Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150: The All-you-can-eat Buffet!

 
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150

A superzoom camera with a DSLR-like body, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150 packs in several features. Supriya Joshi spends some time with the camera and discovers more.

When the 14.1MP Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ100 was announced in July 2010, it generated a lot of buzz. One year later, Panasonic introduced the DMC-FZ150, which, like its predecessor, can shoot in RAW format as well. Just on the surface level, the camera seemed quite promising. I spent some time with the camera and I present my findings.

Features
The first thing Panasonic did with the FZ150 is incorporate a lower resolution 12.1MP high speed MOS sensor instead of the 14MP one in the FZ100. The company claims this will improve the image performance over the previous version. However, the sensor size itself of the FZ150 is 1/2.3-inch, which is quite small when compared to the other RAW shooting compact cameras.

The camera features a 24x zoom lens (25–600mm equivalent) and 12fps shooting with focus locked and 5.5fps with autofocus. The lens has a Nano Surface Coating to lessen chromatic aberrations like ghosting and lens flare.

The camera features an articulated, 3-inch LCD screen with 4,60,000 dots. This is quite surprising, considering that many cameras that are far cheaper come with 9,20,000 dots LCD screens. Right above the LCD screen is a 0.2-inch 2,01,000 dots Electronic Viewfinder. While the EVF is really small, it is bright and efficient enough to use.

For video enthusiasts, the camera is capable of recording movies in Full HD 1080p in AVCHD or MP4 format at 60fps. The camera also comes with a Manual Video mode, where you can adjust all exposure parameters as well as the ISO. The amount of control this offers to your videos is simply outstanding.

The FZ150 features a range of manual, automatic and semi-automatic modes. The Creative Control mode of the camera allows you to choose between eight presets—Film Grain, Miniature Effect, Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic and Pin Hole, where each of these selections have distinct effects on your images. Moreover, each of these effects can be used while making video as well.

The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 features 18 Scene Modes. Some modes like Pet, Candle Light and Sunset are seen in most cameras these days, but the FZ150 also features some unique modes like Aerial Photo and Panning. The camera also features five Advanced Scene Modes which let you fine tune your selected mode. For example, in the Close-Up mode, you can choose between Flower, Food or Objects to enhance your macro photographs. Additionally, you can also experiment with some crazy super slow motion videos in VGA resoultion.

The camera also lets you make 3D images using the 3D Photo Mode, which captures a series of images and selects the two best ones, which are combined to form an MPO image. The camera has a hot shoe to attach an external flash unit, which you can control remotely as well.

The 25–600mm equivalent lens allows you to get really close to your subject to make your frames. Exposure: 1/100sec at f/8 (ISO 100). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

The 25–600mm equivalent lens allows you to get really close to your subject to make your frames. Exposure: 1/100sec at f/8 (ISO 100). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

Handling
For all intents and purposes, the camera looks no different from a DSLR. In fact, there are not a lot of differences in the camera’s design from its predecessor, the FZ100. This superzoom camera is by no means pocketable and is not too lightweight either.

There is a zoom control on the lens barrel, which will be more comfortable for DSLR users than the zoom lever on top of the camera. The camera features manual focus, it is just that you cannot do so through the lens, instead using the Focus button on the lens barrel.

The camera also comes with a detachable lens hood to further reduce lens flare. However, the lens cap and the hood have a very symbiotic relationship. With the hood attached, I found it very difficult to remove or put the lens cap back on the lens because it fits too snugly with the hood. During crucial moments while shooting, this could be a possible hindrance.

The menu system of the FZ150 is exhaustive, yet very simple to use. Casual photographers will enjoy the rather whimsical animated icons for different shooting modes in the menu. However, if you would rather change your important settings quickly, you could use the Quick Menu button, located on the back panel. This button features those functions which are changed most often to let you make all your adjustments without going through several menus.

Performance
Overall, I found the FZ150’s image quality commendable. However, the most amount of marks will go to the autofocus, which is extremely responsive in any condition. The camera’s minimal shutter lag and quick shot-to-shot time ensured that I did not miss a moment. You can shoot full resolution JPEGs at 12fps, however the autofocus and exposure are set to the first frame. If you wish to have more control over the AF in the burst mode, you can shoot with 5.5fps too. Most importantly, these continuous shooting speeds are applicable to both RAW and JPEG! This also applies to when are shooting in the RAW+JPEG mode.

If you do not mind lower resolution images, then can fire away the camera’s burst mode at 40fps (which gives 5MP resolution images) and 60fps (which gives 2.5MP resolution images).

Like all superzoom cameras, there is always the fear of camera shake towards the telephoto end of the lens, but the FZ150’s image stabilisation does a good job at controlling it. The JPEG quality of the images at full resolution is quite good.

There is no oversharpening, good control over purple fringing and no compression artefacts. The macro performance of the camera is superb, letting you focus as close as 1 cm from the subject. Noise is well controlled and the ISO can be easily boosted till ISO 800 for usable images.

The FZ150 makes remarkable videos. The 60p Full HD videos are extremely detailed and can rival most superzoom cameras with similar video specifications. The only downside is the massive memory these video files consume on your memory cards. I advice you to use 8GB memory cards of Class 6 and above.

No matter what the lighting condition, the FZ150’s AF capabilities are quite commendable. I made this image from a moving car, and even in several other instances, FZ150’s AF passed the test with full marks! Photograph/Supriya Joshi

No matter what the lighting condition, the FZ150’s AF capabilities are quite commendable. I made this image from a moving car, and even in several other instances, FZ150’s AF passed the test with full marks! Photograph/Supriya Joshi

Conclusion
The thing that comes through the most with this camera is the amount of control it offers to the user when it comes to both stills and video. In the race to become the best superzoom camera in this price range, the FZ150 is a definite contender.

At the price of Rs. 24,990, and with all the amenities it offers, the camera is definitely worth the price tag. Very few superzoom cameras today offer manual control over video along with a slew of features to assist you in making great pictures. If these camera traits sound interesting to you, I suggest you definitely give this camera a shot!

The FZ150 comes with eight Creative Control modes, all quite fun to use. The above image has been made using the Film Grain effect. While the effect itself does not have the finesse of actual film, it still does a satisfactory job. Photograph/Supriya Joshi

The FZ150 comes with eight Creative Control modes, all quite fun to use. The above image has been made using the Film Grain effect. While the effect itself does not have the finesse of actual film, it still does a satisfactory job. Photograph/Supriya Joshi

Final Ratings
Features
Full HD video, Manual Video mode, RAW, Advanced Scene Modes, 3D mode
18/20

Performance
Quick AF, good noise performance
37/40

Build Quality
Sturdy body, rubberised grip
14/15

Ergonomics
Exhaustive menu system, Quick Menu button, problematic lens cap
17/20

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, limited service network
2/5

OVERALL: 88%
Value For Money: 4/5 stars

Who Should Buy It?
Someone who wants to make great videos and shoot images in RAW.

Why?
The camera gives the user complete control over their images and videos and offers easy-to-use automatic modes to make photography a more fulfilling experience.

Tags: articulated LCD, panasonic cameras, panasonic fz150, Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150, Raw, september 2012, superzoom compact camera, Supriya Joshi