The Panasonic FZ150 is the latest 24x optical zoom superzoom from Panasonic. What Digital Camera gets a hands-on look at the Lumix FZ150 superzoom...

Updating the FZ100, Panasonic’s latest Lumix FZ150 may look and feel like much the same camera on the outside. Apart from a secondary zoom switch to the side of the lens barrel that’s ideal for using when capturing video, the physical proportions and size are the very same as the previous FZ100 model.

But it’s what goes unnoticed by eye or the technology tucked away on the FZ150’s inside that makes it a more notable superzoom: A brand new 12.1MP sensor now has a dual readout to amp up the processing, which means the sensor’s refresh rate can be increased and, therefore, allows for ‘Sonic Speed’ autofocus akin to the Lumix G-series range. We tested out a pre-production model and found the wideangle 25mm setting was very swift. As the zoom is deployed the longer focal lengths won’t focus quite as fast, though still with impressive speed. Panasonic’s figures suggest a 0.13sec focus time, which is only a shade behind the GH2’s 0.1sec.

It’s not only focus that’s fast, however, as a 12fps burst mode (7fps with continuous autofocus) makes the FZ150 the fastest Lumix superzoom on the market when it comes to reeling off shots.

The eagle-eyed among you may notice the latest sensor is a lower resolution than the previous FZ100 model, taking a leaf out of the FZ48’s book, which also cut back to a 12.1MP count compared to the FZ45’s 14.1MP sensor. This step towards a ‘sweet spot’ of sensor size to resolution should make for the best balance of picture quality on such a small sensor. At the time of writing the FZ150 isn’t at its final stage of production, so we’re unable to comment on the pictures.  

A further benefit of the updated sensor is the FZ150’s movie mode which can now stream 20Mbps into 1080p files at 50fps. The technology is the same as that used in Panasonic camcorders. As well as the AVCHD carrier, a new MP4 (M-JEPG) output has also been introduced for quick and easy compatibility direct to computers and other viewing devices. No longer are compacts being restricted to low data rates or interlaced movie capture as these latest figures show. However, the proof, so they say, is in the pudding – so, as per image quality, we’ll have to wait for a final production sample to enter the office before we can pass judgement.

Although the 25-600mm lens appears the same as the FZ100 model, the latest Lumix FZ150 benefits from a Nano Surface Coating that helps to reduce ghosting and flare. Standard reflection is between 0.2-0.5%, and Panasonic claim its latest lens coating can cut this down to 0.1%.

An improved battery promises in excess of 400 shots per charge, which should encompass a day’s shooting with little problem.

Based on how much we liked the FZ100, it looks as though the FZ150 will be a fiercely competitive superzoom when it hits the shelves later this year. Assuming the price can be kept equally competitive this looks like a winning superzoom in our books…

Panasonic Lumix FZ150 quick spec:
 – 12.1MP 1/2.33in CCD sensor
 – 25-600mm (24x) f/2.8-5.2 LEICA lens with new Nano Surface Coating
 – ‘Sonic Speed’ autofocus system
 – 12fps high speed burst mode (7fps with continuous AF)
 – 1080p 50fps movie mode (20Mbps data rate)
 – iA (intelligent Auto) and full manual controls
 – 3in, 460k-dot, vari-angle LCD screen
 – 0.2in, 201k-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF)
 – 410 shots per battery charge