The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ47 looks very similar to the more expensive LUMIX FZ150, albeit missing its flash hot-shoe and with a slightly squarer body. It’s £142 less expensive, too, but still has a reasonably high retail price of £247. If you need a camera with an extreme zoom range, the LUMIX DMC-FZ47 is a good choice: its 24x lens is sharp enough throughout the range to create clear pictures, with only a little resolution lost at maximum zoom. Its ‘bridge’ design also makes it easy to hold comfortably.
Design and features
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ47 is based on the tried-and-tested layout of larger digital SLR cameras like the Canon EOS 600D, Olympus E-5 and Nikon D7000, with a large handgrip, top-mounted viewfinder and large lens barrel. ‘Bridge’ cameras like these are usually good all-in-one models with versatile performances: their comparatively large size (for a compact digital camera, which houses a smaller imaging sensor than a digital SLR) means a large zoom lens can be built in, and controls can be generously laid out and labelled.
We think the shape of the LUMIX FZ47 is near-ideal, with the user’s hands able to rest comfortably around the grip and lens barrel. Controls are also easy to manipulate with thumb and forefinger, and all fall easily to hand without any stretching required.
Less impressive is the camera’s LCD viewfinder and rear screen. Neither are bad, but you can find superior options available when stepping up to price-competitive Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras like Panasonic’s own LUMIX DMC-G3 and Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3. The electronic viewfinder is very small compared to these competitors, with only a small window that the viewer’s eye must be directly in front of for proper usage. The LCD screen is a good size at 3in, but its resolution is middling at 430K-pixels, with some other brands’ superzooms using 960K-pixel displays.
Surprisingly for a high-end compact camera, the Panasonic FZ47 cannot capture images in the RAW file format, which allows for more in-camera editing and processing on PC, as well as higher quality images. Previous FZ models had this feature so we’re assuming its removal serves to delineate between basic consumer compacts and the more enthusiast-targeted Micro Four Thirds line in Panasonic’s camera range. Given the camera’s high price we were expecting it to be included.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ47: Image and video quality and performance
The 12.1-megapixel CCD sensor inside the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ47 is of reasonably good quality, giving good results in good lighting. The lens is similarly high quality and the combination means the FZ47 is a versatile camera in daylight or well-lit conditions. It struggles in darker conditions, though, and at these times is best used at minimum zoom levels for the clearest possible images; otherwise the combination of poor high ISO performance, a long focal length and slow lens aperture means blur and image noise is inevitable.
This image shows the good detail levels possible with the FZ47 in good light. This shot was taken at the minimum zoom level at ISO 100.
The lens of the FZ47 reaches from 25mm-600mm (in 35mm film or ‘full frame’ digital SLR equivalent terms); that is, it can capture anything from a reasonably wide scene to an extremely tight zoomed-in one. You won’t find a lens this versatile on any digital SLR or interchangeable lens camera, so if your requirements are this specific you’ll need to consider the FZ47 amongst a very select range of competitors: Canon’s PowerShot SX40 HS, the Nikon Coolpix P500, and the Olympus SP-810UZ.
This image was taken handheld at full zoom. If you compare it to the previous photo you’ll see the huge difference in the widest and most telephoto zoom angles of the FZ47. Detail levels are OK but not great at full zoom.
The lens can focus very close, but only at its minimum zoom level of 25mm. The end result means that you’ll have the FZ47 literally pressed up against the subject. Panasonic includes a petal-shape lens hood that shields the elements of the lens from sun flare in bright conditions, preventing any possible light streaks in your images. The lens does a good job of not distorting throughout the focal range: straight lines generally stay straight instead of curving at the edges of photos.
These screws are 5mm long. We had the FZ47’s lens literally pressed up against the screws, so while it can focus incredibly close it is not able to ‘magnify’ objects like a proper macro lens.
The 12.1MP sensor of the LUMIX FZ47 is a CCD rather than CMOS chip, and because of this its quality at higher ISO levels is inferior to the premium FZ150. Up to ISO 400 it is reasonably clear but ISO 800 and 1600 get worse with the highest setting introducing a yellowish cast to images.
This series of image slices starts at ISO 100 on the top, down to the maximum ISO 1600 at the bottom. Look at the outer red and green blocks and the grey background to see image quality degrade, and a yellow colour cast on the ISO 1600 image.
The video quality of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ47 impressed us given the tiny sensor inside the camera. It can shoot Full HD video, and although the quality isn’t as good as a camera with a large sensor like a digital SLR or interchangeable lens model, it’s competitive with other cameras in its class. You can use the full zoom range during video recording; birdwatchers should love this flexibility.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ47: Conclusion
The LUMIX DMC-FZ47 has the combination of versatile lens and decent quality sensor that makes it a useful camera in a variety of situations. Anyone with a need for a high-zoom lens should try it out. We do take issue with its price, though: $649 is a lot for a compact camera. Thankfully street prices are hundreds of dollars below this, so doing your shopping and researching prices at various stores is mandatory before heading out.