DCRP

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Review

Performance & Photo Quality

Overall, the Lumix DMC-FZ150 is a very responsive camera. The longest you'll probably have to wait is for the camera to turn on, and that's just about 1.4 seconds. For those details and more, check out the performance table below:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 1.4 sec Average
Autofocus
(Normal light)
0.1 - 0.3 secs Above average
Autofocus
(Low light)
~ 1 sec Average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Above Average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW+JPEG, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(with flash)
~ 2 sec Above average

Like I said, pretty snappy!

The FZ150 excels at continuous shooting, too. The camera can take full resolution stills at up to 12 frames/second, and can go even faster if you don't mind lowering the resolution and using the electronic shutter instead. By lowering the resolution to 5 Megapixel, you can shoot at 40 frames/second (up to 50 shots). Drop down to 2.5 Megapixel and you can take 60 exposures in a single second. Also impressive is the fact that the camera can focus between each photo while shooting at 5.5 frames/second -- something not normally seen on a compact camera. Since I can't test the super-fast burst modes, I chose the 5.5 fps w/AF and 12 fps settings to see if they're as fast as Panasonic claims.

Image quality 5.5 fps w/AF 12 fps
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 11 shots @ 5.5 fps 11 shots @ 12.5 fps
RAW 12 shots @ 5.9 fps 11 shots @ 11.9 fps
Large/Fine JPEG 18 shots @ 5.9 fps 12 shots @ 12.7 fps

You'd expect to see smoke coming out of the FZ150 after a burst, but it stays nice and cool. And don't forget, you can shoot even faster at lower resolutions. My only real complaint is that it takes a long time for the camera to save all those stills to the memory card. For example, it took almost thirty seconds for the FZ150 to save 11 RAW+JPEG images to my Class 10 SDHC card! At some speeds, the camera will keep on shooting after you've reached the buffer limits (albeit at a slower rate). In some of the other modes the camera will just take the burst and stop.

Let's move on to photo quality now, shall we?

The photo of our macro test subject turned out quite nicely. Panasonic cameras always struggle with my studio lamps, so I tweaked the white balance a bit in the blue direction. Even with that, neutral colors still look a bit yellow to me. The blues and reds and nicely saturated, though. The subject is nice and sharp, with plenty of detail captured. You can see a bit of noise if you look closely, but it's not enough to concern me.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 1 cm at wide-angle an 1 m at full telephoto. Don't forget to flip the focus switch on the side of the camera to the Auto Macro position in order to take close-up shots.

The night shot looks good, except for the yellowish color cast that I mentioned above. For whatever reason, their cameras seem to really struggle under artificial lighting. Otherwise things look good, with sharp buildings, accurate exposure, and relatively minor highlight clipping. There is some noise here, but it's tolerable. There is some cyan and purple fringing visible as well, but again, not too bad.

Now we're going to use that same night scene to see how the FZ150 performs as its sensitivity increases:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

There's a slight increase in noise as you go from ISO 100 to 200, but it's still manageable. Details start disappearing at ISO 400, but it's still usable for small and perhaps midsize prints. I would save ISO 800 for desperation only, and shoot RAW if you can (see demo below). The ISO 1600 shot has a strange reddish cast (hey, I didn't change anything) and lots of detail loss, and the ISO 3200 shot has far too much detail loss to be usable. I'd avoid both of those settings.

I just mentioned that shooting RAW could improve the quality of the ISO 800 night shot, so let's run it through Photoshop and see what we get!

ISO 800

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

As you can see, the retouched RAW image isn't a whole lot better than the original JPEG. There's less detail smudging, but that's about it. It's probably still worth using RAW and post-processing at higher sensitivities -- just don't expect miracles.

We'll see how the FZ150 fared in normal lighting in a moment.

The DMC-FZ150 takes a two-pronged approach to reducing redeye. First, it'll fire the flash a few times (before the photo is taken) to shrink your subject's pupils, which sometimes works. If any redeye remains after the photo is taken, the camera will digitally remove it automatically. As you can see, there's still some redeye here. Don't take this test as gospel, though -- the FZ47 (essentially the same camera flash-wise) had less redeye than the FZ150 -- your mileage may vary.

There's remarkably little barrel distortion at the wide end of the 25 - 600 mm lens used by both the FZ150 and the FZ47. That's most likely thanks to the automatic distortion correction that the camera performs after you take a photo. You won't find dark or blurry corners in your photos, either.

Now it's time to see how the FZ150 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Keep in mind that the crops only show a small portion of the test scene, so view the full size images too. And with that, let's take a journey from ISO 100 to 3200:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

There was so little difference between the first three crops that I had to check to make sure I didn't screw up and shoot them all at ISO 100. Thankfully, I didn't. At ISO 800 you start to see some detail loss, as well as as slight drop in color saturation. The same thing happens, but to a greater extent, at ISO 1600, so this is my recommended stopping point on the DMC-FZ150. The ISO 3200 shot has quite a bit of noise and detail loss, and is best passed over. For those wondering how the FZ150 compares to the cheaper FZ47 (test photos here), I'd say that the former does a better job at both low and high sensitivities.

We didn't see a huge improvement when shooting RAW back in the night test section. Let's see if we got better results in good light, here using the ISO 1600 test shot.

ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

Unlike with the night shot, we can see a substantial improvement here. Not only do you get back detail, you also have more pleasing, saturated colors. If you're shooting at the higher ISOs on the FZ150, then I'd recommend shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing -- though it may not be worth it in very low light situations.

After reviewing the photos taken by the DMC-FZ150, I think that it's safe to say that Panasonic has overcome the noise problems that plagued the FZ100. Sure, there's still some noise in the photos, it's not really a problem until you get to around ISO 800. Panasonic has lightened up on the amount of noise reduction, as well. That's not to say that image quality is perfect, though. The FZ150 has issues with highlight clipping and color accuracy in artificial light. There's not much you can do about the highlight clipping, unfortunately, though shooting RAW and seeing if you can restore highlight detail may help some. As for the color issue, it's only going to be an issue a small percentage of the time -- in normal light colors look great. Subjects are fairly sharp, and I think they look even better if you turn Intelligent Resolution on. Purple fringing levels were low, as the camera removes this annoyance automatically when you take a photo.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery and see if the FZ150's image quality meets your expectations!

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