Compact metal-bodied cameras such as the 12Mp Panasonic DMC-FX60 have now upped their pixel count so that they can compete head-on with digital SLR cameras.
Of course, you're not going to get the same picture quality or level of user control with the Panasonic DMC-FX60 as with a DSLR - but compacts have the crucial distinction of being easy to carry, wherever you go.
The Panasonic DMC-FX60 is co-branded as Lumix, and carries a f/2.8 - f/5.9 lens with a 'Leica' name, which certainly lends an air of professionalism. And it lists a wider than usual 25mm-125mm zoom function, with the help of 0.3mm super-thin aspherical lens.
Inside the Panasonic DMC-FX60 is a 1/2.33in CCD sensor, slightly smaller than that found in the comparable Canon IXUS models, for instance. Framing and viewing pictures is through the rear 2.7in LCD screen, which is certainly bright and sharp enough for relaxed use.
Satrt-up time is a prompt two seconds. Many key functions are accessible through good mechanical switches: first there's the easy-to-use on/off switch on the camera's top, and next you'll be flicking between shoot and playback mode with another easy switch to the right of the screen. Below sits the typical compass-style navigation buttons, which double-up as shortcuts to timer, exposure compensation, flash and macro buttons.
In its tidy silver finish, we liked the relative simplicity of the Panasonic DMC-FX60's design and the functions.
Aside from its still pictures credentials, the Panasonic DMC-FX60 will also shoot high-definition video. Given the size and cost of this camera, you shouldn't raise your hopes for broadcast-quality footage. Yes, it can shot at 1280x720 resolution, but we found films distractingly noisy and grainy in anything other than bright sunlight, although motion was convincingly fluid at its 30fps. And overall its HD still beats VGA-res video as found on most compact cameras.
Still pictures were rendered tidily, if a little low in contrast and lacking convincing colour. In lower light levels, unsurprisingly, the FX60 struggled without the help of flash. Despite the lens credentials and extra megapixels on offer, we rated pictures slightly behind our reference three-year old 6Mp IXUS 65, as the Panasonic DMC-FX60's pictures just lacked the depth and dynamics of the Canon.
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