Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Review

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47

Record Mode

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:

Resolution Quality # images on 70MB onboard memory # images on 4GB SDHC card (optional)
4000 x 3000
Fine 15 760
Standard 23 1120

3264 x 2448

Fine 21 1040
Standard 33 1590
2560 x 1920
Fine 26 1300
Standard 48 2300
2048 x 1536
Fine 33 1610
Standard 66 3140
1600 x 1200
Fine 82 3860
Standard 155 7470
0.3M (VGA)
640 x 480
Fine 420 19940
Standard 720 29920

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:

Record Menu
  • Photo Style (Standard, vivid, natural, monochrome, scenery, portrait, custom) - see below
  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1)
  • Picture size (See above chart)
  • Quality (Fine, standard)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, Intelligent ISO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • ISO limit set (Off, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - how high Auto and Intelligent ISO will go
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, shade, flash, incandescent, custom 1/2, color temperature) - see below
  • Face recognition (On, off, memory, set) - see below
  • AF mode (Face detection, AF tracking, 23-area, 1-area) - see below
  • Quick AF (on/off) - activates the AF system when the camera is held steadily; reduces focus times at the expense of battery life
  • AE/AF lock (AF, AE, AF/AE) - what this button controls
  • Metering mode (Multiple, center-weighted, spot)
  • Intelligent Dynamic (Off, low, standard, high) - see below
  • Minimum shutter speed (Auto, 1/250 - 1 sec) - how slow of a shutter you'll let the camera use
  • Burst (on/off) - see below
  • Intelligent Resolution (Off, on, Intelligent Zoom) - see below
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - unlike Intelligent Zoom and Extended Optical Zoom, this feature reduces image quality and is best avoided
  • Stabilizer (on/off)
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
  • Flash synchro (1st, 2nd curtain)
  • Redeye removal (on/off) - digital correction
  • Conversion lens (Off, telephoto, close-up)
  • Clock set

Motion Picture Menu - will cover these in detail later -- listing the unique items only

  • REC mode (AVCHD, MP4)
  • Rec quality
    • In AVCHD mode (FSH/1080p, SH/720p)
    • In MP4 mode (FHD/1080p, HD/720p, VGA)
  • Exposure mode (P/A/S/M) - here's how you turn on manual controls for movies; only available in Creative Motion Picture mode
  • Continuous AF (on/off) - whether camera continues to focus while filming a movie
  • Wind cut (on/off) - useful for shooting outdoors
  • Zoom mic (on/off) - couples the microphone range to the zoom range

Setup Menu

  • Clock set
  • World time (Destination, home)
  • Travel date - the day and location of your trip get stored in the photo metadata
    • Travel setup (Off, set) - set the departure and return dates for your trip
    • Location (Off, set) - store your destination name
  • Beep
    • Beep level (Muted, low, high)
    • Beep tone (1-3)
    • Shutter volume (Muted, low, high)
    • Shutter tone (1-3)
  • Volume (0-6)
  • Custom setting memory (C1, C2, C3) - save three sets of camera settings to the "C" spot on the mode dial
  • Fn button set (Photo Style, aspect ratio, quality, metering mode, white balance, Intelligent Dynamic, guide line, movie rec area, remaining display) - what this button does
  • Monitor/Viewfinder - adjust the brightness, color, and red/blue tint of both of these separately
  • LCD mode (Off, Auto Power LCD, Power LCD) - I recommend using the second one for best visibility
  • Guide line
    • Rec info (on/off) - whether or not they're displayed
    • Pattern (Rule of thirds, complex)
  • Histogram (on/off)
  • Movie rec area (on/off) - shows the area of the frame that will be used for movie recording
  • Remaining display (Shots, recording time)
  • Highlight display (on/off) - whether clipped highlights are shown in image review
  • Lens resume
    • Zoom resume (on/off) - whether the camera returns to the last zoom position used
    • MF resume (on/off) - whether the camera returns to the last focus distance used in manual focus mode
  • MF assist (on/off) - frame enlargement in manual focus mode
  • Economy
    • Sleep mode (Off, 1, 2, 5, 10 mins) - auto power off
    • LCD power save (on/off) - whether brightness of the LCD is lowered, to conserve battery life
  • Play on LCD (on/off) - whether post-shot review is shown on the main LCD, even if you used the EVF to compose the shot
  • Auto review (Off, 1, 2 sec, hold) - post-shot review
  • File number reset
  • Reset - return the recording and setup/custom settings to defaults
  • USB mode (Select on connection, PictBridge/PTP, PC)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect (16:9, 4:3)
  • HDMI mode (Auto, 1080i, 720p, 576p/480p)
  • Viera Link (on/off) - whether the camera can be operated from the remote control of compatible HDTVs
  • 3D playback (3D, 2D) - turn this on when connected to a 3D television
  • Scene menu (Off, auto) - whether the scene mode menu pops up when you turn the mode dial to that position
  • Menu resume (on/off) - whether the camera returns to the last menu option you accessed
  • Version display
  • Format memory/memory card
  • Language
  • Demo mode - for retail stores

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
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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.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

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!

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

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!

Movie Mode

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.

Click to play movie (1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 19.5 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)
Click to download MTS file (24.2 MB)

Playback Mode

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.