Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 Review
In addition to the auto white balance mode the FX01 offers only three presets (daylight, cloudy, and halogen). There is no preset for fluorescent lights, but there is a manual white balance mode that allows you to point the camera at a white or gray card and create a custom setting.
In use - especially when light levels are good - the FX01 delivers consistently accurate color. When light levels drop (indoors at night) you'll get very orange results under tungsten lighting unless you switch to manual WB. One nice touch (also seen on the FZ series) is a white balance 'fine tune' function (for the presets or manual WB mode), which allows you to dial in more red or blue using a sliding scale.
Incandescent - Auto WB
Halogen Preset WB
Red 7.4%, Blue -9.6%
|Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 3.2%, Blue -7.4%
No real complaints here. The range is acceptable (around 1 to 13 feet with auto ISO), and color and exposure very reliable. We did get some blown out results when shooting too close, though these were rare. The positioning of the flash so near to the lens means red-eye is fairly common unless you use the red-eye reduction system.
|Skin tone Good color, slight underexposure||Color chart Good color and exposure|
The FX01 has a dedicated macro mode, accessed via the main mode dial. The macro mode works throughout the zoom range, but - as is usual on this type of camera - only gets really close when used at the widest setting. There is inevitably some distortion when you get really close, but it is nowhere near as bad as many similar models. In these test shots there is some evidence of corner softness (at both ends of the zoom) and mild vignetting (at the wide end of the zoom), but this doesn't seem to have a significant effect on real-world shots.
Barrel and Pincushion Distortion
Nothing to complain about here - there is a small amount (0.7%) of measurable barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom, though nothing you'd see in real-world pictures, and pretty impressive given the wider than normal zoom range. There is a small amount of measurable (and visible) pincushion distortion at the telephoto end of the zoom.
|Barrel distortion - 0.7 % at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
|Pincushion distortion - 0.4% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 102 mm
Specific image quality issues
As with all ultra compact cameras we have to accept that there will be some compromises in image quality, but aside from a little distortion and slightly soft corners the results are a testament to the ability of Leica to design a 28-102mm equiv. lens that is so small that really shouldn't perform at all.
Exposure, sharpness, color and focus are all excellent and are unlikely to disappoint the target audience. Color is particularly rich (without becoming unnatural) and overall detail very good. True, the images may seem a contrasty for purists, they make very nice prints with little work and are ideal for the target market. Throw in the creative possibilities offered by the inclusion of a true wideangle lens and you've got a camera that makes a surprisingly capable 'carry anywhere' companion to an SLR for the days you don't feel like lugging all your kit round.
As with the FX9, we did notice a significant drop-off in sharpness at the smallest apertures (particularly F6.3 and over), which is unfortunate as the camera offers no manual aperture control (though it does seem to favor high shutter speeds over small apertures). There is little - if any - color fringing and the vignetting seen with the FX9 has been all but eliminated outside the macro mode at F2.8. There are occasional problems with dynamic range - and fairly high contrast - which can result in blown highlights, but this chip seems marginally better than its 5MP predecessor at dealing with very bright, contrasty scenes.
The FX01 uses the new Venus PLUS engine, which uses less power than the Venus II, but doesn't have the latter's built-in chromatic aberration (CA) removal. That said, we found serious purple fringing to be rare, and to only occur at all at the boundaries of overexposed areas (particularly blown highlights, as below). There is no evidence of CA at all in real world shots.
|100% crop||28 mm equiv., F5.6|
Contrast / dynamic range / clipped highlights or shadows
Hardly a problem unique to this camera, the FX01 will occasionally clip highlights when faced with a very bright, contrast scene. The dynamic range is a lot better than the FX7/FX8 (and most other 5MP cameras), but the fairly high default contrast means scenes such as those below can cause problems. At times shooting with the FX01 can feel like shooting with transparency film, so key is getting the exposure spot on to avoiding clipping. To put this into perspective I shot maybe 200 exposures in bright conditions and only found clipping to be issue in around 10 of them, of which 2 or 3 were mildly overexposed (exacerbating the clipping). To be honest when compared to the majority of competing models we are really picking hairs here.
|35 mm equiv., F2.8||28 mm equiv., F2.8|
|35 mm equiv., F2.8||28 mm equiv., F5.6|
The MEGA O.I.S image stabilization system used on the FX01 (and most other recent Panasonic models) works, and within reason it works well. There are two modes: Mode 1 (IS on all the time) and Mode 2 (IS is activated at the moment the exposure is made). Mode 1 makes framing easier - the IS system steadies the preview image, but is less than 100% effective when it comes to actually taking the pictures. Mode 2, which minimizes the amount of movement needed by waiting until the actual moment you press the shutter is supposed to be more effective.
Overall Mode 2 is still the most effective, allowing handheld shots at the wide end of the zoom down to around 1/8th of a second (if you're fairly steady-handed). But there were times when Mode 1 seemed to work better (specifically with extreme shake; long exposures or when using 102mm the long end of the zoom). In either case the IS has demonstrable benefits even in such a small camera and even at the wide end of the zoom, but there are limits to what it can do. Our advice when the shutter speeds falls below about 1/15 sec would be to take a few shots - at least one of them will be sharp enough to be a 'keeper'.
|IS off||IS mode 1||IS mode 2|
|1/20 sec 102 mm equiv.|
|IS off||IS mode 1||IS mode 2|
|1/8 sec 102 mm equiv.|
|IS off||IS mode 1||IS mode 2|
|1/2 sec 102 mm equiv.|