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FS7 - Digital Camera Review
Panasonic have this
to say about the camera:
"Compact Digital Camera FS7 - Colourful designs with a playful, fashionable look. Cameras that are easy to carry, easy to use, and easy to enjoy. Just press the iA button, aim and shoot. The camera does all the rest, automatically adjusting to the shooting conditions and helping to correct blurring, focus, and brightness problems. iA Mode includes MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) to compensate for hand-shake, Intelligent ISO Control to detect subject movement, Face Detection AF/AE to focus on faces in the frame and remove unwanted red-eye, and Intelligent Scene Selector to select the optimal scene mode automatically for you."
You can find more
information on their
The Camera: a
visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Average box contents
- The camera has a fairly large built in memory (50mb) however this will
only let you take about 9 pictures at highest quality so the first thing
you'll want to buy is a large memory card. Getting a case is also highly
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 (10m, 7m, 5m, 3m,
2m, VGA), aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 at 9m, 6m, 4.5m, and 2.5m, 16:9 at 7.5m,
5.5m, 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 approx 360 shots with the supplied battery. I managed to take well over 200 shots and before the battery went flat. This seems quite good for a compact camera, although not excellent, when compared to the excellent Fujifilm FinePix F30 that gave around 580 shots with one charge.
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 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 FS7:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 2gb (2000mb): £5,
4gb (4000mb SDHC): £7,
8gb (8000mb SDHC): £13,
16gb (16000mb SDHC): £29
camera switches on and is ready to take a photo in 2.5 seconds. Focusing
normally takes under half a second, and in reduced light, focusing was
still good thanks to the focus assist lamp. The camera shutter response
when pre-focused was less than a tenth of a second and shot to shot time
was around 1.5 seconds. In continuous mode I measured a delay of around
0.4 to 0.5 seconds between shots (slightly quicker than 2fps) using an
SD card, and was able to take 3 shots in a row. The camera also features
an unlimited continuous shooting mode that takes a photo every 0.8 seconds
until the memory card is full. Further high speed modes are available
in the scene menu, the first one being a high speed burst mode that takes
3mp photos at 5fps, taking around 50 photos before slowing down. The second
one is a flash burst mode that will take 5 photos in a row with flash,
with a delay of 0.8 seconds between shots, again at 3mp. The cameras menus
and zooming seem responsive and reviewing photos is quick. Moving around
the different menu options is quite easy and quick. Playback mode is very
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 mode button. 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 normal mode dial has been replaced by a mode button, which is a shame, as I prefer having a mode dial, but it still works well.The quick menu button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt very good for a compact budget 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. 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 FS7 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has 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 (often defaulting to ISO100 when the flash was on), noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, although struggled in very dark situations. There is an LED illuminator that helps focus in low light.
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 Auto / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 and High Sensitivity (ISO 1600-6400) at 3mp.
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 10 megapixel Canon Powershot A2000 IS and Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot A2000 IS on the left, Panasonic Lumix FS7 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.
Noise results: The Panasonic Lumix FS7 puts in an impressive performance with lots of detail, lots of colour, even at the higher ISO settings, and slightly less noise that the other cameras here. *Manual mode used, as the slowest shutter available in AUTO mode is 1/4 second.
Image Stabilisation: The camera features real image stabilisation, in the form of 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 more likely to be sharper and clearer, and is more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. It's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras, and I would highly recommend you make sure your camera features real image stabilisation.
Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours on default settings. There was very good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside, with good contrast, and low chromatic aberrations. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrast benefit from use of the highest quality setting.
Zoom: This lens provides a 4x optical zoom starting at 33mm zooming to 132mm (35mm equivalent) allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. 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 although some areas are over-exposed - 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 to help preserve detail in bright skies. The camera may benefit from some kind of Extended Dynamic Range mode.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quiet in operation and there are 19 steps between wide angle and full zoom, this gives you good control over how you frame your subject.
Other Image Quality
issues: Purple fringing was low.
Macro Lens Performance:
The closest the camera lens can get to the subject when taking macro photos is 5cm. Colour and detail are very good, however it's worth trying to keep the ISO setting low for maximum detail.
The camera has three video modes WVGA, VGA, and QVGA, all at 30fps. The
videos are recorded with sound as MOV files. It's not obvious whether
image stabilisation is in effect when using the video mode. The optical
zoom can not be used while recording and sound is recorded at all times.
Summary: The Panasonic Lumix FS7 arrived at the same time as the more expensive Sony Cybershot W220 - and the difference in quality was obvious at first sight. The Panasonic's ultra compact body looks expensive, yet is cheaper than the competition. It's image quality is very good with great detail, colour, and an impressive success rate - I struggled to find a poor shot out of the hundreds of photos I took. Noise is low, and there is very little to fault - perhaps a few extra features would be nice - such as panoramic mode, and maybe an extended dynamic range mode. But it's the core features that Panasonic seem to get right, time and time again, a great 4x optical zoom Leica lens, a clear crisp colourful 2.7" screen, and an easy to use and snappy performing menu system and controls makes this a Highly Recommended camera, especially when the price is so compelling!
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix FS7 Sample Photo Gallery.