Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Review
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a 12 megapixels digital camera with an ultra-wide stabilized 24X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 25-600mm. This prosumer ultra-zoom uses a high-speed CCD with the ability to capture full 1080p video with stereo sound and shoot continuously at 3.7 FPS. It is ergonomically shaped like a miniature SLR and has plenty of external controls to access its expansive feature set.
The Panasonic FZ47 provides advanced photographic controls including full manual-controls, manual focus, choice of metering, custom white-balance, white-balance fine-tuning, bracketing and full manual-controls over video. For framing, this digital camera has both an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3" display with 460K pixels.
This express digital camera review analyses the features, ergonomics, usability, performance and image quality of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Features
Sensor & Exposure
- 12 Megapixels CCD sensor
- ISO 100 to 1600 sensitivity at full-resolution
- Auto ISO based on light-levels and movement
- 1/2000-60s Shutter-speeds for still images
- 1/20000-1/30s Shutter-speeds for videos
- PASM Exposure modes for both stills and video
- Program-Shift in P mode
- Exposure-Compensation, ±3 in 1/3 EV increments
- Multi-Segment, Average and Spot metering
- 24X Optical zoom range
- F/2.8-5.2-8 Aperture range
- Ultra-Wide-Angle 25-600mm equivalent
- Optical Image Stabilization: Shooting-Only, Continuous or Panning
- 30cm (W) - 2m (T) Normal minimum focus
- 1cm (W) - 1m (T) Macro minimum focus distance
- Automatic, 5 presetsDaylight, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, Incandescent, Kelvin and custom white-balance, 2 memories
- WB fine-tuning, 19 steps along 2 axis
- Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery & Portrait Photo Styles
- Adjustable Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise-Reduction, 5 steps each
- Normal, Macro and Manual focus modes
- Single, Automatic, Tracking and Face-Detect focus-point selection
- Optional Prefocus
- Manual Focus assist
- AF Assist-Lamp
- 3.7 FPS @ full-resolution
- Self-Timer, 2s, 10s or 3-shot @ 10s
- Bracketing, 3 Frames, ±3 in 1/3 EV increments
- Flash Compensation, ±2 EV, 1/3 EV increments
- Auto, Auto Redeye, Forced, Redeye & Slow-Sync flash modes
- First or Rear curtain flash sync
- Optional Redeye reduction
Display & Viewfinder
- 3" LCD, 460K Pixels
- 0.2" EVF, 200K Pixels
- Live histogram
- Framing grid
- Adjustable LCD brightness
- 1280x720 @ 30 FPS
- MPEG-4 & AVCHD Codecs
- AF-S or AF-C focus
- Built-in stereo microphone
- Optional Wind-Filter
- Optional Zoom Microphone
- HDMI (1080i) output
- A/V (NYSC / PAL) output
- USB 2.0 connectivity
- 4:3 (Native), 3:2, 16:9 & 1:1 Aspect-Ratio
- Combined AE-L/AF-L button
- Customizable Fn button
- Panorama Assist Mode
- Panning Mode
- 18 Scene Modes
- Face Recognition
- Lithium-Ion battery
- SDXC memory
Suitability - What is it good for?
As a prosumer ultra-zoom, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a very capable and versatile fixed-lens camera. Surely the incredible 24X zoom range which starts at an ultra-wide 25mm, reaching a super-telephoto 600mm, is its greatest asset. This range of focal-length covers most photographic needs from architecture to wildlife with everything in between.
This digital camera also offers a complete set of manual controls including a shutter-speed range of 1/2000s to 60s. This makes it highly suitable for creative photography. The fastest shutter-speed is quick enough to freeze most action while the slowest is long enough for night photography including light trails. Having manual focus available greatly helps since low-light photography is often problematic for autofocus.
The FZ47 uses a high-speed CCD with dual-channel read-out in order to deliver full 1080p HD video and 3.7 FPS continuous shooting. While this is slower than CMOS-based cameras, CCDs are capable of higher image quality at the same pixel density.
The limitations of the FZ47 are all inherent from its small sensor size. This is the case for all ultra-zooms but not for DSLRs and most ILCs. Given its sensor-size, this digital camera is not suitable for low-light hand-held photography such as indoor and social events. There is also a limitation in terms of creativity due to the relatively high depth-of-field produced by small sensors like the one used here. Still, far away subjects can be isolated from the background by using the incredibly long zoom of this digital camera.
The small sensor is actually an asset for macro photography which often suffers from too little depth-of-field. Thanks to a minimum focus distance of 1cm, the FZ47 can capture tiny objects like jewelry in great details.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
This ultra-zoom is designed along the lines of a miniature DSLR with a well-defined hand-grip, protruding lens barrel and combined viewfinder and flash housing hump. This makes the Panasonic FZ47 comfortable to hold and easy to keep steady. The electronic viewfinder protrudes nicely from the back to keep the photographer from pressing against the camera too much.
The shutter-release is located at the top of grip. It is a standard two-stage release with a soft halfway point. A variable speed zoom-controller is wrapped around the release. The lens moves quickly, going across the 24X zoom in just under 3s. It moves in fine steps, making it possible to zoom with good precision.
Just behind the shutter-release is the dedicated Video Record button. Pressing it starts and stops video capture almost instantly. Using this button, video can be recorded in any exposure-mode with two important caveats:
- Video exposure remains automatic in all exposure modes except Manual Video, as explained in more details below.
- The EVF and LCD only show correct the correct framing for video in Manual Video mode.
The above can be switched around, so that the preview is correct for video and not for stills in all modes. Just behind the Video Record button is the small AF button which either lets the focus point be moved or cycles through available focus modes.
At the back edge of the top plate is a simple power slider. It protrudes enough to be easily moved and has a strong detent to prevent accidental use. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 remembers all settings except the Self-Timer. Optionally, it can remember the zoom position and manual focus distance. If one does repeated shots such as when capturing a time-lapse, it is very useful to have those settings remembered should the memory card or battery need changing.
The FZ47 features a busy mode-dial with 14 positions. The standard PASM exposure modes are all there. iA is the fully automated mode. This one allows to set EC but fixes ISO and WB on Auto. It only allows single-shot self-timers. There are also six scene-modes with there own positions plus a SCN position that gives access to a menu of 18 Scene modes. Of those 18 modes, 14 are typical, while the following 4 are worth mentioning:
- Panorama Assist - Helps line-up images for making a panorama photo. Images can be taken in any direction which is chosen upon entering Panorama Assist mode. The FZ47 goes beyond other panorama assist modes in letting each shot be retaken before proceeding to the next one. This is immensely useful and kudos to Panasonic for thinking about this! A typical use case is when capturing a panorama of a large plaza. Shots may need to be retaken due to passing vehicles or people.
- Flash Burst - Takes pictures continuously with the flash firing along each image.
- Panning - Instructs the stabilizer to only compensate for vertical shake. There are Program and Shutter-Priority variants of this mode.
- 3D - Creates a 3D image from a series of shots while the camera is panned.
There is a Custom position on the mode-dial to recall settings from one of three memories. The final mode on the mode dial is Manual Movie mode. In this mode the camera can record video using PASM exposure modes. Since the camera has to use an electronic shutter to record video, speeds up to 1/20000s can be selected. Full 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS videos can be recorded with the AVHCD and the more common MPEG-4 codec. In Movie mode, both the shutter-release and the dedicated video-record button start filming.
The last remaining item on the top plate is the built-in popup flash and a stereo microphone. The microphone includes a built-in wind-filter which is activated from the Motion Picture menu. The microphone can optionally be coupled with the zoom lens so that it records sounds from a narrower field when the lens zooms in.
The back of the camera is dominated by a large 3" LCD with 460K pixels. Visibility of the LCD is superb with an awesome antireflective coating that does its job extremely well. It has a very good angle-of-view.
The view on the LCD and EVF is not Exposure-Priority until the shutter is press halfway. When pressed halfway, the preview is mostly correct, providing a good approximation of exposure. There is a note in the manual saying that the live-histogram turns yellow when the displayed image does not show the correct brightness. Since the displays are not Exposure-Priority, it turns yellow as soon as an EC is dialed-in! Also, it is far more often wrong than right. The issue is that it is based on the displayed brightness and not the metered one. This means that when the shutter is pressed halfway, the live-histogram frequently adjusts itself.
Above the rear LCD, there is a small 0.2" EVF with 200K pixels which is usable for framing. The low resolution makes it impossible to confirm focus and difficult to discern fine subject details. A small button towards the right toggles between the EVF and LCD. Both framing and playback are possible using the EVF, with a configuration option to always use the LCD when entering Playback mode. A bit further right is the AE-L/AF-L button which is customizable to perform AE-L, AF-L or both. To the left of the EVF is a mechanical flash-release button.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 has a single control-dial to set exposure parameters. The dial doubles as a button to cycle between parameters and EC as needed. In Program mode, it cycles between EC and Program-Shift. In Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority it toggles between the exposure parameter and EC. In Manual, it toggles between Aperture and Shutter-Speed. The modality of this system makes it easy to inadvertently set EC instead of the exposure parameter. In Manual Focus mode, the control-dial also cycles to set the focus distance. While the control-dial turns easily, it is too flush with the back to be used with gloves on.
To the right of the rear LCD are all remaining controls of the FZ47. These buttons are on the small side but only Playback is difficult to use since it is completely flush with the surface of the camera. We would say the placement is questionable given that Display and Playback are more accessible than far more important controls like ISO and Self-Timer. There is a button for EC which is redundant with the control-dial's button function. The Q.Menu button which is the lowest brings up a menu to change secondary camera settings. Above the display button is one which selects between AF, Macro AF and MF mode.
The 4-way controller which is used to navigate menus is made of 5 separate buttons, each assigned a function:
- Up: Brings up the redundant EC function, AEB and FC. EC is available ±3 EV in 1/3 increments. FC is available ±2 in 1/3 increments. AEB always takes 3 frames with interval between 1/3 and 3 EV, selectable in 1/3 increments.
- ISO: Selects the ISO between 100 and 1600, plus one of two Auto modes. Standard Auto ISO mode selects an ISO based on light-levels. Intelligent Auto ISO selects and ISO based on subject movement.
- Fn: This one can be customized to set one of: Photo Style, Aspect Ratio, Image Quality, Metering, White-Balance, Intelligent Exposure, Guides, Rec Area and Remaining Space. The most useful option is probably WB for those shooting JPEG and Metering for those shooting RAW.
- Self-Timer: Selects between a 2s, 10s or triple 10s timer. One a shot is taken, the Self-Timer resets itself. It also prematurely resets itself when changing exposure modes and when entering the main menu, but not the Quick Menu. Tripod shooters are likely to find this rather annoying.
The bottom of the camera reveals a combined battery and memory compartment plus a metal tripod mount. The tripod mount is neither inline with the optical center of the lens nor the center of gravity of the camera, making it less than ideal for usual tasks.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
To pack a whopping 24X optical zoom lens in a camera this size, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 uses a tiny sensor so that its 4.5-108mm lens equates to 25-600mm in 35mm terms. This is the case for all current ultra-zooms and perfectly represents the compromise offered by this type of camera. This huge zoom range means flexibility while the small sensor sets expectations of limited image quality, particularly at the density of the this digital camera which captures 12 megapixels images. As a comparison, to offer the same optical zoom range with high image quality requires at least 3 lenses and a Micro Four-Thirds SLD with just one lens costing more than the FZ47 itself.
The Panasonic FZ47 shows noticeable noise-reduction softness starting at its base ISO of 100. It increases slightly at ISO 200. Both these settings can produce nice medium-size prints. Softness becomes stronger at ISO 400 which does a decent job at hiding noise. Depending on subject tonality, this ISO can still be used for an 8x12" print. It will not stand close inspection but should be very presentable at normal viewing distances.
ISO 800 and 1600 show a strong increase in softness, effectively hiding image noise and fine details. Despite offering 5 levels of Noise-Reduction, there is no way to avoid this with the FZ47. The lowest setting damages fine details and the ones above that even more.
While there are a number of color modes, called Photo Styles, which can be fine-tuned in terms of contrast and saturation, the FZ47 is incapable of producing images with realistic colors. Photo Styles can also be tweaked in terms of Sharpness. The default is probably best as images quickly get soft or over-sharpened away from that setting.
White-Balance is reasonable but far from perfect. The Automatic option performs well outdoors usually copes with various types of artificial light but frequently leaves a slightly warm color-cast. Custom WB is quite accurate. There is WB Fine-Tuning in 19 steps along 2 axis to refine white-balance when needed.
The multi-segment metering system used by this digital camera is generally good. It has an occasional tendency to clip small highlights but foreground exposure is usually good. Still, exposure is rarely off by more than 1/3 EV.
The Leica branded lens on the FZ47 may be sharp but strong noise-reduction hides it well. Still, at ISO 100, details are acceptable clear at the center of the frame. There is a very gradual increase in softness towards corners which never gets extremely soft. Optical distortion is noticeable but quite weak towards the ultra-wide end of the zoom. At other focal-lengths though, distortion is pretty much invisible. Purple fringing is not a problem with this lens either.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a reasonably fast and responsive camera. The camera locks focus reasonably fast in good light but takes longer in low light and at macro distances. This is on-par with most ultra-zooms which are more suitable for static subjects than action. The following performance numbers characterize the performance of this camera:
- Startup: Normally 2 seconds. If the Lens Resume option is enabled, it may take up to 4 seconds. Average for an ultra-zoom.
- Shutdown: Between 1¼ and 3 seconds, depending on the lens position. Average to slow compared to similar cameras.
- Zoom: 3 seconds for the entire 24X zoom range. Reasonable for such a long electronic zoom.
- Autofocus: Just over ¼s in good light, all the way to 1½s in less than ideal lighting. Quite fast to rather slow.
- Shutter-Lag: Very quick, less than ¼s.
- Shot-to-Shot: Usually 2s, longer in low-light due to noise-reduction. About average.
- Playback: Just over ½s to enter, instant to exit.
Video shows good quality and few compression artifacts when using either codec. Details are well captured and exposure adjusts gradually during filming. What it does extremely well too is keep things in focus while filming. Even moving subjects are generally kept in focus at AF-C mode, which is the default for video.
This Panasonic uses a large proprietary Lithium-Ion battery which supplies 400 shots per charge according the CIPA standard. While this a good enough for a typical day of shooting, it is considerably below average among large ultra-zooms.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a feature-rich ultra-zoom with full 1080p HD video capabilities and 3.7 FPS continuous drive. Within its ergonomic body, this digital camera packs an extremely versatile 24X optical zoom lens of exceptional quality.
In brightly lit conditions, the Panasonic FZ47 delivers usable images quickly thanks to its fast autofocus system. Exposure is generally good but color and white-balance are not ideal. Both autofocus and shot-to-shot speeds slow down continuously in darker conditions though, so this is not a great camera for low-light.
The FZ47 is a good candidate for photography during certain types of travel like tours where people often visit sites in bright daylight and the entire group is moving quickly from place to place. Having an all-in-one camera like this one for such occasions means that lots of photos can be taken with a variety of focal-lengths without slowing others down.
Panasonic DMC-FZ47 Facts
Large digital camera
|12 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 100-1600|
|24X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-60s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.20" Built-in EVF 201K Pixels||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|3.7 FPS Drive, 7 Images||Spot-Metering|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion|
|3" LCD 460K Pixels||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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