Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX10
Panasonic's FX series cameras have had a similar design concept for years now--small, but not extremely thin; solid metal casings; and a lens, mounted slightly left of center, that extends when you turn on the camera. While some companies might feel the need to tinker with a design such as this, just for the sake of change, we're glad that Panasonic has the sense to stick with what works. The Lumix DMC-FX10 steps up to the plate with 6 megapixels, a 3x optical 35mm-to105mm equivalent, f/2.8-to-f/5 zoom lens, and a 2.5-inch LCD. None of these specs stands out much when compared to the overall compact camera market, but combined with Panasonic's effective optical image stabilization and a sub-$200 price point, you get a solid snapshot camera that is a very good deal.
All of the camera's controls are placed on the right-hand side of the body, making one-handed shooting easy. And since Panasonic keeps the controls simple, making minor adjustments is fairly quick. The main thing that irked me was that there is only one metering mode, so if the multiple-point metering system the camera employs isn't to your liking, your only option is to use the +/- 2 EV of exposure compensation to fix it. Usually, in a compact camera such as this, you can also expect a center-weighted or spot metering option. For the most part, that wasn't an issue since the meter does a decent job, but in tricky shooting conditions, or if you decide that you want to try something out of the ordinary, this may prove annoying.
Outside of the usual white balance, sensitivity (aka ISO), image size, and color mode (sepia, black and white, etc.) options, there aren't many choices in the FX10's easy-to- navigate menus. A healthy array of 21 scene modes helps to tackle specific shooting situations, such as portraits, night scenery, and fireworks. If those options are too much for you, Panasonic includes the Simple mode, indicated by the heart on the mode dial. I found this mode a bit too simple, but technophobes might appreciate its all-too-basic structure.
In our lab tests, the Lumix DMC-FX10 neither impressed nor disappointed. It took a slightly sluggish 1.9 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. Thereafter, it took 1.3 seconds between shots with the flash turned off, slowing just a bit to 1.7 seconds with the flash turned on. Shutter lag measured an acceptable 0.5 second in our high-contrast test and 1.3 seconds in our low-contrast test; the tests mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In Burst mode, we were able to capture an average of 1.7 frames per second when capturing 6-megapixel JPEGs, or 2.2fps when capturing VGA sized JPGs.
Image quality is pleasing, especially at lower ISOs. Colors look accurate, though perhaps a bit oversaturated, and the automatic white balance does a good job of neutralizing colors in most lighting conditions, including incandescent settings. Exposures are generally accurate, though occasionally underexposed, which is generally better than the opposite, since shadow detail tends to be more salvageable in image editing software than highlight detail. There's an admirable amount of fine detail for a 6-megapixel camera, but we did see some annoying artifacts and moirÃ©, which steal some of the fire from images that are otherwise free of ISO-related noise at lower sensitivity settings.
In fact, images are quite clean at ISO 100 and ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise becomes apparent on computer monitors, but Panasonic's noise reduction algorithms smooth it out so that it won't be too noticeable in prints. However, those same aggressive algorithms rob a fair amount of fine detail, so smaller text may become obscured at, and above, this sensitivity. This is also the point at which shadow detail starts to drop off, though not by much. At ISO 800 and ISO 1250, you won't see a major increase in noise, but the drop off in shadow detail and fine detail resolution continues a gentle downward slide. Even at ISO 1250 you should be able to make prints, though you'll want to stick to 4x6 inches rather than larger prints where the blurriness will be more apparent.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Lumix DMC-FX10 is its image stabilization, which should help you avoid having to shoot at higher ISOs as long as your subject isn't moving very fast. In my field tests, I was able to get a sharp image at a shutter speed of 1/15th second with the lens zoomed to an equivalent of 55mm. Normally I would have had to shoot at 1/60th second to get the same results.
If you're not too picky about your images, as many snapshooters aren't, you'll likely be pleased with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX10. For its price range, it's a solidly built camera that performs well. Plus, its image stabilization gives it a welcomed edge. If you're willing to spend more money, you can definitely find a better camera, but in its price range, the DMC-FX10 is a good deal.
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
|Typical continuous-shooting speed|