Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 Review
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 (also known as the DMC-FX48) is a small and light compact camera aimed firmly at the point-and-shoot user. At first glance the FX40 is rather unassuming, with a standard 2.5 inch LCD screen and rather understated styling, but there are a couple of stand-out features. The 5x zoom lens is the main one, an unusually versatile focal range on such a small camera, but even more so when you find out that the Panasonic FX40 offers a wide-angle setting of 25mm. The second is the ability to shoot high-definition 1280 x 720p video at 30fps, a feature retained from the previous FX37 model but still something of a rarity in this class of camera. Other improvements from the FX37 are more subtle - new 12 megapixel sensor, faster Venus Engine V processor, and an upgraded face detection system that can recognise previously recognised faces. The new Panasonic DMC-FX40 is available in black, red or silver and has an official list price of £259 / $349. We find out if the DMC-FX40 is a worthy addition to Panasonic's extensive range of stylish compact cameras.
Ease of Use
Digital point and shoots are seemingly two-a-penny and most feature an identical range of functions, making it even harder to tell one model apart from another - particularly if they come from the same manufacturer's range, in our case Panasonic's ever-swelling Lumix family of compacts. So what does the DMC-FX40 have to make it stand out from both a crowd of rivals, and in addition its closely priced and specified siblings?
On first impressions, not a great deal. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40, available in black, silver or red in the UK at least, is of almost identical credit card dimensions to the recently Photography Blog reviewed FX550, its rounded edges ensuring it's marginally less boxy. Marketed as a natural step up from the FX37, it is at the time of writing some £40 cheaper than the FX550 at a UK manufacturer's asking price of £255. While it shares similarities with that step-up model, there are also notable differences.
The familiar includes a 5x optical zoom with a 25-125mm equivalent range (in 35mm terms) - making it suited to both landscapes and portraiture - plus an 'extra' optical zoom boosting it to an equivalent 9.8x, albeit with attendant resolution drop to 3MP.
Backing these up are, again, a 12.1 megapixel effective resolution, Venus Engine V processor (reportedly 2.4x faster than the previous generation and 16% more power efficient), plus the regulars of HD movies (maximum 1280x720 pixels at 30fps, 16:9 format), intelligent auto (iA) and face detection. Here 'FD' can recognize previously captured faces - a bit of a gimmick - and if you register your baby's face with the camera, it'll automatically switch on the baby optimized scene mode when granny next points the camera at the little 'un.
Where the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 deviates is that there's no touch screen operation this time around, just a regular 2.5-inch, 230k dot resolution LCD with auto brightness adjustment. There's no fancy instant zoom button that propels the user through the focal range in one smooth transition either. But otherwise the two cameras look and feel very similar.
Once again construction mixes plastic with mainly metal to ensure the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 feels robust when gripped in the palm (at a weight of 150g with card and battery), and will survive the odd knock or fumble. That said the metallic lens surround of our review sample did arrive slightly scuffed and scratched, consistent with being kept in pocket with loose change and (possibly) keys.
With supplied lens once again Leica branded, the front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 is a reasonably plain affair, with lozenge shaped window for the flash nestling left of the optic, and an AF assist/self timer porthole top right. The best that can be said about it is that it's clean, unfussy and, unlike Cyber-shot snappers from Sony, resembles a traditional camera in both dormant and active states.
The top plate is similarly minimalist, with - set into a reflective chrome strip that runs around its edges - a large shutter release button encircled by a zoom lever with a raised lip at its front, in order to provide active purchase for the forefinger.
Next to this we have a small, partly recessed on/off switch and built in microphone and speaker (both mono). While none of these signifies 'cheap', the zoom lever on our review sample felt a tad loose. Still, its action is commendably smooth and steady, sound-tracked by a very low operational buzz. One disappointment though is that the optical zoom cannot be deployed whilst shooting video; it merely stays fixed at the point it was before the user pressed the shutter button to commence recording. Similarly, if the camera is in playback mode, a quick squeeze of the shutter won't throw the user back into capture mode - the switch for alternating between the two modes has to be physically 'thrown' first.
Panasonic quotes shutter lag as a blink and you'll miss it 0.007 seconds, same as the FX550. We also get the ability to shoot a burst sequence of images at 2.3 frames per second, at full resolution, or 10fps if we compromise on picture quality. Take a shot in single capture mode and the FX40 takes 2-3 seconds to write it to memory (40MB internal capacity or optional SD or SDHC card), the screen briefly blanking out and then freezing with a preview of the captured image. Still, it is lighting fast to determine focus and exposure - providing there's plenty of light around that is - letting the user know with an affirmative 'bleep'.
For close ups, a 'macro zoom' is available this time around in the shape of a 3x digital zoom; this is accessible as an alternative when selecting regular macro mode.
With macro enabled via a press of the relevant cross key at the back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40, main shooting modes are selected via a twist of the bottle top-style mode wheel set unobtrusively into the top right of the camera back, so most settings are obscured apart from the one in use and that immediately next to it. Turn the physical dial and a virtual version pops up briefly on screen explaining which mode has been selected.
|External Ports||Mode Dial|
First on the dial is the aforementioned intelligent auto, followed by 'normal picture' (program AE), and scene modes. This third setting, if twisting the dial clockwise that is, contains a plethora of pre-optimised, user selectable options for common subjects and conditions: a whopping 27 in total.
Thus we have not one but four portrait modes - to include self portrait and the curious 'transform' mode which stretches your subject to resemble someone looking into a fairground hall of mirrors. New amongst these is panorama assist mode; yet the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 doesn't automatically stitch together images in camera when you've finished shooting, which would have further enhanced the user friendliness. Relevant software is provided on the CD.
Indicating the camera is aimed at family users, there are two baby modes, while for the more adventurous there are fun pin hole and film grain modes, plus an underwater option.
Next on the dial is the video mode, which provides access to quality and auto or manual white balance settings via a drop down toolbar, running across the top of the monitor screen. With a press of the menu button users can also adjust colour mode if so desired, switching to sepia, black and white, or giving footage a cool or warm look. Incidentally as a default the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 appears to err on the side of warm anyway. The last setting on the dial is a two megapixel clipboard mode for reference shots - maps and travel times when on holiday for example.
While the 4:3 ratio screen is bright and clear, if shooting video in 16:9 format, black bars crop the top and bottom to provide a more cinematic look and a better indication of how the eventual results will appear.
As with previous generations of Lumix, on-screen menus and user options are presented in a clear and straightforward manner, its manufacturer adding a new display size option this time around. Press the 'display' button on the camera back and screen information can be turned on or off for a clearer composition, or a nine zone grid overlaid for those who want to practice the Rule of Thirds. In the absence of any optical viewfinder, battery life is good for 350 shots from a single charge, which is both fair and comparable with rivals.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
In between the shooting mode dial and cross keys is located the aforementioned slider switch for flicking between image capture and playback, its diminutive size meaning that thumbnail operation is required. The other buttons on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 back are similarly small, save for the larger self-explanatory menu/set button nestling at the centre of the four cross keys. At 12 o'clock we have a button for calling up exposure compensation on screen, with a slider indicator allowing adjustment between the standard -/+ 2EV in 1/3 increments. At three o'clock we get access to the flash modes; here these are auto, auto with red eye correction, forced on, slow sync with red eye correction or flash off.
At six o'clock is a means of selecting the aforementioned close up modes, whilst at 9 o'clock users get access to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40's self timer settings: two seconds, ten seconds or off. So far, so straightforward then…
With the display button to the left of these directional controls, that also provide a means of tabbing through on-screen menus, captured images in playback, and function selection, to the bottom right is the final button on the camera back, marked 'Q. Menu'. As with its predecessors, this enables access to a 'quick menu', provided via an option-laden drop-down toolbar running cross the top of the screen.
If not shooting stills in iA mode, this provides user access to image stabilisation options, burst shooting, AF area (spot, face detection, AF tracking, or 11-area), white balance, ISO (ISO80 - 1600), the addition of intelligent exposure, picture size and LCD mode. In iA mode such options are pared down to purely accessing picture size, burst shooting and LCD mode.
While the left hand flank of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 (if viewing from the back) is bereft of any features, the opposite side features a flip-open door protecting two ports; one a joint AV out/USB connection, the other for an optional component cable for hooking the camera up to an HD TV set.The bottom of the camera is similarly 'clean', with a screw thread for attaching it to a tripod ranged far left, rather than in its usual positioning nearer the central axis. This has allowed for a larger door with sliding catch protecting the joint rechargeable lithium ion battery and SD/SDHC card compartment.
While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 may look and feel fairly run of the mill for anyone already used to Panasonic's Lumix range, taken on its own, it's a user friendly point and shoot that covers all the basics. But does its image quality take it to a higher level? Read on to find out…
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 Fine megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.
Whilst when there's sun shining and clear blue skies the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40, like most point and shoots, acquits itself reliably, in lower lighting conditions we found the camera's AF system occasionally struggled to find focus and, when in iA mode, the same conditions also caused it some confusion - for example selecting macro when landscape was warranted and thus delivering a blurred image. We also found flash slightly under-powered, struggling to deliver sharply defined images, most notable when examining our interior portraits taken with flash to check how well the camera does in avoiding - or rather correcting for - red eye.
In terms of the visibility or otherwise of image noise, although it begins to creep into shadow areas from ISO 400 upwards, overall images look smooth and free from obvious degradation up to and including ISO 800. At ISO 1600 however images begin to appear as if being viewed through a fine layer of silt, with detail softened overall. Opt for the camera's high sensitivity mode that will result in a three megapixel image to limit the appearance of noise and, sure, it looks cleaner, but the obvious softness remains. In general images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 aren't routinely as sharp as we would have liked, so a subtle application of unsharp mask in Photoshop afterwards proves beneficial.
On a more positive note, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 pictures are almost uniformly warm and colourful, with tell-tale pixel fringing of a blue-ish/purplish hue most noticeable around the edges of objects and subjects when framed against particularly bright backgrounds; tree leaves against featureless skies being one of the more obvious examples. Again, as we recently found with the FX550, a large amount of green in the foreground of landscape shots resulted in the camera's auto white balance rendering blue skies an unreal looking shade of turquoise.
Not a bad set of results for a snapshot model and we're being picky of course, but though reliable for most conditions, it's not quite a perfect showing.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:
ISO 80 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look, so you will have to edit the images later.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review. There's slight purple fringing between areas of high contrast, but it's only noticeable on really close inspection, as shown in the examples below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, and Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (25mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (25mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (125mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (125mm)
And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Forced On setting or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction option caused any amount of red-eye.
|Forced On (100% Crop)|
Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40's maximum shutter speed is 60 seconds in the Starry Sky Mode scene mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 5 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
|Memory Card Slot|
If you want a compact camera that will allow you to merely point and shoot and, under most conditions, achieve results that won't need adjustment afterwards, then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 fits the bill as a neat and not unstylish solution to slip into your top pocket when heading out for the day.
The DMC-FX40's ultra wide-angle 25mm lens comes in handy for landscape shots, and the 125mm equivalent telephoto reach allows the user to bring the action marginally closer without taking a step forward. OK, coming after our use of Samsung's 10x zoom WB550 compact on test, there were times when we wished we had a bit more lens power still. But a 5x reach at least matches rivals from Sony's Cyber-shot range, such as the T90 and T900.
Ultimately though, we preferred the handling of the similarly specified FX550 over the FX40 - and that model's best of both worlds' mix of touch screen and physical button operation. Coming to the DMC-FX40 it felt like a step back - and since its bigger brother can be found for £230 online, we'd recommend your cash is better spent on that model if a camera that's equally portable but even more user friendly and, for us, reliable, appeals. In comparison the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 can only feel, well, pretty average, hence its overall score.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3|
Reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX40 from around the web.
After being favorably impressed with the FX35 some 16 months ago, I was ready for another "gee whiz" moment from the FX48. Sure, there was David Rasnake's review of the FX37 here last March that faulted the camera for largely maintaining the status quo, but the FX48 promised more resolution and the latest processor technology from Panasonic. The "gee whiz" moment never materialized and my sister is in no danger of being gifted with an FX48, at least with funds from my wallet.
Read the full review »
Panasonic has added yet another "FX" series model to their ranks, with the Lumix DMC-FX48. Replacing the popular Lumix FX35 from last year, the FX48 is a light-weight, ultra-compact digicam that offers many high-end features, including Panasonic's legendary MEGA O.I.S. technology. While it shares many features with it's sibling, Panasonic has increased resolution to 12-megapixels, added a slightly more versatile zoom lens (5x compared to the FX35's 4x), along with an upgraded 11-pint AF system. The FX48 also boasts a 2.5-inch LCD, 720p HD video capture, 40MB of internal memory, 2.3fps burst mode, Intelligent Auto, Program, and 20 scene modes.
Read the full review »
Announced on the 27th of January 2009, the Panasonic Lumix FX40 is one of Panasonic's top of the range ultra compact digital cameras, and features a 12 megapixel sensor, a 25mm wide angle lens with a 5x optical zoom, a 2.5" screen that works in the sun, 720p HD (high-definition) video recording, optical image stabilisation and a pocketable metal body. The Panasonic Lumix FX40 is available from around £249 which makes it good value for money. The camera is enclosed in a metal body and is available in black, red, and silver. The camera measures approx. 95.3 x 52.9 x 21.5 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 128g. excluding battery and memory card.
Read the full review »
|Camera Effective Pixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter||1/2.33-inch / 12.7 Total Megapixels / Primary Colour Filter|
|Aperture||F2.8 - 5.9 / Iris Diaphragm (F2.8 - 8 (W) / F5.9 - 8 (T))|
|Focal Length||f=4.4-22.0mm (25-125mm in 35mm equiv.)|
|Extra Optical Zoom (EZ)||6.1x (4:3 / 8M), 7.8x (4:3 / 5M), 9.8x (under 3M)|
|Lens||LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT / 7 elements in 6 groups / (4 Aspherical Lenses / 6 Aspherical surfaces, 1 EA lens)|
|Optical Image Stabilizer||MEGA O.I.S. (Auto / Mode1 / Mode2)|
|Digital Zoom||4x / ( Max. 20.0 x combined with Optical Zoom without Extra Optical Zoom ) / (Max.39.1x combined with Extra Optical Zoom)|
|Focusing Area||Normal: Wide 50cm/ Tele 100cm - infinity / Macro / Intelligent AUTO : Wide 5cm / Tele 100cm - infinity|
|Focus Range Display||Yes|
|AF Assist Lamp||Yes|
|Focus||Normal / Macro,Tracking (On / Off), Quick AF (On / Off)|
|AF Metering||Face / AF Tracking / Multi (11pt) / 1pt HS / 1pt / Spot|
|Shutter Speed||8-1/2000 sec (Selectable minimum shutter speed) / Starry Sky Mode : 15, 30, 60sec.|
|Optical Image Stabilizer||Photo & Movie|
|Intelligent ISO Control||Photo|
|Intelligent Scene Selector||Photo (Portrait, Scenery, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Macro)|
|Digital Red Eye Correction||Photo|
|File Format||Still Image: JPEG (DCF / Exif2.21) / Image with Audio: JPEG (DCF / Exif2.21) + QuickTime / Motion picture: QuickTime Motion JPEG|
|Mode Switch||[Recording] / [Playback]|
|Mode Dial||Intelligent AUTO, Normal Picture, SCN, Motion Picture, Clipboard|
|Still Picture Scene Mode||Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, / Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, / Hi-Speed Burst (Image Priority / Speed Priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, / Aerial photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, Underwater|
|Continuous Shooting Mode||Full-Resolution Image, 2.3 frames/sec Max. 5 images (Standard mode), Max 3 images (Fine Mode) / High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 6.0 frames/sec (image priority) approx. 10 frames/sec (speed priority) (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9)|
|Unlimited consecutive shooting||1.8 frames/sec|
|Motion Picture Recording||[4:3] VGA: 640 x 480 pixels, 30fps (Motion JPEG) QVGA: 320 x 240 pixels, 30 fps (Motion JPEG) / [16:9] WVGA: 848 x 480 pixels, 30 fps (Motion JPEG) / [HD Movie] 1280x720, 30fps (Motion JPEG)|
|Exposure Compensation||1/3 EV step, +/-2 EV|
|Backlight Compensation||Yes (only in Intelligent AUTO mode)|
|Auto (AE) Bracketing||'+/- 1/3 EV ~1EV step, 3 frames|
|Light Metering||Intelligent Multiple|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 High Sensitivity (ISO 1600-6400)|
|Aspect Ratio||4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9|
|Still Picture Recording||[4:3] 4000 x 3000(12M)/ 3264 x 2448 (8M EZ) / 2560 x 1920 (5M EZ) / 2048 x 1536 (3M EZ) / 1600 x 1200 (2M EZ) / 640 x 480 (0.3M EZ) / [3:2] 4000 x 2672(10.5M) / 3264 x 2176 (7M EZ) / 2560 x 1712 (4.5M EZ) / 2048 x 1360 (2.5M EZ) / [16:9] 4000 x 2248(9M) / 3264 x 1840 (6M EZ) / 2560 x 1440 (3.5M EZ) / 1920 x 1080 (2M EZ)|
|Image Quality||Fine / Standard|
|White Balance||Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Halogen / White Set / White Balance Adjustment (±10steps, except for auto set) / (Selectable at Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Sports, Baby, Pet, High Sensitivity, Highspeed Burst, Pinhole, Panorama Assist mode?|
|Colour Mode||Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm|
|Still Image with Audio Recording||5 sec|
|Audio Dubbing||Max. 10sec|
|Composition Guide line||Yes (2 patterns)|
|Auto Review||1sec, 2sec, Zoom, Hold|
|Easy Zoom / Zoom Resume||No / No|
|Scene Mode Help Screen||Yes|
|Self Timer||2sec / 10sec|
|Focus Icon Select||Yes (in Face Recognition only)|
|Playback Mode||Normal Playback, Slideshow, Category Playback, Favourites Playback|
|Thumbnails / Zoomed Playback||12,30-thumbnails / Max 16x|
|Calender Display / Dual-Image Playback||Yes / No|
|Set Favorites / Rotate Image||Yes / No|
|Playback Still Images with Audio||Yes|
|Playback Motion Picture||Yes (Motion JPEG)|
|Slideshow Mode||All Still Images / Favourites / Category / BGM Effect (Natural / Slow / Swing / Urban / OFF)|
|Delete Image||Single / Multi / All / All except Favourites|
|DPOF Print Setting / Set Protection||Yes / Yes|
|Resize / Trim / Aspect Conv. / Leveling||Yes / Yes / No / Yes|
|Copy / Title Edit/ Text Stamp||Yes / Yes / Yes|
|PictBridge Support||Single / Multi / All / Favourites / DPOF|
|OSD language||Japanese, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish|
|Travel Date / World Time||Yes / Yes|
|LCD Monitor||2.5" TFT Screen LCD Display (230K dots) / Field of View : approx. 100%, Wide Viewing Angle / AUTO Power LCD mode, Power LCD mode|
|Built-in-Flash||Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off 0.6 - 6.0m (Wide/ISO Auto), 1.0 - 2.8m (Tele/ISO Auto)|
|Recording Media||Built-in Memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard (Still image only)|
|Microphone / Speaker||Mono / Yes|
|Interface||HD Component Output, AV Output (NTSC/PAL or NTSC only) / USB2.0 High speed, DC Input (requires optional DC Coupler)|
|Power||ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, 940mAh) (Included) / AC Adaptor (Input: 110-240V AC) (Optional)|
|Battery life (approx.)||350 pictures (CIPA Standard)|
|Included Software||PHOTOfunSTUDIO v3.0 / ArcSoft (MediaImpression / Panorama Maker) / USB Driver, QuickTime|
|Standard Accessories||Battery Charger, Battery Pack, Battery Case / AV Cable, USB Connection Cable, AC Cable / Hand Strap, CD-ROM|
|Dimensions(W x H x D)||95.3 x 52.9 x 21.5 mm (3.75 x 2.08 x 0.85 in)|
|Weight||Approx. 128g (0.28 lb) Approx. 150g with Battery and SD Memory Card (0.33 lb)|