Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 review
Just upgraded from the FX-35 and did quite a few tests yesterday. Overall, the FX-500 is an excellent camera but dollar for dollar you get a little more with the FX-35. That being said, I am selling my FX-35 and keeping the FX-500 (see eBay!) because some small specific differences weigh in favor of the FX-500 for me as a photographer, but not necessarily because the camera is better. There were a few primary issues I want to mention between the two cameras though.
First, the FX-500 is noticeably larger than the FX-35. I know specs are specs, but just the weight and feel make it larger and it is less comfortable in a shirt pocket. The bonus is that for those of us with larger hands it is more comfortable to use without always hitting buttons with your thumb. Second, the lens is not quite as wide as the FX-35. This could be a number of factors, but since we know the chip processes not only noise but some optical distortions (try comparing the RAW and JPEG versions of a few Lumix camera images!) this could be post processing by the chip. I would guess the FX-500 is about a 25.5mm or 26mm wide angle compared to the FX-35. That, or the FX-35 is a 24.5mm
The most disappointing aspect of the FX-500 is that the images are not quite as good as the FX-35. Look close, mainly in low light. I notice significantly more noise artifact in the FX-500 images compared to the FX-35 in all ISO's. This make sense since the FX-500 has a much larger screen sitting right behind the chip and more electronics. I am sure the FX-500 generates more electronics noise from this fact alone and that has to be processed out. Luckily, the FX-500 has many more manual controls and you can adjust contrast, sharpness and noise reduction and little. Still, making as many adjustments as I could I could not get the same quality out of the FX-500 that I could get out of the FX-35. Let me stress that this image difference is small and only available to Pixel Peepers when you zoom in 100%, but it is noticeable. So, if you shoot wide and hope you can later crop in to get the image you want you will do better with the FX-500 to frame tight to reduce the amount of cropping.
Those were the largest issues I saw, but let me say the build quality is excellent as it always is with Lumix cameras. The menus are intuitive and the touch screen works wonderfully (even with a screen protector on the LCD). I think the actual number of items the touch screen is useful for is smaller than the number of things you can actually do with it, but for those things it is nice. The focus control is sweet, changing modes and scenes is quicker and easier and things like the playback control for movies now offer you real buttons on the screen which is very intuitive.
When you compare the fact that the FX-500 has more manual controls, a larger LCD, fancy gadget points for the touch screen and a slightly longer lens at 125mm, I decided to stick with it. This is also because I got one on eBay for about $350. If you are not really going to play with the gadgets on this camera that much and want a pocketable point and shoot with excellent, amazing optics, pick the FX-35. If you want a little more manual control, some sweet gadget novelty with the touch screen and perhaps a slightly longer lens and don't mind spending $100 more, get the FX-500. I decided on the FX-500 but really I am just waiting for a new and improved upgrade for my FZ-18! (I want a 10M chip and fancier processor, other than that I love the FZ-18!)
Two last notes: the rubberized case feel of the FX-35 is more secure in your hand in some ways and I really miss that on the FX-500. Also, the FX-500 seems to eat batteries a little faster. (makes sense though, expected...)
1. longer zoom range nice
2. larger, heavier body easier to hold for large hands
3. intuitive touch screen, fast & easy
1. more chip noise than FX-35, but manageable
2. larger heavier body less pocketable
3. costs $100 more than FX-35 for minor upgrades
4. battery life a little shorter than FX-35
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