapixel gives you a total of 37.5X worth of zoom. What's more, you can combine this feature with the Intelligent Zoom feature that I'll describe below, for even more reach.
The DMC-FZ47 has Panasonic's standard menu system. That means that its attractive and easy to navigate, though help screens would be nice. The menu is broken into three tabs, covering recording, movie, and setup options. Keeping in mind that some of these may be unavailable in the automatic shooting modes, here's the complete list of menu options:
Motion Picture Menu - will cover these in detail later -- listing the unique items only
Some of those options require further explanation, so here we go.
Adjusting a Photo Style
Let's begin with the Photo Style option, which was called Film Mode on previous Lumix models. A Photo Style contains presets for contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction. There are six presets, plus one custom spot, and each of them can be adjusted to your heart's content (with low, normal, and high settings).
Fine-tuning and bracketing for white balance, at the same time
The camera has the usual white balance presets (except for fluorescent, which is annoyingly the case on all Panasonic cameras), plus several custom options. You can use a white or gray card or manually set the color temperature, in order to get accurate color in unusual lighting. If that's not enough, you can also fine-tune or bracket for white balance, as pictured above.
The camera has detected four of the six faces in our test scene
The AF modes don't need too much of an explanation. The face detection option will locate up to 15 faces in the scene, making sure they're properly focused. The FZ47's face detection system works very well -- it typically located four or five of the faces in our test scene. The camera can also learn to recognize faces. You can teach it manually by taking a few shots of your favorite people, or the camera will figure it out on your own and ask you if you want to save them to memory. Recognized faces get focus priority, and their name is saved into the metadata of the photo. The other focus modes include AF tracking, which follows your subject as they move around the screen, 23-point automatic, or 1-point AF, which lets you position the focus point anywhere in the frame.
That brings us to the Intelligent Dynamic option. This feature brightens shadows and is supposed to help with highlight clipping, but I haven't noticed much of an improvement in that area in previous models. This feature is always on in Intelligent Auto mode, while in the manual modes it's off by default. There are three levels of Intelligent Exposure to choose from (in the manual modes): low, standard, and high. Here's an example:
|I. Dynamic off
View Full Size Image
|I. Dynamic low
View Full Size Image
|I. Dynamic standard
View Full Size Image
|I. Dynamic high
View Full Size Image
It took me a couple of tries to get this feature to actually do something -- the camera really needs to meter something bright in order for it to take effect. If that's the case, then the Intelligent Dynamic feature brightens shadows nicely. It does little-to-nothing for highlight detail, though, and noise levels increase slightly when this feature is used. Still, it's worth using when your subject is heavily backlit.
Next up is the FZ47's burst mode. There are no speed choices here, just on or off. While the camera only took seven photos in a row, it did so at 3.9 frames/second, which is quite fast for a CCD-based camera. Continuous shooting stops after the seven shot burst is done, so you'll have to press the shutter release button again to continue. The FZ47 has a higher speed burst mode but, as I mentioned earlier, it's at lower resolution with high ISOs -- not a great combination for photo quality.
The final thing I want to talk about regarding menu options is the camera's Intelligent Resolution system, which has two components. First is intelligent sharpening, which is a fancy way of saying that the camera selectively sharpens objects that need it (edges, trees), and leaves alone things that don't (skin or the sky). Unlike other Panasonic cameras, the FZ47 just has on and off controls for Intelligent Resolution. Below are crops from a larger photo that illustrates the Intelligent Resolution feature:
|Intelligent Resolution off
View Full Size Image
|Intelligent Resolution on
View Full Size Image
As you flip between the images, it becomes pretty obvious what Intelligent Resolution can do. Be sure to view the full size images as well, so you can see what else gets sharpened (or not, as the case may be).
The other part of the Intelligent Resolution system is Intelligent Zoom. This gives you a 1.3X boost in zoom power with a minimal loss in image quality (unlike traditional digital zoom). If you're willing to lower the picture size, you can get a total of 50X zoom (at 5 Megapixel), though that pretty much requires a tripod. Below is an example of the Intelligent Zoom feature boosting the zoom from 24X to 32X. If you look at the full size images, you may see a slight drop in image quality, but it's not noticeable in nearly all real world situations.
|Intelligent Zoom off (24X)
View Full Size Image
|Intelligent Zoom on (32X)
View Full Size Image
Alright, that does it for my discussion of menu options. Let's move on to our photo tests now!
Our macro test subject is looking pretty good. The main issue here is the slight yellow color cast, which is common on Panasonic cameras, which don't seem to handle artificial lighting terribly well. I imagine that if you fooled around with the WB fine-tuning enough, that you could take care of this. Aside from that, the subject is sharp, though slightly noisy, and plenty of detail is captured.
There are two macro modes on the camera. In regular "auto macro" mode, the minimum distance is 1 cm at wide-angle and 1 m at telephoto (quite a difference, eh?). There's also a macro zoom mode, which locks the lens at wide-angle and lets you use the digital zoom to get closer, though I do not recommend using that one, due to the loss of image quality.
The night shot results mirror those of the macro test. The camera took in plenty of light, as you'd expect, given it's manual exposure control (beginners, don't fret: Intelligent Auto mode can take these too). The buildings are nice and sharp, though there is noise visible just about everywhere. Thankfully it doesn't eat away too much detail. There is also the same yellow/brownish color cast, which is an unfortunate trademark of Panasonic cameras. Highlight clipping isn't much of an issue, and purple fringing levels are low.
Now, let's use that same night scene to see how the DMC-FZ47 performed at higher sensitivities in low light situations.
There isn't a huge difference between the ISO 100 and 200 crops, with just a slight increase in noise in the latter. At ISO 400 you start to see some detail loss, and this is as high as I'd take the FZ47 in low light (a high sensitivity camera this is not). That's because ISO 800 and 1600 are mushy messes, and should be avoided.
We'll see if the FZ47 did in better lighting in a moment.
The DMC-FZ47 takes a two-pronged approach to reducing redeye. First, it'll fire the flash a few times (before the photo is taken) to shrink your subject's pupils, which sometimes works. If any redeye remains after the photo is taken, the camera will digitally remove it automatically. As you can see, this combo worked quite well on the FZ47, due at least in part to the large separation between the flash and lens.
There's remarkably little barrel distortion at the wide end of the FZ47's 25 - 600 mm lens. That's most likely thanks to the digital distortion correction that the camera performs after you take a photo. There's almost zero corner blurring with this lens, and you won't find vignetting (dark corners) to be an issue, either.
Now let's take a look at our studio test scene. Since the lighting is the same every time, you can compare these samples with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to how much noise is present at each ISO setting, viewing the full size images is strongly recommended. Here we go!
Again, there's very little to differentiate the first two photos. At ISO 400 we see a bit more noise, but it's still usable for midsized and large prints. Things soften up considerably at ISO 800, so I'd use this setting for small prints only. ISO 1600 has too much detail loss to be usable.
Overall, the DMC-FZ47 produces good quality photos, as long as you keep the ISO at 400 or below, and you shoot in normal light. Exposure was generally spot-on though, like most compact cameras, highlight clipping with be a problem at times. Colors looked good to me, except in the aforementioned situations when you're shooting in artificial lighting. I found images to be slightly soft with Intelligent Resolution turned off, and quite pleasing with it on (hint, hint). The FZ47's photos are a bit noisy, even at ISO 100. That said, there's not much in the line of detail loss (unlike much of the competition), at least until you get to ISO 400 in low light, and ISO 800 in good light. Thus, if you keep things below those sensitivities, you should be happy with the photos the FZ47 produces. Purple fringing levels were low on the DMC-FZ47.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our extensive photo gallery, perhaps printing a few of them if you'd like, and then decide if the DMC-FZ47's image quality meets your needs!
One of the benefits of the FZ47's high-speed CCD over traditional CCDs is that that it can record Full HD video. You can record videos at 1920 x 1080 using the AVCHD or MPEG-4 codec, with Dolby Digital Stereo sound. There's no recording limit with AVCHD (outside of Europe), though MPEG-4 movies will stop recording when the file size reaches 4GB (which is after about 25 mins). AVCHD movies are also recorded at 60i, though that doesn't mean much, as the sensor output is still 30p.
Several other resolutions are available. AVCHD lovers can also record 720/60p video (again with 30p sensor output), while MPEG-4 fans can choose from 720/30p or VGA.
You can use the optical zoom lens to your hearts content while you're recording. The camera can focus continuously, so your subject will remain in focus as you zoom in or out (of if your subject is in motion). The image stabilizer is also available.
The FZ47 offers full manual exposure controls in movie mode, though you'll need to be in Creative Motion Picture mode in order to do so. You can adjust the aperture, shutter speed, or both. The ISO can also be adjusted, with a range of 400 to 6400.
The camera can take 3.5 Megapixel stills while simultaneously recording video. Panasonic warns that the camera focusing (to take the still) may show up in your movie.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the Full HD setting using the AVCHD codec. The video was converted to QuickTime format using Final Cut Pro X. I've included the original MTS file for your enjoyment, as well.
The DMC-FZ47 has a pretty standard playback mode for a super zoom camera. Basic playback features include slideshows (complete with transitions and music), image protection, favorite tagging, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view (in various sizes), and playback zoom. When using the playback zoom feature, you can use the rear control dial to move between images, while maintaining the current zoom and location.
|Calendar view||This menu lets you filter photos, even by category (scene mode)|
The FZ47 offers a calendar view of your photos, so you can quickly navigate to photos you took on a specific date. You can also filter photos by file type (still, movie, 3D), category (which is assigned according to the scene mode used), and whether an image has been tagged as a favorite.
Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. You can print the date, time, location, travel date, custom text, and even the age of your kids or pets onto your photos, which is far beyond what most cameras can do (though note that the images will be downsized). You can also tag photos for uploading to Facebook or YouTube, using the included Lumix Image Uploader software (Windows only). One editing tool you won't find is a redeye removal tool, so if you end up with this annoyance in one of your photos, you'll have to fix it on your PC.
The DMC-FZ47 has the ability to edit movies, using a feature known as video divide. This lets you trim unwanted footage from the beginning or end of a clip.
By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. But press the display button and you'll see more, including a histogram. If a registered face, baby, or pet are in the photo, their names will be shown, as well.
The FZ47 moves between photos without delay.
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!
Check out the DMC-FZ47 photo gallery to see how the image quality looks!