Announced in end August 2011, the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ150 appears to be the replacement for the FZ100 which was launched about 16 months ago.
The FZ100 had a reputation for ‘soft images’, which could be the reason for this new avatar. Whilst Panasonic has taken care of that issue, they have added some new features to make the FZ150 a most sought-after ‘all-in-one’ camera.
Design and Build Quality
Reasonably compact, the handsome-looking Panasonic FZ150 appears well-built. The body is made from polycarbonate.
Let’s first see the key differences between the FZ100 and the new, FZ150.
|Effective Pixels||14.1 million||12.1 million|
|Video format||AVCHD||MPEG 4|
|Storage included||40 MB
At the outset it may appear that the FZ150 is a scaled-down version of the FZ100, but let’s not jump to conclusions. Panasonic must have had a good reason to do this.
The Lumix FZ150 is a 12.1 megapixel bridge camera utilizing a newly designed MOS sensor, with a (24x) Leica DC Vario Elmarit 25-600mm equivalent zoom lens – the same focal length as in the FZ100. The lens incorporates 14 elements in 10 groups. The maximum apertures haven’t changed too; they remain at f/2.8 at the wide-angle end and f/5.6 at the longer end. A significant change is the inclusion of Nano Surface Coating on the lens elements, which reduce flare and ghosting, and a new 3D Photo Mode. The FZ150 offers Panasonic’s tried and tested lens-shift Power O. I. S. (image stabiliser) with a new ‘Active mode’ that helps reduce jitters in movie recording even when the user is walking. Panasonic claim that their new Noise Reduction software dramatically reduces noise in low-light situations.
The Mode Dial offers various shooting modes: P, A, S, M for the advanced user, and various Scene Modes, along with iA (intelligent Auto), for the beginner. A Movie mode and a Custom mode is also provided. The basic owner’s manual supplied with the camera implies that the Scene modes are also for the advanced users. Panasonic, just to put things in order, advanced users don’t use Scene Modes!
The FZ150 has a colour LCD viewfinder with a resolution of approximately 202,000 dots, and is complemented by a 3-inch TFT LCD having approximately 461,000 dots. A pop-up flash is built-in and works from 30cm to 9.5m when the camera is set to ISO Auto at the wide-angle setting. The camera shoots video at 1920 x 1080 60p (60 fps) Full HD AVCHD Progressive (MPEG-4 / H.264) format. You can shoot still images at 3.5 MP during video recording, with stereo sound and wind-cut functions.
Setting up the FZ150 is simple. Let’s see the main settings. The first press of the Menu button will bring you to Photo Styles: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, and Custom. Select the one you want. Under each of these settings, the user can adjust contrast, sharpness, colour, and noise reduction levels. The next is the Aspect ratio. You can select between 4:3 (12 MP), 3:2 (10.5 MP), 16:9 (9 MP), and 1:1 (9 MP). Then comes the Quality setting. You can set JPEG, Uncompressed / Compressed; and RAW, Compressed / Uncompressed. Sensitivity can be set to Auto, iISO (intelligent ISO), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200. White Balance on the FZ150 can be set for Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, Incandescent,Custom 1 and 2, Kelvin Temperature, and of course, Auto. Autofocus can be set to Face Detect, Center, Multi-spot, and User Selectable. Three metering modes are available: Matrix, Center-weighted, and Spot.
The lens can be zoomed from wide to telephoto (or vice versa) using the rocker switch surrounding the shutter release button. The FZ150 also has a rocker switch (T / W) on the left of the housing to control the zoom. A focus switch adjacent to the T/W rocker switch allows the user to select between AF, AF with Macro, and Manual Focus. There is another button under the focus selector switch, that allows you to autofocus even when you are in the manual focus mode. The 25-600mm equivalent lens autofocuses from 30cm (W) / 2m (T) to infinity. In Macro / iA / and Motion Picture mode however, it can focus from 1cm (W) / 1m (T) to infinity. The FZ150 offers up to 5.5 fps full-resolution shooting with autofocus, and up to 12 fps without autofocus. Panasonic claim that the AF speed of the FZ150 is about 50-percent faster than in the FZ100.
The Lumix FZ150 can create 3D composites. It does so by shooting 20 panning shots from which the camera automatically selects the two most suitable images (one for the right eye, one for the left) and creates the 3D images, which of course need to be viewed on any VIERA 3D HD TV.
The FZ150 has an internal storage memory of 70MB and uses SD/SDHC/SDXC card for external memory. The camera is powered by a li-ion battery pack and weighs approximately 512g with card and battery.
The lightweight FZ150 is very easy to hold and use. The hand-grip is well designed and the thumb-rest further helps to steady the camera. The User Interface is simple and the swivelling type LCD helps in low-level/high-level shots. It should be noted however that Panasonic does not provide a complete User Manual in print (only a basic owner’s manual – which leaves a lot to be desired – is provided in print). A user who wishes to really understand the camera, will have to get the User Manual printed from the supplied CD. This not only adds to the cost, it is a dis-service to users.
The overall performance of the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ150 was very good. Images ranged from sharp to acceptably sharp (nearing the longer end, one could say that they were not as sharp as at the shorter focal lengths). The Power O. I. S. definitely improved the percentage of sharp images with hand-held photography. White Balance was exceptionally good (other than the Auto White Balance with incandescent light, which gave a reddish cast). In all fairness, AWB generally works from 3200K to 6500K and household bulbs can often be lower than 3000K. Autofocus was quite fast, but at the longer focal lengths – and especially with low-contrast/low light level subjects – proved a bit difficult at times. Metering accuracy was good, though, as with all cameras using smaller sensors, highlight burnouts were noticeable in strong light. Darkening of corners with the lens wide open at the wide-angle setting was negligible, which is good. The User Interface was friendly. Flare could be seen in strong against-the-light shots and so also some blue-magenta fringing. Barrel distortion at various levels was noticeable throughout the focal range.
What about the digital noise? After all, most users worry about noise from small sensor cameras. For this test we shot only in JPEG format. Images from RAW files should be better at controlling noise. At 16.7 percent screen size, there was no noise throughout the ISO range. That would roughly be equal to an image size of 13 x 10 inches at 300ppi. At 25 percent screen size, once again, no discernible noise throughout the range (though if you were to compare the ISO 100 and ISO 3200 images, you would see a slight difference). At 50 percent screen size, noise could be seen at ISO 800 (if you start looking for it), but acceptable up to ISO 1600. Overall, a very decent performance.
Value for Money
The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ150 is available at an MRP of Rs.24,990. At this price and performance, we consider it a fair price.
+ Very good White Balance
+ Good image quality
+ 24x Zoom
– No user manual in print
Design and Build Quality 16/20
Key Features 17/20
Noise Control 4/5
Value for Money 7/10
Grand Total 81.5/100
The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ150 is an impressive camera. Its 25-600mm equivalent focal range is more than adequate for most photographic situations, including wildlife. We suggest that in spite of its versatile Power O. I. S., whenever possible, try to use the FZ150 with a steady tripod for crisper images, especially at the longer focal lengths. As long as you do not compare the results with those from a D-SLR (and that goes for any compact or bridge camera), you will be very happy with the results.