Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 Review

Review Date: July 7th 2008
Author: Mark Goldstein

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Page 1
Introduction / Ease of Use
Page 2
Image Quality
Page 3
Sample Images
Page 4
Design
Page 5
Specifications
Page 6
Conclusion

Conclusion


Ratings (out of 5)
Design
4.5
Features
5
Ease-of-Use
4.5
Image Quality
4.5
Value for Money
3.5

The new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 bucks the trend of most 2008 cameras. Instead of building on an already proven design and incorporating a few bright ideas that enhance rather than revolutionize, the FX500 takes the FX-series by the scruff of the neck and makes some significant changes. Outwardly there's little to choose between the DMC-FX500 and previous Panasonic cameras like the FX55, but inside are several key technologies that really make a difference. The headline-grabbing touchscreen interface is actually less significant than you might think, but in a good way. Instead of making every single aspect of the camera controllable via interacting with the LCD screen, Panasonic have applied the technology only where it really makes sense. The brand new ability to focus and expose for any point in the current scene simply by tapping a couple of times on the LCD is a real revelation. HD video is less of a success. While it sounds great on paper and fits in well with Panasonic's vision of an HD-enabled home, the DMC-FX500 is no match for an entry-level dedicated video camcorder, and also suffers from muffled sound-quality and huge file sizes that quickly fill your memory card. 720p HD video in a pocketable camera is still a nice-to-have feature, but don't buy the DMC-FX500 solely because of this feature alone.

More successful is the 5x, 25-125mm wide-angle lens, which provides an entirely new angle of view when compared with conventional zoom lenses that typically start at around 35mm, or even a camera with a 28mm lens. A mere 3mm may not sound like much, but it actually makes quite a big difference to image composition. At the telephoto end, 125mm is more than long enough for head and shoulder portraits. Having such an incredibly versatile lens in such a small camera is a real boon for creative, candid photography. Add to this the very welcome inclusion of a full range of creative exposure modes, and you have a camera that will instantly appeal to anyone looking for a pocket alternative to their DSLR - only the absence of RAW mode spoils the overall package in this regard. For the absolute beginner, Panasonic have also focused on making the DMC-FX500 the ultimate point and shoot camera, with an enhanced Intelligent Auto mode that achieves great results in most situations with very little input required from the user.

Thankfully the move from an 8 to 10 megapixel sensor thankfully hasn't come at the expense of image quality, which has actually been slightly improved since the last generation of Lumix models. ISO 800 on the DMC-FX500 is comparable to ISO 400 on the older DMC-FX55, despite the increase in megapixels, with much less aggressive noise-reduction techniques. I'd be happy to use ISO 100-400 for most photos, with ISO 800 reserved for low-light situations, a marked improvement on the FX55. ISO 100-400 isn't a particularly versatile range, but the usual excellent optical image stabilisation system means that the DMC-F500 is still an adaptable camera, as you can take a photo at a faster ISO speed and therefore a slower shutter speed, and still get sharp results, without adversely affecting the battery life too much. The High Sensitivity mode provides a fastest ISO speed of 6400, but the image resolution is automatically reduced, resulting in smaller print sizes, and there's far too much noise and blurring of detail at that speed.

Despite the poor performance at higher ISO speeds, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is a fantastic compact camera that's equally at home in point-and-shoot mode, or a more creative shooting mode. The wide-angle lens, intuitive interface and great image quality will appeal to the family snapper and more experienced photographer alike. It's a compelling alternative to the likes of the DMC-TZ5, which offers a longer 10x zoom but no touchscreen functionality or manual controls. There is a literal price to pay though - namely the princely sum of 330 / $399, which is actually more than some entry-level DSLRs complete with a kit lens. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is the best FX-series camera yet, and indeed one of the best Panasonic compacts yet. I'll leave you to decide if it's worth that eye-watering price-tag...

Page 1
Introduction / Ease of Use
Page 2
Image Quality
Page 3
Sample Images
Page 4
Design
Page 5
Specifications
Page 6
Conclusion

DIWAPhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.

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