One of the replacements, the FZ100, is the brand's flagship offering, while the other, the FZ45, is a more basic proposition, with a reasonable combination of features and a friendlier price.
HandlingOverall, the FZ45 picks up where the FZ38 left off. The camera is solid enough for a mid-range bridge, but is nothing like the Fuji HS10. In general, it feels pretty plasticky, despite the well-designed handle and careful construction.
Still, the screen has grown to 3'' and now shows 460 000 pixels, which is welcome news. A few of the controls have moved, with the button to launch video recording now on the top, just behind the main shutter release; the joystick has been replaced by a clickable scroll wheel. Opinion was divided in the office about this switch to an interface similar to that of the brand's Micro Four-Thirds cameras: I'm glad to see the scroll wheel but Renaud wishes the joystick were still there. Personally, my only real criticism is the location of the Q.Menu button which is used to give fast access to the most common settings and is used much more frequently than the control which falls more naturally under your thumb, used for toggling between the viewfinder and the LCD screen.
The viewfinder was one thing we all agreed on. We've seen excellent LCoS viewfinders on both the G and GH families from Panasonic, while Olympus fits its Micro Four-Thirds models out with gorgeous LCDs, but the one used here is the same as on the FZ38. It's small, with low contrast, an unusual shape and while it have been just about acceptable for a a bridge camera last year, it's now a disgrace.
There are no nasty surprises with the FZ45's software, which follows Panasonic's relatively clear logic. An iA mode works well for beginners, while everybody else can set things up just how they like. We have no complaints about that.
ResponsivenessThis is one area where the FZ45 shows its lineage in the FZ38 very clearly. It takes 1.5 seconds to power up, which is not at all bad given the size of the zoom lens, while the autofocus is just under a second under all conditions. Its burst mode is as sluggish as ever, with three photos in two seconds. There is one very pleasant surprise, though: you only need to wait 1.2 s for it to save a photo, unlike some 14 Megapixel compacts that we've seen which take over three seconds to do the same job.
Image QualityWhat more can we say? That the 14 Megapixel CCD sensor isn't the best sensor we've ever seen? We've said that so many times over the past few years. Noise is visible at 200 ISO, remains in check at 400 ISO but at 800 ISO the blurriness that is supposed to counteract it becomes annoying in its own right, visibly affecting an A4 print.
Panasonic follows it usual habit of delivering a decent performance from the lens no matter where the 24x zoom is. Photos are always sharp in the centre of the frame, and although the wide-angle loses a little detail around the edges, we were impressed by how even things were at 400 mm.
Compare the Panasonic FZ45 to other digital cameras in our Product Face-Off
VideoIn this regard, the FZ45 is a direct descendant of the FZ38. Like its predecessor, it shoots in 720p and records in AVCHD with stereo sound. You can use the zoom, though it's been slowed down to make for more gradual transitions. The audio quality is amongst the best you'll get from a digital camera, with blurriness largely contained. A lot of cameras (including, of course, the FZ100), have moved over to Full HD, but for 720p, this is very good stuff.
- Easy to use, simple interface
- Image quality at low sensitivities with powerful stabilisation
- Generally responsive to power up and save photos
- Video with zoom
- Good quality stereo mic
- Limited sensitivity (avoid 800 ISO and especially 1600 ISO)
- Mediocre electronic viewfinder
- No rotating screen
- Live view jerky in low light
The FZ45 is the latest in a long line of bridge cameras. Unsurprisingly, it's a very good camera that's a treat to use, but it really doesn't need 14 Megapixels and we would have preferred a BSI CMOS sensor to this old CCD ...