Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Panasonic Lumix FX-8 review

Panasonic Lumix FX-8 photoSince my previous posting regarding purchasing said camera seems to be a popular article, I thought I better add a review of the camera as promised.

The first thing that struck me about the camera (well, second, after the pinkness!) was the size and feel, just right for slipping out of a pocket into my hand. The back LCD screen is very large - over 80% of the total area - and very clear, even on reasonably bright days. Since there is no optical viewfinder, anti-glare is an essential feature, and with Panasonic's patented anti-shake system built-in, worries about wobbly photos due to holding the thing at arm's length are negated. Start-up time from power-on is just over a second or two, and similarly - ahh, don't know the word, but the time to prepare for a shot: auto-focus, light balance, etc - is less than half a second, essential for many action shots.

One slight problem with the very generous back screen is that to compensate the configuration buttons are a bit small, which might be an issue for fat-fingered users! The setup menus are also a bit confusing, but that might be partially due to me having not read the manual and partially due to it all being in Japanese. For instance, one slight usability issue is that to change flash mode (auto, always on, always off, red-eye, etc) the down button must be pressed to cycle through the options, but it is all too easy to miss the correct setting and have to cycle round all six or so options again. Surely popping up a wee menu after the first press would be a better idea?

The Lumix FX-8, in common with most other new cameras, I suppose, is a bit memory-hungry in the default mode; 5 mega-pixels in fine mode creates images over 2 megabytes in size, meaning that 64 megabyte SD cards cannot even hold 30 pictures. I've set it to 3 mega-pixels in fine mode, which gives a more practical 1 megabyte file size. Similarly, the video mode records at 30 frames per second at 640x480, and since it stores files in Motion JPEG format (presumably) the same 64 megabyte SD card fills up in less than one minute!

I've not examined the software that comes with the Lumix, as I import files by popping out the SD card (located in the battery compartment, but no removal of the battery necessary) and putting it into a separate reader, and then use a third-party photo album software tool.

I also bought the official Lumix FX Series camera case at the same time, in colour-coordinated pink (more a muted burgundy) leather. They fit together well, but the case does not have a pocket for spare memory cards or batteries. Even though the specification claims 300 photos between recharges, a spare battery is always useful to have to hand. To recharge the battery it must be removed and put in an integrated wall plug charger unit. This is a multi-voltage device, so there are no worries when travelling abroad, other than the usual plug prong adapter issues.

Image quality is very good, although printed out photos are a bit blurry, although that might very well be more a problem with my printer (Pixus 550i with recycled ink cartridges) and software!

There are a whole bunch of features that I still have to read the manual to find out about, such as a baby feature - enter the date of birth, and when you select that mode the baby's age is stamped on the shop; and food mode, for the Japanese obsession with photographing their dinners.

Panasonic Lumix FX-8 Rating Score
Price★★★☆☆A free case would have been nice
Usability★★★★★No camera shake and excellent night-time performance
Image quality★★★★☆Perhaps I've just not learnt how to use it correctly yet?
Design and build quality★★★★★Everything looks well put together

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