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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 28/05/2007
Rating: Recommended

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Introduction: Announced on the 31st of January 2007, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 is one of the latest Panasonic digital cameras and features a 7.2 megapixel sensor, a 2.5" screen, and a wide angle Leica 3.6x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilisation. The wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 28 – 100 mm on a 35mm camera. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 is available from around £185 this makes it average to good value for money for an ultra compact 7 megapixel digital camera. The camera has a 640x480 30fps video mode with sound. The camera is very compact and has a metal body and is available in Bronze?, Silver and Black. The Lumix FX30 measures: 94.9 x 51.9 x 22.0 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 132g excluding batteries and media.

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"Panasonic prides itself on being at the forefront of technology and the introduction of the DMC-FX30, the world's slimmest digital camera with 28mm wide-angle lens, is a case in point. The perfect camera that fits into any lifestyle, the ultra slim FX30 offers sophistication in technology and style, whilst remaining inherently easy to use."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Fujifilm FinePix F40fd)


Front - Camera off.


Front view - flash, focus assist lamp, lens, on the side is the strap loop, AV/Digital out and DC in.


Back - 2.5" screen, mode dial, status LED, 4-way controller, Menu / Set button, Display, Function button. On the side, nothing.


Top: Speaker, Microphone, On/off, Shutter release, Zoom control, mode dial.


Bottom: metal tripod mount, battery and memory compartment. 3.6v 1000mAh Lithium Ion battery.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom.


Size comparison, compared to the Fujifilm FinePix F40fd.

Specifications / Features:

  • 7.2 Megapixels CCD Sensor
  • Leica 3.6x optical zoom (28mm - 100mm equivalent)
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer
  • Compact, stylish design available in silver or black
  • 2.5" LCD, 207,000 pixels
  • 25 shooting modes
  • ISO Auto / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1250
  • 8– 1/2000 sec
  • Video at VGA, 30fps with sound
  • 5cm macro mode
  • Supports SDHC memory cards

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Wrist Strap
  • Battery Pack
  • Battery Charger
  • USB Cable
  • AV Cable
  • Software CD Rom
  • 115 page printed manual

Average box contents. There is a small amount of internal memory provided with the camera - you should invest in a much larger memory card. Some kind of case would be very useful.

Battery usage: Battery life is above average for an ultra-compact digital camera, rated at 280 shots according to CIPA standards, I managed around 180+ shots before the battery went flat. This is average (not brilliant, but not too bad either) for an ultra-compact but not as good as the excellent 580 shot battery life of the the Fujifilm FinePix F30.

Camera Operation and OptionsThe top / back dial selects the camera mode. This allows the choice of the following modes: Print, Video, Macro, Photo, Intelligent ISO, Playback, Simple mode, and Scene mode.

Photo mode/menus: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Record Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen has a high resolution of 207,000 pixels, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available and the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Menu options: White balance (including custom), Sensitivity, Aspect ratio (16:9, 3:2, and 4:3), Picture size, Quality, Audio recording, AF mode, Stabiliser, Burst / Continuous shooting, AF Assist lamp, Slow shutter, Digital zoom (on/off), Colour mode (Standard, Natural, Vivid, Cool, Warm, Black and White, Sepia), Clock set.

Scene modes Setup Menu

Scene modes: (shown on the left, above) Portrait, Soft skin, Self-portrait, Scenery, Sports, Night portrait, Night scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, Starry Sky (15, 30, or 60 second exposure), Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aeriel Photo (for shots through airplane windows), Under water. Pressing the display button will display information about the scene mode chosen.

Setup menu: (shown on the right, above) Clock set, World time, Monitor, Guide Line, Travel date, Auto review, Power save, Economy, Beep, Shutter, Volume, no. reset, reset, Video out, TV aspect, Scene menu, Dial display, Language.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick. The zoom is quick up to 16x.

Playback menu: Slide show, Favourite, Rotate disp, Rotate, Date stamp, DPOF Print, Protect, Audio dub, resize, trimming, Aspect conversion, copy (allows you to copy from internal memory to memory card and vice versa), format.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number will fit in the memory provided:

Size
Number of Photos Stored / Quality
Aspect Ratio
Fine
Normal
7mp
4:3
7
14
5mp
10
21
3mp
16
33
2mp
27
53
1mp
41
78
VGA
133
216
6mp
3:2
8
16
2.5mp
19
37
5.5mp
16:9
9
19
2mp
25
48

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. You can fit a very limited number of 7mp Fine images on the built in memory, and you will definitely need to buy a larger memory card.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb or 1gb memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 512mb: £1, 1gb (1000mb): £3, 2gb (2000mb): £8, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £23 (with USB reader)
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera's switch on time is very quick and takes around 1.5 - 2.0 seconds to switch on and take a photo. Focusing is quick at around 0.4 seconds - shutter response is quick at around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time is around 1.1 seconds (with review off), with flash on this slows down to around 2.0 seconds between shots. Playback mode is very quick, and its easy to zoom in on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is quick but you can also get an overview of 9 or 25 shots at a time if you zoom out further. Moving around the different menu options is rapid. Continuous shooting is very quick at roughly 2fps - flash is not available whilst in continuous shooting mode - and there is a high speed continuous shooting mode that will shoot at 3fps for upto 5 shots.

Ease of use: Using the camera is fairly straightforward, simply switch it on and start taking photos, and the camera's controls and menus are logically layed out so that using the more advanced features is relatively straight-forward. Switching between the modes is easy thanks to the mode dial on the back of the camera and once you find all the options the camera becomes easy to use, and it is very easy to use the more basic functions of the camera - there's even a "simple mode" and numerous scene modes. The controls are easy to access, as they are either on the buttons on the back (for example exposure compensation, self-timer, and flash etc) or they are in the menu, alternatively the Function button gives you even quicker access to the most commonly used options.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The camera feels solid, with a robust metal body. The stylish design and colour scheme and choices look very good. However there isn't much that your thumb can grip onto, and the front of the camera is almost completely flat, with only a small raised part. The zoom control is very easy to use. The shutter release button feels good. The compact camera fits very easily into small pockets. The camera labels are clear. The buttons and controls are all positioned so that the camera can be operated with one hand, and the buttons are a good size despite the small size of the camera. I found the mode switch easy to use with my thumb. There is a small thumb grip on the back of the camera.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO200) Group photo (ISO200)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is some red-eye in the photo, and some redeye in the group photos. The colour is quite richly saturated and detail is good. It has a slightly weak flash, and may struggle with group photos, especially with large groups of people - this may also means noise is quite high in group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light thanks to the focus assist lamp.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 100 - ISO1250), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 7 megapixel Canon Powershot A550 and 8 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F40fd.

Panasonic Lumix FX30 (7.2mp) Canon Powershot A550 (7.1mp) Fujifilm FinePix F40fd (8mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot A550 in the middle, Panasonic Lumix FX30 on the left, Fujifilm FinePix F40fd on the right. The Canon was chosen as a comparison as it has a similar number of megapixels to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30, and the Fujifilm was chosen due to the camera's low noise. Any tonal difference is due to automatic white balance or metering differences.

Panasonic Lumix FX30 (7.2mp) Canon A550 (7.1mp) Fujifilm FinePix F40fd (8mp)
   
ISO80 - N/A ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - N/A
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
 
ISO1250 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - N/A ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
   
ISO3200 - N/A ISO3200 - N/A ISO2000 - Actual Pixels

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 has low noise at ISO100 and ISO200, and relatively low noise at ISO400 - however - this is at the expense of detail. Using ISO200 and above produces images that have noticably less detail than the competition, for example the Canon has much more detail at these settings. Neither the Canon or the Panasonic perform as well as the Fujifilm, which manages to produce low noise images right up to ISO800 with very good detail. For best results it's worth trying to use the lowest ISO settings, however, if you don't mind a lack of detail and prefer "smooth" images with as little noise as possible then the FX30 could be a good choice, and results upto ISO400 are acceptable. The camera also has an "Intelligent ISO" mode - this boosts the ISO setting based on the amount of movement in frame - and attempts to avoid image blur by setting a suitable shutter speed.

Image Stabilisation: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30, like every other Panasonic digital camera, features real image stabilisation called "Mega Optical Image Stabilisation", this moves a lens element to counter-act the movement of the camera, this feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. Here are some test photos taken with Image Stabilisation on and off - these photos were taken without flash indoors with ISO set to 100.

Image Stabilisation On (1/13, ISO100) Image Stabilisation Off (1/13, ISO100)
Image Stabilisation On (Actual Pixels) Image Stabilisation Off (Actual Pixels)

Actual pixels crop taken from the right eye of the Furby toy. As you can see - image stabilisation is effective for low-light / high zoom, slow shutter speed photography helping acheive blur free photos in situations where you normally wouldn't be able to get a sharp image without the aid of a tripod.

Outside:

Liverpool shops BBQ People

Outside: The camera has very good colour - accurate and richly saturated with good contrast and good detail, with very little (if any) corner softness. Some noise was noticable even in ISO100 photos when viewed at full size. I turned up the quality to maximum to avoid jpeg artefacts. Exposure seemed very good.

Zoom: This camera has a wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom Optical and Digital Zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower seem to be very well exposed, with good detail in the dark areas, and good detail in the clouds, however this could be improved by altering the exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes some noise in operation. There are around 19 steps between wide and telephoto zoom, this gives you very good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was very low and difficult to detect in any normal photos, and shouldn't cause any problems in the majority of photos.

Macro:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO100)

The macro mode lets you take photos with the camera roughly 5cm away from the subject - this means macro photos can be good - with good detail and colour. I used this camera for a number of photos of other cameras, and using custom white balance, the camera produced excellent results!

Video mode: The camera features a good video mode - it records VGA videos at 30fps with sound as MOV files. Compared to other digital cameras the Panasonic can't fit very long videos on the memory card, as it doesn't use very high compression, such as MPEG4. The video mode doesn't let you use the optical zoom whilst recording. Optical image stabilisation is available when recording, which should help movies appear smooth and shake free.

Conclusion

Image Quality:  The camera has very good image quality - the camera has good detail and very good colour (accurate, and well saturated) and there was little to no noticable corner softness in the images - despite the wide-angle lens. Images have good saturation and contrast, with fairly low noise at the lower ISO settings. The higher ISO settings of ISO400 and above are probably best avoided as detail is lacking from images. Indoors photos were good, although noise was noticeable in some shots and red-eye occurred occassionally. Purple fringing was noticed in very few shots, and wasn't a problem in the majority of shots. The camera was good at focusing indoors thanks to the focus assist lamp. I did not notice any vignetting, barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratio, and compression options. Auto white balance, metering, and exposure seemed to be very good. The camera gives you good control over image quality with custom white balance, and other colour options (such as Vivid etc), although it would be nice to see a few more options. The video mode is good with high resolution, and high frame rate. The macro mode is good, with good detail. (8/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is very compact with a stylish and smooth body available in several colours. The camera has a very good 2.5" screen. The camera feels sturdy and is comfortable to hold. The camera is very easy to use, thanks to the mode dial and easy to use menus. There is a good layout of buttons and controls, and numerous simple modes or scene modes to make it easier to use. The camera speed is very good, with a very good switch on time, rapid focusing time, quick shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and excellent continuous shooting modes. The camera offers slightly more than most ultra-compact digital cameras, by providing a wide-angle Leica lens, and built in optical image stabilisation. Some people may wish there was an optical viewfinder, however the screen partially makes up for this by providing "bright" mode and a "high angle" mode. Battery life is average to good for an ultra compact. (8.5/10)

Value for Money: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 is available from around £185, this makes it good value for money for an ultra compact 7 megapixel digital camera with a wide-angle lens and optical image stabilisation. There are a number of other ultra compact 7 megapixel digital cameras, such as the Olympus Mju 770SW, Canon Digital IXUS 70, Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS, Samsung NV3, Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom, Ricoh Caplio R5, Pentax Optio S7, Casio Exilim EX-S770, etc. (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 is an excellent ultra compact digital camera - image quality is very good with great colour and detail although noise and lack of detail at the higher ISO settings causes some concern. The camera offers an excellent Leica wide-angle 3.6x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilisation, helping you get sharp, crisp, blur free images even in low light. The camera is very solidly built and you can take it anywhere and use in almost every situation. The camera has a clear and easy to see screen, and excels in ease of use, providing quick and easy access to all it's features. The camera responds quickly with a quick focusing time, fast shutter response, and extremely quick 3fps continuous shooting mode. As well as offering all this, the Panasonic is noticably cheaper than other cameras featuring wide-angle lenses, making this an excellent choice!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 Rating: Recommended (8/10)
Only £185 at Amazon - Check for more price below!

What I like:

  • Good image quality - excellent colour
  • Good video mode - VGA, 30fps, Sound
  • Stylish, well designed, and easy to use
  • MEGA Optical Image Stabilisation helps get more blur free photos in low light etc
  • Very good 2.5" screen, clear and easy to use, with brightness, and high-angle mode
  • ISO setting and Aperture / Shutter setting shown in photo and playback
  • Custom White Balance
  • Solid metal body with good build quality
  • Very fast high speed continuous shooting mode (3fps)
  • Quick camera - Fast shot to shot time etc
  • Good macro mode

What I don't like:

  • High ISO images are blurred and lack detail. (due to noise being removed)
  • Some noise noticable even in ISO100 photos.
  • Tripod mount is positioned at the far left.
  • Some red-eye in photos.

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX30 Sample Photo Gallery.

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