I purchased the DMC-FZ150 to see if it could be a low cost surf video solution that records in MP4 for easy viewing on a PC with default media players. A requirement was the need for very simple work flow, no special applications are needed to play back video, just copy and play the MP4. The FZ150 excels in that area, and its Leica equivalent 25-600mm f2.8-5.2 lens is sharp zoomed out to the long end.
The very first clips are not the best representation of the video quality due to inexperience, the wrong tripod head and a lot of back light. The first clip #01 was taken at 1280×720 and clip #02 at 1920×1080 with the same tripod. Each short clip was cut with the included Photo Fun Studio 6.5 software and then inserted as a link into the blog. No issues with copying the MP4 file directly from the SanDisk to our Windows 7 PC, and playing it with excellent quality on Windows Media Player.
The LCD is close to 3″ and folds out, it also rotates up to 180 degrees forward. It is fairly bright with good contrast, and I had no issues viewing the LCD in sun light at the beach. The video record features are pretty sparse; you don’t have a pause, except in play back mode. However the tracking and AF, and stabilization work very well to produce nice video clips, in decent light. Even in severe back light conditions that my son was surfing in late in the day, the video AF tracking managed to keep him in focus. One of the first things that I did this weekend was to purchase a video specific fluid tripod head, to help smooth out the vertical transitions on a wave.
The image of my son was taken in photo mode which is equally sharp as the video. The view finder is on the smaller side, and is somewhat difficult to use compare to the full size view finders that are typically found in most DLSR cameras. However optically the quality of the photo was close to what we normally achieve with our Sigma 18-250 super zoom at the long end on a D300. The built in Leica lens is of course much lighter and shorter, due to its 4:3 format. One thing to note is that AF tracking in the photo mode drops the frame rate from 5.5 fps to 2 fps and the number of continuous images in a photo sequence is less than advertised. I am using a SanDisk Extreme SDHC 16 GB class 10 card that is rated at 30 MB / sec.
I think that for the money, approximately $429 new from B&H Photo, the FZ150 is a good value for entry level video. Having been spoiled with a quality Nikon DLSR camera for still photography, I would prefer my D300 which cost 4x as much for sports due to the better view finder, durability and handling. The goal for the FZ150 was to obtain the best quality MP4 video available for under $500 dollars, in a video camera that had an optical zoom with enough reach to catch my son surfing. I can say that while watching 1920 x 1080 MP4 clips on my Samsung monitor, the quality of the video exceeds my expectations. My son can clearly see the position of his feet in the middle of a wave, and use the feed back to improve his surfing.
Not bad for $429 dollars!