The FZ150 supersedes the FZ100 that was released about this time last year as the new flagship model in Panasonic’s superzoom line-up.
At its heart the FZ150 uses a newly developed 1/2.3in MOS sensor offering an effective resolution of 12.1-megapixels. This actually represents a slight reduction in overall resolution from the 14.1-megapixels of the FZ100. However, given that 1/2.3in is the same size found in the majority of compact cameras – from cheap and cheerful ultra-compacts to more advanced travel compacts – this could well be a good thing.
The reason for this is because, in theory at least, it enables the individual light-capturing photodiodes to be larger, which in turn means they are more sensitive to light and less sensitive to noise. At 12.1MP you’ll still be perfectly able to make large, poster-sized prints, yet images shot in low-light are less likely to come out as a grainy, speckled mush lacking any kind of detail.
Using Panasonic’s latest Venus Engine FHD II image processor, the FZ150 can shoot from ISO 100 to ISO 3200 at full resolution, with an expanded High Sensitivity setting of ISO 6400 also available, albeit at a reduced maximum resolution of 3MP.
The default aspect is 4:3, although 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 are also offered. As all of the alternatives essentially crop from the sensor, overall resolution is reduced when using them. Maximum output at the full 12.1MP in 4:3 is 4320 x 3240 pixels, although resolution at the 4:3 setting can be lowered to 10MP, 7MP, 5MP or even 3MP, with similar reductions available for the alternative aspects. There are two JPEG quality settings: Fine and Standard. In addition to JPEGs the FZ150 is also able to record lossless Raw sensor data, which greatly improves the scope for post-processing.
The new sensor/processor combination is capable of delivering an impressive maximum continuous shooting speed of up to 12fps in full resolution, even though this is limited to a maximum 12 frames. This is a frame faster than the FZ100, although it’s worth bearing in mind that this is, at least partly, due to the smaller file sizes produced by the FZ150 thanks to the drop in resolution. There are also a couple of high-speed burst options, albeit at greatly reduced resolutions.
On the front, the FZ150 is fitted with a 24x, f/2.8-5.2 optical zoom from Leica that offers a focal range of between 25mm and 600mm in 35mm terms. While 24x might seem like a lot, it's far from being the most powerful superzoom on the market. Fujifilm's HS20 EXR, for example, offers 30x, while Canon's SX30IS offers 35x and Nikon's P500 tops the lot with its whopping 36x optical zoom. All of these models fall within the same kind of price bracket as the FZ150 too.
Beyond this it’s possible to extend the zoom’s reach to 32x using the Intelligent Zoom, with fairly acceptable results so long as you’re not pixel-peeping. The Digital Zoom function, meanwhile, offers a maximum 96x, although at this level of magnification overall image quality soon becomes fairly dreadful – very much for emergencies only.
Given the extended reach of the FZ150, it’s reassuring to know that the lens is fitted with Panasonic’s proprietary – and, we might add, highly effective – Power Optical Image Stabilisation (Power O.I.S) technology. This minimises the effects of camera shake not only at low shutter speeds but also extended focal lengths and works rather well, despite the shortcomings of the lens itself (more on that later).
As with the FZ100, the FZ150 offers a zoom control positioned on the lens barrel, which sits alongside an AF On/Off switch and a focus button. Unlike the FZ100 though, the FZ150 benefits from Nano Coating Surface technology to reduce the effects of ghosting and flare.
Befitting its advanced superzoom status, the FZ150 offers the regular quartet of manual and semi-manual shooting modes: Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and fully Manual. If you’d prefer to let the FZ150 do all the work, then Panasonic’s ever reliable iAuto mode can be called upon along with 18 individual Scene modes. There’s also a 3D option, though you’ll need a compatible monitor to view the results on.
In addition, the FX150 also benefits from a choice of eight Creative Control digital effects: Miniature, Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia, High Dynamic, Pin Hole and B&W Film Grain. These effects are easy to use and can also be applied to movies.
Speaking of movies, the FZ150 can record video at up to 1920 x 1080 (or Full HD) at 60 or 50p, with files stored in the space-efficient AVCHD format, though this may limit playback on some devices. Lower-quality movies can be recorded in the more common MP4 format. Sound, meanwhile, is recorded in stereo by default, and unlike the FZ48, the FZ150 also gets an external microphone input.