Conclusion - Pros
- High resolution, clean images
- Subtle, detailed images
- Good noise control at ISO 80-200
- High quality construction, lovely design
- Good edge-to-edge sharpness
- Excellent white balance
- Feels fast and responsive
- Big, bright screen
- Reliable exposure and focus
- Image stabilization
- Excellent on-screen menus and control system
- Easy to use
Conclusion - Cons
- Battery life
- Some blown highlights
- Occasional mild color casts when shooting in very bright light
- Some focus problems in low light
- Size and design makes camera shake more likely
- Easy to accidentally press buttons you don't mean to
As with the recently reviewed Canon PowerShot SD300 (IXUS 40i) the DMC-FX7 is the perfect pocket camera as long as you don't expect miracles and are prepared to accept a certain amount of compromise on features and image quality.
It is a tribute to Panasonic's designers that they managed to squeeze as much as they did into the FX7's diminutive body, and there's no denying it is the kind of camera that simply begs to be taken everywhere you go. The screen is fantastic (though the resolution isn't high enough to really take advantage of the extra size), it's fast, fun to use and capable of surprisingly good results. The Leica lens is certainly no slouch in the resolution stakes, exposure is - though by no means perfect - as good as any other camera in this class, and the auto white balance very good indeed.
Of course it's not all a bed of roses - the compromises mentioned earlier are fairly common in this kind of camera; some blown highlights, the occasional focus or exposure error and a rather underpowered flash. My biggest complaints are the poor battery life, made worse by the lack of an optical viewfinder and, ironically, the problem of camera shake, which would doubtless make the FX7 unusuable in all but the brightest conditions if it weren't for the image stabilization system.
I found the FX7 to be a real joy to use, and in the few months I spent with it I grew very attached to it. If the battery life were better (or there was an optical viewfinder that would allow you to turn off that huge screen to save power) it would be even better, but then we can't have everything, can we?