Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS3 review
If you don’t like your photo’s taken with the FS3, it must be because you pointed the camera in the wrong direction… I have taken about a 1000 photo’s with the FS3 and can confirm that it is a true P/S. The FS3 delivers very nice pics in 90% of the cases without any user intervention. For an other 5%, some user intervention is required and for the remaining 5% you just need an other camera (DSLR, Superzoom, whatever…).
With help of the excellent Auto mode and the optical image stabilisation (Mega O.I.S.), your photo’s will not often be disappointing. The overall image quality is very good. They are sharp, have lots of detail, have balanced colours and good exposure. As with any small camera above 5 megapixels, this camera generates visible noise, even at base ISO. Never the less, I must say the noise level is acceptably low and without signs of heavy noise reduction which hides the noise (Canon!), but also blurs all detail away. Note that the noise is only visible, when you view the images on 100%. The FS3 also does a great job when the light conditions get worse. With help from the Mega O.I.S. it successfully manages to use low ISO settings with slightly longer exposure under low light.
This Panasonic has an Auto mode that really gets the best out of this little box in most times. They call it Intelligent Auto (iA) and to my opinion it is intelligent. It detects faces, scenes and even detects if you need Macro or not and selects it for you. Besides the iA mode, there is a Normal mode, which is the equivalent of the Auto mode on most camera’s of other brands. At last there are two preselect modes, which allow you to select one out of the 22 scenes setting and a movie mode.
You can set the aspect ratio for each resolution. Sound logical, but many camera’s only support 3:2 at the highest resolution. The FS3 does 16:9, 3:2 and 4:3 for any image size you like, including the movie mode. The FS3 can shoot pictures of 8, 5, 3 and 0,3 megapixel. Movies can be taken up to 840x480 and 30fps in 16:9 ratio.
The level of control is almost none in the iA mode (except zoom and flash), but you will not miss it. It does exactly what you want. In Normal mode you get more control over ISO, AF, Macro, Exposure and Flash, but nothing like shutter speed or so. Some of the scene setting do have additional level of control. For example, the “Starry Sky mode” will ask you to select a shutter speed of 15, 30 or 60 seconds.
The camera is switched on by an on/off switch. I found out that this switch can easily be moved from off to on when you slide the camera into a case or your pocket. In such case, the lens will try to come in your pocket/case, which can never be a good thing for the mechanism.
The FS3 has the usual zoom lever and small E-zoom button next to it. You will zoom in or out fully by a single press on this E-zoom button. Nice, but as the FS3 only has a triple zoom, the normal zoom lever is not much slower than the E-zoom button.
Menu structure and button layout are OK, but there are better designs on the market. Photo/Movie mode selection is done by a separate mode-button with its own little menu. It works, but I prefer a rotary switch as seen on most camera’s today.
Strange about the iA mode is that some usefull recording settings are not available. You can not select a lower image quality (compression level), nor you can use the 2 second self-shutter which is available in normal mode. You can not change the EV in the usual way, but you do get a “backlight” option in return. Even more strange is that the camera’s setup menu is very limited in the iA mode. You can not change setting of LCD screen, USB mode, sounds, etc. If you want to change these kind of settings, you first have to go to normal mode, change it and than switch back to the iA mode. Not a big issue, but it just doesn’t make any sense.
You switch between taking pictures and playback by use of a switch on the back of the camera. The good thing about this is that it allows you to switch on the camera, without activating the lens. On the downside, if you are in a hurry to take a shot and you turn the camera on while still in playback mode, you might be too late.
Playback itself is very straight forward and allows you to crop, change aspect ratio and rotate your images. You can also make a slideshow in playback, with background music included.
Very nice image quality, good value for money and a true Point and Shoot. This is your camera if you only want to care about what is in your picture and not want to bother about how the picture is made.
Menu layout could be better, but there are much worse on the market as well.
Noise, but this is a general problem seen on most of todays compact camera's above 5 megapixel.