Operation and controls

Although ostensibly a point and shoot camera, the FX9 is more than just a pretty face - there are a surprising number of features on offer, though if you like control over shutter speeds and apertures you will be disappointed. In everyday use the majority of controls you're likely to need (flash, AE compensation, self-timer and drive mode) get their own external control buttons, meaning you only need venture into the well-designed and clear menu system to change white balance, ISO and picture size/quality.

Rear of camera

As mentioned earlier, the rear of the camera is dominated by the huge 2.5-inch monitor, which is so large that there simply isn't any room for an optical viewfinder. The controls are grouped in a cluster to the right of the screen and are perfectly usable (if a little easy to accidentally press if you have adult-sized thumbs).

Top of camera

The exemplary styling is continued on the top of the slim FX9. From above you can see that the large LCD does protrude slightly from the body.

The top plate is home to the chrome shutter release and zoom lever, on/off switch, speaker and microphone and the image stabilizer mode button. You can also see the recessed mode dial.

Display and menus

The FX9's menus are clean, bright, easy to read and fast, and almost identical to those found on the previous FX cameras (and in fact most Panasonic models).

The most basic preview screen in record mode is completely free of any overlays or icons. You can also, by pressing the Display button, get a simple grid to aid framing (screenshot) Of course you can turn on the information if you want by pressing the DISPLAY button.
Another press of the display button gives you a live histogram - something still unusual on a camera of this type. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the AF area used and the aperture/shutter speed chosen. You'll also get a warning if camera shake is a danger.
Switching to the 'Simple' mode (indicated by a heart symbol on the mode dial) gives you a friendlier, simpler on-screen display with larger icons, fewer controls and less information. As with other recent Panasonics there's a choice of five focus modes, but we'd recommend sticking with one of the two 'High Speed' options. They're noticeably faster.
A nice touch - common to all Panasonic models - is the easily accessible AE-Compensation, AE-Bracketing and WB adjust options. These are accessed via repeated presses of the 'up' arrow on the rear of the camera. The three-page record menu covers options such as white balance, sensitivity, picture size/quality, focus modes and image adjustments.
The setup menu - accessible from either playback or record mode - has three pages of basic camera-related settings, from monitor brightness and auto review settings to power management, sounds and date and time settings. Turn the main mode dial to SCN (scene) and press the menu button to choose a subject mode (from the 14 available). Press the menu button again and you get most of the options in the normal record menu. There's two new modes; candle and starry sky, which allows for exposures up to 60 seconds.
The record menu in 'Simple' mode is suitably basic, with easy icons and limited options. The three-page playback menu offers the usual array of printing, erasing, protecting and slideshow options. There's also the option to add sound to saved files, as well as crop (trim) and resize them.
As when in record mode you can choose the amount of information displayed in playback mode - from nothing at all to full data and histogram (as shown here). Moving the zoom to the right enlarges the playback image. There are only four steps (2x, 4x, 8x and 16x), but it's very quick. The four arrow keys are used to scroll around enlarged images.
Moving the zoom to the left brings up a page of 3x3 thumbnails. The new high resolution screen has allowed Panasonic to add a further 4x4 (16) and 5x5 (25) thumbnail option too. Audio dubbing allows you to record a sound clip with any saved image.