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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37

The Panasonic FX37 may just look like a normal digital camera, but its compact body is full of impressive features, most notably the 5x optical wideangle zoom lens and the Intelligent ISO system, which combine to turn out high-quality images. It's one of the smartest cameras on the market

Rod Lawton

See full bio
3 min read

The FX37's unassuming exterior hides some very clever technology indeed and, not content with only that, Panasonic has added on a 5x optical zoom lens with an amazing 25mm equivalent minimum focal length. For £200 you will get one of the smartest cameras on the market -- and one of the most versatile.

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8.3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37

The Good

5x wideangle zoom; Intelligent ISO; Focus Tracking.

The Bad

Small sensor; limited manual control.

The Bottom Line

What a great little camera -- you get an excellent zoom range, good image quality and innovative focusing, exposure and ISO technologies that really do make a difference to your shots. It might be a snapshot camera rather than a serious photographic tool, but it's much smarter than the average point-and-clicker

Positives
So are these wide-angle zooms such a big deal? Yes, they are. It might be the long-range superzooms that grab the headlines, but most of the time your problem is fitting the whole subject into the frame rather than not getting close enough to your subject in the first place.

It's not just the angle of view that makes this lens interesting. We're used to seeing chromatic aberration and distortion in compact cameras, but the Panasonic shows barely any evidence of either. Whether that's the lens or the processing, it's pretty impressive.

That's just the start. Panasonic's Intelligent ISO system tackles one of the bugbears of digital cameras -- limited dynamic range. It does this by adjusting the ISO selectively in different parts of the image -- amplifying the signal in the darker parts and holding it back in the highlights. And it really does work, handling high-contrast scenes much better than other cameras.

The Intelligent Auto mode, meanwhile, takes the idea of scene modes one step further, automatically identifying the best scene mode to use for each shot. Does it work? Not every time, but often enough to leave you impressed.

This mode identifies subject movement (and not just camera movement) and increases the ISO accordingly, so that the shutter speed is raised and the movement blur is reduced. This works alongside the Mega OIS image stabilisation system, which cuts shake due to camera movement.

There's a very neat Focus Tracking mode which, once it's locked on to a subject, can follow it even if it moves away or across the frame. It needs a moment or so to lock on to it in the first place, but after that it works uncannily well.

Lastly, if you want to shoot a movie clip rather than a snapshot, the Panasonic can record high-definition 1,280x720-pixel footage at 30fps. Who needs a camcorder?

Negatives
Let's not forget the pictures, though. Here, the Panasonic delivers pretty good results for a camera with a 1/2.33-inch sensor. As long as you keep the ISOs low, detail is good and there's not too much smudging of fine textures. It holds on fairly well as the ISOs go up, too, though the smudging and softening accelerates pretty rapidly.

The zooming is rather slow, it has to be said, and you'll probably want to switch to the high-speed AF mode, because the default area AF tends to take its time. And while the FX37 has some stunningly clever and successful automation, there's not much manual control on offer -- not even a choice of metering modes.

Conclusion
The picture quality's above average, due mostly to the lens rather than the image processing, but the FX37's real strengths are the technologies inside its neat little body. Lots of makers stuff their cameras full of gimmicks, but the features here work well and are actually useful.

Edited by Marian Smith

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