Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150 digital camera
A super-zoom camera that has a boatload of features and excellent versatility
- 24x zoom
- Great stills and video quality
- Heaps of features to play with
- Lens distortion at wide angles
- Slight overexposure in auto mode
- Focus not always accurate at maximum zoom
If you want a good multi-purpose camera that's relatively compact, the LUMIX DMC-FZ150 is a good choice. It has a massive lens, lots of options and cutomisation features, and it takes great photos and video. It's probably a little expensive at around $800, but you do get a lot for your money, and it will supply good results whether you shoot stills or video.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150 is an advanced super-zoom camera that we think is perfect for anyone who wants a lot of versatility from a relatively compact unit. It features a 12-megapixel sensor and a massive 25-600mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens. It has a ton of features, an easy-to-use control layout and it feels good to hold. It's also a great hybrid camera with its Full HD video capturing capability among the best we have seen in this class.
Plenty of zoom
The FZ150 is the type of camera you should go for if you don't want to wrestle with a digital SLR, yet you want to have the capabilities of both a wide angle lens and a long tele-zoom. Its 24x zoom can take photos from a wide angle of 25mm to a tele-zoom angle of 600mm, which is great for focusing on details or objects that would otherwise be out of reach.
The large zoom of the camera was a lot of fun to use and it wasn't too difficult to control. Usually when the zoom is so great it can be difficult to keep the camera steady enough to get a clear view of what you're shooting, but the FZ150's motion stabilisation kept scene relatively steady. The focus was a little off at the maximum zoom as the camera often didn’t focus on the particular object we wanted, but the surrounding areas instead. At all other times though, the focusing performance was spot on and very fast. Furthermore, the camera's shot-to-shot speed was excellent.
The wide lens can cause problems with distortion, and this will be evident mostly along the edges of a scene. Straight vertical lines will slope towards the centre of the photo and this can make structures look a little odd (or humorous).
The huge 24x zoom allows you to get from this…
To this, all from the same vantage point.
You can capture details you would otherwise miss with a normal camera, such as a bat tongue. (This image is cropped a little.)
The 25mm wide angle allows you to fit a lot into an image and lines look pretty straight in portrait orientation.
However, the wide angle does introduce some lens distortion, and this can be seen in the building on the left.
The controls of the camera are well laid out and the camera feels comfortable to use. It has a handgrip, a hinged screen and also an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Manual settings, such as the aperture and shutter, can be changed by rotating the thumbdial; meanwhile, the ISO speed can be changed at the press of a button. There is a quick menu function that allows you to change many settings conveniently without having to trawl through the main menu. This allows you to tinker with the photo colour style, as well as the size, focus (face detection, focus tracking), white balance and metering of a shot. A function button on the rear also allows you to store and quickly bring up custom picture settings.
More controls are located on the fixed barrel of the lens. These allow you to zoom and play around with the focus. You can quickly change from auto focus to manual focus, or to macro mode auto focus. A 'focus' button o the barrel also allows you to then use the thumb controls on the rear to move the focus point to practically any position on the screen. The size of this focus point can also be changed.
Macro shots can be taken from around 4cm away from an object when zoomed out. You don't get great bokeh patterning though, and even when the background is blurred you can almost always make out what it is.
You get a large array of scene modes to play with (18 all up) and this includes the ability to shoot high speed video and 3D photos. A range of art modes is also present, and this includes filters such as miniature, film grain, pin hole, retro and a couple of other colour filters. You can use many of these scene modes and art modes when you shoot video as well, which is very handy.
In iAUTO mode, the camera takes care of all the exposure settings and selects the best mode for the scene. In this shot, the camera has done well to bring out the definition of the tree while the area behind it is backlit.
Using the camera outdoors on a sunny day can be challenging. The 3in LCD screen is sometimes hard to view when the conditions are bright, but it stacks up better than most other screen's in its class. Being able to angle the screen has its advantage in this situation, too. If the sun is making things way too difficult for you, then you can switch to the EVF, which does feel a little cramped, but it shows the whole scene. Unlike other modern cameras, there is no sensor to switch on the EVF automatically, so you must press the EVF/LCD button.
For low-light shooting, the LUMIX has a wide f/2.8 aperture, but this closes to f/5.2 once you zoom in all the way. If you'll be using the zoom in dim lighting conditions, then a tripod is a must. The ISO can be bumped up to 400 without any noticeable deterioration in the image quality, but above this you will probably notice noise and discolouration. There is an ISO limiting function that you can use to also make sure that the camera doesn't use too high an ISO when in an auto mode.
ISO 800 and above introduces noticeable noise and paler colours. We'd stick to ISO 400 and below.
The overall picture quality of the LUMIX FZ150 is very good and photos look great when viewed on a Full HD TV. The definition of photos is more than good enough for large prints, but some detail is lost when you zoom in and view photos at their at their full size. That said, unless you crop your photos heavily, this should not be a problem. There is some slight chromatic aberration in high-contrast areas, but it wasn't enough to be problematic.
Video mode is excellent. The camera can capture Full HD moving pictures in AVCHD, MP4 or AVCHD Lite formats and it has a built-in stereo mic as well as an external audio jack. You can zoom smoothly while shooting video and the camera will autofocus relatively quickly as you move from one scene to another. The video we took didn't tear or look choppy when we moved the camera; basically, it supplied smooth and crisp results that are among the best we've seen from a compact camera. We had to reformat our SD card before being able to record video, otherwise the camera would throw up an error message saying that the recording format was wrong.
With so many features and so much versatility, this camera is bound to please. We had fun with it and think the big 24x zoom works really well. We were also pleased with the camera's image quality overall (both for stills and video) and love the fact that you can tweak the image colours and tones so easily, or choose from a large array of scene and art modes when the situation calls for it. All up, the FZ150 is a good multi-purpose, super-zoom camera that's easy to use for almost any type of photography.
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