Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ62 Review

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Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ62
The FZ62 is the successor to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ48 , which was one of our favourite ultra-zoom cameras of 2011. We were particularly impressed that Panasonic had moved from 14 megapixels in the earlier FZ45 to 12megapixels in the FZ48, as this delivered a significant drop in noise levels. This wisdom has sadly escaped Panasonic this time around. While the pricier Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 sticks with a 12-megapixel sensor, the FZ62's resolution has been hiked up to 16
megapixels. This doesn't bode well for noise levels, although the move from a CCD to what Panasonic calls a High Sensitivity MOS sensor might redress the balance – more on this below.

Continuous performance is up from 3.7fps on the FZ48 to 10fps, but this isn't entirely good news
either. Whereas the older model could capture seven shots in a burst, the FZ62 only managed three. An alternative 5fps mode is more useful, not least because the camera can refocus between each shot. This mode only lasted for three frames at 5fps but then continued at 1.7fps rather than stopping. It's not exactly a blistering turn of speed but we appreciate that live view was available while shooting. Elsewhere, performance was excellent, with just one second to switch on and shoot, and 0.7 seconds between shots. Most other features remain as they were on the FZ48. The 3in screen is reasonably sharp but isn't articulated, and the low-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) isn't much fun to use. Higher quality EVFs are starting to appear in ultra-zoom cameras, but only in pricier models such as the FZ200 and Fujifilm X-S1 .

The power switch has been moved to a lever beside the mode dial, which makes room for a dedicated button to access continuous mode settings. The buttons on the back have been tweaked, too, with a new white balance control. There are no less than four buttons dedicated to focus control: one for moving the autofocus point, an auto/macro/manual focus button, another for AF/AE lock and yet another for single or continuous autofocus. If that seems like overkill, the latter two can be reassigned, perhaps to access metering mode and AE bracketing. In short, this is an excellent camera for people who like hands-on control. There are extensive options in the menu to customise image quality, plus control over the maximum ISO speed allowed when Auto ISO is selected. There's full manual exposure control too, but it's disappointing that the slowest shutter speed is now four seconds; on the FZ48 it was 60. Less technical photographers will want to stick to the Intelligent Auto mode, but we found that it sometimes failed to live up to its name. Shooting in moderate-to-low light using telephoto zoom positions, the camera often chose shutter speeds as slow as 1/4 seconds before it was willing to raise the ISO speed beyond 400.

The FZ62's optical stabilisation is pretty good, but it's not that good – most of these shots were blurry. The lens delivers sharp focus at the full 600mm zoom extension. As with previous FZ-series cameras, the FZ62 excels for video. Picture and sound quality were both clear and detailed, and the zoom and focus motors worked smoothly and silently. The AVCHD format delivers clip lengths up to 30 minutes, and there's manual exposure control for videos. There's quite a lot of blooming around over-exposed highlights, and noise is taking its toll in the shadows of this ISO 200 shot.

Photos were impressively sharp, thanks in no small part to the excellent lens and some aggressive digital sharpening, but our studio tests revealed only marginal improvements over the 12-megapixel FZ48. Handling of highlights appears to have regressed, though, with blooming around over-exposed areas of photos. Indoor shots are fine for sharing online, but there's barely any details when viewed up close. It's a welcome relief to find that noise levels at fast ISO speeds were a little lower than from the FZ48, despite the increased resolution. Noise was far from being absent, though, with a slight
graininess to shadows even in brightly lit shots. Dimly lit shots had very little fine details but they looked fine when resized for online sharing. The FZ48 wasn't great in low light, and while we welcome the improvement this time around, we're curious to see how much better the 12-megapixel FZ200 performs.

The FZ62 isn't the most inspiring update, but on balance it's marginally better than the FZ48. The FZ48 is still available for around £220 as we go to press, and is an excellent choice for bargain hunters. But putting end-of-line deals to one side, he FZ62 is the best ultra-zoom currently available under £300.
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