With its deep finger grip, accentuated zoom profile and wide 52mm lens diameter, the FZ150 follows the same DSLR-like design cues of the FZ range (and indeed other superzooms) in general, but is slightly larger than the FZ48 and with more rounded edges. Overall, it’s not a particularly small camera and will require a dedicated carry case as it isn't going to fit in any pockets. Indeed, placed next to Panasonic’s recently launched Lumix G3 interchangeable lens compact system camera with a 14-42mm kit lens attached, the FZ150 actually looks quite chunky. At 540g with a battery and card, it’s not overly light either.
Outer construction is almost entirely of a smooth matt plastic that reminds us of the finish Canon uses on its entry-level DSLR range. The moulded finger grip is deep enough to accommodate two fingers comfortably or three at a push, and is treated to a rubberised finish for extra grip – as is the thumb-rest on the back of the camera.
Unlike FZ models further down the range, the FZ150 also gains some ridges on the metallic lens-barrel guard, which gives the left hand a little something extra to grip onto. It might sound like a small detail, but it’s indicative of the kind of refinements the FZ150, as the flagship FZ model, enjoys over its lesser siblings.
Likewise, the FZ150 also gets a hotshoe mount that can be used to equip the FZ150 with a dedicated flash, should you need a bit more power than the pop-up flash housed just in front of it offers.
Regardless of whether you’re using the lens-mounted zoom control or the spring-loaded rocker that wraps around the shutter button, control remains very precise; feathering the zoom controls we were able to find approximately 65 individual spots between the FZ150’s 25mm and 600mm extremes. Despite the zoom’s large focal range, this allows you to be fairly precise while framing a subject from a stationary position. Ultimately we'd prefer to see a fully manual zoom control, as used on the Fujifilm HS20. Perhaps that's something we can look forward to from a future update.
Using the mechanical zoom to go from one extreme straight to the other proves to be pretty smooth and quick, with the camera taking just under three seconds in either direction. Should you wish to, you can also use the lens-mounted switch to manually control focus with.
Autofocus performance has seen a boost, with Panasonic claiming the FZ150’s AF system is based on the same super-fast technology used by the G3. Certainly in good light focus is near instantaneous, with performance in reduced light far from sluggish too. When light levels drop beyond this performance does take a knock, as might be expected, with an AF Assist helping out when things become too dark for the AF module to function on its own accord.
Start-up speed is around the three second mark; hardly instantaneous, but comparable to other cameras in this class. There’s a dedicated Drive Mode button on top of the camera, from where it’s possible to select a range of options: single-shot, 2fps and 5.5fps. You can record all of these as either JPEGs or Raw, although there’s no provision to record both simultaneously. These are supplemented by a JPEG-only 12fps continuous setting, and a couple of hi-speed options: 40fps at 5MP, and 60fps at 2.5MP, both of which are, again, JPEG only.
Turning to buffer performance, at 2fps we were able to record over a 100 full-res JPEGs at full resolution without any slowdown. At 5.5fps we were able to record approximately 20 full-res JPEGs at full resolution before the camera slowed to around the 2fps mark. At 12fps the camera can only record a maximum 12 full-res JPEGs before coming to a halt while the buffer clears. Switching over to Raw recording, we were able to record 15 images at 2fps before the camera slowed. This fells to 12 images at 5.5fps.
On the back of the FZ150 sits a vari-angle TFT screen that swings out 180-degrees before rotating through 27-degrees. This enables it to be used for self-portraits as well as extreme high- and low-angled photography. At 3-inches and 460k-dots the 3:2 aspect screen is plenty sharp enough and allows for some generous viewing angles too. While it remains useable in bright outdoors light, it does struggle somewhat in direct sunlight.
Thankfully, this is where you can call upon the built-in Electronic Viewfinder. At 201k-dots (equivalent) it’s a bit pokey though, at least in comparison to the 1.4million-dot (equivalent) electronic viewfinder fitted to the Lumix G3.