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Panasonic Lumix FZ45 Expert Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45

Rating: ★★★★☆

The big selling point of the Lumix DMC-FZ45 is a fixed 24x optical zoom, while secondary benefits include an overhauled AF system (the grandiosely named ‘Sonic Speed’) and 720p HD video recording in both motion JPEG and AVCHD Lite format.

There’s an intuitively placed video record button, and it’s all very straightforward. Indeed, there are the lots of other helpful widgets for camera novices, such as Intelligent Auto mode, while more experienced users are catered for by a proper PASM dial. Intelligent Auto mode is also available when shooting HD video, along with Aperture Priority mode for more confident users.

fz45   fz45

At this price, we predict the DMC-FZ45 will do really well. It’s significantly cheaper than more SLR-like hybrids such as the Olympus Pen 2 and Sony NEX-5, while still offering plenty of advanced features.

The DMC-FZ45 certainly seems better equipped than comparatively priced compacts such as the Canon IXUS 300HS, for example.

When it comes to big zooms, a key rival is the Fujifilm Finepix HS10. It offers an even more impressive 30x zoom and is now retailing around £350. Three hundred quid or so will also account for the lion’s share of an entry level SLR such as the Canon EOS 1000D, which comes with an interchangeable, rather than fixed, lens.

Another challenge for Panasonic will be persuading customers to stump up the extra cash to buy this, rather than the excellent Lumix TZ10; as
mentioned, much of the sales pitch is based on that monster zoom lens and foolproof video mode.

Panasonic Lumix FZ45: Features

The lens on the FZ45 is a newly designed Leica DC Vario Elmarit unit with a 25-600mm range (35mm equivalent).

The aperture range of f/2.8 to f/5.2, so this is a reasonably fast and bright lens in less than perfect lighting conditions. Of course, the downside of such as long built-in lens is the risk of camera shake, so to beat the jitters, the DMC-FZ45 includes an optical image stabilizer with three modes – more on this later.

The sensor is a CCD-type device with 14.1 effective pixels. Able to shoot both JPEG and RAW, the DMC-FZ45 delivers large and detailed files, which should be more than enough in terms of size and detail for the target audience.

Image processing is taken care of by the clunkily named Venus Engine HD 11, and the camera has an ISO range of 100-1600 (note this can be expanded but we’d stick to these levels).

fz45   fz45

Other interesting new features include face recognition and a rear control ‘jog’ dial for adjusting aperture and shutter speed.

The rear screen is better than the FZ38′s too. It’s three inches, compared to the older camera’s 2.7 inches, and with 230,000 dots, it’s nice and clear.

We certainly preferred using the rear LCD for composing images as although it can be struggle to use in bright sunlight, it’s nicer to use than the rather cramped electronic viewfinder (it’s a shame Panasonic hasn’t taken the opportunity to improve the mediocre EVF, as it’s basically the same you get with the DMC-FZ8).

The menus have been overhauled so they’re easier to use and cover the extra options available with this camera; while reasonably intuitive, they still aren’t as slick as a Canon or Nikon interface.

While the FZ45 is not a particularly bulky camera, it’s not that compact either. Even with that monster zoom lens retracted, it’s 120 x 80 x 92mm in size, though the camera is fairly light at 94 with battery. The lens extends by a full six centimetres, so don’t stick it in your trouser pocket or you could get arrested for indecency!

Panasonic Lumix FZ45: Image quality

It needs to be said from the start that that 24x zoom lens can be a mixed blessing.

In terms of optical performance, we were impressed. For the money there is minimal distortion and the DMC-FZ45 delivers sharp and punchy images from the box. The biggest problem, along with most fixed-lens super zoom cameras, is shake.

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ANTI-SHAKE: In decent light, the built-anti shake really helps keep things steady at full 24x zoom

To get the most from the impressive telephoto reach of this lens you must use a tripod, or at the very least select a fast shutter speed/higher ISO setting. As mentioned, the DMC-FZ45 is quite a light camera, so even braced against a wall, keeping that lens steady while shooting handheld would challenge an SAS sniper.

LENS: The quality f/2.8 lens and long zoom makes it easy to blur background

Otherwise, image performance is impressive. The large sensor and image processor deliver well exposed and colourful images and the metering system is flexible and intelligent.

We noticed the overhauled AF is faster too, though the maximum burst rate of this camera isn’t as good as some of its competitors.

fz45   fz45

COLOURS: Colours are rich and pleasing without being overblown or garish

Noise is pretty well controlled on the DMC-FZ45 (see ISO tests). Things start to get smudgy and smeary at ISO 800 but images are impressively clean below that. The DMC-FZ45 is also good for close-ups. The Macro enables you to focus on a flower, for example, that’s just one centimetre away (remember to retract the lens to wide-angle mode though).

SHARPNESS: Lens performance is good for the money with minimal distortion

The much-vaunted Intelligent Resolution feature uses smart image processing technology and digital zoom to beef up the resolution of standard shots. As with so many of these clever widgets, we couldn’t see a huge improvement, so if you want maximum detail and resolution from your shots, shoot in RAW.

fz45   fz45

METERING: The smart metering system copes well with a variety of challenging light conditions though it’s blown out some highlights here…

MACRO: Close up/Macro performance is also impressive for the money


LOW LIGHT: But in trickier light, it struggles to beat camera shake – you’ll need to get a tripod to get the most from this camera

And you absolutely must turn on the lens stabilization. For some reason this sensor-shift system is not turned on by default, which is really annoying.

The anti-shake system works well enough when you do turn it on, though we found we needed to activate the most powerful mode when shooting in low light at the full 24x zoom. A far better solution is to get a tripod and cable release (to be fair to Panasonic, it’s wise to use a tripod when shooting with a long lens on a similarly priced interchangeable lens camera, too).

Panasonic Lumix FZ45: ISO performance

We tested the Panasonic Lumix FZ45 at every ISO setting. Here are the results…

lumix fz45   lumix fz45

ISO 400…

lumix fz45   lumix fz45

lumix fz45

Panasonic Lumix FZ45: Video sample

As mentioned, you can shoot in 1280 x 720p HD video, in Motion JPEG or AVCHD Lite mode.

The quality of movies is up to Panasonic’s usual standards, though it’s a shame you can’t shoot in full 1080p HD mode.

It’s very easy to activate movie mode via an unmissable red button on the top, and there’s a good range of exposure control. Intelligent Auto mode is available in movie mode, or you can stick to conventional PASM controls.

It’s also good to be able to make use of the 24x optical zoom when shooting video, along with face detection. There’s a proper stereo mic built-in, and a wind Cut function also helps to block out background wind.

We liked:

This is well made camera, delivering rich and detailed images from the box. The 24x zoom lens removes the need to carry around an extra telephoto lens and it’s almost impossible to mess up the HD video recording. There’s a good range of helpful widgets but plenty of options for more experienced users too.

We disliked:

Camera shake is a real problem when you shoot at the telephoto end, so you must turn on the anti-shake system. The electronic viewfinder is cramped and you don’t get full 1080p HD video. 24 x optical zoom is impressive, but it’s not the longest in class.

Here’s some more articles you might like:


  • Dead-easy HD movie mode
  • Flexible 24x zoom lens


  • Shaky at full zoom
  • Cramped EVF
  • Not full 1080p video


The Lumix FZ45 is a very appealing buy, and a convincing upgrade of the FZ38 – though Panasonic has missed some tricks.

There’s a lot to like about this camera, so long as you’re aware of the limitations of the monster lens and the HD video recording features. If you don’t want the hassle of changing lenses, the DMC-FZ45′s smart technology, quality optics and convincing image quality make it a great buy for £300.

Panasonic Lumix FZ45 Expert Review


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