The 10Mp Panasonic Lumix FX500 is a point-and-shoot compact with sophistication written all over it.
Its brushed metallic surface, well-placed, slim flash, and 25mm-to-125mm Leica 5X optical zoom lens are appealing, but the marquee feature of the Panasonic Lumix FX500 point-and-shoot camera is its 3in touchscreen display, which is sure to be controversial with photography purists who would otherwise be attracted to its manual settings. The touchscreen is bright enough for viewing in almost all lighting conditions, and it's not so hair-trigger that it invites accidental selections. You can use it to access some of the Panasonic Lumix FX500's menu settings more easily, as well as to zoom in and out on photos you've taken.
For some operations you must use it, although casual snapshooters may be disappointed that it does not supplant more menu options. (Besides the touchscreen, the Panasonic Lumix FX500 has a four-way toggle switch you can use to reach particular settings.) If you touch a subject on the touchscreen, the camera will focus on the selection - a novel and quite effective approach. The zoom-and-drag options for viewing images on the screen are another nifty feature.
You can touch an area of the screen and then either zoom in on the selection or drag it around on the touch screen. It's a convenient way to check sharpness, facial expressions, and other details at 100 percent of actual image size. Tapping arrows on the Panasonic Lumix FX500's touchscreen lets you move the entire image around.
The touchscreen eliminates some of the tedious drilling-down that many cameras force you to perform to get to settings such as scene modes and playback options.
That's good news because the Panasonic Lumix FX500 offers 21 preset scene modes, including portrait, party, soft skin, and starry sky. The beach and snow modes will help keep your highlights where you want them in those environments; and flower enthusiasts and the detail-obsessed will find the camera's macro mode awe-inspiring. All of that touchscreen action may be a bit draining.
In our lab tests, the Panasonic Lumix FX500's rechargeable lithium ion battery was good for 240 shots on a single charge - not too shabby, but far short of the 300 or more shots per charge that some more energy-efficient point-and-shoot models offer.
My only serious gripe with this sleek-but-expensive little camera relates to its manual settings. The Panasonic Lumix FX500 saves all images in JPEG format; there's no RAW option. Also, to adjust manual settings, aperture priority, and shutter priority you have to use scroll bars on the touch screen.
Even people with fine motor control of their hands may find this process frustrating unless they resort to using the Panasonic Lumix FX500's included stylus; without it, we laboured to obtain the aperture and shutter speed combinations we wanted.
Carrying the stylus cramps your style, but attaching it to the camera strap and stuffing it into your bag could damage the Panasonic Lumix FX500's beautiful screen. Fortunately, the Panasonic Lumix FX500's excellent Intelligent Auto mode and subject autofocus tracking kept me covered without my having to think too much, and the icons on the touchscreen helped me switch modes quickly and accurately.
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