With its 24x optical zoom, 12 frames per second capture rate and full manual control, the DMC-FZ150 wants to be the ultimate all-in-one camera. Tim Coleman tries it out
I was very pleased with the images I had taken when viewed on the LCD screen during shooting. However, when these are brought up on a computer screen at 100%, the flaws that come with this type of camera are a little more obvious. Noise and resolution detail are typically areas where superzoom cameras suffer, and it looks like the reduction in pixels in the DMC-FZ150 has made little difference.
Our resolution charts show that the 1/2.3in, 12.1-million-pixel sensor is capable of reaching the 22 marker at ISO 100 in raw and the 20 marker in JPEG files, which drops to 18 by ISO 400. This is roughly what we would expect from a camera with this resolution and sensor size combination. From ISO 800 noise becomes much more apparent, which affects image clarity. At its maximum ISO 3200 setting there is a further drop in resolution as luminance noise increases.
When compared to top-end compact cameras with the same sized sensor, the FZ150 comes up slightly short in controlling noise and in its resolution detail. The FZ150 suits small-scale image reproduction, certainly up to A4, but those images nearer A3 size will show softer detail. However, a little sharpening in post-production will help towards rectifying this.
Generally, colour reproduction is spot on, and there is a lot of fun to be had using the photo style mode to experiment with different colour settings, combined with saturation, sharpness and contrast control.
Superzoom lenses may cover a wide focal length, but they are at the mercy of optical flaws. At the widest 25mm focal length there is evidence of slight barrel distortion. Impressively, though, there is very little vignetting, even at the widest f/2.8 aperture.
The zoom lens can reach from one extreme to the other in a very respectable 2.5secs, with both control points showing a similar level of responsiveness. For blur-free handheld shooting, a shutter speed equivalent to the focal length is recommended. I found that when there is not enough light for, say, 1/600sec at 600mm, in-camera stabilisation helps no end by allowing sharp handheld shooting down to around 1/100sec, which is an effective 2.5EV of extra light.
Continuous AF makes a high-speed multi-frame burst much more versatile. I took several sequences at 5.5fps, in good light, of cyclists and cars coming towards the camera, making use of full-time continuous AF and subject tracking. Under these conditions I found the camera to be responsive to areas in the centre of the frame, with on average just a couple of frames from a 12-frame burst showing signs of refocusing. I am impressed by the level of control in a camera at this level and also by the rapid processing speeds. Using an Ultra High Speed Class 1 SDHC card, a 12-frame burst in raw and JPEG format takes 25secs while in JPEG format only is 7secs.
Image: When viewed at 100%, image detail is reminiscent of the smudged impression usually associated with compact cameras