While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45's lens may not be removable like a dSLR, with such a broad focal range on offer -- 25mm to 600mm equivalent in 35mm terms for here -- this could well be all the lens you'll ever need. It's as adept at snapping candid portraits as it is at squeezing the landscape into your frame.
Expect to pay in the region of £250 for this 14.1-megapixel, 24x megazoom, which isn't much more than a standard 5x zoom pocket model -- and quite the bargain if it lives up to its promise.
Flick the top-mounted on/off switch and the FZ45 readies itself for action in just over two seconds, the rear LCD blinking into life and the lens adjusting to maximum wide-angle setting, poised for the first shot.
With styling and handling that make it appear like a baby digital SLR, Panasonic is describing the FZ45 as a 'hybrid sports' model, a curious description that makes it sound like an energy drink rather than the successor to the superb.
The sports bit means it can shoot up to 10 frames per second and also features AF tracking to keep your subject in focus as they move through the frame. The trade-off is a resolution drop to 3 megapixels at top shooting speed, so images will appear softer than they already do at maximum zoom setting.
The hybrid part refers to the FZ45's ability to shoot HD video. It offers HD movies in AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG format with the bonus of stereo sound. Left and right microphones are located above the FZ45's lens and set within the mechanism for the pop-up flash to keep the camera compact.
There's also a very useful one-touch video record button, a press of which kick-starts recording whichever alternate shooting mode might be selected on the chunky mode dial at any given time.
Ready for its close up
To continue with the positives, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 is robustly built, if a little plasticky to the touch. It sports a fixed, non-tilting 3-inch, 230k-dot LCD -- look to the FZ100 if you'd prefer a rotating screen.
A dedicated button allows users to switch between the electronic viewfinder and the LCD, but most of the time we didn't feel the need to deviate from the larger screen, which was perfectly adequate under most lighting conditions.