HandlingFrom the outside, the Lumix FZ48 very nearly a clone of the FZ45. It has exactly the same controls in exactly the same layout, and the only real differences between the two models are purely aesthetic tweaks—a few new logos, a flash that's better-integrated into the camera body, microphones that have been moved back a bit etc. The build is therefore pretty decent, although it's nothing out of the ordinary—the Fuji HS20, for example, feels more sturdy on first contact. The camera's design and controls are effective, relatively simple, and offer direct access to all the more frequently used settings, even if the location of the Q.Menu button is debatable.
One major difference in this 2011 model, however, is the screen. The FZ48 has finally got itself a 460,000-dot definition display, instantly making it much more pleasant to use. Just make sure you take care when sorting through and deleting photos in playback mode, as the screen's super-high contrast tends to overexpose bright parts of pictures, making them look more blinding onscreen than they actually are. On top of that, colours aren't reproduced particularly accurately.
ResponsivenessThe FZ48 is a fairly responsive bridge. It starts up in under two seconds, which isn't great, but is still OK for this type of camera. The autofocus works well, particularly at wide-angle settings, and the photo-to-photo turnaround time is barely noticeable at around a second.
In this field, the 'hi-speed' CCD doesn't seem to bring any noticeable improvements, as the FZ48 is barely more responsive than the FZ45. The only truly noticeable difference is the burst mode, which now snaps at 2.8 frames per second.
Picture QualityPicture quality should be pretty predictable with the FZ48, as the lens comes straight from the FZ45 and the electronics from the FT3.
However, the image processing system does seem to be a little different in the FZ45 compared with the FT3. The FZ48 takes pictures that are slightly lighter, which in turn makes noise a bit more visible, especially at 800 ISO. In practice, shots taken at 400 ISO are still fine but, like with the FT3, any higher ISO settings should be used with care.
The FZ48 has the same lens as the FZ45, even if some of the optical elements now have different surface treatments. In any case, we didn't notice any great differences: at wide-angle settings the picture is very good in the middle of the frame but some sharpness is lost around the edges. Quality becomes more consistent across the frame as you start to zoom and is excellent over the whole shot at 600 mm.
VideoAnother major new feature in the FZ48 is Full HD video, now made possible by the 'hi-speed' CCD. The results are excellent too: the FZ48 shoots a very sharp image, even though the dynamic range could be better and fuzzy noise is visible in low light.
As with the FZ45, sound quality is good, with an audible stereo effect and hissing noises that are kept in check.