The Panasonic Lumix FZ150 doesn't have the biggest zoom lens in its class, but it does offer great HD video, high quality images and much improved low-light performance over its predecessor.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is Panasonic's premier ultrazoom, an enhanced version of the very capable DMC-FZ47. The principle difference between the two cameras is that the FZ150 uses a 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, while the FZ47 uses a 12.1 megapixel version of the more commonly-used CCD sensor. The CMOS sensor is designed to provide increased speed of operation and better low light ability.
The FZ150 replaces the DMC-FZ100, which was wisely praised for its excellent performance and many features, but received criticism for its low light image quality. Panasonic claims to have addressed this issue by, among other things, lowering the resolution from 14.1 megapixels to 12.1 megapixels.
The Lumix FZ150, like the FZ47, is equipped with a 24x optical zoom Leica lens, with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 25mm through 600mm. While this is not the longest optical zoom available (the Nikon P500 and Olympus SP810 UV have an incredible 36x optical zoom), the lens range of the FZ150 is long enough to cover most circumstances a photographer is likely to encounter. For instance, in the images below, the ducks can hardly be seen at 25mm, while they can be viewed in great detail at 600mm.
If more optical zoom is desired, the FZ150 uses digital zoom (which Panasonic calls Intelligent Zoom Technology) to extend the zoom up to 32x (800mm). While digital zoom, a form of cropping, can adversely affect the image if overused, its use with the FZ150 does not greatly degrade image quality.
The FZ150 has many appealing features, including a fully articulated, high-resolution LCD monitor, a 1080p movie mode that can record up to 60 frames per second, a hot shoe for attaching a separate flash, a dedicated movie button, an electronic viewfinder, RAW shooting ability and a very quick continuous shooting mode enabling it to take full resolution photos at 12 frames per second. The camera uses Panasonic's Power Optical Image Stabilization system with an active mode which allows it to operate while taking movies. Optical zoom can be used in movie mode. The FZ150 includes an Intelligent Auto system and manual exposure controls including shutter and aperture priority.
I began my experience with the FZ150 as a Panasonic customer. I've owned an earlier Panasonic ultrazoom, the 18x optical zoom FZ28, for the past three years and have enjoyed it a great deal. As I mentioned in my First Look, I anticipated being able to shoot in very good weather conditions. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, the weather for the past two weeks has been overcast and rainy. However, I still managed to take a large number of photos and videos with the FZ150. Let's see if the camera met my expectations.
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