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Panasonic have this
to say about the camera:
high-resolution DMC-FX40 features a 25mm wide-angle 5x optical zoom f/2.8-5.9
LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens (35mm film camera equivalent: 25-125mm). The
25mm wide-angle lens has about twice the shooting area of the standard
35mm lens allowing you to capture breathtaking landscapes. Despite the
ultra wide angle, DMC-FX40 features a 5x optical zoom, letting you capture
distant subjects without degrading imaging quality."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a
visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Casio
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Average box contents - a large memory card would be nice, as would a case and are both recommended purchases.
The menu system is easy to use, logical, well layed out and easy to see
thanks to the clear 2.5" screen. 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 such as setting manual white balance, digital zoom, colour
mode, aspect ratio, etc. 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 (12m, 8m, 5m, 3m, 2m, VGA), aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 at 10.5m, 7m, 4.5m, and 2.5m, 16:9 at 9m, 6m, 3.5m, and 2m), and compression (Fine, Normal). 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.
Battery usage: Battery life is rated at 350 shots (according to CIPA standards) - I was able to take around 315 shots before the battery went flat, this is slightly better than average, and good for a compact.
Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 2gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 4gb 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, or 2GB SD cards and 4GB SDHC cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix FX40:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £2,
2gb (2000mb): £2,
4gb (4000mb SDHC): £5,
8gb (8000mb SDHC): £10,
16gb (16000mb SDHC): £32
Speed: The camera seems quite slow to switch on and take photos, from off, to taking a photo in 4.0 seconds (with Quick AF on). Focusing seemed quick, except in very low light - this takes a little longer to focus depending on the subject, and focus at the telephoto end of the zoom was slightly slower. 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 average, with a delay of around 2.4 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time added about half a second delay allowing a shot to be taken every 3.0 seconds. Continuous shooting is quite good offering 2 fps for 5 shots at the highest resolution / standard compression. An unlimited continuous shooting mode shoots at around 1.5 fps. The cameras menus seemed quick.
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 so that it can also be used in bright sunlight. The camera is mostly point and shoot so should be very easy to use.
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, red, or silver). 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. The tripod mount is made out of metal, but is positioned right at the edge of the camera which could cause problems.
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 FX40 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is some red-eye in the photo. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, although if the subject is too far away then detail can appear low if the ISO setting goes above ISO400. There is some 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 and face detection focus helps 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 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 14.7 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 980 IS and 12 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F100fd.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Digital IXUS 980 IS on the left, Panasonic Lumix FX40 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F100fd on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.
Noise results: Noise is noticeable on the Panasonic even from ISO100, and detail is good in these shots, with ISO100, and ISO200 showing excellent detail, it's only when you go above ISO400 where detail is smoothed away as they try and smooth away the noise as well. ISO800 and ISO1600 results show a lot of noise, and detail is blurred. Compared to the Fujifilm, the Panasonic shows more noise, however, noise levels appear roughly the same as the Canon.
Image Stabilisation: The Panasonic Lumix FX40 features real image stabilisation, called Mega Optical Image Stabilisation. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. 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.
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. 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 this noise was barely visible.
Zoom: This lens provides a 5x optical zoom starting at 25mm equivalent which is great for wide angle shots (useful indoors, and at parties etc), and the camera zooms to 125mm 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.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas - however the clouds are slightly over exposed (it would be useful if it had a Dynamic Range mode like the Ricoh CX1) - 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 around 15 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 occassionally seen in areas of high contrast, but was generally very low.
Macro Lens Performance:
The camera can take macro photos where the subject is roughly 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 does not let you use the optical zoom whilst recording.
Summary: Panasonic have taken an already winning formula, and tweaked it, with more megapixels, all packed into the same ultra compact and stylish body. Even with more pixels, image quality is still excellent, and noise is average, with very good detail. The camera provides an abundance of features, such as the excellent ultra wide angle lens, that starts at an impressive 25mm and zooms to 125mm. 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.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix FX40 Sample Photo Gallery.