Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - A cure for DSLR envy?
 - Straight from the camera, an example of what the DMC-FZ150 can do -- CLICK TO SEE DETAIL  (30 - Straight from the camera, an example of what the DMC-FZ150 can do -- CLICK TO SEE DETAIL  (30
Straight from the camera, an example of what the DMC-FZ150 can do -- CLICK TO SEE DETAIL (30" x 40" equivalent)
Let's face it -- real photographers use DSLRs. They're big and beautiful, fast operating, produce high quality images, have bright groundglass finders and oooh, interchangeable lenses. Just the thought of it makes me drool. I could have one of these sexy beasts if I really wanted one, but I've chosen small cameras like the DMC-FZ150 instead. What's up with that?

Many years ago, when I first started taking pictures, I could choose from a whole range of cameras. I chose 35mm. Yes, the quality would be higher if I chose a camera with a larger format, but I was willing to make the trade-off to get the advantages offered by the smaller cameras. The smaller size made the camera unobtrusive. That, plus interchangeable lenses, high speed film, and fast lenses let me shoot anywhere.

Fast forward to today, and there are similar choices among digital cameras. For my use, I can choose between the so-called "bridge" cameras like the FZ150, with its small sensor and non-interchangeable lens, or a full-fledged DSLR, with the advantages I've listed. It was a real compromise. I settled for lower image quality in favor of simplicity and small size, just as I had when I chose 35mm cameras many years ago. But still it bothered me, having to settle for less.

That was before the FZ150. This is the closest to a DSLR of any digital camera that I've owned. Let's look at the features and see how the two camera types compare.

Let's start at the most important factor. DSLRs, with their larger image sensors, produce superior images, especially at the higher ISO settings. And that's still true. You can't change the laws of physics that govern these things. But there will come a day when small-sensor cameras will be capable of producing images that are, for all intents and purposes, just as usable as those from DSLRs. The FZ150 comes very close to this goal. (Take a look at the detail from the picture at the top of this page. It's roughly equivalent to a 30" x 40" print.)

I was pleasantly surprised at just how good the images from the FZ150 are. Not just sharp, but with an overall look that I hadn't seen for digital cameras I'd previously used. Colors are great, and the overall tonal range is beautiful as well. There is plenty of detail in the shadows, and more can easily be coaxed out during post processing. But the most amazing part is just how good the images are at the higher ISO settings. Normally, I wouldn't use a camera like this at ISO settings above 200, but the FZ150 shines at 800 and 1600.

What about speed? DSLRs supposedly are faster focusing and can knock off multiple pictures per second. It looks like the FZ150 can match this as well. Maybe it's the CMOS image sensor, which is much faster than the usual CCDs that these cameras use. The FZ150 can capture 12 pictures per second at its highest quality setting, easily matching a DSLR, which will be limited because of its moving mirror and shutter. If you're willing to settle for a slightly smaller 3.5 megapixel image, the FZ150 can knock out a blazing 60 frames per second.

Most DSLR users look down their noses at the electronic viewfinder (EVF) found in cameras like the FZ150, swearing their optical groundglass viewers are brighter and easier to use. Here's a secret: Even the worst EVF is better than a groundglass. Why's that? No matter how bright and sharp a groundglass is, you get no real preview of the final image in terms of exposure, white balance, etc. It's showing you what the lens sees. The electronic viewfinder, on the other hand, shows what the sensor sees. Much closer to the final image. Electronic viewfinders can also give a brief glimpse of the captured image after each shot, so you can see if there's something you missed, or that requires fixing.

What about interchangeable lenses? When I began photography, there were no zoom lenses. If you wanted a different focal length, you put a different lens on your camera. When I was shooting at NBC, I had at least three cameras with three different lenses -- a 35mm, a 50mm, and a 100mm or 200mm. This arrangement let me switch viewpoints quickly, but otherwise a real pain. There wouldn't be affordable zoom lenses for at another twenty years. And zoom lenses as good as prime lenses were even further off.

The FZ150's lens has an equivalent focal length of 25mm to 600mm. That's a 24X ratio. Pretty impressive, and even more so because it's sharp over this whole range. How many lenses would it take for a modern DSLR to have the same range? Remember that 600mm is 24 inches. A 600mm lens on a full-frame DSLR wouldn't fit into the average gadget bag.

But the real reason I don't want a camera with interchangeable lenses is this: every time you see something you want to photograph, you have to decide which of your wonderful lenses to put on the camera. Switching lenses is a pain, and a chance to drop one or get some dirt inside your camera. So, for the interchangeable lens shooter, photo opportunities will be lost, either because of the time wasted in changing lenses, or because it's too much trouble. I have just one permanently attached lens, and if it can be shot within the FZ150's 24X range, I'm all set.

And now let's talk about cost. A DSLR with lenses to match the range of the FZ150 could cost several thousand dollars at a minimum. Plus, you need a lot of support accessories as well as a large gadget bag to carry it all around in. I'm guessing the weight would be at least six pounds, minimum.

By contrast the FZ150 weights about 20 ounces, has a street price of about $400, and will fit in a tiny shoulder bag. Plus, with a smaller, quieter camera, you'll blend into the crowd and attract less attention.

But wait, there's more. The FZ150 has a beautiful flip-out LCD with an extra-wide viewing angle. The FZ150 can also shoot video, something that's lacking in the lower end DSLRs. I'm not a video person, so I can' give the gory details, but it would be hard to match the FZ150's 24X zoom range in any other video camera.

Want some more reasons to buy an FZ150 instead of a DSLR? At about $400 a pop, you can always buy the latest model. And you won't have to worry if your current lenses will still work on the new one.

Oh, and one more thing. You can operate the FZ150 with one hand, leaving the other to do something useful like hold a drink.

I've made my choice, what about you?

Stay tuned for more.
< Previous Jan 21, 2012 Next >
Copyright 1958-2017 Tony & Marilyn Karp
Web Site Design
Systems Design
The Future
About
About Tony Karp
Recent Entries
The value of time in the creative process
Variations on a skink
Andy shoots raw. Ann always shoots JPEG
A butterfly in Havana -- From start to finish
Recovering highlight detail in JPEG images
A tribute to Paris on November 14, 2015
Some black and white pictures from long ago
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 2
Panasonic DMC-ZS40 pictures - Part 1
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- A butterfly takes wing
Shooting for NBC
What's new at the zoo?
On being a photojournalist
Some pictures of Manassas
Finishing a picture
Watching the sunset in Adams Morgan
A night at the circus - 1966
Fortune Qwerkies (tm) -- Fortune cookies for the smartphone user
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- The evolution from flat to solid
Art in the 3rd Dimension -- Showing how the pieces fit together
Getting a grip on the Panasonic DMC-LF1
Some random thoughts about the Panasonic DMC-LF1
The Panasonic DMC-LF1 is a game-changer
Art and the Zen of QR Codes -- Making QaRt
A new process for printing art in the 3rd dimension
Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!
Photographing the Perry Como Show
Hiking at Sky Meadows with my Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Working for the union
A new take on JPEG vs raw - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-ZS20 - Part 1
My new go-everywhere camera - Panasonic DMC-ZS20
My brief life in the studio
Shooting Shakespeare - The Tempest - NBC, 1960
Impressionist bees
In the studio with Roz Kelly
At the Peppermint Lounge - 1962
An evening with Gene Kelly
A portrait of Donna Mitchell - Variations on a theme
The "Sky Dream Ultimate" plug-in from Wilkington-Smythe
There's a 3D object on this page and why you can't see it
Post-processing: Going from good to great
Winter pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ150
Using the Panasonic DMC-FZ150's "Photo Style" Menu
A valentine for the Artist's Muse
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150's controls
Some thoughts on the Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 2
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - A cure for DSLR envy?
Some thoughts about my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 - Part 1
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 -- Best camera ever?
Sunglasses - What can you add to a picture?
Hey, camera makers. If my smartphone can do this…
The Artmuse Variations - a look inside my new book
A tribute to George Washington on Veterans Day
A visit to the White House
The little farmhouse, the tractor, and the interesting tree
Buckminster, the baby buckeye butterfly
Memories of September 11
Happy Corporation Day!
A trip to Monterey and San Francisco
The first battle of the American Civil War -- 150 years ago
The end of an era -- The last American manned mission
Growing an Italian stone pine tree
Random thoughts on art and other stuff - From my new book
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 3, Warrenton
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 2, In the house
Playing with a classic - Sony DSC-R1 - Part 1, Winter
Some recent pictures
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18/FZ28/FZ35 problem
Into the world of shadows
Snowbound!
A walk through Warrenton
Partly moony with my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 3 - Video
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
Happy birthday to muse...
Pixels and parking lots -- The Panasonic FZ35
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ35
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 2
My new Panasonic DMC-FZ35 - Part 1
On our way to Warrenton
Evolution of an Iris
A new feature in Adobe Camera Raw 5.4
A tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts
The pole dancer - Variations on a theme
Restoring lost highlight detail in JPEG images
A short course in photography in ten easy lessons
Kodachrome memories
A walk in the woods on my birthday
Mythbusters - More raw vs JPEG myths
Restoring lost shadow detail in JPEG images
Action!!
Expose for the highlights, develop for the shadows
Something new -- Interchangeable cameras
Honey, I shrunk the newspaper - The "Nano" NY Times
Mistaking evolution for revolution
Some pictures from the artist's muse
Photography becomes art -- Daibutsu Buddha at Kamakura
Happy House-i-versary
25 random things about the artist's muse
It happened at the Met
Some pictures and some settings - Part 4 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 3 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Part 2 - DMC-FZ28
Some pictures and some settings - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Noiseography -- A new photographic technique
Shooting infrared with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
You're never too young
One month with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A trip to Berryville - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
It's the Hobbitt's birthday
On September 11th
Shooting Tri-X with the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
A shot in the dark - Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Sunset and the far-up lens -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Further musings on the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Customizing your camera for high-ISO photography
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 vs DMC-FZ18 at high ISO
Some musings about the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
Hummers, SUVs, DSLRs, and my DMC-FZ28
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- At the Flying Circus
Panasonic DMC-FZ28 -- The journey begins
Farewell, my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
More about the settings for the DMC-FZ18
Dealing with the modes and settings of the DMC-FZ18
Photography becomes art - Bird on a wire
The artist's muse at sunset -- DMC-FZ18
Do you need fancy equipment?
Now here's my plan
Good cookie, bad cookie
But seriously, folks...
Post-processing Mr. Squirrel
A museum of one's own
We need new words to describe what's happening
Going over to the dark side
Shooting the moon
Happy Anniversary, Hobbitt
The view from my window - DMC-FZ18
My favorite museum
A toast to the artist's muse
The DMC-FZ18, a sunset, and a glass of beer
Remembering Herbert Keppler
Shooting abstracts with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Fixing a Panasonic DMC-FZ18 problem
More pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
The journey of a thousand Melvins
Stairway to the stars -- Extreme post processing
DMC-FZ18 - Raw vs JPEG - The JPEG Manifesto
Chromatic aberration and the DMC-FZ18
Raw vs JPEG, the DMC-FZ18, and a mystery
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 2
Some pictures from my Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Some pictures from my Kodak P880 - Part 1
DMC-FZ18 - Don't be afraid of the dark
Shooting in "Medium" - DMC-FZ18 - The right exposure
Shooting in "Medium" and the Panasonic DMC-FZ18
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 2
In-use review -- Panasonic DMC-FZ18 - Part 1
Photography becomes art - Fantasy at Ida Lee
Photography becomes art - The chefs at Little Washington
My new old camera - the Kodak Easyshare P880
Photography becomes art - Variations on a theme
Doing the impossible - Part 4 - The final result
Doing the impossible - Part 3 - The solutions
Doing the impossible - Part 2 - The challenges
Doing the impossible - Part 1 - The Godfather
All the (art) news that's fit to print
The museum becomes art - #1
Photography becomes art - Making an angel
How to test a camera
Hitting the wall
Extreme post-processing - Working with infrared
Blogging 2.0 - A new interface
A funny thing happened on my way to the blog
In the beginning...