The results were very similar when shot using the flash. Again it set the sensitivity to ISO 400, but halved the shutter speed to 1/60 second. Once more, exposure and colour retention was very well balanced, with only very slight noise and little in the way of harsh shadows. Impressive all round.
There's no getting away from the fact that the FZ48 is a chunky beast. It's compact, with a fat hand grip and a snubby barrel that makes it comfortable to hold for extended periods. The shutter release is set on the point of the grip, with a rather stiff zoom control surrounding it. We hope that with extended use this would loosen up.
What won't improve over time, though, is the electronic viewfinder, which is grainy and slow to update. Sweep across the scene you want to frame and it ticks past, rather than sliding. Fortunately there's no such problem with the rear-mounted LCD, which is bright and crisp, with room for plenty of shooting data. However, the low-def on-screen menus are starting to look outdated and could do with some smartening up.
Fortunately you needn't use the menus too often as the most commonly used scene modes, including landscape, sport and night portrait, have dedicated spots on the shooting mode selector. These sit alongside program, aperture and shutter priority, full manual and intelligent auto. This latter mode is becoming more common in consumer cameras. It greatly eases the shooting experience, both for first-timers and anyone who wants to think more about what they're snapping than the physics of achieving the result they want.
Aperture and shutter priority modes are well implemented, with a rear-mounted thumbwheel running you through each scale. Pressing it while tweaking manual mode switches you between the shutter and aperture settings.
Impressively, these modes are also available in movie mode, allowing you to set aperture and shutter speed manually on your videos.
There's little else in the FZ48's specs and settings that strays far from what we've come to expect in a high-end consumer camera. Maximum shutter speed is 1/2,000 of a second, with the slowest pegged at 60 seconds. Sensitivity runs on a scale from ISO 100 to ISO 1,600, with a high sensitivity mode pushing this yet further to ISO 6,400. The two- and 10-second self-timer options are supplemented by a second 10-second setting that takes three separate shots. Images are written to SD, SDHC, SDXC or 70MB of internal storage, which is enough for 15 shots at the highest quality setting.
The FZ48's native movie format is AVCHD at a maximum resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels at 50fps interlaced. As with its stills performance, the results here are excellent.
Detail remained sharp throughout our pans and zooms, with vibrant, realistic colours accurately captured. We were particularly impressed by how efficiently it suppressed the noise of the zoom. The mechanism is fairly quiet anyway, but you'll have to listen very closely indeed to find any trace of it on our videos.
We were less impressed by its wind noise suppression, which was set to auto throughout our tests, but it regained some points for the efficiency with which it captured the sounds of distant subjects in less breezy locations.
Small, neat and richly featured: add up the specs and the FZ48 starts to look like a bargain. On its own, a bright dSLR lens of equivalent power to this one would cost several times the price of this whole camera. What you're not getting, of course, is the larger sensor found in a dSLR or the option to swap out that lens for a fish-eye or other creative element. That second criticism is true of any superzoom, and the first is easy to counter: by keeping a lid on the pixel count, this camera delivers equivalent results to a dSLR anyway -- just on a slightly smaller scale.
The FZ48 is one of the most versatile cameras you can buy right now without an interchangeable lens. If you're not yet ready to step up to a dSLR, it's the perfect halfway house.