I’m extremely happy with my Panasonic FZ150 – a 12MP bridge camera with 24x optical zoom and a compact sensor. Yes, a compact sensor. Although I get the advantage of a lightweight cam with up to 50X of non-degraded zoom (at 5mp) I don’t have the advantage of tiny F-Stops or sensors that are able to receive 10 times the light that a DSLR would. It would be a major issue if the FZ150 didn’t have such an amazing stabilization system…
The two pictures above were taken at full zoom….handheld. That’s 50x non-degrading zoom at 5MP on a 12MP sensor. That moon is obviously a long way away. I’ve cropped the image but it still looks impressive. The helicopter was a long way away too. Here’s the 1:1 version….
A 50x zoom on a DSLR would result in a huge, heavy lens – impractical for mobile work.
Click the images and you’ll see the grain and pixels…if you want.
I’m not claiming that these images are the best but for the places I ‘print’ images (in low resolutions on web sites) these are more than adequate and that, I’m trying to tell people, is the key.
Why take a 14MP image when you’ll reduce it to 600px wide for online publication on a blog? I understand there are people that do photography and need the full size image but I’m taking photographs for websites. That’s not photography, but it’s what most bloggers do!
In terms of low-light performance there’s a few things to mention. Firstly, for a compact camera (which is really what the FZ150 is) it’s amazing. The stabilisation and sensor quality are giving me a 2-4 F-stop advantage over my previous bridge (Canon PowerShot S2IS) camera. It allows me to go under 1/20th handheld with a 5x zoom or low-light close-up although I need to take care….or I just turn on the 5 FPS burst mode and pick my best shot. I’m also able to push the ISO up to 3200 which, for a 100% zoomed photo is horrible. For a 640×480 image on a website with a simple and quick noise-reduction process added, it’s fine, absolutely fine. For videos though, there are some limits.
The FZ150 can do 1080p at 50 fps in AVCHD (it’s a PAL device – I don’t know why that’s important these days) but at 50fps you’re not able to get good low-light video performance. Fortunately you can switch the FZ150 into MP4 recording mode where it uses 25fps and thus improves the low-light performance. At 400 or 800 ISO, it’s absolutely fine for exhibition-hall lighting. OK, I can’t get those artistic low F-Stop shallow DOF effects but to be honest, when you’re one-handed on a product with the other hand holding the cam, a shallow DOF would be a disadvantage.
Audio recording performance is excellent in loud environments but I will look to get an external mic to improve that – the mic input is one of the other good features of the FZ150
So on to battery life. I went into CES knowing that the FZ150 would be working hard so I bought (for 50 fricking euro!) a second battery. It turns out that the FZ150 can get through a day of photos and video on one charge. Awesome! If you’re worried about battery life on the FZ150, don’t.
- 150fps video mode is fun. People love to see themselves at 150fps, even if it is only at VGA. Make sure you have lots of light though.
- The rotating viewfinder is awesome. Big, bright, usable. See below.
- The FZ150 feels like it’s well built. (BUT – The Canon Powershot S2IS didn’t but it lasted well and never had an issue over 3 years of rough use.)
- There are way too many features on the camera. I’ve read the manual twice. I need to read it at least three or four times more over the next year to get the best out of the cam.
- SD card slot is on the base. If you’re using a tripod you can’t access the SD card easily
- I keep forgetting to turn off the multi-fps shooting mode and wonder why the flash doesn’t work.
- The self-timer can only be set for one shot and then it resets. Not good if you’re doing product shots on a tripod where I always use a 2 second timer.
- On-barrel zoom control is great for video. With the screen flipped out it feels like a video camera.
- 25mm wide angle is perfect for arms-length self-video. Flip the screen out and you can get two people in-shot with ease. Here’s an example which also demos the selective mic. (The booth was incredibly noisy.)
I’ve got a lot more to learn about the FZ150 but so far I’m extremely happy with the balance of features. For a blogger that needs flexible image and video with zoom, a good built-in mic, external mic capability and rotating screen, the FZ150 is hard to beat.
I’ve published a ‘best-of’ CES 2012 photo set here. Take a look.