Although I'm a little late to the game with this review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 ($430 online), I can safely tell you that this is a camera that will remain quite popular when its newer iteration is released later this year. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is one of the best Super Zoom digital cameras on the market, without question. The camera fills in the gaps left by its beginner-friendly cousin, the Lumix DMC-FZ47, with a superior 12.1-megapixel High Sensitivity MOS image sensor, added external controls, Vari-angle LCD and Progressive AVCHD video at 60fps. The camera retains its 24x optical zoom lens for impressive telephoto action, but in the end it was the FZ150's image and video performance that really sets it apart from the pack.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Design
While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 may resemble the FZ47 from afar, there are a few key differentiators that will most likely be deal breakers for most buyers seeking the cheaper FZ47. Both cameras are nearly identical in size and weight, which lies somewhere between the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and Nikon Coolpix P510. I found the right hand grip to be a bit undersized, forcing my pinky to support the bottom of the camera. The FZ150 even retains the same 24x optical zoom 25mm wide-angle Leica lens found on the FZ47. Both cameras have dedicated Video Record buttons, ample Mode dials with plenty of features and rear-mounted control dials for added refinement.
But that's just about where the similarities end. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is highly more capable with a 460,000-pixel flip-out Vari-angle LCD screen. This is crucial for shooting odd angles or taking self-portrait shots or videos. The FZ150 also has a Mic jack and hot shoe, which is excellent for video enthusiasts and shooters who want to use an external flash. Finally, the FZ150 incorporates Zoom and Focus controls along the lens barrel for quicker, more refined adjustments. These features alone are worth the upgrade from the FZ47.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Shooting Features
But that's not all, folks. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is one of the most power-packed Super Zooms in its class. Just take a gander at the mode dial. In addition to the traditional PASM controls, the FZ150 offers several adjustable quick functions like Portrait, Scenery, Sports, Macro and Night. There are different parameters in each mode. For instance, the Macro option offers Flower, Close-up and Food options, depending on what you're shooting. Scenery allows you to choose Nature and Architecture while Night tackles Night Portraits, Night Scenery and Night Illuminations. These shooting modes are perfect stepping stones for shooters looking to burst out of Auto Mode town.
In addition to the adjustable Scenes on the mode dial, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 has a dedicated Scene mode option with 3D photo capture, High-Speed Video, Panorama Assist, and Photo Frames to name a few. There's a Creative Control mode that allows shooters to apply Pin Hole, Expressive (vivid), Retro, Sepia and other effects to images and videos. The Auto mode on the FZ150 is one of the best in its class, recognizing appropriate scenes and focusing on key subjects in the frame.
But wait, there's more! The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 has a stellar Manual mode that allows shooter to adjust the Shutter Speed down to 15 seconds, ISO up to 3200 (6400 in video and special low light modes), and full manual White Balance. The built-in flash has options like Slow Sync and Red Eye for different darker environments, and the camera even has built-in digital color filters like Monochrome and Custom. Manual controls in video mode are awesome, especially when compared to the competition. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 offers the most control in its class with ISO, Shutter and Aperture adjustment. Overall, the FZ150 is a real winner in the features department.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Image Quality
It's amazing what a little sensor tinkering can do. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is equipped with a 1/2.3-inch 12.1-megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor with Panasonic's latest Venus Engine Processing. This is a significant upgrade compared to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47's basic sensor, and the proof was in the photographed pudding. The FZ150 also has an enhanced noise reduction system and dynamic range control, which aided the camera further.
As a result, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 was a top performer for a point-and-shoot. Outdoor images soared with rich, true color and compelling detail while low light images taken at high ISO levels were impressive. This was supported by the fact that the FZ150 could record RAW images, which outputted a higher quality than the JPEGs when I compared them side-by-side. Compared to the FZ47, there was no question that the FZ150 was far superior, and testament to the fact that a little internal circuitry alterations can really go a long way.
As for videos, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 could record 1920×1080 60P HD videos recorded in the AVCHD format. 60P is a fantastic option for fluid motion, as each frame is recorded whole, hence the Progressive terminology. For a point-and-shoot, videos rocked with excellent action coverage and great low light sensitivity. Compare the low light samples from the FZ150 to the FZ47's and prepare to be blown away by the difference in detail and exposure. All in all, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 was one of the best Super Zoom performers I've seen all year.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Image Samples
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 1080/60P Video Samples
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Conclusion
It's hard to think of a reason not to suggest this camera. Compared to the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, I would have to go with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. The camera is stocked with impressive external controls and features like the Vari-angle LCD, Zoom barrel controls, Mic jack and hot shoe. The FZ150 also offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of shooting features including Creative filters, specialty Scene modes, Manual and a stellar Auto mode. The camera's video recording options and controls are some of the best in its class, and it's got the image quality to back it up. If you're shopping for a Super Zoom in this price range, look no further than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. When the newer version of the FZ150 is released later this year, the FZ150 will drop in price, but its features will remain top notch.
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