The Super Zoom digital camera market is one of the most fearsome battlegrounds in the photography world. Super Zoom cameras represent any fixed-lens compact camera that boasts a long optical zoom. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 has a 24x optical zoom lens, though that's merely an appetizer compared to its competition. For one, the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS has a 35X optical zoom lens while the newly announced Nikon Coolpix P510 flaunts a massive 42X optical zoom—the current leader of the pack.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is also overshadowed by the company's flagship Lumix DMC-FZ150, which features a high-sensitivity sensor and flip-out vari-angle LCD. While the FZ47 may not be as well-equipped as more expensive Super Zoom models, the camera still performed very well and proved to be a viable option for shooters looking for a big zoom without the big price.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Design
Super Zoom cameras are typically the next size down from entry-level DSLRs. Although they're not the most portable cameras on the market, you don't have to account for additional lenses, since the lens is fixed. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is actually one of the more compact Super Zooms in the field, similar in size to the Nikon Coolpix P500. The camera is also lighter than most, so it won't strain you on a full day of shooting. My only complaint was that the right-hand grip was a bit undersized, leaving my pinky to dangle off underneath the camera.
Being the step-down model from the flagship FZ150 has its consequences. For one, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 has a fixed 3-inch 461,000-pixel LCD screen while the FZ150 rocks a flip-out vari-angle LCD. If the vari-angle LCD is a must-have in your list of requirements, then look at the FZ150 and Canon PowerShot SX40 HS. The DMC-FZ47 has an electronic viewfinder with a decent display that mirrors exactly what you see on the LCD.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 has a 25mm wide-angle 24x optical zoom lens. The wide viewing angle came in handy for capturing more at close range, and Panasonic fortified the FZ47's optical configuration with Power O.I.S., which is one of the best image stabilization systems in its class. The zoom can also extend all the way up to a 49.6x optical range, but that's only if you're capturing 3-megapixel images, since the camera crops the image in order to zoom that close. The camera offers Panasonic's Intelligent Zoom technology, which boosts the zoom range to 32x without sacrificing image quality.
Other features on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 include a popup flash, rear Control dial and a Mini HDMI terminal. I was highly impressed with the button layout on the FZ47, which provided ISO, Exposure Compensation, Self-Timer, AF/AE Lock, Focus, Function and Q.Menu shortcuts. Flying around the controls on the FZ47 was a snap, and that's important on a camera with so much to offer.
Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47
While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 featured a friendly external design with oodles of useful buttons and controls, its internal performance was just as admirable. The camera's menu response rivaled Grease Lightning on a drag strip. I was able to fly through menu selections and controls, thanks to the FZ47's hasty responsiveness. In addition, the Q.Menu allowed me to set important functions almost instantly while the Mode dial was designed intuitively with many shooting options. Acclimating to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's menus and controls will be a piece of cake.
The FZ47 was also like a Swiss Army Knife when it came to features. Its Intelligent Auto mode selected the right parameters depending on the scene. Auto Focus was very fast and accurate. The camera even had three different Marco settings ranging from Flowers to Food to Objects. There were four different Night modes that altered the shutter speed and ISO for beginners. Add in the Sports mode with Burst shooting, a Landscape mode that increased contrast and sharpness and customizable digital filters like Pin Hole and Expressive. While the FZ47's full resolution burst mode was a bit sluggish at 3.7fps, the camera offered a Hi-speed Burst mode that brought that figure up to 10fps, though max resolution could only be set to 3-megapixels.
Regardless, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 seemed like it had an answer to every shooting environment. That included advanced shooting scenarios, like long exposure and portrait photography. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 had a shutter speed that went down to 60 seconds, which is lower than most high-end DSLRs. The camera's f/8 aperture max limited depth-of-field, but DOF wasn't a major issue, given the camera's smaller sensor. I did find the ISO 1600 max for still images a bit limiting in low light, but that might have been a good thing in order to keep noise down. The FZ47 could reach up to ISO 6400 in special scene modes, but the resolution dropped to a 3-megapixel max and the results were less than desirable.
Video mode on the FZ47 was awesome. The camera offered full control of shutter speed and aperture (which went up to f/11), in addition to an ISO range that topped out at 6400. I could shoot videos in nearly any camera mode I happened to be in, including the Creative Control mode with digital filters. This applied to shooting in 1080 60i AVCHD format. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 proved itself as one of the most well-equipped Super Zoom cameras in its class.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Image Quality
Under the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's hood is a 12.1-megapixel CCD sensor that exhibited a typical point-and-shoot type performance. What this means is that the FZ47 was a good performer outdoors and in other environments with ample amounts of illumination. I was quite impressed with the color depth and accuracy from this camera, and the detail at low ISO levels around 100 or 200 was quite admirable.
However, the camera's low light sensitivity was not particularly as dandy. Anything past ISO 400 began to bring on the noise and grain. Color loss began to rear its ugly head even at ISO levels of 800. Using the High Sensitivity modes was a lost cause because the noise and grain at ISO 6400 was appalling, even at a 3-megapixel resolution. Thankfully, the FZ47 was well stocked when it came to manual controls and I was able to use a tripod to capture low ISO images at long exposures during nighttime.
But most shooters who are in the market for this camera will most likely not even want to touch the shutter speed control or ISO levels. In that case, they'll have to rely on the built-in flash, which is actually a decent performer and offers several variations including a Slow Synch fire. So for stills, bright light is great while low light and high ISO performance pales in comparison to models like the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150.
When it came to the camera's 1080 60i AVCHD videos, I experienced nearly the same phenomenon. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 was a great performer in bright light and its stereo audio pickup was top notch for a camera in this class. However, check out that low light sample I shot at ISO 6400—it's a noise festival of stratospheric proportions.
What did we learn from all of this? Well, for the average casual tourist or hobbyist who plans on taking the FZ47 on vacation to their child's hockey game, this camera will do them just fine. But for the night dwellers who demand more artistic versatility and an above average ISO performance in low light, the FZ47 will not be the ticket.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Still Image Samples
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 1080 60i Video Samples
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 Conclusion
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a winner for a select crowd. At roughly $300 online, this Super Zoom proves as a budget-friendly alternative to the high dollar Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. The price to pay is the lack of a vari-angle viewfinder and an imaging sensor that's not as effective in low light.
That's why the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 will suit soccer moms and skateboard kids—users who primarily shoot in decent lighting. Any low light seekers or resolution hounds will want to look to the more powerful Super Zoom models.
Despite its appeal to the beginner crowds, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is a highly capable camera that is packed with shooting features that most other cameras in its price range do not offer. If you're on a budget and are questing for a Super Zoom, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 is an essential investigation.