Panasonic has updated its high-zoom Lumix Z line with three new models: the 3-megapixel DMC-FZ3, the 5-megapixel DMC-FZ20, and this 4-megapixel model, the DMC-FZ15. All three offer 12X zoom ranges and optically stabilized Leica lenses to prevent blurriness, and the Lumix DMC-FZ15 comes with a broad feature set designed for enthusiasts.
Upside: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15's market-leading 12X zoom maintains a wide f/2.8 aperture throughout its range for good low-light performance, and Panasonic rates its fastest full-resolution burst rate at an impressive 4 frames per second. There's a big 2-inch LCD and a manual focus ring on the lens, and this camera offers lots of image-parameter fine-tuning. It will be available in both black and silver.
Downside: Some photographers might not like that the DMC-FZ15 uses an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one. While all of the new Lumix Z cameras offer excellent telephoto capabilities with a 35mm-to-420mm (35mm-camera equivalent) focal-length range, wide-angle fans will have to purchase an optional lens converter to suit their needs.
Outlook: When the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ15 ships in August for $500, it will provide some stiff competition for Olympus's 4-megapixel Ultra Zoom models, the C-765 and C-770. Those cameras have only 10X zoom ranges, and their lenses aren't stabilized. Look out, Olympus.