Since 2010, Panasonic has been offering shoppers a choice of two bridges per year—one slightly pricey flagship camera and one more ordinary model. This year, the ambitious and expensive Lumix FZ200 is accompanied by the more reasonably priced FZ62. This model is quite similar to the Lumix FZ48, but gets new electronics, including a 16-Megapixel CMOS sensor.
Panasonic clearly isn't going to invest a load of cash in R&D for a camera at this level in its range. The FZ62 body therefore inherits a lot from 2011's FZ48. The rear face is virtually identical, in fact. A few minor changes have been made to the upper edge (a "Burst" button has arrived and the on/off switch is now around the mode-selection dial). The most noticeable change on the front is that the red ring around the lens is now grey in colour. Build quality is still pretty good, even if quality isn't as flattering as with the likes of the Fuji HS30. All in all, the FZ62 is a well-made albeit relatively bog-standard bridge.
The FZ62 screen is lifted straight out of the FZ48, with the same acceptable definition, the same reasonably wide viewing angles and the same problems with reproducing light tones and colours accurately. We wouldn't recommend that you rely too much on the onscreen image for sorting and deleting photos or for setting the exposure.
The FZ62 inherits the FZ48 viewfinder too, together with its only-too-visible rainbow effects and below-par definition (202,000 dots). Plus, colour reproduction is verging on crazy, with a very strong blue overtone and bright, light zones that are completely overexposed. Strangely, though, the EVF here is actually bigger than the viewfinder in the FZ200 (see above), which boasts a definition four times as high! It's hard to say which one we prefer—it's a toss-up between a more comfortable size or a higher level of fine detail. In any case, neither of the two is fully satisfactory.
The menus and general handling are standard Panasonic fare. The FZ62 is therefore easy to use, effective in iA mode, and offers easy access to advanced modes and settings thanks to the clickable thumb-wheel and two customisable buttons.
The Lumix FZ62 takes 1.3 seconds to take a first photo from the moment you flip the "on" switch. That's very, very good for a bridge!
And the other results are just as good, with fast photo-to-photo turnaround and an autofocus that's effective in all conditions (although the FZ200 does slightly better, particularly at telephoto—the constant lens aperture no doubt helps).
The burst mode, on the other hand, is nothing special, shooting two frames per second. That's actually a slight step backwards compared with the FZ48.
The lens in this Lumix FZ62 bridge has already been seen elsewhere. In fact, it has been used with relative success in FZ-series cameras from 2011 and 2012. The sensor is a 16-Megapixel "high sensitivity" MOS sensor (probably a BSI CMOS). The tech specs show that this isn't the same Sony sensor that was used in a whole load of 2012 compacts (which has 16.8 native Megapixels whereas this Panasonic sensor only has 17.5). It'll therefore be interesting to see how it compares with the competition.
Noise is handled well up to 800 ISO, where a touch of smoothing starts to kick in. At 1600 ISO this gets considerably heavier, wiping out detail from the shot. At this setting, noise is visible in 4" x 6" prints (11 x 15 cm). In fact, it's probably the highest realistically usable ISO setting here. All in all, there's been a notable improvement compared with the FZ48, but the FZ62 is no match for the Canon SX50 or the Sony HX200V (which processes images a little heavily, but takes excellent 4" x 6" shots at 1600 ISO).
The lens shouldn't really hold any surprises, but it proved particularly good in our test model. At wide-angle, sharpness levels are more consistent over the frame than in previous cameras we've seen with this lens. Plus, general sharpness levels stay good as you zoom. At the maximum zoom setting, quality is excellent over the whole of the frame.
The FZ62 films 1080i HD video at 50 fields per second. It's no surprise to see that image quality is pretty good, although light, bright zones do tend to get overexposed. What's more, the continuous autofocus is actually quite effective, even when you zoom. Sound quality is decent, with an audible stereo effect (although spatialisation could be better) and a relatively accurate output.