Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX10 (series)
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.