fz45

The lens on the FZ45 is a newly designed Leica DC Vario Elmarit unit with a 25-600mm range (35mm equivalent).

The aperture range of f/2.8 to f/5.2, so this is a reasonably fast and bright lens in less than perfect lighting conditions. Of course, the downside of such as long built-in lens is the risk of camera shake, so to beat the jitters, the DMC-FZ45 includes an optical image stabilizer with three modes – more on this later.

The sensor is a CCD-type device with 14.1 effective pixels. Able to shoot both JPEG and RAW, the DMC-FZ45 delivers large and detailed files, which should be more than enough in terms of size and detail for the target audience.

Image processing is taken care of by the clunkily named Venus Engine HD 11, and the camera has an ISO range of 100-1600 (note this can be expanded but we'd stick to these levels).

Other interesting new features include face recognition and a rear control 'jog' dial for adjusting aperture and shutter speed.

fz45

The rear screen is better than the FZ38's too. It's three inches, compared to the older camera's 2.7 inches, and with 230,000 dots, it's nice and clear.

We certainly preferred using the rear LCD for composing images as although it can be struggle to use in bright sunlight, it's nicer to use than the rather cramped electronic viewfinder (it's a shame Panasonic hasn't taken the opportunity to improve the mediocre EVF, as it's basically the same you get with the DMC-FZ8).

The menus have been overhauled so they're easier to use and cover the extra options available with this camera; while reasonably intuitive, they still aren't as slick as a Canon or Nikon interface.

While the FZ45 is not a particularly bulky camera, it's not that compact either. Even with that monster zoom lens retracted, it's 120 x 80 x 92mm in size, though the camera is fairly light at 94 with battery. The lens extends by a full six centimetres, so don't stick it in your trouser pocket or you could get arrested for indecency!