Pros: Touch-screen controls; many manual controls; very responsive.
Cons: No Raw capture; touch-screen controls only for manual controls.
The ten-megapixel Panasonic Lumix FX500 is a sophisticated camera. Its brushed metallic surface, slim, well-placed flash, and 25mm-to-125mm Leica 5x optical zoom lens are appealing, but its key feature is the three-inch touch-screen display.
The touch-screen is bright enough for viewing in almost all lighting conditions, and it’s not too hair-trigger sensitive. You can use it to access some menu settings, and to zoom in and out on photos you’ve taken; there’s a also a toggle switch for particular settings.
If you touch a subject on the touch-screen, the camera will focus on the selection – a novel and effective approach. The zoom-and-drag options for viewing images on the screen are similarly nifty. You can touch an area of the screen, then zoom in on the selection or drag it around on the touch-screen. It’s great for checking sharpness, facial expressions, and other details at 100 per cent of image size.
All that touch-screen action may be draining: in our tests, the FX500’s lithium-ion battery was good for 240 shots – not too shabby, but far short of the 300 or more shots that some compact models offer.
Our only serious gripe with this sleek but expensive model is that the FX500 saves all images as JPEGs; there’s no Raw option. Also, to adjust manual settings, aperture priority, and shutter priority you have to use fiddly scroll-bars on the touch-screen, which may force many to use the included stylus. Fortunately, the excellent Intelligent Auto mode and subject AF tracking, as well as icons on the touch-screen, meant this wasn’t often necessary.
The FX500 is packed with extra features, and images are sharp, if not outstanding. Some noise was visible at higher ISOs, but we saw few, if any, artifacts in high-contrast edges. Responsiveness was superb – and this characteristic, combined with the FX500’s quick, accurate AF and exposure, make it satisfying to use.