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Christmas Gift Guide

ISO comparison

Macro

Color

Zoom range

Lens distortion

Fringing

Smear

Barrel distortion in video

Creative modes

The photo quality from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX90 is very good as long as you have plenty of light and can keep the ISO sensitivity set at or below ISO 200. As soon as you get above that, the color noise starts to make things look mottled with yellow blotches. Plus, the noise reduction makes subjects look very soft. If you're after great handheld indoor and low-light shots without using a flash, you'll probably want to skip the FX90. That's especially true if you want to use the photos at larger sizes or heavily crop them.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
If you like to shoot close-ups, the FX90 does very well. Again, though, that's dependent on keeping the ISO set below ISO 200. The FX90 can focus as closely as 1.2 inches from a subject, and when you enlarge photos you can get sharp results with good fine details.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Colors are nice and pleasing, but not entirely accurate. Most point-and-shoot users will appreciate the vivid colors. Highlights have a tendency to blow out, however.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The big advantage for the FX90 over a smartphone is its lens. It starts at an ultrawide-angle 24mm with a bright f2.5 aperture and zooms out to 120mm or a 5x zoom.

Unfortunately, the maximum aperture with the lens extended is a fairly slow, but not uncommon, f5.9.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Panasonic usually corrects for barrel distortion with in-camera processing, but it seems to have skipped that for the FX90. As you can see in the top shot, there is some very noticeable barrel distortion. With the lens extended, there's a bit of pincushioning, but it's barely visible. The center sharpness is good from the Leica lens, but it gets softer out to the sides. The left side was particularly soft on my review camera.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Fringing isn't really noticeable in high-contrast areas until you view photos at full size. This is a 100 percent crop of the inset photo, and you can see some fringing and haloing around the statues.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
One of the downsides to using a CCD sensor is smear caused by bright light hitting the sensor. If you look at the sunlight bouncing off the building in the distance, you can see vertical lines shooting up and down from the bright spot.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Again, you'll have to be careful when shooting video to avoid barrel distortion when using the wide end of the lens.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
If you want to get a little artistic before you upload your photos to Facebook, you can shoot in one of three creative modes: High Dynamic, Pin Hole, and Film Grain (pictured).
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
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