Image quality is generally good, with sharp images, accurate-looking colors, a healthy amount of shadow detail, and consistently accurate white balance and exposures. However, noise remains one of Panasonic's weakest points. Even at the camera's lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 80, I saw noise in our test images. The noise is minimized in prints but is readily noticeable when viewing images at full size on computer monitors. The noise is less obvious on subjects with texture, such as the plush ape in our test scene, but creates a mottled look on dark-colored smooth surfaces, such as the navy-blue toy car in the same scene. Panasonic's noise-reduction algorithms manage to keep noise under control through ISO 200 with only very slight falloffs in sharpness and shadow detail. At ISO 400, noise bumps up, colors start to wash out, and shadow detail begins to decline, but images are definitely still usable. At ISO 800, conditions worsen as both sharpness and shadow detail deteriorate, though you'll likely still be able to get pleasing 4x6-inch prints. At both ISO 1,250 and ISO 1,600, noise becomes very heavy and sharpness and shadow detail take a nose dive. I suggest staying below ISO 800 whenever possible and below ISO 1,250 altogether. That said, Panasonic is doing a much better job at combating noise than it did even a couple of years ago. Given that this is a 12-megapixel compact camera, I was surprised at the results it produced.
Considering the usefulness of the 28mm wide-angle lens, the convenience of the Intelligent ISO mode, and the FX100's impressive white balance and metering, this camera is a good choice if you feel you absolutely must have a 12-megapixel compact camera. However, you probably don't need so many pixels. If you don't plan on cropping heavily or making extremely large prints, you'd be better served going for a camera with a lower megapixel count and better noise results, such as the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS or if you don't mind ultracompacts, Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T100, both of which cost around the same price as this Panasonic.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)