Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27
There are a lot of people out there who simply want an affordable camera that takes a decent picture in auto, has some extra zoom power, and can still be slipped in a pocket. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 is just that. With camera manufacturers trying to jam in as many features as possible in some models, the FH27 is notable for having only two big features: an 8x, 28mm wide-angle lens and a 3-inch touch screen. The rest of it is pure point-and-shoot backed by Panasonic's reliable Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, a healthy selection of scene modes, and 720p HD movie capture. The touch screen adds a bit of glitz, helping it stand out in the congested compact-camera market.
|Key specs||Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9x2.2x1.1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.6 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch touch-screen LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||8x, f3.3-5.9, 28-224mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,608x3,456 pixels / 1,280x720 pixels at 24fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li-ion rechargeable, 250 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; external charger supplied|
|Bundled software||PhotofunStudio 6.0 (Windows), Super LoiLoScope (trial version; Windows)|
The FH27's photo quality is good to very good, but people expecting to be wowed by its 16-megapixel resolution may be disappointed. Though subjects look somewhat soft from the get-go, there isn't much difference from ISO 100 to ISO 400. That means shots taken in good lighting are quite nice and thanks to Panasonic's "Intelligent" technology, you can pretty much leave it in auto and get solid results. It isn't until you go above ISO 400 that things noticeably decline--especially at larger sizes--with smeary details and yellow blotching from noise. If you need something for great low-light shots, this isn't your camera. It does have low-light shooting modes, but the results are really only good for emergencies because of heavy noise reduction and off colors. Then again, if you just need shots for small prints and Web use, the high-ISO results might be acceptable.
Color is pleasing and natural. If you like your colors more saturated, you can switch from the camera's Standard color mode to Vivid when shooting in Normal Picture mode or Happy in Intelligent Auto. Colors are consistent up to ISO 400; there's a noticeable color shift at the two highest ISO sensitivities. Other than the auto white balance being a touch warm under incandescent lighting, white balance is good. Exposure is likewise good and Panasonic's Intelligent Exposure feature improves dynamic range and limits blown-out highlights.
Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera; good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. The zoom lens does not function while recording, but you do have a digital zoom. I suggest not using it as the results are not pleasant.
|General shooting options||Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Manual|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Normal, Scene, MyScene, Movie|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Macro AF, AF Tracking, Touch AF|
|Macro||1.9 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Face, AF Tracking, 11-area Multi, Spot, Touch area|
|Color effects||Standard, Vivid, Natural, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm, Happy (only in iA Mode)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||100 shots|
The FH27's shooting options are fairly bare-bones; it's definitely geared for people who prefer to shoot in auto. In the Mode menu you'll find Panasonic's Intelligent Auto, which handles just about everything for you, as well as a Normal Picture mode that gives you the most control over results, with settings for focus, color effects, white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. If you like scene modes, the FH27 has 27 of them. The list includes familiar modes like Portrait, Sunset, and Night Scenery, as well as High-Speed Burst for action and High Sensitivity for low-light photos (both capturing images at 3 megapixels and below). You get a few creative shooting modes such as Pinhole and Film Grain to experiment with. A MyScene option is also available, letting you associate a favorite scene mode with a spot in the shooting modes. Lastly, there is a Movie mode capable of capturing video in up to 720p HD resolution.
While I wouldn't recommend the FH27 for regularly shooting active kids and pets, the camera is pretty quick for its class, especially in terms of shutter lag and autofocus. The time from off to first shot is very good at 1.3 seconds. The shutter lag in bright conditions (how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed) averaged 0.3 second in our lab tests and just 0.6 second in dim lighting. Its shot-to-shot times are good, at 1.6 seconds without the flash and 2 seconds with it. The FH27 can shoot at full resolution at up to 1.1 frames per second with focus and exposure set with the first shot. The camera's 3-megapixel High-Speed Burst mode can capture at up to 4.4fps. The quality is fairly mediocre, suitable for Web use or small prints with little or no cropping or enlarging.
The FH27's design isn't all that different from its predecessor, the FH20. Panasonic basically added a sliver of a grip on the front right so you have something more than the brushed metal body to hold on to. On top are a power switch, shutter release, and zoom ring, and the E.Zoom button. That last one quickly zooms the lens completely out with one touch. However, press it again and it activates the extended optical zoom that basically crops the 16-megapixel image down to its center 3 megapixels. This is not a true optical zoom, but a variation of a digital zoom, making its name misleading. Press the button a third time and the lens goes back to its starting position. That's it for physical controls, though; the 3-inch touch screen is used for everything else.
As with many touch-screen cameras, the FH27's interface can be a bit trying if you do a lot of setting changes, simply because it can take several taps to get anything done. For example, say you want to turn on continuous shooting. You start by touching the Menu icon on the screen's left side, which gets you two icons: one for shooting settings, the other for setup options. Select shooting settings and then you have to slide through the selections--four icons at a time--trying to find what you're looking for. Two screens in you reach the continuous option. Select it and you get a secondary selector to turn the feature on. From there you can half-press the shutter release to start snapping or hit a return arrow twice.
This is essentially the same process you'd have with physical buttons on a Panasonic camera, but something about using the touch interface just seems slower. But if you're not the type to tinker with shooting options then this certainly isn't a deal breaker, and if there are a couple of things you want fast access to, such as ISO, white balance, flash, or exposure compensation, you can add two of them to the left side of the screen. The right side has icons for shooting modes, playback, and a zoom control (which is cooler to look at than use; a record icon for movies would be more useful).
The rest of the touch-screen experience is pretty solid. The screen is responsive and can be calibrated to better respond to your touch. Being able to focus on a subject with a single tap is definitely a plus and tapping to focus and shoot is nice as well--just be careful not to shake the camera too much with your tap. In playback you can use the screen to flip through your photos and movie clips, make a quick crop, or tag them for sharing with the camera's embedded software.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 is a good walking-around camera, something you just stick in your pocket and use when you're out for the day and want to be able to capture some moments here and there. Someone doing a lot of indoor or low-light shooting or trying to capture active kids and pets might not be happy with it, but it's otherwise a solid choice and an excellent value.
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