Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 review
This camera does everything, does it brilliantly and at an amazing price. SLR snobs may scoff; for everyone else, it’s a fantastic buy
Review Date: 18 Nov 2011
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £266 (£319 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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).
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.
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.
Author: Jonathan Bray
The image quality.....
is impressive, although there is no macro image and there is no comment on how the camera handles itself when taking macro images. The comment about SLRs being bulky is a bit harsh because low end "consumer" SLRs are quite portable and are no bigger than most superzooms.......
By DeanC on 18 Nov 2011
To be fair, the exact quote was "yet give you a huge zoom range without the bulk and cost" and I tend to agree with that. I used to shoot a full frame camera with 500mm lens, the total weight of the rig was nearly 6kg - that's some bulk for you.
By Lomskij on 20 Nov 2011
Its still a small sensor camera
Rave review, but looking at the 1:1 crops (and others on the web) its still evidently clear that this is a 'small sensor' camera and in no way comparable to the quality from a DSLR. I'm aware that in Jonathan Bray's view this makes me an 'SLR snob' but in my opinion it shows that I feel ultimate image quality is critically important.
I've got no doubt that this is a very good camera FOR A COMPACT/BRIDGE, but to imply that it is virtually as good as an SLR is just silly in my opinion.
Also, the 24x zoom may sound impressive, but just how much would it be used? I've got an SLR and a 12x travel zoom compact and I find full zoom to be almost unusable without setting the camera on a tripod first and pictures at full zoom are disappointingly low in contrast compared to the excellent quality at wide angle.
Zoom range appears to be the same as the 'Megapixel race' for compacts: headline-grabbing, but does it really yield much practical advantage unless you're a pro sports or wildlife photographer? If you were, I don't think you would be using a DMC-FZ150 anyway.
Don't get me wrong, I think Panasonic make superb cameras (my compact is a TZ7 and I've yet to come across another compact that takes significantly better shots in good light) but a compact is NOT and SLR and its wrong in my opinion to give the impression that they are a viable alternative.
If you think I'm an SLR snob then so be it, but I speak from personal experience of owning and using many examples of both and I can see the evidence with my own eyes looking at sample shots from this camera.
By kenfield3 on 24 Nov 2011
SLR snob! I don't think so. A person who understands the difference between the quality of cameras aimed at entirely different markets, yes.
I'm sure that Jonathan Bray would feel equally aggrieved if you suggested in a review of a netbook that it was the equal of a Macbook Pro or some equally powerful machine aimed at a high-end enthusiast / semi-pro market. He would no doubt be submitting several paragraphs, telling us that we must be in some way mentally unstable not to be able to see and understand the vast differences between one type of machine and another.
The idea Mr. Bray that this Panasonic has the ability to produce photographs of similar quality to that of an SLR camera is at best childishly naive, at worst having a complete lack of standards when it come to image quality. This acceptance of a product being merely adequate is so, so common in todays consumer society. You just have to look at all the awful so-called Hi-Fi products that fly of the shelves, which to anyone with half an ear for musicality, can clearly hear are absolutely unfit for purpose, yet are clearly acceptable to those who know no better.
It appears that Jonathan Bray may be amongst those members of society who are quite happy to accept that level of ineptitude, because they can not or, or will not, accept that better products are available, maybe not in such a conveniently small package, but form usually follows function and changing the form inevitably adversely affects the function.
In conclusion then; This camera produces pictures that are probably acceptable to those who know no better. An SLR camera will produce images of considerably better quality.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the idea of owning a £3 or £400 camera is to take pictures that you would want to keep, something you can look back on with some pride. Not some noise ridden soft image that could so easily be mistaken for something taken with out thought on a camera-phone. A slight exaggeration. I admit, but by the sounds of this review, Jonathan Bray just might expect his perfect camera to be that as-yet-to-be-manufactured product, the "Super-Zoom Camera-Phone". God help us all!
By fundraised on 24 Nov 2011
I'd just like to address a few points here. First, in the opening paragraph I state: "for the ultimate in quality and control, you can choose an SLR".
At no point does the review state this Panasonic produces better quality photos than an SLR. It's a great bridge camera - the best I've used - but for all round quality, an SLR is still the way to go. I've owned and used many SLRs, both film and digital; my current camera is a Sony Alpha A33 and I love it to bits.
However (and it's a big however), there are still many people who might prefer and get more use from a bridge camera such as the FZ150. They might prefer it because they get a lens that takes crisp pictures at full wide and full zoom handheld (and yes, that is with the lens right out at 24x/600mm), with a macro mode that lets them focus from as close as the end of the lens barrel, and without having to faff about changing lenses, lugging around a load of expensive glass in a bag, or even a tripod.
They also get a camera that can take superb, steady 1080p video, again handheld (even in low light), with none of the problems that many SLRs have with sensor overheating, or focus and zoom noise. Picture quality, meanwhile, might not match a DSLR for the ultimate in quality, but it's still darned good. And it's a quick camera too.
There's plenty of appeal there, and for £320 how can anyone can argue it isn't amazing value for money? What DSLR do you know of that can do all that for even approaching sensible money? I certainly don't know of any.
And just for the record, my perfect camera certainly isn't the "Super-Zoom Camera-Phone"; I think I'd rather prefer a Leica M6. :-)
By JonBray on 24 Nov 2011
Competition to the Fuji X-S1 ???
I wonder how this stacks up agains the newly announced Fujifilm X-S1 superzoom bridge camera - sporting the same sensor as the X10 ??
The timing seems right from Panasonic, all we need are some useful reviews & less of the 'it's not a DSLR' stuff...
By the_bunker on 24 Nov 2011
Have you tried using it left handed?
By jayardine1 on 24 Nov 2011
Have you tried using it left handed?
By jayardine1 on 24 Nov 2011
I just Googled the X-S1 and apparently it's launching with an RRP of £699...ouch!
By nichomach0 on 25 Nov 2011
It might have been eclipsed already
It's that time of year and new cameras are appearing on the market almost daily.
The new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, gets a great review from Jonathan Bray in a review highlighted in today's PC Pro Newsletter.
I agree with you Jonathan, this camera type have lots of advantages by way of convenience over an SLR and will probably suite someone who wants a camera that is capable of so many things without actually being excellent at any of them.
It is of course the choice we all make about our various purchases every day. For me my first choice is an SLR, when I can justify it to my self (and my other half) camera like this might be handy as a second camera for day trips etc when you don't want to lug around that bag filled with expensive glass. The Sony NEX-C3 draws me to it naturally, but it uses interchangeable lenses. Oh dear, decisions, decisions!
By fundraised on 1 Dec 2011
Sony NEX-C3 reviewed today, not Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 reviewed today.
Shouldn't rely on copy & paste without checking it before submitting. Oops!
By fundraised on 1 Dec 2011
Price when reviewed £266 (£319 inc VAT) from overstock.com
Unfortunately it is not listed on the site.
1 - 3 month delivery on Amazon
Is it actually on sale yet?
By FlossyThePig on 14 Dec 2011
Hi there, With reference to the debate on the Lumix FZ150, I'd like to say a few words. I do a lot of walking, and wildlife is my interest, taking pictures on the hoof so to speak, Over many years I'v worked my way up to the Sony-700 SLR and the Sony/Zeiss 70 to 400mm lens, now this is a very nice setup, but at my age, after 10 miles or so I'm feeling the weight. So last week I called in at the Lincoln branch of L.C.E. and tried the four Bridge cameras that they had in stock. I was very impresed with the Fuji Xs-1 the EVF is outstanding, as most have that horrible blur when you pan the camera, but not on the fuji. and I really liked the manual zoom control, and it felt very tactile to handle. I took a few pic's with the Fugi, the Sony HX100, the Canon SX 41s?? (can't read my own writing)and the Lumix FZ150. I'll have to go back and do another check with the Fuji and the FZ100 because I was very impressed with the quality of the Pics from the FZ150. I may have made some error when taking the pic's, so it's only fair I do the test again. I was not impressed with the Canon or Sony, now if the pic quality is as I saw it on the FZ150 then It will have tobe the FZ100, dispite the terrible blur on the EVF. on the other hand, if they could combine the Fuji XS-1 with the FZ150 that would be the one for me.
By OldBill on 2 Feb 2012
Consider the DMC-FZ48
The FZ150 would have been perfect for my teenage son, but it was too expensive in this context. However, I chanced upon the FZ48 that, at the time, was £140 cheaper. All it seems to lose is RAW and shoots 1080i rather than 1080p video. For his intended use neither of these would be missed and so he is the happy owner of a great camera and I saved £140.
By speedykit on 19 Feb 2012
Well responded JonBray!
As someone in the market for something a little more special but not quite an SLR this seems to really fit the bill. A great and informative review (and response!)
As with the perennial iPhone vs Android debate, people always seem ready to draw blood in defence of their chosen technologies. I never understand why people get so het up. My thought is.. if one product meets your individual needs better than another then why not!
By alvin on 17 Mar 2012
Isn't it time you had a 'bridge' category to accompany 'compact' and 'SLR'?
By alvin on 17 Mar 2012
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