Pros: Excellent battery life, effective image stabilization, low price, image quality, wide angle, size
Cons: Noise a bit high, black case affected by smudges, LCD washes out in sunlight
I have enjoyed using the 6-Megapixel Panasonic FX01 and now have a chance to use the 7.2-Megapixel Panasonic FX07. The FX07 is similar to the Canon SD800 IS: it has compact design, wide angle lens, large LCD and optical image stabilization. The Canon SD800 is slightly more compact, the Panasonic FX07 sells for $100 less. How can Canon justify the price difference?
I have previously had great experience with Panasonic cameras, especially with their optically-stabilized mega-zooms (FZ5, Panasonic FZ7, etc.) I have also used the FX01, which is almost the same camera as the FX07, but with 6MP resolution. The FX07 turned out to be very similar in characteristics and usage and even has better resolution than the FX01 for not much more.
The FX07 is a compact camera with a wide angle lens, optical image stabilization and Leica optics. Let's quickly look at why some features of this camera are useful:
1. Optical image stabilization allows shooting handheld in dim conditions with no blur. I am able to get sharp pictures in dimly-lit environments and at full zoom in the evening, sometimes at the lowest ISO setting. This is impossible with a camera that has no image stabilization.
2. Wide angle is very useful for taking pictures of building without having to move away from them, which is not even always possible. Most consumer-level digital cameras have lenses that start at 35mm (equivalent focal length), which is not enough. The FX07 starts at 28mm. This also helps with group photos indoors as you don't have to move far away from the group of people you are shooting to get them all in the frame.
3. Excellent battery life. I was able to shoot more than 250 pictures (plus some time to review them) with the FX07 and the battery still had usable charge left. The same battery is used in the 6-Megapixel FX01, using which I was easily able to take more than 300 photos.
What Is Panasonic DMC-FX07?
The Panasonic DMC-FX07 is a 7.2-Megapixel compact stylish digital camera with 3.6x optical zoom (28-102 mm equivalent, f/2.8-f/5.6), large 2.5-inch high-resolution LCD screen, high-speed auto focus, powered by a compact rechargeable battery. The camera can also record videos at up to 640x480 resolution.
The camera stores pictures and videos on SD (Secure Digital) or MultiMedia memory cards and features fast USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to PC and Mac computers. The strap, cables, software and rechargeable battery with charger are included.
The FX07 is very similar to the FX01, but increases the resolution from 6 to 7.2 Megapixels for less than $50 difference in price. The FX07 directly competes with the Canon SD800 IS, which also has 2.5-inch LCD, similar optics, resolution, optical image stabilization and features.
After the camera arrived, I inserted the battery into the supplied charger (it has foldable prongs and worldwide voltage) and charged it for about 2 hours. I have used the FX01 before and knew that the battery life of the FX camera series is very long.
The FX07 has a retractable lens that extends and has a lens cover that opens when the camera is powered on. When the camera is powered off, the lens retracts and the lens cover closes.
Perhaps for preserving battery life, similar to many other Panasonic cameras, the FX07 has a mechanical on/off switch on the top deck. It has a zoom rocker and a large shutter release button a-la Canon on the top deck as well. There is also a mode wheel, a part of which is visible and accessible through an indentation in the top/rear of the camera.
The bottom of the camera has a metal threaded tripod mount and a battery and SD card compartment lid, which locks and unlocks in a manner that is slightly more complicated than the one on Canon SD cameras. In Canon, you only have to slide the lock to unlock the lid, whereas in this camera you also have to slide the lock in the opposite direction to lock it.
The battery is held in place by another sliding lock so that it does not fall out accidentally.
The rear panel has a large 2.5-inch LCD screen, control buttons and menu controls with a select button in the middle of it. The screen has 207,000-pixel resolution, which is rather high and exactly the same as Canon SD800 IS.
The FX07 is very easy to use. There is an easy usage mode (looks like a rear heart icon on the mode wheel), where you just point and shoot. I mostly used the normal shooting mode where you get more control (you can adjust ISO, disable/change mode of the flash, etc.
The menus and icons are highly descriptive and will be a no-brainer weather you used Panasonic cameras before or not. I have not read the manual (I have not even opened it), but was able to use the camera and all its features in no time. The camera can be used by any member of the family and by photographers of all levels of expertise from novices to advanced ones (albeit it will not give you much control over the shutter speed or aperture).
The FX07 is very fast and responsive. You press the shutter release button halfway to make camera focus and then take the picture by pressing the shutter release button all the way. In dim conditions, the camera uses its focus-assist light, which is effective in focusing at close distances.
In addition to fast ISO selection, the camera gives you instant access to the flash mode selection (flash off, red-eye reduction, night portrait, auto flash), macro mode as well as drive mode at a push of a button.
As I always do when I get a camera with optical image stabilization, the first thing I adjusted was switching from Image Stabilization Mode 1 to Mode 2. This stabilizes the image only when the picture is taken, improving the image stabilization efficiency and prolonging battery life.
With Mode 2 enabled, I took more than 250 pictures and had more than half of the battery life left, at least according to the battery life icon
The camera is fast in operation with the exception of zooming, which is precise but slow. You can fully zoom in or out in about 4-5 seconds. I find the 3.6x optical zoom the camera has sufficient for most situations and the image stabilization makes its telephoto end more usable in less than perfect light.
In single-frame mode, the camera could snap pictures as fast as I could push the shutter release button. The focusing takes less than a second, even in dim lighting, at wide angle. But at telephoto the focusing can take a little more than a second and the camera sometimes fails to focus at all. The shutter lag, when pre-focused, is almost unnoticeable.
One annoyance is the fact that when the memory card is full and you want to quickly go to review mode (pushing the arrow down button) to find and delete a picture on the card to get an empty space for a new picture, there is a several-second delay as the camera tells you that the memory card is full. There is no such delay if the card is not full and there should not be any delay like this. This situation arises when you have a full memory card and want to quickly go to review mode and delete one picture so that you can take one more photo.
I took more than 250 pictures and spent a good half hour reviewing them on top of that and the battery indicator still had two bars left out of three. All of this with LCD on (obviously) and with flash usage of about 20 percent. The battery is larger in size than that of the Canon SD line of cameras. I am very impressed with the battery life.
LCD and Viewfinder
The camera has a 2.5-inch non-articulated (fixed) LCD screen and no viewfinder. The LCD is large, bright, gains-up in the dark (increases brightness) and is fluid in good light. It also has high resolution. But it is slow/jerky and noisy in dim light and is almost useless in bright sunlight. You can increase its brightness at a push of a button temporarily, but I found this feature too cumbersome to use to bother with it.
The icons/menus are highly legible. The LCD coverage as about 100% - you can see exactly what will be recorded.
The camera uses USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to transfer pictures to a computer. You can also remove the SD memory card and use a memory card reader (if you have one), or use the camera with the USB cable supplied. I did the former.
The camera's flash is quite bright for its size. It has a red-eye reduction mode and is sufficient at up to 10-12 feet away. The red-eye problems in dimly-lit indoors were much less than that of the Canon SD line, but still present.
The camera's automatic white balance is usually quite accurate with the exception of the incandescent lighting, where you are better off either selecting Incandescent white balance setting or using the available manual white balance.
I usually take photos that contain all primary colors at different focal lengths, apertures and compression ratios. Some photos are taken outdoors, some indoors with and without flash.
Oftentimes, I take a bunch of photos from my balcony. Those photos features all colors: blue sky, green foliage, red curbs, yellow fire hydrant and cars of different colors.
Taking photos at different focal lengths and apertures reveals the camera's optical quality: corner sharpness, chromatic aberrations, overall sharpness.
Taking photos at different ISO settings shows how well a given camera can keep noise levels low in dim light. I mostly evaluate the image quality using my computer monitor, but I also print some photos at different sizes using either my printer or online services like Shutterfly, Snapfish and Sam's Club's online photo center.
The optical image stabilization proved quite useful. I could take pictures using the FX07 at longer exposures (slower shutter speeds) than possible without image stabilization. For example, at wide angle indoors at lowest ISO, I could take pictures at 1/8s handheld and some they were usable, most even sharp at full resolution. I was able to take pictures in dimly-lit indoors with no flash use. This is useful when traveling as you can use the camera with no flash in cathedrals and castles.
The camera has very good image stabilization, which helps it take handheld photos indoors without flash or at high zoom levels in situations that would result in blurry or even unusable photos with other compact cameras.
The camera produces good photos: well-exposed, contrasty and richly-colored. I used the available 3:2 aspect ratio, which produces pictures that print without cropping at 6x4-inch format. Using of this aspect ratio also allows you avoid dealing with possible corner softness.
But there is noise, even at the lowest ISO. The chromatic noise is visible at full resolution at the lowest ISO and increases with sensitivity. If you are printing 6x4 or 5x7 pictures, the noise should not be visible up to ISO 400. At ISO up to 100, you can print your photos at up to 11x14 inches with good detail and ISO 200 should be good up to 10x8. It all depends on your noise tolerance. But in any case, Canon SD cameras have slightly lower noise levels.
Overall, for its size, the camera produces good pictures, especially considering the fact that you can shoot handheld in situations where cameras without image stabilization would not let you take usable pictures.
I tried the 640x480 movie mode. The video was fluid and sharp, although not a replacement for a camcorder, especially since you cannot zoom while shooting. The camera also has a 320x240 mode as well.
Panasonic FX07 versus Canon SD800 IS
The FX07 is definitely better than the SD800 in one aspect: price. It is about $100 cheaper (current street prices). It is also better in some other ways: it displays shooting parameters (shutter speed and aperture), has potentially longer battery life, gives you choice of colors, has less of red-eye problem. But it has slightly higher noise and does not look as good as SD800, zooms slower. For my money, I choose the FX07.
I like the Panasonic FX07 and would choose it over the comparable Canon SD800 IS based on features, performance and price. For now, I am returning the FX07 and keeping my FX01, since the only difference between them is some 1.2 Megapixels of resolution.
Although no digital camera provides me with final prints that rival prints I get after developing 35mm Fuji Superia Reala shot with my relatively cheap Nikon N55 with its kit Nikon AF Zoom Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 G lens, for convenience and versatility while traveling, both the Panasonic FX01 and FX07 get top marks. I enjoyed using the former on my recent trip to Europe and highly recommend either of them to everyone as they both are great travel cameras.