Excellent zoom range; Full HD movies; Quick menu for easy adjustments; Excellent controls; Fast shutter lag.
Tendency to blow highlights in cloudy conditions; Lacks RAW mode; Lens hood blocks flash; Movie record button awkward.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47 started shipping in August 2011, priced at around US$400; current prices hover around US$300.
Perhaps hedging its bets, Panasonic continues to make a CCD-based megazoom camera alongside its CMOS-bearing flagship.
Last year, the company's FZ100 won praise for being "tremendous fun" but it didn't make the cut for a Dave's Pick because its CMOS sensor, which made HD video and faster speed possible, was just too noisy. Their followup FZ150 was noticeably better.
The fun is still here with the Panasonic FZ47 (which sports the same 24x zoom starting at a very wide 25mm) and even Full HD video -- but the sensor is a high-speed CCD. "Speed" as in 3.7 frames per second for seven full-res shots. That limits Movie mode to 60i rather than 60p but it's still 1920x1080.
There's even a bit more fun with the Panasonic FZ47 than the FZ100 if you like the idea of having manual exposure control for your video. Not a lot of digicams can pull off that trick. But using, say, Aperture Priority in video mode may just change your career path.
Panasonic also claims the FZ47 autofocuses faster than the FZ100 and its firmware processes data faster, as well.
It isn't all good news, unfortunately. The biggest surprise was the Panasonic FZ47's tendency to blow out the highlights in cloudy conditions, although our sunlit shots seemed well exposed.
Look and Feel. The Panasonic FZ47 body resembles the FZ100 in general but there are some important changes. The hot shoe is gone and the articulated LCD has been replaced with a 3.0-inch LCD with 460,000 dots. The Focus mode control has been moved from the side of the lens to the back of the camera and the HDMI and AV Out/Digital ports are tucked behind one cover on the left side, too.
While you can't pocket the FZ47, you can certainly put a wrist strap on it and carry it in one hand for hours. The included shoulder strap will keep it handy without even that much trouble.
But I found I liked having it in my hand, ready to shoot at a moment's notice. Fun, after all, is fleeting. The large grip made a nice ledge to hang the camera from my index finger as I walked around. I just had to hold my thumb against the small thumb grip on the back to secure the hold.
The rather large battery pops into the ample grip through a door on the bottom of the camera, which is unfortunately right next to the metal tripod socket. With all that room under the camera, it's too bad Panasonic couldn't move the tripod socket away from that door.
I also had an issue with the lens hood. As the manual warns, it's a bit of a snug fit ("You will feel some stiffness"). I was uncomfortable locking it onto the lens because I felt as if I was about to break something. But it did snap on.
The manual claims the hood reverses for storage but I had trouble with that. It's true you can turn it around and push it onto the lens and give it a brief, firm twist to the right and it will stay. But it hits the flash overhang (where it says "Lumix"). And when you power the camera on, the lens hood moves out with the front of the lens. Turning the camera off with your fingers around the grip can result in pinched fingers, too. So I just left it on in the working orientation.
Controls. With a dSLR-like design, the Panasonic FZ47 sports a lot of buttons, all within easy reach. We found it pretty comfortable to control, with one exception (the Movie button).
On top there's the usual arrangement of the Shutter button and Zoom lever surrounding it on the far end of the grip. The Zoom lever operates at two speeds, too, a boon to video recording. Behind that pair is the Panasonic FZ47's Movie record button and behind that the Focus button, which can change the size and location of focus area or quickly set focus when manually focusing. The Power switch is behind that.
I'm a big fan of switches for the Power control. You have no problem whatsoever 1) finding it or 2) using it. Panasonic has always been ahead of the game there.
To the right of those controls is the Panasonic FZ47's extensive Mode dial. Many of the camera's features are accessed from Scene mode, in fact.
On the back panel, the Electronic Viewfinder sits right above the LCD. It extends back half an inch from the back of the camera, which may seem like a nuisance, but it helps keep your nose off the Panasonic FZ47's LCD. It does have a dioptric adjustment dial to the left as well.
To the left of the EVF is the popup flash release. It's the only control you can't reach with your right hand.
To the right of the EVF is the EVF/LCD toggle button. Right of that is the AF/AE Lock button. And right of that on the Panasonic FZ47's thumb rest is a subdial (a very welcome feature).
To the right of the LCD is the Focus mode button that used to be on the lens itself. Under that is a row of two buttons for the Display mode (which doubles as a Help key) and Playback (which is not on the Mode dial). Playback does not power the camera on. Panasonic keeps things simple.
Under those two is the four-way navigator with discreet buttons for the arrow keys. They double to provide exposure controls. Up is EV Compensation, Right is ISO, Down is a Function button to which you can assign a menu (among Photo Style, Aspect Ratio, Quality, Metering mode, White Balance, Intelligent Dynamic, Guide Lines, Rec Area, Remaining Disp.). And Left is the self-timer.
Excuse me a moment while I stand up and applaud Panasonic for putting ISO on a button. Along with aperture and shutter speed, it's one of the keys to exposure, but is frequently hidden away in the menu system of other digicams.
A Menu/OK button in the middle of the navigator accesses the main menu system for the Panasonic FZ47. Below the navigator is the Quick Menu/Trash button.
Lens. The Panasonic FZ47 uses the same lens as the FZ100, a 24x optical zoom with a focal length of 25mm-600mm (35mm equivalent) and Panasonic's Power O.I.S. lens-based image stabilization system.
Digital zoom options include a conventional 4x option (96x total) as well as Panasonic's Intelligent Zoom (32x total) with less image degradation using Panasonic's Intelligent Resolution and Panasonic's Extra Optical Zoom (29.4x with 4:3 at 8 megapixel), 37.5x at 4:3 with 5 megapixel, 46.9x at 4:3 under 3 megapixel).
The Panasonic FZ47's lens design features three extra-low dispersion elements intended to minimize chromatic aberration, and has a total of 14 elements in 10 groups, of which there are two aspherical lenses with three aspherical surfaces.
Maximum aperture is f/2.8 at wide-angle and f/5.2 at telephoto. In wide-angle the Multistage Iris Diaphragm ranges from f/2.8 to f/8.0 and in telephoto from f/5.2 to f/8.0. So you do have something to play with in Aperture Priority mode.
PROGRAM. In Program mode, you can change exposure using the EV Compensation button. Program Shift is supported via the rear dial.
APERTURE PRIORITY. To select an aperture, set the Mode dial to A and rotate the rear dial. Options vary depending on focal length between f/2.8 and f/8.0.
SHUTTER PRIORITY. To select a shutter speed, set the Mode dial to S and rotate the rear dial. Shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/2,000 second are available.
MANUAL. To set both the aperture and shutter speed, set the Panasonic FZ47's Mode dial to M and rotate the rear dial. Press the rear dial to toggle between aperture and shutter speed. An exposure scale indicates the approximate over or under exposure. The values turn red when they are too low as well.
Apertures vary depending on focal length between f/2.8 and f/8.0. Shutter speeds from 60 seconds to 1/2,000 second are available. There is no Bulb mode.
INTELLIGENT AUTO. Set the Model dial to the red iA camera icon and press the Shutter button halfway down to prompt the Panasonic FZ47 to identify the scene and set the camera appropriately.
The FZ47 can detect Portrait, Macro, Night Scenery, Baby, Scenery, Night Portrait, and Sunset still scenes. In video mode, it can detect Portrait, Scenery, Low Light, and Macro.
CREATIVE CONTROL. Set the Mode dial to the palette icon and use the Up and Down arrows to select a style:
The two Baby settings allow you to set a name and birthday for two different infants, which can then appear during playback or stamped on the recorded image using the Text Stamp feature.
High Sensitivity uses pixel binning to reduce noise. With a 4:3 aspect ratio, image size is three megapixels.
Hi-Speed Burst also uses a smaller image size to grab up to 10 fps with Speed priority or 7 fps with Image priority for between 15 to 100 images.
Flash Burst can capture up to five images continuously with flash while the Shutter button is held down, again at smaller image sizes.
3D Photo takes a series of images before selecting two to combine into a single 3D image viewable on a 3D TV.
ADVANCED SCENE. Panasonic goes Scene mode one better by adding options to the standard scene modes. They're accessible by pressing the Menu/Set button after selecting one of the following modes:
In 16:9 AVCHD mode, image size can be either 1,920 x 1,080 or 1,280 x 720, both at 17 Mbps. At 1080, you're capturing 60i fps and at 720 60p, although the CCD outputs 30 fps.
In 16:9 MP4 mode, image size can be either 1,920 x 1,080 at 20 Mbps or 1,280 x 720 at 10 Mbps. At 4:3, you can capture 640 x 480 at 4 Mbps. All MP4 movies are recorded at 30 fps.
Options, set in the Menu system, include a Wind Cut to prevent recording wind noise and Zoom Mic to record distant sounds at telephoto focal lengths and nearby ones at wide-angle. Optical zoom is of course supported, as is optical image stabilization.
But the real option is to use manual settings when video recording. You can select Program, Aperture Priority (f2.8 to f/11 in wide-angle or f/5.2 to f/11 in telephoto), Shutter Priority (1/30 to 1/20,000 second) or Manual mode (both).
The CCD sensor does limit Full HD recording to 60i (output at 30p) although 720 HD video is recorded at 60p with output at 30p.
CUSTOM. The Custom option on the Mode dial registers most camera settings to C1, C2, or C3 for recall.
Menu System. There are two distinct menu systems on the Panasonic FZ47, just as there are on the FZ100.
The Main Menu system is accessed from the Menu/Set button in the middle of the four-way navigator. That system addresses settings you won't want to change frequently, including Record functions like Autofocus mode (Face Detection, AF Tracking, 23-area focusing, Spot focusing), Digital Zoom, Stabilizer, AF Assist Lamp, Flash (although note there is no Flash Off option because that's accomplished by not popping the flash up). Movie recording options like Wind Cut and Zoom Mic are also accessed here. And all the Setup Options as well.
In Scene mode, you select a different Scene from the Main menu. All the Scenes appear on a tab of their own. And in Advanced Scene modes, the various refinements appear on a tab of their own as well. That's also how you change Creative Control options.
But for settings that might change from shot-to-shot, the Panasonic FZ47's Quick Menu provides a handy menu that runs across the top of the LCD when you press the Q.Menu button below the four-way navigator.
In Program mode, for example, options include Flash mode, Burst shooting, Metering mode, AF mode, White Balance, Aspect Ratio, Picture Size, Movie Recording Quality, and LCD mode. As you scroll across the top of the screen with the arrow keys, the menus pop down to display your options for each setting.
That makes it very quick to change any of those settings. One we frequently took advantage of was the Aspect Ratio setting with options for 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1.
Storage, Battery & Ports. The Panasonic FZ47 includes about 70MB of built-in memory. That's enough to store fifteen 12-megapixel images or two minutes, eight seconds of VGA-quality video.
With a 2GB SD card, however, you can store 388 12-megapixel images or record 15 minutes, 13 seconds of Full HD video.
Panasonic recommends a Class 4 or higher card. The Panasonic FZ47 can handle SD (8MB to 2GB), SDHC (4 to 32GB), or SDXC (48 to 64GB) cards.
The bulky lithium-ion battery packs 7.2 volts with 895 mAh and charges in a compact charger with folding prongs, ideal for travel. Using CIPA standards (which are pretty heavy on zooming and flash use), Panasonic claims 400 shots on a charge or up to 140 minutes of video recording time using the LCD. You can get 330 minutes of playback time using the LCD as well.
Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High-Speed, standard definition composite video output, and mini-HDMI output.
You'll also want to buy a HDMI cable to connect video out to your HDTV if you don't already have one. No AV cable is supplied, not even for the combined AV/USB port.
The Panasonic FZ47 can also take an optional 1.7x telephoto conversion lens (DMW-LT55) or a close-up lens (DMW-LC55), which requires a lens adapter (DMW-LA5) that attaches to the front of the lens housing.
Image Quality. Image quality in our lab shots was impressive. There was little distortion or chromatic aberration (likely corrected in the image processor) and high resolution for a 12 megapixel sensor.
The Resolution Target shows low chromatic aberration in the corners while resolving a full 1,700 lines of resolution. I suspect some software correction of the chromatic aberration, considering the range of the lens.
The ISO 100 Still Life was rendered very well with detail in both the highlights and shadows with fairly accurate and natural color.
The Wide-angle Target showed slightly soft corners as well as very mild barrel distortion while the Telephoto Target showed no measurable distortion, but corners on the right were soft.
We did experience issues in the field with auto exposure, which seemed to overexpose cloudy conditions significantly despite holding highlights in bright sunny scenes.
Color was generally accurate without much oversaturation. There is a shift of blue-greens toward blue, and yellow toward green, but that's common.
Shooting. Any megazoom is a lot of fun because it's small enough to bring along and you don't have to run around much to compose the shot. That long lens does the walking for you whether you're intent on a macro shot or something you can't even see with your naked eye in the distance.
But the Panasonic FZ47 doesn't spoil that fun with a digicam control layout. Whether it's something as small as the forward sloping Shutter button or as significant as the read panel control dial, Panasonic put dSLR-like control of the camera in your hands.
I especially appreciated that with a feature like the camera's aspect ratios. There are quite a few: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1. That's too many for a switch on the lens barrel (which Panasonic has provided in the past) but fine for an easily accessed menu. And Q.Menu provides that easily-accessed menu.
The one situation in which this wasn't the case was with the Movie button. It seems a Movie button (always marked in red) is a requirement now, but it always seems to be a poor way to start and stop recording.
The problem isn't unique to Panasonic, which at least puts the button on the top deck so you press down on it. It's always positioned in an awkward location (especially if it's on the back panel of the camera). You have to stretch a finger to get to it and then you really can't stabilize the camera when you press it. So you throw the viewer for a loop when you start or stop the video.
On the Panasonic FZ47 it may be worth practicing (although you can set the Mode dial to Movie mode and just use the normal Shutter button). Unlike other digicams, the FZ47 gives you a few creative options in video.
The first of these is being able to use PASM modes. The most exciting option there is Aperture Priority, which can give you some control over depth of field (although you won't be rivaling what you can do with a dSLR, of course). But I found Shutter Priority gave a very wide range of options, too. And there are some situations that really can't be handled very well other than manually. So that's a very welcome capability.
I also enjoyed the video modes like monochrome rendering available from the Q.Menu. The full list of options includes Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, and Custom. Custom provides adjustments for Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, and Noise Reduction. That may not be a big deal for still recording (where the color data can be a terrific tool for building a black and white image). But anything that saves post production work in video is a blessing.
Exposure. Our first shots with the Panasonic FZ47 were interesting. As the shutter speed slipped below a hand-holdable 1/30 second, the camera confidently pumped up the ISO. We were shooting in afternoon light from a skylight but the FZ47 settled on ISO 400 and shutter speeds between 1/8 and 1/20 second.
Outdoors in the sunlight, ISO was pegged at 100, although I did manage one shot with a predominantly dark subject at ISO 160.
But outdoors under cloudy skies I had a problem holding onto highlight detail. With Intelligent ISO enabled our shot of a bronze statute was severely overexposed. The Panasonic FZ47 had set ISO to 800 and the shutter speed to 1/250. I noticed that immediately (the highlights were blinking on the LCD in capture review) so I set the Exposure Compensation down to 1.0 EV before I got a good image.
Oddly enough, when I shot in sunlight a few days later, I didn't have that problem. The only thing blown out were specular highlights, which is actually what you want.
Zoom. Our Twin Peaks zoom series hardly does the Panasonic FZ47 justice, even if it does serve as a good comparison with competing models I've taken up there.
For a better idea of what this zoom lets you do, take a look at our Concourse shot in Golden Gate Park. You'd never know these two shots were taken from the same camera position. In fact, I'd better tell you which two I'm talking about: the street with the light post and a gray sky contains the image of Verdi's golden bust preceding it.
I'd also better tell you it was impossible to frame that shot handheld without turning on image stabilization. Verdi was all over the frame until I stabilized the shot. Even then he isn't quite centered. The FZ47 goes further than you can handhold even with image stabilization.
Resolution. The Panasonic FZ47 uses a 12-megapixel sensor. And while that's plenty for even enlarged prints, there's noticeably less detail than the 14-megapixel sensors I've been seeing (and appreciating). You can confirm that on the lab resolution target, as I noted in the Image Quality section. You do see 1,800 lines of resolution in the 14-megapixel Olympus SZ-30MR, for example, whereas the FZ47 manages a clear 1,700.
The Panasonic FZ47 captured a map of Golden Gate Park that clearly shows every detail with sharp type. And the distant shot of the city skyline with the Palace of Fine Arts from Fort Scott clearly captures the type on the freeway signs. The figures fishing on the pier are almost recognizable. In short, the Panasonic FZ47 can see better than you can.
Autofocus. Earlier long zoom digicams suffered a fatal flaw. They were so slow to autofocus at long telephoto focal lengths that they couldn't capture the very kinds of images they promised. Birds especially.
It got to the point I would routinely shoot birds with manual focus set on infinity to avoid the problem.
Unfortunately, we are bereft of birds at the moment. The summer fog does not attract them to the bunker here. So I didn't get to test the FZ47 in action.
But Panasonic claims -- and I can confirm -- that the FZ47 is a fast focuser. To test it, I tried zooming in quickly to a distant target and half-pressing the Shutter button. Performance was on a par with mid-range focal lengths. In short, very quick. And with a very low shutter lag, the FZ47 has to be one of the least frustrating long zooms I've used. The birds, apparently, were warned about it ahead of time.
The Lumix DMC-FZ47 has a 24x zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 25-600mm. 600mm is too long for some of our lab shots, so some of our telephoto results are at 19x (490mm eq.).
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's zoom shows mild blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, though blurring doesn't extend far into the image area. At 19x telephoto, we see much stronger blurring in the left corners of the frame, though the right corners are only mildly soft. Though again, blurring doesn't extend far into the frame. Fairly good performance here.
Geometric Distortion: There's a little barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.25%), and almost no perceptible pincushion distortion (0.08%) at 24x telephoto. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's processor works hard to squash distortion here.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is low in terms of pixel count, with only a hint of bright cyan pixels visible along the target lines. 19x telephoto shows slightly more pixels, with fairly bright yellow-greenish and blue pixels visible, but it's still well-controlled.
Macro: The Panasonic FZ47's Macro mode captures a very sharp image at the center of the frame, with strong detail in the dollar bill. Some blurring is visible in the corners, along with some chromatic aberration (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode), and exposure is quite uneven. Minimum coverage area is 1.54 x 1.15 inches (39 x 29mm), which is very good. Flash exposure is actually better than the standard exposure, though a little on the bright side.
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor showed just slightly over 100% coverage at wide-angle, and close to 101% coverage at 19x telephoto, which is very good.
Color: Overall color looks pretty good, though bright yellows are muted, but strong reds and blues (usually a problem area in terms of saturation) are actually closer to accurate than average. Hue is off in some areas, as yellows are pushed toward green and cyans are strongly pushed toward blue (a common occurrence among digital cameras), and some oranges show a nudge toward yellow. Dark and light skin tones are pretty good, though lighter skin tones do show a push toward magenta. Still, overall very good performance here.
Incandescent: All of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's white balance settings actually performed fairly well here, though each had a slight color shift (the Incandescent more than the others). Manual was most appealing overall, though the Auto results are only slightly off. 2,600 Kelvin, which should match our light source well, appeared pretty cool.
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,700 lines vertically as well. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,200 lines per picture height.
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) doesn't always work well at wide angle when the reported distance goes beyond 16 feet, because that takes the camera out of the main lab. However, by employing the FZ47's spot metering, the target at wide-angle was exposed properly at 31.1 feet, though the camera boosted ISO to 500. The telephoto test came out just a little dim, despite an ISO increase to 400 at 16.7 feet.
Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining only a trace of the ambient light at a somewhat quick shutter speed of 1/60 second, ISO 400. This shutter speed is sufficient to avoid blur due to typical subject motion, and the FZ47's image stabilization will help with typical camera motion. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is well defined at ISO 100 and 200 for its class, with some noticeable deterioration at ISO 400. By ISO 800 and 1,600, details are quite soft and smudged. Chroma (color) noise is present but not very noticeable until ISO 800, though luminance noise is visible at all ISOs. See Printed section below for how this affects prints.
Print Quality: ISO 100 shots look better printed at 13x19 inches. We tried larger sizes, but there was too much grain and too little detail. Luminance noise and chroma noise are still visible to the trained eye at 13x19, but it's not bad.
ISO 200 images are a little softer at 13x19, but chroma noise is reduced as a result, so despite a little luminance noise in the shadows, we think 13x19 is just fine.
ISO 400 images drop in quality significantly, with very soft reds and blurry shadows. They're usable at 11x14, but really better at 8x10.
Overall, the Panasonic FZ47 does reasonably well, but its print quality tracks about one size smaller (except at ISO 200) than what we got out of the FZ150, an unexpected outcome. It's mostly the noisy, messy looking shadows that knock down the quality when compared to the FZ150.
Startup Time: The Lumix DMC-FZ47 takes about 1.8 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's better than average for a long zoom.
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.26 second at wide angle and 0.24 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.113 second, not the fastest out there, but still quick.
Cycle Time: Cycle time is also good, with the FZ47 capturing a frame every 0.78 second in single-shot mode, and every 0.10 second (10 fps) in High-Speed, Speed Priority burst mode (up to 3 megapixels and 100 shots). Full resolution burst mode is rated at 3.7 fps for up to 7 shots, however we did not test that mode.
Flash Recycle: The Lumix DMC-FZ47's flash recycles in about 5 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is about average.
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's download speeds are pretty fast. We measured 7,275 KBytes/sec.
The Panasonic Lumix FZ47 packages a terrific zoom lens with a sensor of sufficient resolution in a compact dSLR design that puts all the controls that matter right at your finger tips. It's a pleasure to use, a delight to explore and about as much fun as you can have with a camera of any type.
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My most serious quibble is the odd exposure under cloudy conditions. If you see blown highlights under those conditions, the workaround is obvious: knock down the EV. So it isn't a fatal problem. My only other quibble is with the default noise reduction at high ISO. That's more the rule than the exception these days, unfortunately, but at least it's adjustable on the FZ47. The fast autofocus at long focal lengths is a real blessing, on the other hand, that you'll enjoy at sporting events or birding. And the Full HD video options are uncommonly sophisticated for a digicam. Its print quality didn't quite rise to the level of the Panasonic FZ150, but if you can get it for around $300, it's a pretty good deal.
So high marks for the Panasonic FZ47, which merits a Dave's Pick for its performance, design and unabashed fun.
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