Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07 Review
By Movable Type Admin
Panasonic's DMC-FX07 is a new Lumix model for 2006, and includes many of the same features found on its
little brother ,the FX3. Shared features include a 2.5-inch LCD, MEGA O.I.S. image
stabilization, selectable aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, or 16:9) as well as the same Movie mode options. However,
the FX07 sports higher resolution at 7-megapixels, a 3.6x optical zoom lens, increased ISO capabilities (up
to 1250 manually or even 3200 with High Sensitivity Mode), and the addition of two scene modes (Aerial Photo
and High Sensitivity.) This is a typical point-n-shoot model offering various fully automatic exposure modes
as well as Program AE, which allows novice users to play with more advanced camera settings.
The FX07 shares an almost identical body design to that of previous "FX" series models. While very compact (about the size of a deck of playing cards), I found it was still comfortable in my large hands, with the various controls within easy reach of my fingers. The onscreen menu hasn't changed much, so if you already own a Panasonic you will feel right at home. It is well organized and lets you quickly make changes to frequently used settings. While the 2.5-inch LCD is the same size as the one found on the FX3, this is a higher quality display offering much more resolution, 207,000 pixels (compared to 115,000 on the FX3.) This is the only viewfinder on this camera, and luckily it works well in various lighting conditions. Indoors it "gains up" nicely to aid in framing the subject. I found the display worked great outdoors in bright light, having only a few angles that reflected the sun. When the AF-assist lamp fires the subject(s) will also be illuminated; which is great when shooting in very dim or dark conditions.
Shooting performance was very good. From power up to first image captured measured about 1.4 seconds. Shutter lag averaged less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and only 1/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot delay in single exposure mode was approx. 1.4 seconds between frames without the flash and between 1.8 - 2.5 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. The FX07 offers three Burst mode settings to choose from (Low-speed, High-speed, Unlimited.) Using the Low-speed setting, I was able to capture 6 frames in about 2.2 seconds. While High-speed mode captured 6 frames in approx. 1.5 seconds. Unlimited mode allows you to continuously capture frames at about 2.5fps and is limited only by available memory. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Extreme III 1GB SD card, shooting in "Normal" mode, size/quality set at 7M Fine, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc. The FX07 is compatible with SD cards up to 2GB and SDHC cards up to the current maximum of 4GB.
Image quality is one of the most important aspects to consider when debating on a digicam purchase. While the FX07 does offer good image quality when you look at the price, it is only average for a 7-megapxiel model. While exposure is accurate and colors are richly saturated, I noticed a bit more noise than many other cameras in this class, even at ISO 100 (which is the lowest setting possible.) You can see what I mean by looking at our ISO examples on the samples page. Our people shots turned out very nice when viewed at the typical screen size (about 20-35%, depending on your screen size and resolution settings), however, at 100% you can again see above average amounts of noise in areas of low contrast (shadows.) While this was a bit disappointing, don't let this discourage you completely. It's very unlikely you will see anything in your typical 4x6-inch print. I made a letter size print of the P1010040.JPG on the samples page, and it turned out nice, only under critical inspection was I able to see any of the noise.
The FX07 also records video clips at resolutions of 640x480 or 32-x240 (4:3 aspect) as well as 848x480 (16:9 aspect for HDTV display) with a selectable frame rate of 10 or 30fps. These movies are captured with audio and saved as QuickTime .MOV files. Because sound is recorded, the optical zoom may not be used during movie capture, but it can be preset before. Overall, our movie samples were very nice, showing very little compression artifacts. The MEGA O.I.S image stabilization system really shines when using movie mode, allowing you to capture steady handheld videos.
Another important area to consider is battery life. The FX07 is powered by a proprietary 3.7v 1150mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery pack. Panasonic claims to be good for up to 320 shots on a full charge (using CIPA Standards.) I was able to capture about 75 photos and several ten second movie clips as well as conclude many of our other tests on a single charge, with power to spare. Since this pack is charged outside of the camera in the handy DE-A11 rapid charger, we recommend you purchase a second pack and keep it charged and ready at all times.
Bottom line - the Lumix MDC-FX07 is a worthy competitor in the entry-level 7-megapixel class. While offering loads of user friendly exposure options, speedy shooting performance, and a quality Movie mode, I was a bit surprised at the noise levels in our photos. However, I still feel this holds a good value with the price tag of US$279, just be sure to compare some similar models before making the final decision.