Sitting towards the top of the compact camera spectrum is Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-FX36. With its 10-megapixel sensor it captures some stellar pictures and packs in the usual array of Panasonic features including automatic ISO and automatic exposure modes, both of which are great for beginners. Throw this all into an extremely slim chassis and you have a solid choice for those who want ease of use and portability without sacrificing image quality.
- Sharp images, sturdy slick design, great automatic modes for beginners
- Some noise issues even at low sensitivities, expensive
Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FX36 is an impressive compact camera combining good quality 10-megapixel images with a smooth design and some great beginner modes. Unfortunately, the price tag will put it out of reach for some users.
Price$ 659.00 (AUD)
While 10-megapixel sensors are a little redundant on a compact camera, at least for most print sizes, they certainly give you the flexibility to make extremely large pictures. The FX36's images are crisp and sharp and compared well with competing models. It captured excellent detail in our outdoor foliage shots and produced images we'd be happy magnifying many times over.
Chromatic aberration was kept well under control too, which is impressive for a compact unit. There was almost no flaring on high contrast edges and minimal softness towards the corners of the frame.
Similarly colour performance was excellent. We used the custom white balance mode for a lot of our shooting and it really did a wonderful job nailing the perfect colour balance. Everything looked great on the default colour setting, with accurate hues and no real oversaturation to speak of. You can tweak the look to some extent in the menu using modes like 'natural' and 'vivid'.
Our only complaint with the FX36's images were to do with noise. Some Panasonic models in the past have struggled here and unfortunately this unit did nothing to break the trend. Even at ISO 100 there is some noticeable graininess and by ISO 400 we began to get some loss of clarity. Anything above this was almost unusable. The noise isn't too obvious in small prints but it does limit your ability to make enlargements.
In our speed tests the FX36 performed adequately but it was not an outstanding result. Its shutter speed of 0.06 seconds is fairly quick but it took about two seconds between shots and a little over that to startup, both of which are on the slower side. Fortunately the burst mode is quite speedy. It captures up to three frames in a about three-quarters of a second at maximum resolution. There is also an option that captures an infinite number of shots at a more sedate 2.5 frames per second.
The big drawcard on the features list is the host of automatic options such as Intelligent Auto and Automatic Exposure, which are designed to pick the best combinations of scene modes and settings for your situation. In general they do a pretty good job and will help novice users capture some great shots.
For more advanced photographers, however, there is a decent array of options including the aforementioned custom white balance alongside a variety of focus and metering modes. Panasonic's optical image stabilisation is also present to complement the unit's 4x optical zoom.
Over the years Panasonic has done little to change its compact camera designs, and as such the FX36 resembles previous FX models very closely. However, this is far from a bad thing as the unit is slim and sturdy. Built entirely from metal it is extremely solid and the matte silver colour scheme looks pretty slick. It slides easily into a pocket or bag making it an ideal travel camera.
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