Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic FZ150
The Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2010 and August 2011. The D3100 is a DSLR, while the FZ150 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D3100) and a 1/2.3-inch (FZ150) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 14.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 12 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic FZ150. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the FZ150 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic FZ150 is notably smaller (15 percent) than the Nikon D3100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3100 nor the FZ150 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the FZ150 has a lens built in, whereas the D3100 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D3100 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|Nikon D3100||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|Panasonic FZ150||4.9 in||3.2 in||3.6 in||18.6 oz||410||n||Aug 2011||499|
|Canon SX50||4.8 in||3.4 in||4.2 in||21.0 oz||315||n||Sep 2012||429|
|Canon SX40||4.8 in||3.6 in||4.3 in||21.2 oz||380||n||Sep 2011||429|
|Nikon D3200||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5100||5.0 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.8 oz||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|Nikon D7000||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3000||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D40||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||470||n||Nov 2006||499|
|Panasonic FZ200||4.9 in||3.4 in||4.3 in||20.7 oz||540||n||Jul 2012||599|
|Panasonic FZ100||4.9 in||3.2 in||3.6 in||19.0 oz||410||n||Jul 2010||499|
|Panasonic LX5||4.3 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||9.6 oz||400||n||Jul 2010||499|
|Sony NEX-5N||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-C3||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||7.9 oz||400||n||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The FZ150 was launched at a lower price than the D3100, despite having a lens built in. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3100 features an APS-C sensor and the Panasonic FZ150 a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The sensor area in the FZ150 is 92 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 5.6. The sensor in the D3100 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the FZ150 offers a 4:3 aspect.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 14.2MP, the D3100 offers a higher resolution than the FZ150 (12MP), but the D3100 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.01μm versus 1.53μm for the FZ150) due to its larger sensor. However, the FZ150 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the D3100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the FZ150 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.4 inches or 58.5 x 39 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.3 inches or 46.8 x 31.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 10.2 inches or 39 x 26 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic FZ150 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D3100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the D3100 provides substantially higher image quality than the FZ150, with an overall score that is 27 points higher. This advantage is based on 3.1 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the FZ150 provides a faster frame rate than the D3100. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the FZ150 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), while the D3100 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3100 and Panasonic FZ150 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D3100 and the FZ150 write their files to SDXC cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
Both the D3100 and the FZ150 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3100 was replaced by the Nikon D3200, while the FZ150 was followed by the Panasonic FZ200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Panasonic websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D3100 better than the Panasonic FZ150 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D3100:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (14.2 vs 12MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (27 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (3.1 bits more color depth).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (2.8 stops ISO advantage).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- More flexible: Can take a variety of interchangeable lenses, including specialty optics.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (550 versus 410) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2010).
Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150:
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/24p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Ready to shoot: Comes with an integrated lens, while the D3100 requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (124x82mm vs 124x96mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the FZ150 emerges as the winner of the match-up (12 : 10 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3100 and the Panasonic FZ150 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Superzoom Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3100 and the FZ150 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Nikon D3100||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|Panasonic FZ150||+ +||76/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||499|
|Canon SX50||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Sep 2012||429|
|Canon SX40||+||..||4.5/5||5/5||4/5||Sep 2011||429|
|Nikon D3200||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5100||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3000||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||80/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||79/100||+ +||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D40||81/100||+ +||o||5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499|
|Panasonic FZ200||+ +||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2012||599|
|Panasonic FZ100||+||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jul 2010||499|
|Panasonic LX5||+||73/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2010||499|
|Sony NEX-5N||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-C3||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Nikon D3100 vs Panasonic FZ150
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D3100||Panasonic FZ150|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Fixed lens compact camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||25-600mm f/2.8-5.2|
|Launch Date||August 2010||August 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 499|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic FZ150|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||1/2.3" Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.1 x 15.4 mm||6.17 x 4.55 mm|
|Sensor Area||355.74 mm2||28.0735 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27.8 mm||7.7 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||14.2 Megapixels||12 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3072 pixels||4000 x 3000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.01 μm||1.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.98 MP/cm2||42.74 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/24p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 2||Venus FHD|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||67||40|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.5||19.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.3||10.9|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||919||132|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic FZ150|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||202k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||460k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic FZ150|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||12 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic FZ150|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3100||Panasonic FZ150|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||550 shots per charge||410 shots per charge|
124 x 96 x 75 mm
(4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
124 x 82 x 92 mm
(4.9 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
|Camera Weight||505 g (17.8 oz)||528 g (18.6 oz)|
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