The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 is loaded with features, as it should be with a near $400 MSRP. The lens is probably the main attraction for most potential buyers, and understandably so. Although many people are attracted to long zooms, the bright f2.2 aperture is rare on compacts, giving you a shallow depth of field that's attractive for portraits and macro shots, as well as letting you shoot at lower ISOs when you have less light. The 24mm-equivalent ultrawide-angle lens allows for greater flexibility with compositions, too, and, really, a 5x zoom range is perfect for a pocket camera. It also has semimanual and manual shooting modes and captures 1080i-resolution movies at 30 frames per second (fps) at the press of a button. Its sensor and new image-processing engine make it a fairly quick camera as well.
However, you really are paying for the features, shooting performance, and size so you'll want to thoroughly consider your photo quality needs before buying. Expectations usually run high with a camera that costs this much--as they should--and though the FX700 is capable of taking excellent photos, it certainly has limitations.
|Key specs||Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.1 x 2.2 x 1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.2 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||15 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch MOS (14 megapixels effective)|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD (touch screen), 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f2.2-5.9, 24-120mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (interlaced; 19Mbps), 1,280x720 at 30fps (progressive; 17Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 300 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; external charger supplied|
|Bundled software||PHOTOfunSTUDIO 5.2 HD Edition (Windows only)|
For the most part, the FX700 is identical to the company's FX75: same body, lens, controls, and touch screen. The key differences are the sensor and processor. The FX700 has a new 14-megapixel MOS sensor and the Venus Engine FHD, allowing it to do things the FX75 can't do with its 14-megapixel CCD and Venus Engine HD II processor. One of those is recording full HD video at 30fps in AVCHD format; the FX75 maxes out at 720p at 30fps in AVCHD Lite. The FX700 has a stereo mic, too, that, if you're not careful, can easily be blocked by a finger.
It's a fairly small camera, all things considered, and certainly compact enough to put in a pants pocket or small bag. For the most part, functions are handled through the touch interface, but there are some physical controls. On top are a power switch, shutter release with zoom ring, and a one-touch record button for movies. On back to the right of the screen is a switch for going from capture to playback and Mode and Menu buttons.
For its price, the screen is low resolution, and I found it to be too small for all of the option controls. Pressing a Display soft button can get rid of everything while you're shooting, but leaving them visible can quickly get confusing as icons clutter the screen. At least the screen is responsive and there are Touch Shutter, Touch AF Tracking, and Touch Zooming functions to make it more useful. That last one lets you zoom all the way out and back again with a single tap of T and W icons. If you want to fine-tune it, there's a zoom lever on screen, too, but you can just as easily use the zoom ring on top. Also, there were times I went to select something and instead fired off a photo; for more-precise taps, Panasonic includes a stylus.
The FX700 is powered by a rechargeable battery that's CIPA-rated for up to 300 shots. The combination of using the touch screen, burst shooting, and HD movie capture puts a noticeable dent in that life, though. The battery is located behind a locking door on the bottom of the camera next to the SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot. (We tested using a SanDisk 64GB SDXC card, and the extra storage and speed came in handy when regularly using the burst and movie modes.) On the right side is a flip-out door concealing Micro-USB/AV and Mini-HDMI ports.
|General shooting options||Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, Color Temperature, Custom|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Scene, Movie|
|Focus modes||Face Detection AF, 1-point AF, 1-point AF (high speed), 11-point AF, Spot AF, AF Tracking, Touch AF|
|Macro||1.2 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm, Happy (only in iA mode)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||100 shots (15 shots at fastest burst speed)|
As one of Panasonic's highest-end compacts, there is no shortage of shooting options. For automatic shooting there is the company's Intelligent Auto that combines an ever-growing number of technologies to get the best results. Overall, it works very well, but photos can end up appearing overprocessed. On a side note, Panasonic sticks "Intelligent" in front of no fewer than eight features in this camera. Remembering what each of them does, where they are in the menus, and when you should and shouldn't use them can cause a bit of a headache. They are helpful technologies, but the marketing is really starting to get in the way of using them effectively.
There are 27 scene modes for those times when you want to get specific with your auto shooting. Many of them are available for photos and movies. For the most part they are the ones you'd find on any point-and-shoot, but there are a few artistic ones like High Dynamic and Pinhole as well as a Handheld Night Shot that takes 10 pictures in a row and then combines them into one to reduce motion blur and noise. The downside being that it only works if your subject is stationary. There's a Program mode, too, should you want to adjust things like ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation, but not worry about shutter speed and aperture settings.
For those who like to take more control, the FX700 does offer aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual shooting modes, though the touch-screen controls make them a bit awkward to use. Apertures are f2.2-6.3 wide and 5.9-6.3 telephoto. Shutter speeds go from 8 seconds to 1/2,000 second. Both are controlled with onscreen sliders so it can be difficult to make quick changes, especially if you're going from one extreme to the other. However, if you're just looking for more control than afforded by a lower-end point-and-shoot, the FX700 certainly gives you that.
If you shoot a lot of moving subjects, the FX700's multiple burst shooting options give you a lot of flexibility and a fighting chance of getting a good photo. Its fastest burst modes--40 and 60 frames per second--are at reduced resolutions, but Panasonic packed in three at full resolution. There's one that captures up to 15 shots at 10fps, but that sets focus, exposure, and white balance with the first shot. What's better are the 2fps and 5fps options that set those things with each shot so you're able to get a subject moving moderately fast in focus and properly exposed. There's an Intelligent Burst Mode that adjusts the frame rate of burst shooting according to the speed of the subject's movement.