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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 25/07/2008
Rating: Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
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Introduction: Announced on the 2nd of February 2008, the Panasonic Lumix FX35 is one of Panasonic's new ultra compact digital cameras, and features an impressive 25mm ultra wide angle lens. The camera features a 10 megapixel sensor, a wide angle 4x optical zoom lens, a 2.5" screen that works in the sun, 720p HD (high-definition) video recording, and optical image stabilisation. The Panasonic Lumix FX35 is available from around £185 which makes it fairly expensive - but is the price justified? The camera is enclosed in a metal body and is available in black, silver, and blue. The camera measures approx. 94.7mm x 22.0mm x 51.9mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 125g. excluding battery and memory card.

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"Panasonic is pleased to introduce the new Lumix 10.1-megapixel DMC-FX35 with astonishing 25mm ultra-wide-angle LEICA DC lens and 4x optical zoom (equivalent to 25mm to 100 mm on a 35mm film camera), which captures almost double the viewing space at the same shooting distance compared to ordinary 35mm cameras, resulting in remarkable images with unprecedented width and depth."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon Powershot SX100 IS)


Front view - camera off.


Front view - camera on, flash, focus assist lamp, lens.


Top: Speaker, microphone, power switch, shutter release, zoom control.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 10.1 megapixels 1/2.33” CCD Sensor
  • Leica Wide Angle 4x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 25mm to 100 mm)
  • MEGA O.I.S optical image stabilization
  • 2.5" LCD Display (230K pixels)
  • Face Detection, Digital Red-eye Correctoin
  • Intelligent Auto mode with Intelligent Exposure
  • Video recording: 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 848 x 480 pixels 30 fps, 10 fps / HD (16:9 Aspect Ratio): 1280x720 30fps, 15fps
  • Continuous shooting: Full-Resolution Image 2.5 frames/sec Max. 5 images
  • HD Output : Yes (HD AV Output (Component))
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
  • ~5cm Macro mode
  • ISO : Auto /100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 (High Sensitivity Mode : Auto (1600 - 6400))
  • Scenes: Portrait / Soft Skin / Scenery / Sports / Night Portrait / Night Scenery / Self-Portrait / Food / Party / Candle Light / Baby1 / Baby2 / Pet / Sunset / High sensitivity / Hi-Speed Burst / Starry Sky / Fireworks / Beach / Snow / Aerial photo / Underwater
  • Histogram available: In playback and record
  • Exposure bracketing: 3 shots upto +/- 1 ev
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: Yes

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera (with 50mb built in memory)
  • Battery Charger
  • Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, 1000mAh)
  • Battery carrying case
  • AV Cable
  • USB Connection Cable
  • AC Cable
  • Strap
  • Software CD-ROM

Average box contents - a large memory card would be nice, as would a case and are both recommended purchases.

Menu system: The menu system is easy to use, logical and well layed out. The camera has a "Quick Menu" button on the back that gived you quick access to all the most commonly used options whilst taking photos (such as burst mode, iso, white balance, image size etc), and then the Menu can be accessed when additional settings need changing. The playback menu gives all the usual options such as a slideshow, and lets you edit the photo title, or put a text stamp on the photo. An explanation of the scene modes can be viewed by pressing the Display / Info button.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (10m, 7m, 5m, 3m, 2m, VGA), and aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 at 9mp, 6mp, 4.5mp, and 2.5mp, 16:9 at 7.5mp, 5.5mp, 3.5mp, and 2mp), and gives you two choices regarding how much compression is applied to the images. Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, aspect ratios, and compression options.


Bottom - Battery (BCE-10E, 3.6v, 1000mAh), SanDisk Ultra II 1GB SD memory card, metal tripod mount.

Battery usage: Battery life is rated at 290 shots (according to CIPA standards) - I was able to take around 250 shots before the battery went flat, this is slightly better than average for an ultra compact camera.

Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 1gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can use SD or SDHC memory cards - I tend to use Sandisk Ultra II Plus USB SD memory cards as these let you plug the memory card straight into a USB socket making it easy to transfer images onto any computer, they are available as 1GB SD cards, or 2GB SD cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix FX35:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £2, 2gb (2000mb): £5, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £10, 8gb (8000mb SDHC): £15
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 is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, from off, to taking a photo in 2.6 seconds (with Quick AF on). Focusing seemed quick, except in very low light - this takes a little longer to focus depending on the subject. The playback mode is quick. The camera shutter response seemed instant when pre-focused responding in 0.1 seconds or less - and shot to shot time was fairly quick, with a delay of around 1.5 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time added an extra second delay allowing a shot to be taken every 2.6 seconds. Continuous shooting is quite good offering 2.5 fps for 3 shots at the highest resolution. An unlimited continuous shooting mode shoots at around 1.2 fps. The cameras menus seemed quick.


Back - 2.5" screen, mode dial, photo / playback switch, 4-way controller, with middle Menu / OK button, display and quick menu / delte buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, with a logical menu system, and easy to access features. The camera has a number of modes such as "intelligent AUTO" and numerous scene modes so that you should be able to get good shots. The face detection focus can help capture photos of people and will automatically expose the photo so they subjects face is correctly exposed. The controls on the back of the camera are straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear mode dial, and mode switch. The menus are responsive and are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus using the zoomed review mode. The screen is very clear, and features a bright mode, as well as a high angle view - it can also be used in bright sunlight.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with all button and controls reachable with your right hand. The zoom control and shutter release is very good. The mode dial is positioned well making it easy to switch modes with your thumb, and the quick menu button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt very good for a compact camera, although there is very little in the way of a hand grip at the front of the camera and I would recommend the use of the wrist strap. The camera feels well made, and quite robust. The camera is quite easy to hold despite the small size, fits very easily into pockets, and looks good, with a premium styled body available in a number of colours (black, silver, or blue). The on / off and play / photo switches both felt very pleasing when used, and should mean that you don't accidentally switch the camera on in your pocket.

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 FX35 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Flash photo (ISO125)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, and there is little red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low, and noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, the LED illuminator helped focus.

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 - ISO1600), manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600), and further ISO settings upto ISO3200 / ISO6400 in high sensitivity mode.

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 8 megapixel Sony Cybershot W130 and 12 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F100fd.

Sony Cybershot W130 (8mp) Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp) Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Sony Cybershot W130 on the left, Panasonic Lumix FX35 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F100fd on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Sony Cybershot W130 (8mp) Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp) Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels (1s, Nightmode)
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
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
 
ISO3200 - Actual Pixels ISO3200 - Available in high sensitivity. ISO3200 - Actual Pixels

Noise results: Noise is noticeable on the Panasonic even from ISO100, and you would expect it to get noticably worse as the ISO setting increases, however, looking at these results, noise levels appear similar at ISO200 and ISO400. What's even more impressive is the amount of detail in these shots, with ISO100, and ISO200 showing excellent detail, it's only when you get to ISO800 where detail is smoothed away as they try and smooth away the noise as well. ISO1600 results show a lot of noise, and detail is blurred. Compared to the other cameras, the Panasonic shows more noise, however the Panasonic shows more detail, and has crisper images.

Image Stabilisation: These cameras all feature real image stabilisation, optical image stabilisation in the Sony W130, and Panasonic Lumix FX35, and an anti-shake sensor in the Fujifilm FinePix F100fd. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. Examples showing this feature switched on and off can be seen below.

Sony Cybershot W130 (8mp)
ISO400, 1/10
Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp)
ISO400, 1/3
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)
ISO800, 1/6.5
Image stabilisation off Image stabilisation off Image stabilisation off
Image stabilisation on Image stabilisation on Image stabilisation on

With image stabilisation switched on the images are much sharper and clearer, and are much more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. All camera's systems appear to work well, and it's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO100) Orange light (ISO100)

Outside: The camera has nicely saturated colours - colourful but not overly saturated. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside, with good contrast, with very little or no chromatic aberations and purple fringing. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting. Images are slightly soft, but nothing too worrying. Noise is evident in most photos, mainly in dark areas, however, this was mainly noticeable when "pixel peeping" and viewing the images at 100% on the screen, when printed at A4 this noise was barely visible.

Zoom: This lens provides a 4x optical zoom starting at 25mm equivalent which is great for wide angle shots (useful indoors, and at parties etc), and the camera zooms to 100mm allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. An example of digital zoom can be seen below, digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided.

Wide-angle 4x Optical Zoom Full Optical and Digital zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes very little noise, and gives you 21 steps between wide and telephoto - this gives very good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was very rarely seen.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO100)

The camera can take macro photos where the subject is roughly 4 - 5 cm away from the lens in macro mode. Colour and detail is very good, and there appears to be some noise at ISO100. The camera has manual white balance which can help get better shots in artificial lighting.

Video mode: The camera features an excellent video mode - it records HD (16:9 Aspect Ratio) 1280x720 30fps videos with sound as MOV files and has fairly good compression allowing you to record long videos. The video mode doesn't let you use the optical zoom whilst recording.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good - with excellent colour, and high levels of saturation, contrast and detail. Noise levels were higher than average, but results were good at ISO400 or below and prints made from this camera looked excellent, and detail was very good. There was some red eye in group photos, but purple fringing was very low. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time, even indoors, thanks to the focus assist lamp. There was no noticeable vignetting (darkened corners) despite the wide angle lens, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion in photos. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratios, and a good choice of compression options. Auto white balance, metering and exposure seemed to be very good, and manual white balance can help with photography in artificial lighting. Optical image stabilisation helped keep shots blur / shake free in low light helping the camera get a higher shot success rate than cameras without. The camera has an excellent 16:9 HD video mode. (8.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera has a compact and stylish metal body, available in a number of colours. The camera feels very well built, with pleasing switches, and is fairly comfortable to hold. It features things you may not need such as face detection, intelligent Auto, but it turns out that these can be useful features. The camera has a good 2.5" screen that works well even in the sun. The camera is easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, and clever auto modes, and provides quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is very good. The camera speed is good, with an average switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and quick continuous shooting mode, and a quick flash recharge time. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit most people, such as face detection focus, red-eye reduction, numerous scene modes, excellent video mode, very good macro mode, an ultra wide angle 4x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation, manual white balance and numerous photo options etc. The camera even has decent battery life for a compact camera. (9.5/10)

Value for Money: The Panasonic Lumix FX35 from around £185, may seem expensive, however, when compared to the competition, there are few ultra compact 10 megapixel cameras available with a wide angle lens at this price point, and even less feature a 25mm wide angle lens. Other cameras worth considering include the waterproof Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW, and the Fujifilm FinePix F100fd. (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Panasonic Lumix FX35 may seem like "just another compact camera" but what impresses me most about this camera is how difficult it was to think of problems with this camera. As you can see below - this camera does almost everything excellently. Image quality is excellent, and despite more noise than average, detail is very good. The camera provides an abundance of features, such as the excellent ultra wide angle lens, that starts at an impressive 25mm and zooms to 100mm. The camera features a very clever "Intelligent Auto" mode and makes using the camera easy, and fun, and provides an abundance of scene modes for beginners. For those looking for more creativity the camera features manual white balance, exposure bracketing, rapid continuous shooting, a histogram, and other image options. Add in an impressive widescreen HD video mode and you have an impressive all-round package, all squeezed into a tiny, stylish, metal camera. Highly Recommended.

Panasonic Lumix FX35 Rating: Highly Recommended (8.6/10)
Available for £185 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Very easy to use
  • Very compact and stylish metal body
  • Very good build quality and switches
  • Very good image quality - excellent colour
  • Ultra wide angle 25mm 4x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilisation
  • Intelligent ISO / Exposure / Intelligent AUTO mode will automatically set ISO, Shutter speed, Subject type etc
  • Excellent 2.5" screen - works well in bright sunlight
  • Impressive detail at ISO100
  • Good macro mode
  • Quick performance - 2.5fps continuous shooting
  • Focus assist lamp
  • Excellent video modes (16:9 aspect ratio, HD, 30fps etc)
  • Low purple fringing

What I don't like:

  • Noise visible at ISO100
  • Having to give the camera back to Panasonic

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix FX35 Sample Photo Gallery.

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