It's nearly Easter, and we find ourselves haunted by the moment we lost our childhood innocence: the instant we first cracked open a giant chocolate egg and discovered that it wasn't full of sticky-sweet goodness after all. We've been as hollow as a cheap supermarket mockolate egg ever since. Jaded as we are, we expect the from most compact cameras, until every now and again we come across a camera so packed with features it's like breaking into a giant Creme Egg and discovering it's fondant all the way through. Say hello then, to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500.
The FX500 is a 10.1-megapixel point-and-shoot with a whole host of treats up its sleeve. The excellent Mega OIS system keeps pictures steady and unblurrisome, auto-focus tracking tracks subjects like Steve McQueen in The Hunter, and iA (Intelligent Auto) mode takes care of the thinking.
Panasonic is claiming performance figures such as shutter lag as short as 0.005 seconds -- oooh -- and 2.5 frames per second at full resolution -- aaah -- while face detection and an automatic scene mode selector are also included. We particularly like the sound of an intelligent exposure function, which increases the exposure of the darker areas to make sure detail isn't lost.
The FX500 will be available in silver and black. The recommended retail price is £330, although we're sure the street value will be slightly less. It's yours to own from the end of April, but if you can't wait that long, click through for pictures and details of the screentastic, lensriffic FX500. -Rich Trenholm
Update: Read our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 review.
These PR images sadly don't give us much in the way of scale, but we reckon the Panasonic FX500 looks pocketable. That there lens is a double whammy of transparent optical device goodness: it's a 5x zoom, so good for looking at things just that little bit further away, and even better, it's a 25mm wide angle focal length.
The average compact packs the equivalent of 35mm or 38mm, as compared to a 35mm camera, which in chocolate terms is a Kit Kat. Some compacts, such as the and and the are 28mm, which is like a Kit Kat Chunky. So at 25mm, the FX500 -- and the lower-spec FX35 -- are like solid-chocolate lucky Kit Kats.
Of course, anyone who knows anything about glass -- that's what proper people what do photography call lenses -- may be concerned that such wide angles produce distortion. Very wide angle lenses produce the famous fisheye effect, in fact. Fortunately, Panasonic's usual collaborator Leica has put an unevenly thick concave meniscus extra-high refractive index aspherical (EA) lens on to the FX500 to keep distortion to a minimum. Yeah, we said it.
Take a look at that whopper of a screen. It's a 76mm (3-inch) beast, with plenty of real estate for composing 720p high-definition video. HD footage can be played back on your HD television at 30fps via component output, with music added to your slideshows.
And as if that wasn't enough...
...It's a touchscreen! Yes, you can get mucky fingerprints all over that lovely display. Or you can use the crazy stylus, supplied with the camera -- hands: model's own.
When it comes to touchscreens, the jury's so out it could lead a San Francisco Pride march. Basic settings are controlled by the joystick, with options fine-tuned on the touchscreen. This involves moving sliders, a method we enjoy using on the Samsung NV series as it gives fine-textured and intuitive control over, say, aperture and shutter speed.
The touchscreen also allows you to input text, and set focus and exposure to a particular point in the the frame by prodding it with finger, stylus or sharpened poky-stick. We'll be jabbing at it with chocolate-smeared fingers for a full review before you can say, "Ooh, it's an unevenly thick concave meniscus extra-high refractive index aspherical lens. Sweet."