Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 review

18 Nov 2011

This camera does everything, does it brilliantly and at an amazing price. SLR snobs may scoff; for everyone else, it’s a fantastic buy

Price when reviewed: 
319inc VAT
5

For anyone whose photographic aspirations lie beyond a compact camera, there are several different ways to go. For the ultimate in quality and control, you can choose an SLR, but many prefer a bridge (or superzoom) camera such as the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150.

The advantages of bridge cameras are many. They handle like an SLR, yet give you a huge zoom range without the bulk and cost. And compared to most compacts there’s a greater range of control.

So it is with the FZ150. The zoom is longer, at 24x, than most compacts can offer, giving a huge range of 25mm to 600mm (35mm equivalent).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 - front view

Aperture and shutter priority, full manual and program modes give you plenty of control, and it’s packed with SLR-style dials, knobs and buttons. A mode dial on top helps you flick between settings quickly, there’s a thumb wheel for adjusting settings such as aperture, and a dedicated movie button.

It captures RAW and JPEG images at 12.1 megapixels, and video at 1080p and 50fps in either AVCHD or MP4 format, and it sports a 202kpixel electronic viewfinder as well as a 3in fully articulated screen. Impressively, there’s also a hotshoe for mounting a flash, and a 2.5mm jack for connecting an external microphone.

The half-inch sensor can’t match an SLR’s for size and light-capturing capabilities, but responsiveness and performance is very good. We measured a shutter lag of 0.4 seconds and shot-to-shot performance at 0.8 seconds – as good as any compact we’ve seen before. Even with the flash on, that only drops to one second between shots, and in burst mode you can shoot 12 shots at full resolution in a second.

And quality, despite the small sensor, is stunningly good. At full zoom and full wide, shots look sharp across the board, with no fringing or distortion. Automatic exposures were consistently expertly judged and colours perfectly balanced. In low light, even at ISO 3200 noise is remarkably well controlled, although some detail is inevitably lost as the camera’s noise reduction routines battle to produce clean images.

In video mode, it’s even better. The Active Power OIS image stabilisation system works brilliantly to smooth out hand shake, to the extent that it’s even possible to walk while shooting without producing jittery footage. Autofocus is fast and the zoom motor, while just about audible in a quiet room, is silent in most everyday situations.

The quality of footage is surprisingly clean in low light, near-flawless in good light, and audio from the built in stereo microphones is excellent. An option on the mode dial, meanwhile, allows you to use the camera in aperture and shutter priority, program and full manual, and adjust the ISO sensitivity. You can’t make changes while shooting, though.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

All in all, the new top-end bridge camera from Panasonic is a triumph. It’s the fastest camera of its type we’ve ever tested, and faster than any compact we’ve ever looked at. It’s stuffed with controls and features, and it produces excellent quality stills. The price might seem a little high at the outset, but when you consider you’re getting video quality to rival the best single-sensor camcorders, as well as a 600mm zoom lens, it suddenly looks an absolute steal.

Details

Price ex VAT £266
Price inc VAT £319
Overall rating 6
Performance 6
Features & Design 6
Image quality 5
Value for Money 6

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 12.1mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 24x
Camera maximum resolution 4000 x 3000

Weight and dimensions

Weight 536g
Dimensions 121 x 113 x 80mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 410 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f2.8 - f5.2
Camera minimum focus distance 0.01m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 25
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 600
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/2,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 15s
Bulb exposure mode? no
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 3EV
ISO range 100 - 6400
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 12.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SDXC
Viewfinder coverage 100%
LCD resolution 460k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Plastic
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type Proprietary USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? yes
Software supplied PHOTOfunSTUDIO 6.3 HD Lite Edition
Accessories supplied Shoulder strap, lens hood