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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 Digital Camera Review

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Category: Compact Cameras
Product: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 -

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The Panasonic Lumix Dmc-FX01 is currently the smallest compact digital camera to sport a 28mm wide angle lens. Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at how wide this camera's appeal is.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01Specifications
  • 6 megapixels
  • 3.6x zoom lens with a 28mm wide angle equivalent
  • 3 frames per second continuous shooting
  • ISO 80, 100, 200, 400 with 800 and 1600 in high sensitivity mode
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • SD card compatible
  • Mega OIS image stabilization
  • RRP £299.99
Build and handling
The metal body of the Lumix FX-01 feels reassuringly sturdy, almost every external part is made of metal except for the battery door and buttons. I found the camera fits my hand well, the rounded edges make for a comfortable, yet secure grip.

Display screen
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01A bright and exceptionally clear 2.5inch LCD screen fills the rear. Unfortunately the screen's surface is quite reflective which can make it more difficult to use in bright conditions, although the brightness of the screen does help to minimize any problems.

Auto-focus
There are five different auto-focus modes to choose from, two of the modes automatically select up to five areas in the frame. One uses five areas arranged in a cross pattern through the centre of the frame and the other has three points in a horizontal line through the centre. I found both of these to be very quick and the area it selected was useful most of the time. The three remaining options use an area in the centre of the frame, a standard centre AF point, a high speed version and a spot mode. All three of these can be focussed and recomposed by holding the shutter button lightly pressed. The spot mode is limited to a tiny area in the centre of the frame and is especially useful for close-up photographs using the macro mode.

Battery life
A fully charged battery provided just over 250 shots without flash when I was using the camera. The lack of an optical viewfinder means that the screen cannot be turned off to save the batteries.

Memory card
The FX-01 uses SD memory cards which fit into the slot beside the battery. The following are write speeds for Jpeg quality settings using a Sandisk Extreme III card.

Quality Setting Time taken to write to card
6 megapixel Jpeg fine 1.9secs
6 megapixel Jpeg normal 1.6secs

I also timed the delay between shots for this camera in the single shot mode.

Quality Setting Shot-to-shot delay
6 megapixel Jpeg fine 2.22secs
6 megapixel Jpeg normal 1.84secs

The camera seems to hang for a short period after it has written the information to the card. Although the screen displays a live image to allow you to compose your next shot, it will not allow it to be taken. The delay is so small it is almost negliable though.

Menu and controls
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 The layout of controls is very good for such a small camera, even though there is little space to manoeuvre with the 2.5inch screen taking up most of the rear. The zoom, shutter, optical image stabilisation and power controls are located on the top of the camera, all within easy reach of my index finger.
Located on the back are the menu controls and the mode dial, which allows you to select from the normal, macro, simple, scene, movie and playback modes. The normal mode allows for simple point and shoot photography with more advanced features, such as exposure compensation selectable from a menu.
In simple mode, the options are limited to their most basic and are designed to be user-friendly for digital camera novices. Three resolution settings, full resolution (which is called enlarge), a setting for 6x4inch prints and email quality are selectable. Other options include whether you want the camera to beep or not and an option to set the camera's built-in clock.
18 different scene modes are provided including portrait, soft skin, scenery, sports, night portrait, night s scenery, self portrait, food, party, candle light, fireworks, starry sky, baby, snow, high sensitivity and underwater which cover almost every common photographic scenario. When the appropriate mode is selected, the camera automatically sets the exposure and white balance settings for you.

Zoom lens
The 3.6x zoom Leica zoom lens is touted as the smallest currently available with a 28mm equivalent wide angle. I found the extra width makes a massive difference, allowing perspective to be emphasized by getting in close to your subject and for capturing large objects that would otherwise be cropped. The zoom travels at a leisurely pace through it's range which can be a little frustrating if you wish to recompose quickly for a moving subject.

Macro mode
The macro mode allows close focussing at the wide end of the zoom range. Below is an example of how close you can get, and the level of detail recorded.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
Although the macro mode allows you to get close to your subject, the maximum magnification is great because of the wide angle. A crop of the image to the left, shown at 100% to show the level of detail recorded.

Vibration reduction
The image on the left was taken hand-held at 1/8th of a second. The Mega OIS system has helped to keep the coin acceptably sharp, which would not have been possible normally for such a long exposure. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01

Image quality
There are two different image quality levels on this camera - Fine and Normal. All images in this review were taken on Fine and at maximum resolution, so that I could truly see what the camera is capable of producing using the most common settings.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
Above - The Lumix FX-01 produces vibrant colours.

Left - The meter has coped well with this difficult scene, providing as much detail as possible from shadows while only slightly burning out the highlights.
Right - At the wide end, the Leica zoom lens displays excellent rectilinear correction. The lamp-post along the right edge of the frame shows little evidence of barrel distortion. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01

Detail
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
This busy scene was taken using a tripod to determine the level of detail this camera can produce.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
A 100% crop of the image shows the level of detail captured by the FX-01

The level of detail recorded is good, images appear sharp and contrasty when taken in good conditions and chromatic abberations are well controlled.

Noise
The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting.
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the green square is.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
ISO80
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
ISO100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
ISO200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01
ISO400
There is quite a surprising level of noise present at the lowest ISO80 setting, I expected the image to be much cleaner. The noise level at ISO400 is a little disappointing as well. By this point the pattern has changed into large patches of chroma noise, which can be quite unpleasant.

Verdict
The Panasonic Lumix FX-01 has a lot going for it. The wide angle zoom is unique in a camera of this size, the LCD screen is fantastic quality,as is the general fit and finish of the camera. The noise levels are the most disappointing aspect of this camera, at ISO80 there is already a noticeable level of noise present and by ISO 400 the image quality has deteriorated further.

Although the noise levels could be a major problem for some, it wasn't enough to put me off this camera, the solid build and image quality in good light are enough to warrant overlooking this flaw.

In summary the positive points of the Panasonic Lumix DMC FX-01 are:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01Wide angle lens
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01LCD screen image quality
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01Build quality
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01Optical image stabilisation


The negative points:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01Noise levels at all sensitivities are worse than I'd expected.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01Reflective cover on LCD screen

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