The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150's new sensor and image processor improved JPEG quality overall from the camera's predecessor, the FZ100. Mainly there's a lot less visible noise, especially above ISO 200. However, below ISO 200 subjects tend to look overprocessed.
Taken at ISO 100, the top photo is from the FZ100, and the bottom is from the FZ150. Viewed at small sizes, the FZ150's photo is sharper, but the colors look oversaturated. When viewed at larger sizes, you'll notice there is less noise from the FZ150, but details seem oversharpened.
The top photo here is a JPEG straight from the camera taken at ISO 100 under our tungsten studio lights with auto white balance. The bottom is the raw image processed in less than a minute with the included Silkypix software. Because there is only a minor performance hit when using raw+JPEG, I recommend shooting with it whenever possible.
For those who like to shoot close-ups, the FZ100 can focus as close as 0.4 inch to a subject. However, when viewed at large sizes, things look crunchy and overprocessed. A switch on the lens barrel lets you quickly switch to macro autofocus or manual focus.
For those who want control over shutter speed and aperture, there are priority modes for each as well as a manual mode letting you control both. Shutter speeds go from 15 seconds to 1/2,000 second (a Starry Sky scene mode can be set for 30 seconds). Apertures go from f2.8 to f8 at the wide end with a total of 10 stops and the telephoto apertures go from f5.2 to f8 with a total of 5 stops.
The FZ150's widest aperture is f2.8, though it's only available when the lens is at its widest position. It's enough to give you some background blurring when shooting close-ups as well as to keep you from needing higher ISOs when you have less lighting.
However, Panasonic's Intelligent Zoom digitally extends the zoom range to 32x. Though it is a digital zoom, the results are usable and really no worse than images I've seen from cameras with longer optical zooms.
Panasonic controls the barrel distortion fairly well from the 25mm-equivalent ultrawide-angle lens (top). There's also no sign of pincushion distortion when extended (bottom). The lens of my review sample was consistent edge to edge, with the exception of a slight bit of softness in the very corners. Fringing is under control for the most part, too, but I did see some in very high-contrast areas of photos, such as around tree leaves against a white sky.
Panasonic's Creative Control mode gives you some easy ways to change the look of your photos while you're shooting. Options include Expressive, Retro, High Key, Sepia (pictured), Monochrome, High Dynamic, Pin Hole, and Film Grain.