The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH7 is a slim, stylish compact camera with a 16MP CCD sensor and a 4x optically-stabilized zoom lens, which covers a useful 28-112mm (equivalent) range. Similar in most respects to its predecessor the FH5, the FH7 features a new touch-sensitive LCD screen, which enables Touch AF - a feature which has trickled down from higher-end Lumix cameras which allows you to focus and release the shutter by simply touching the display.

With the FH7, Panasonic is squarely targeting the consumer-level point-and-shoot market, and as such, apart from its stylish, minimalist design, the camera is packed with beginner-friendly and 'lifestyle' features. Beauty retouch, Aesthetic and Makeup filters are all designed to quickly polish portrait photographs, and a built-in Image Uploader is intended to make it easy to upload captured files to Facebook or YouTube when either the camera, or memory card, are connected to an Internet-enabled computer. Speaking of connectivity, the FH7 does not feature an HDMI connection, only USB 2.0 for connection to a computer or television (AV out).

Specification at-a-glance

  • 16.2 effective Megapixel CCD
  • 28-112mm equiv lens with optical stabilization
  • 3in touch-sensitive LCD screen with 230k dot resolution
  • 720p (30fps) video mode
  • ISO sensitivity up to 1600
  • Built-in Image Uploader (requires PC with Internet connection)
  • Street price $179 (£110)

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Design / Key Features

The FH7's slim metal body is free from the plethora of buttons that we'd expect to see on higher-end Lumix models. In fact, there are only two buttons (power on/off and the shutter release) on the top plate, and none on the rear. The only thing on the rear of the FH7 is its 3in touch-screen, and this is the camera's main control point. Virtually every aspect of the camera's operation is (or can be) controlled via the screen, using touch. Even the shutter release can be reassigned to touch operation if desired.

The FH7's operational ergonomics are Spartan, to say the least. External controls are limited to an on/off switch, zoom lever and shutter release, whilst everything else is dealt with via the large touch-sensitive LCD screen on the camera's rear.

With the exception of its touch-sensitive screen, the FH7 is a fairly typical consumer-level compact camera. Operation is effectively point-and shoot, although exposure compensation is available, and manual control is also possible over white balance ISO sensitivity, and AF/flash modes. If you miss the direct control points available in higher-end Lumix cameras, it is possible to assign a maximum of two functions to permanent 'shortcut' positions, on the left of the live view display. This sort of customization - although limited - is very welcome in a camera of this type.

The FH7 is well-featured for its price, although some functions are more useful than others. 'Beauty retouch' is fun, and in the portrait on the left it has added a passably natural 'glow' to our subject, but it doesn't always work out so well. A 5cm macro mode is genuinely useful though, and sharpness - especially in the centre of the frame - is high, as you can see from the picture of the rose, above right (taken from about a foot away).

The FH7's built-in Image Uploader makes uploading still and video files to Facebook and YouTube relatively stress-free, although you'll need to be using a Windows PC (sorry Mac users), and you will still need to follow fairly detailed instructions found in the camera's PDF user manual to do it. Quite honestly, if you're a reasonably adept computer-user we'd recommend just transferring files to your PC in the usual way, via USB or a card reader, and uploading to the web using your normal workflow.