Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7 review
Fantastic camera. Great balance between ease of use for novices, with novice mode (great for handing to your mom for her to take a shot) and preset settings, as well as full-on geek mode, with detailed screens full of many, many technical settings. The two settings I miss are the ability to set aperture and to set speed. You can set a speed range, and have a lot of control -- slow shutter up to 8 seconds in night mode -- so it actually works out just fine.
If you think you are comparing this camera to a comparable model from another manufacturer, think again unless the other camera also has OIS. Without OIS, the competition is not reaching the level of this camera.
I was happy that it had a Leica lens. I still am, but I don't know how to tell if a lens is good or not. It's nice to at least have the feeling that I bought the best kind of lens I could in this small of a camera.
I've found battery life to be fine, but did buy two spare batteries. I've used one of them, but never had to use both the spares in any one day of shooting.
Another great feature is continuous shooting mode. It can do 2-4 or so pictures per second, without pause (I know someone else mentioned a pause, but that has not been my experience, and I use this feature a lot) continuously. You can hold the shutter button down for a minute or so and get a couple hundred pictures to sift through later (on the PC) to find the good ones.
One more thing about handheld pictures with OIS. Some folks have said 1/8 second, 1/4 second... well. Actually, with this camera, you can even take shots with longer exposures! One second exposures don't work every time, but if your subject is still, you can hold down the button, get three or four shots, and pick the best of the bunch -- usually amazingly clear, no hint of it being handheld. This is even without bracing the camera on anything.
I put a screen protector, cut from one made for PDAs, on my screen. The screen is extremely bright (too bright) when set to bright mode in the settings menu, which is a different setting from the quick brightness boost that can be done on top of that. I keep mine on the lowest setting most of the time, and it just sips on the battery very slowly. It has three battery saving levels, and I use the most aggressive one, which shuts down the display quite soon after inactivity, maybe 5 seconds. Doesn't turn off the camera though. It's back immediatly at a touch of the shutter button.
For a case, I got a tiny Pentax leather zipper case which had a belt loop and an extra pocket for cards/batteries. I cut the leather pocket and belt loop off, leaving myself with a very nice svelte leather case that perfectly fits the camera and looks, and is, very small. I put an old plastic card (credit card sized) in it on one side to protect the screen from any impacts.
When you have this set on burst mode, and you use the timer, it takes three shots upon reaching the time, instead of one. That's great for increasing your chances of getting a blink-free shot. This only happens when the flash is off, though.
I love the solid feel and metal construction of this camera. You can just feel that it isn't going to flex itself into decrepit old age; it's going to be around for a while. A telling fact is that I often check the digital camera racks at our local electronic superstores, and you can see which parts fall off of which cameras first as people play with the display models. I have seen display models of this camera at several stores in two states, but have never seen a single broken part on any of them. To me that says a lot.
What I wish this had:
Remote control (it does have 2-second and 10-second timer, though)
Speaker for listening to the audio (it does record audio with the video, so that is not lost; you can hear it on your PC. You just can't hear it on this camera). Some people have asked why don't they use the existing built-in speaker? Well probably that speaker is a piezo-electric speaker that is only capable of various beeping-type sounds.
Wish the video was 640x480, but it turns out OK as is for most things.
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