Review by Matt Grayson
Four digital compact cameras were recently announced by Panasonic and the Lumix DMC-FX60 was one of them.
Panasonic Lumix DMC- FX60: Specification
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Features
- Zoom: 5x optical
- Resolution: 12.1Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.33in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Max. image size: 4000x3000
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO80-1600 (max. ISO6400)
- Media type: Built-in, SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Normal, macro, zoom macro, AF tracking, quick AF
- Normal focusing: 50cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 3cm-infinity
- Metering types: Face, AF tracking, multi, 1 point HS, 1 point, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 60sec-1/2000sec
- Flash: Built-in
- Monitor: 2.7in TFT screen 230,000dot (76,000px)
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 97.2x54.1x19.4mm
- Weight: 126g (excl. battery and card)
As part of the stylish compact range, the Panasonic Lumix DMC- FX60 certainly doesn't let itself down on looks. It's a thin, rectangular design with curved sides, a slim flash on the front which has a range of 60cm-6.0m in wide angle and 1m-2.8m at telephoto. That's a little on the low side but hopefully a flash won't be necessary as the lens has a new image stabilising system so you can use slower speeds to get the shots.
Power OIS is a progression of the original Mega OIS that has been on Panasonic digital compact cameras since they began.
Leica provide specifications for the lens.
The back of the camera houses a large screen.
A more detailed inspection of the controls shows everything to hand.
A Leica specification lens still graces the front of the camera and I say Leica specification because it's not actually built by Leica. Panasonic manufacture the lenses and Leica simply oversee the process to make sure the lenses fit their criteria.
On the top is a little power switch which can be operated by a nail or your finger, it's not a tough switch to move. Apart from the shutter release and zoom rocker, there's nothing else on the top which means everything has been reserved for the back although, to look at that, there's not much there either. A small command dial is set into the camera at the top right corner with the usual Panasonic record/playback switch next to the thumb pad while the navigation pad, display and quick menu buttons sit below.
If it wasn't for the lettering, it would ooze concept as the buttons have that prototype air about them. On the command dial are only five options of Ai intelligent auto, auto, scene modes, video and clipboard.
I've always liked the quick menus of digital compacts, I think they're a really useful idea for quickly accessing functions that are frequently used on the camera such as resolution, image stabiliser, ISO, white balance, and drive modes. Clicking the display button on the bottom left under the navigation pad scrolls through the different types of information you can have flagged on the screen such as all shooting info, no info or rule of thirds grid. This grid lays out a noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) grid on the screen and is a composition aid. Essentially, if a horizon is aligned to the bottom or top line with a point of interest laying over the intersecting lines then an image should look more interesting than if it's simply in the centre of the frame. It's a psychological rule of photography but can also be broken if you're clever enough to know how to do it.
Depending on the mode you're in will depend on how much information the main menu allows you to see. Even in full auto, which is the most freedom you'll get, there's only two tabs for recording and set-up although the recording tab houses four pages of options. This is a camera designed for the starter and it's possible that if they see a camera with a large menu area like that, they may get put off. Adding another tab wouldn't be detrimental to the overall menu as I don't think three tabs are a lot. It would reduce the amount of info on one menu though and make it more pleasing to use.
You'll find the face detection settings in the recording menu and here you can program the camera to remember faces which is pretty neat. This isn't new technology as Casio have been using it for about a year or so already, but Panasonic have taken it one step further and added a name tag to the face which comes on when viewing the images. Previous versions would break a long name into two lines but now that issue has been resolved so the whole feature looks neater.
Video is recorded in HD using a 1280x720 format at 30fps (frames per second) and uses the Motion JPEG file system. Not as high quality as the AVCHD Lite system used on cameras such as the FZ-38 and I also would've liked to see a dedicated video button on the back, like we see on the larger camera, as this not only makes it easier to use but it also makes the range uniform.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Build and handling
Thankfully, more cameras are coming out with metal bodies as these are more durable. Luckily they're also trendier so it works well for the company to add it. Holding the camera and shooting with one hand is easy enough and the flash isn't covered by my fingers if I do this. I can use the flat side of my forefinger to keep the camera safe in my clutches.
The battery is Li-Ion and shares the space with the memory card. No word on SDXC yet!
A metal tripod bush is always a welcome addition to a camera's construction.
Switches are used for the power and camera/playback which, in my opinion, is where switches should be used.
Buttons are the favoured option for other features and I like the way the command dial has been set inside the body to only show a fraction that you're using at the time.
However, this could work against you for a while as you may not remember what the features on the wheel are or where they're positioned meaning you'll have to frantically flap from one end to the other of the wheel looking for your setting.
On the bottom, the battery is Li-Ion and shares the compartment with the SD/SDHC memory card. There's a clip to lock the door but it isn't spring loaded and I'm very impressed to see a metal tripod bush.
Unfortunately, the tripod bush is let down by its location at the far end of the camera. At this point, pressing the shutter release will cause camera shake. The only option is to set the camera up and put it on a two second timer to avoid the shake.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Performance
In the burst test, the camera starts off quite promisingly with three images in 1.5sec showing a performance of 2fps but then the buffer fills up and the camera has to stop and empty it. I managed to snatch another three images before the ten second time limit was up so if you work on an average, it can shoot 0.6fps.
In the shutter lag test which also relies on my reflexes so is theoretically more realistic than a clinical laboratory test, I got a range of between 0.04sec and 0.08sec which is better than standard in this test (I've found a typical result is 0.08sec). That's good anyway but to get a result of half that time means you're more likely to get the shot you want. Starting up and taking a photograph straight away can be done in under two seconds which is also a good result.
I like the exposure of the landscape image and the amount of detail in the grass verge to the right of the frame. I'm disappointed in the amount of noise showing on the picture and it's a shame to see some chromatic aberration on the white bars leading into the lock. Colour rendition and white balance are pretty good.
I like the colours, exposure and level of detail but the image is let down by CA and noise.
I like the macro capability, I managed to get a nice sharp image of the cog that opens the lock gates on the winch. It shows the rust and grease up nicely and I like the exposure. I especially like the sharpness considering it was hand held.
I like the colours produced from the Panasonic such as primary blue, brown, green and the skin tone tile isn't too pink or pale. I think the yellow is a bit too bright but that's really my only qualm.
What caught my attention is the distortion at full zoom. The centre of the image is lovely and sharp but looking out to the edges, the picture is blurred. The zoom was at full telephoto and this is worth thinking about if you're considering this camera.
Like the colours but the image gradually blurs towards the edges of the frame.
In portrait mode, I got a lovely warm image despite the cold, drizzly day.
The soft mode appears to simply blur the image.
I love the way the flash has worked as it's trying to be inconspicuous.
It was an overcast and drizzly day when I did the portrait test shots but it's not shown on the image with some nice warmth in the skin tone and an even exposure throughout. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60 also has a soft skin mode but I'm less impressed with that as it appears to have simply sent the image slightly out of focus or added blur filter. Either way, it's not the same type of effect garnered from the Olympus Mju range where they actually use software to smooth out skin, removing blemishes and spots as it goes.
Still, the Olympus method has room for error so maybe Panasonic's way is the correct one? It's a matter of opinion and a favoured way of mine in editing portraits is to add a blur layer.
Adding flash has given a nicely subdued effect and it looks like panasonic are trying to add light to the image without looking as though a flash has fired. I like this method and I'm happy that Panasonic are trying to do it.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Noise test
At wide angle, the image is equivalent to 25mm.
With the 5x optical zoom, lonely donkeys get closer to us.
Without any image stabilisation, my picture comes out shaky - Yuk.
The new Power OIS is more sophisticated and powerful than the older Mega OIS.
On the surface of it all, the ISO80 image looks great, the picture is smooth and there's pots of detail in the flower petals but magnifying to full size and you can see a mild amount of noise poking it's nose through to annoy me.
Moving up through the settings, there's not a great deal of change until you get to ISO800 and then all hell seems to be let loose. The difference between ISO400 and ISO800 is phenomenal. The loss of detail and invasion of colour could make a grown man weep.
The ISO80 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Verdict
If you're the kind of person that gets a camera on looks alone then this is definitely one for you. If build quality and handling is a factor in your decision then it's still a strong contender.
Image quality is pretty good, it has some nifty tricks up its sleeve but is let down in other areas. I'm amazed at the huge drop in quality from ISO400 to ISO800 as though noise reduction is simply switched off.
I don't like the picture going blurred at the edge of the lens which we can see in the colour test chart image. I think that could cause problems with landscapes or photographs of groups where items of interest are found at the edges of the frame.
Still, there's a lot going for it in the compact body so it's still worth considering. I think if you're a happy snapper who wants all the points I laid out above, you'd be more than happy with the results of this camera.
Gadget Granny says:
This is the best little camera I have had my little hands on to date! It does absolutely everything I want – snaps one grandson in his karate graduation, catches the youngest grandson with cake all over his face and takes really close up photos of flowers and butterflies when I'm in nature nerd mode.
It's small, light and the controls all fall easily under my right thumb. Unlike others I have tried, my fingers don’t accidentally cover the flash or the lens and the screen is big enough for an old bird to use easily. Buy it – or better still, buy it for me!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Plus points
Good build quality
Easy to use
Slim and light
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60: Minus points
Noise jumps from nice to nasty at ISO800
Edge blurring from the lens
A dedicated video button would be nice
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60 costs around £215 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Panasonic Lumix DMC FX60