Like its predecessor, the FX48 is a very small camera, that can be tucked away in your pants pocket or purse without a problem. While small, this camera still offers a nice "weight" that gives it a well-built, non-cheap feel. One handed shooting is a breeze, thanks in part to fact that Panasonic has mounted the zoom controls around the shutter release. This allows you to have almost complete control over the camera for framing and image capture with just one hand. The camera controls are well placed, and limited, which adds to its easy operation. The rest of the back is occupied by the 2.5" LCD screen. I found this display was usable in most all lighting conditions. In bright light, there are a few angles which reflect the light, but it never caused problems with framing. One feature that Panasonic removed from the FX48 is the High Angle LCD mode. This brightened the screen to a degree that you could still see the live image from extreme side angles as well as from below or above the camera. While this might not have been a commonly used feature, it was nice to have just in case.
Shooting performance was only average when compared to other models in this price range and category. From start-up, the camera is able to capture its first image about 3.5 seconds after being turned on. The shutter delay is almost instantaneous when the camera is pre-focused and only 3/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in single shot mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 2 seconds between frames with the flash off, and between 2.8 - 3.5 second when using the flash, depending on the output. The FX48 also has two burst modes to choose from; Normal and Continuous. The Normal continuous mode captured a series of 3 images in 1.5 seconds (2fps), falling just short of their 2.3fps claims. Continuous mode will continue to capture images until you let off or the card is full, just not quite as fast. I was able to capture 10 images in just 5.2 seconds (1.9fps), which surpassed Panasonic's claim of 1.8fps. All of our tests were completed using an ATP Pro Max class 6 4GB SDHC card, iAuto, Review on, Flash Off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality was also average. While exposure and color saturation are pleasing, the vast majority of our outdoor photos showed a good amount of noise, along with edge softness and moderate barrel distortion. We used iAuto for all of our photos, which did a great job at quickly and correctly recognizing the scene we were planning to shoot. The 5x optical zoom lens affords a nice wide filed of view, with a 25mm equivalent wide angle extreme. The lens also offers more versatility in framing than your typical 3x unit. The wide end of the zoom will allow for vast scenes or group shots, while the telephoto end will help bring subjects much closer for nice tightly framed portraits.
Indoors, the FX48 performed well. iAuto coupled with the Face Detection system was able to quickly find and lock onto my subject's face, and had no problems with small children. The flash is tiny, therefore you can not expect it to illuminate distant subjects or large open rooms. I was able to capture pleasing portraits from about 3 - 4 feet away using the mid - telephoto end of the zoom, that showed natural skin tones, and good facial detail.
The FX48 allows you to capture video at four resolution settings: HD (1280x720), WVGA (848x480), VGA (640x480) or QVGA (320x480). The frame rate is fixed at 30fps for all four modes, and mono sound is recorded. Our movie samples were good for a compact digicam in this price range, offers clear, smooth video that showed very little noise outdoors. The microphone did well with load noises, and handled small breezes well.
Battery life was Ok. Panasonic claims you can capture up to 350 frames on a single charge. I was able to capture about 100 still images, a dozenor so short HD movies, and conclude our other test before the batter was exhausted. I highly recommend you add a second battery pack to your purchase if you are planning a vacation, or you're one who is constantly snapping pictures.
Bottom Line - Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FX48 is a decent little 12-megapixel model. The iAuto exposure mode will allow anyone to pick this camera up and start capturing usable photos. While the FX48 offers some very appealing features, great HD video mode, and a nice wide lens, its image quality and performance results are not quite up to par with other models in this price range. Therefore, with a MSRP of US$349, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48 is a bit over priced. Be sure to take a look at our 2009 Reviews page to see various other models that offer similar features.
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