The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 is the latest SLR-like ultrazoom from Panasonic. It is an impressive camera with many features, chief among them its 24x optical zoom Leica lens (25-600mm, 35mm film camera equivalent). While not as long as the lenses in most recent ultrazooms, such as the 30x in the Sony HX100V and Fuji HS20EXR, the 35x in the Canon SX30 IS and SX40 HS and the 36x in the Nikon P500 and Olympus SP-810 UV, the 24x lens in the FZ150 nonetheless has a very useful range that covers most shooting situations you're likely to encounter.
Other features of the FZ150 include a 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, a fully articulated 3.0-inch LCD, an electronic viewfinder, a RAW shooting option, a flash hotshoe and a full HD 1080p movie mode. Its lens has a nano surface coating to minimize light reflection.
In continuous shooting mode the FZ150 can fire off full resolutions shots at 12 frames per second. It uses Panasonic's very effective Power Optical Image Stabilization system with an Active mode which allows it to operate while taking movies, thus minimizing blur. Optical zoom can be used in movie mode. The FZ150 has an Intelligent Auto system and options for manual exposure controls including shutter and aperture priority. It also has many scene modes including a 3D photo mode.
There are a few significant improvements over the previous version of the camera, the FZ100. The primary one is that the resolution has decreased from 14.1 to 12.1 megapixels, with the goal of improving low light performance (something for which the FZ100 was criticized). Also, movie mode has improved from 1080i to 1080p and there is now a second zoom control located on the side of the lens (that can also be used as a manual focus control).
The camera has a good feel in the hand. While it's no lightweight, the FZ150 is very well balanced and its deep right hand grip makes it easy to control. There is a dedicated movie button for instantly switching to movie mode. The high quality LCD (460k dots) is sharp and clear and its full articulation makes it very useful in taking shots at odd angles.
I've only had the FZ150 a couple of days but I've already noticed that it is an excellent performer, focusing very quickly and accurately with an extremely quick shot to shot time. The images are sharp and the colors realistic, if a bit subdued, but that is typical of Panasonic cameras. Brightness, sharpness, color saturation and noise reduction can be adjusted to five different levels in program mode or in one of the camera's manual modes.
The weather is very nice in Northern Virginia this time of year so I anticipate getting quite a few good pictures and movies. In the meantime I've included some sample images. If the camera's low light images are an improvement over those of the FZ100, the FZ150 could be one of the best ultrazooms available. My full review should be posted in a couple of weeks.