Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX550 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX550

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Typical Price: £225.00

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX550

(Part #: CNETPanasonic Lumix DMC-FX550)
3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Offers a surprising amount of manual control; super-wideangle zoom; good focus tracking.

The Bad Poor lens quality at full zoom; occasionally hit-and-miss touchscreen interface.

The Bottom Line We have to ask what the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX550's hybrid touchscreen interface actually achieves. It doesn't replace the usual set of buttons because you get these too. The 25-125mm zoom doesn't perform brilliantly, either. While the DMC-FX550 sounds exciting and different, it proves something of a letdown

6.5 Overall

The 12.1-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX550's neat little metal body oozes hi-tech features and offers a surprising amount of manual control. You also get a 76mm (3-inch) touchscreen, a 5x super-wide zoom equivalent to 25-125mm, and a high-definition movie mode. That doesn't sound too bad for just £225 or so.

Top-notch construction
As usual, this Panasonic camera's build quality is beyond reproach. The DMC-FX550 feels like a classy piece of kit right from the start. The first sign of the touchscreen interface is an 'AFAE' button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. You tap this, then tap on the object you want to focus on. The DMC-FX550 doesn't just focus on it, it tracks it around the screen if it or the camera moves.

There's nothing wrong with the DMC-FX550's colours or resolution, as long as you stick to shorter focal lengths and ISOs of 200 and below. Beyond ISO 400, the quality's pretty grim (click image to enlarge)

The touchscreen display comes into play again if you press the 'mode' button on the back. This displays a bunch of big on-screen icons for the 'intelligent auto', 'my scene', 'scene', program auto-exposure, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, manual and motion-picture modes. It's unusual to get all these modes in a little compact like this.

Also available in black, the DMC-FX550's build quality leaves little to be desired

If you decide you want to shoot in manual mode, the screen displays sliders for adjusting the shutter speed and aperture. You 'drag' them with your thumb. If you want to make adjustments to the ISO, white balance or other everyday settings, you press the 'Q.Menu' button. That gives you a horizontal set of on-screen buttons for the parameters you can change, and a vertical set for the setting. Overall, this system is pretty quick, effective and reliable, although dragging the virtual sliders can be a hit-and-miss affair.

Redundant touchscreen?
But does this touchscreen interface do anything you couldn't do just as easily with directional buttons? In other words, is it really necessary? Panasonic describes it as a 'hybrid' interface, and it doesn't entirely replace the standard controls since many of the adjustments can be made with the directional buttons too. We have to admit to being spoiled by the Samsung ST550 and its 'haptic' interface, which delivers a tiny vibration through your finger when you press on the screen. The DMC-FX550's touchscreen seems rather vague and lacklustre by comparison.

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