The DMC-FX2 and DMC-FX7 (four and five megapixel) are follow on products to the DMC-FX1 and DMC-FX5 (three and four megapixel). Nothing groundbreaking there, however what is remarkable is that Panasonic have achieved a significant reduction in size (both width and depth) and yet still maintained an optically stabilized lens system. These are the only ultra-compact's in the market which feature stabilization, that alone means they should be worth a look.

Phil: Pre-production cameras, hence no sample images at this stage, sorry. Note that the preview images below are mostly of the FX7, the FX2 body is identical apart from the size of the LCD (2.0" vs. 2.5") and lack of microphone.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7 hands-on Preview

From the front the FX7 has a far less oblong appearance than the FX5, it looks better proportioned and is quite a bit smaller (112 cm³ vs. 172 cm³). The body is made from metal with a fashionable (if less practical) chrome band wrapped around the sides and top. At the front is what sets it apart from other ultra compact digital cameras, a three times zoom image stabilized lens system. It's a lens compact enough to retract back completely into the camera body and yet features a stabilized lens element, pretty remarkable. On the downside it's not very fast, F2.8 at wide angle but F5.0 at telephoto, although obvious having OIS can compensate somewhat.

The rear of the camera is dominated by a huge LCD monitor, on the FX7 it measures 2.5", on the FX2 it's 2.0". Unfortunately as is often the case for large monitors the display pixel count isn't high enough to do the screen justice and the image can often appear rough and pixelated (it's just what happens when you stretch 114,000 pixels over a 2.5" screen). The FX2's 2.0" LCD has 130,000 pixels and indeed looks sharper for it.

Side by side

As you can see the FX7 is noticeably smaller than the FX5 and also looks surprisingly small next to Konica Minolta's new DiMAGE X31 (not competition simply here for a size comparison).

In your hand

Despite its diminutive proportions the FX7 does actually work quite well in your hand, it tucks itself into the pad of your hand and the slightly recessed thumb grip on the rear ensures a fairly steady hold. We found it fairly easy to shoot single handed and still get good results (thanks in no small measure to the camera's optical image stabilization).

Operation

On top of the camera is the on/off switch (again, simple design and constant across the Lumix range), beside this the zoom lever and shutter release, the OIS mode button and recessed into the top of the camera overhanging the rear the camera mode dial. Perhaps my only criticism here could be that play mode should be a separate button so that the camera can be a 'shooting priority' type.

Simple layout on the rear of the camera, a four way controller which doubles for shooting mode control settings (in the same way as other Lumix digital cameras). The FX7 and FX2 have a special bright LCD mode called 'Power LCD', hold the Display button for more than one second and the brightness of the screen increases noticeably (image display gamma is also changed), this is designed to help in bright outdoor environments.

Design elements

The combined battery and SD storage compartment is found in the base of the camera on the right side, the battery held in place by a secondary spring clip. The battery is a 3.7 V 710 mAh Lithium-Ion unit and is charged by the dedicated charger. On the right side of the camera (from the rear) is a rubber compartment cover which has a chrome plastic 'cap' on it so that when closed it blends neatly into the rest of the camera styling. Behind it is the combined AV/USB connector and DC-IN connector.

Additional images