Panasonic’s nicely designed, elegantly styled Lumix DMC-FX100 is a near-twin to the Lumix DMC-FX55, though it records images at 12.2 megapixels versus the DMC-FX55’s 8.1 megapixels.

You also get a smooth, precise 3.6x zoom lens that starts at the 35mm equivalent of a 28mm wide-angle lens, giving you significantly more coverage than the 35mm wide-angle lens that most small digital cameras offer. Thanks to a large shutter button and well-placed zoom control, shooting photos is simple. One unique feature of the DMC-FX100 is its E.Zoom button, which swiftly shifts the zoom from one end of the focal length range to the other.

Exposure controls on the DMC-FX100 are comprehensive. The standard mode dial shifts the camera from still shooting to movies, to special scene modes, or to photo playback. Unfortunately, the dial’s tiny icons can be hard to see, but as you spin the dial, a virtual version pops up briefly on the LCD.

Photo settings are divided between the function button and the menu button. The former opens a one-screen list where you can set optical image stabilization, burst mode, metering mode, white balance, ISO sensitivity, and image resolution. Though good, it should have included the camera’s automatic focus options and picture adjustments as well.

The camera also lacks manual focus and advanced controls such as aperture- and shutter-priority or full manual exposure.

Though the DMC-FX100 has a higher pixel count than its sibling, the image quality of its pictures was about the same in our lab tests. Colour and exposure accuracy were about average for recently tested point-&-shoots – good, but not outstanding. But in image sharpness, the DMC-FX100 earned the second-highest score among recently reviewed compact cameras.