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DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 18, 2007
Last updated: March 13, 2012

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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 ($399) is the highest resolution camera in Panasonic's ultra-compact lineup. It packs a whopping 12.2 million pixels on its tiny 1/1.72" CCD, producing images 4000 x 3000 in size. Other features on the FX100 include a 3.6X, 28 - 100 mm lens, optical image stabilization, a 2.5" LCD display, and a 720p movie mode (albeit at 15 frames/second).

The ultra-compact camera arena is a crowded one. Can the DMC-FX100 keep up with the competition? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The DMC-FX100 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 12.2 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-FX100 camera
  • CGA-S005 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Lumix Simple Viewer, PhotoFunStudio, ArcSoft Photo Suite, and drivers
  • 131 page camera manual (printed)

Like most cameras in the ultra-compact class, the FX100 has built-in memory instead of a having a memory card included in the box. The camera has 27MB of memory, which may be decent on a lower resolution camera, but on this 12MP model it's pretty lousy, holding just three photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to get a memory card right away, and I'd suggest picking up a 2GB card to start with. The FX100 uses SD, SDHC, and MMC cards, and it's worth spending the extra dollars for a high speed card.

The FX100 uses the same CGA-S005 lithium-ion battery as several other Panasonic cameras. This battery packs 4.3 Wh of energy, which is pretty good for a camera this size. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS */** 270 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z1200 340 shots
Fuji FinePix F50fd * 250 shots
Kodak EasyShare V1233 * 220 shots
Nikon Coolpix S700 * 150 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 */** 320 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 */** 280 shots
Pentax Optio A30 * 150 shots
Samsung L74 Wide **/*** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 * 300 shots

* Has image stabilization
** Has wide-angle lens
*** Number not officially calculated with CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

Panasonic has done a really great job with regard to battery life across their entire product line. The FX100's numbers are well above the group average.

I need to mention my usual gripes about proprietary batteries before we move on. First, a spare battery is really expensive -- they start at $41. Secondly, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day if your rechargeable battery dies. Both of these issues are par for the course on ultra-compact cameras, though.

When it's time to charge the battery, just place it into the included external charger. It takes a little over two hours to fully charge the battery. I should add that this is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall.

As is the case with most ultra-compacts, the FX100 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with.

The FX100 is pretty light on accessories. The only ones of note include the DMW-AC5 AC adapter (priced from a whopping $62) and a camera case (priced from $14). If you're after an underwater case, you'll need to step down to the DMC-FX33, which is essentially an 8MP version of the FX100.


Lumix Simple Viewer for Windows

Panasonic includes several software products with the camera, and the first one is Lumix Simple Viewer, which is for Windows only. This does just what its name implies: it imports photos from the camera and then lets you view, e-mail, or print them. And that's it.


PhotoFunStudio for Windows

Next up we have PhotoFunStudio, which is again Windows-only. This adds a few very basic editing features, but really it's not a whole lot different than SimpleViewer.


ArcSoft PhotoImpression for Mac

To do real photo editing you'll want to use ArcSoft PhotoImpression, which is for Mac and Windows. While it has a rather quirky interface, this software can do just about everything. You can edit photos (adjusting color/sharpness/lighting), reduce redeye, design creative projects (making calendars, photo books, etc), and more.

Another piece of the ArcSoft suite is PanoramaMaker, which helps you combine photos that you've taken side-by-side into a single panorama. It's easy to use, and the results can be really impressive.

The manual included with the FX100 isn't the greatest. Sure, it'll answer whatever question you may have about the camera, but it's about as un-welcoming a manual as you'll find. Expect a confusing layout and plenty of "notes" on each page.

Look and Feel

The Lumix DMC-FX100 is an ultra-compact camera made almost entirely of metal. It has a more conservative design than some of the competition, but it's still pretty stylish in my opinion. Build quality is excellent in almost all areas, with the exception being the very flimsy cover over the battery/memory card compartment.

The camera can be operated with just one hand, though I found my right thumb sitting right on top of the exposure compensation button at times. Panasonic didn't go overboard with buttons on the camera, so it's pretty to just pick up and use.

Images courtesy of Panasonic

As with most of Panasonic's cameras, the FX100 is available in two colors: silver and black.

Now let's see how the camera compares to other ultra-compact cameras in terms of size and weight.

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.5 cu in. 155 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z1200 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 152 g
Fujifilm FinePix F50fd 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 155 g
Kodak EasyShare V1233 4.0 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 150 g
Nikon Coolpix S700 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.6 cu in. 130 g
Olympus Stylus 1200 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 125 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 8 cu in. 148 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.7 cu in. 132 g
Pentax Optio A30 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 130 g
Samsung L74 Wide 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.9 cu in. 174 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 9.1 cu in. 142 g

As you can see, the FX100 is just about average in both size and weight. It's not the smallest camera out there, but that's okay -- it'll still fit into your smallest pockets with ease.

It's tour time -- let's start with the front of the camera.

The FX100 uses the same lens as Panasonic's other wide-angle ultra-compacts. It's an F2.8-5.6, 3.6X optical zoom lens, with a 6.0 - 21.4 mm focal range, which is equivalent to 28 - 100 mm. If you take a lot of interior shots, you'll like that 28mm wide end. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported, which is typical for ultra-compact cameras like this.

Inside the FX100's lens is Panasonic's "Mega" optical image stabilization (OIS) system. Tiny movements of your hands can blur your photos, especially in low light situations. Sensors inside the camera detects these movements, and one of the lens elements is shifted to compensate for it. The OIS system won't work miracles (so you won't be taking 1 second handheld photos) and it won't stop a moving subject, but it will allow you to use slower shutter speeds than you could otherwise. Want proof? Look at this:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on (mode 2)

Both of the above photos were taken with a shake-inducing 1/5 second shutter speed. As you can see, the image is quite blurry without image stabilization, but with it turned on you get a nice, sharp photo. If you want the OIS system in action in a movie, then have a look at this short video clip.

Back to the tour now, we find the FX100's flash to the upper-left of the lens. The flash has a fairly average range (for a camera in this class): 0.6 - 5.0 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 2.5 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO). Be warned, though, that Auto ISO will boost the sensitivity up to 640 for flash shots, which results in really muddy-looking photos, so you may want to adjust the ISO manually, keeping it as low as possible.

The last item of note on the front of the camera is the FX100's AF-assist lamp, located at the top-right of the above photo. The camera uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations. It also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

On the back of the FX100 you'll find a large and sharp 2.5" LCD display. The screen has 207,000 pixels, so everything is pretty sharp. The screen can be brightened quickly by using the Power LCD feature, which makes it quite easy to see outdoors. There's also a High Angle function, which lets you hold the camera above your head and still see your subject. Low light visibility is excellent, as the screen "gains up" automatically in those situations.

In case you didn't notice, there's no optical viewfinder on the FX100. In fact, none of Panasonic's compact cameras have one. Whether this is a problem is up to you: some people want a viewfinder, while others could care less.

At the top-right of the photo you can catch a glimpse of the camera's mode dial. I'll describe it in detail when we look at the top view of the FX100 below.

Directly to the right of the LCD is the camera's four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as:

  • Up - Backlight compensation, exposure compensation, auto bracketing, white balance fine-tuning -- see below
  • Down - Review (quickly jumps to playback mode)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash on w/redeye reduction, slow sync w/redeye reduction, flash off)

I want to talk about those options that appear when you press the "up" button on the four-way controller. Backlight compensation is something you can toggle on and off while in "simple mode" -- use it if your subject has a bright light source behind them. Exposure compensation is the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments like on every camera. Auto bracketing takes three shots in a row with each shot having a different exposure. You can choose from ±0.3EV, ±0.6EV or ±1.0EV increments.


White balance fine-tuning

The white balance fine-tuning feature lets you adjust the WB in the blue or red directions. This is in addition to the custom WB feature that I'll discuss later.

Below the four-way controller are two final buttons. The Display button toggles what's shown on the LCD, and also activates the Power LCD and High Angle features that I mentioned above. The Function button (which is used to delete photos in playback mode) opens the "quick setting" menu, which lets you adjust the following:


Quick setting menu

  • Image stabilizer
  • Burst mode
  • Metering
  • White balance
  • ISO sensitivity
  • Picture size
  • Quality

I'll discuss all of those when we get to the menu discussion later in the review.

On the top of the FX100 we find the speaker, microphone, power switch, zoom controller, and the shutter release and "easy zoom" buttons.

The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in a little over two seconds. I counted twenty steps in the camera's 3.6X zoom range -- very nice.

The mode dial, which is recessed into the body of the camera, has the following options:

Option Function
Print mode For when you're connected to a Pictbridge-enabled photo printer
Movie mode More on this later
Macro mode For close-up shooting; more on this later
Normal picture mode Standard record mode
Intelligent ISO mode A high sensitivity mode that boosts ISO (to a maximum of your choosing) depending on subject motion
Playback mode More on this later
Simple mode Dumbed down menu system for real beginners
Scene mode You choose the situation and the camera uses the proper settings. Choose from portrait, soft skin, self-portrait, scenery, sports, night portrait, night scenery, food, party, candle light, baby, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, hi-speed burst, starry sky, fireworks, beach, snow, aerial photo

The DMC-FX100 is a point-and-shoot camera with plenty of scene modes, plus an Intelligent ISO mode, which is a less-extreme version of a high sensitivity mode (don't worry, it has one of those too).

Some of the interesting/bizarre scene modes include baby mode (which saves the age of up to two babies along with the photo), pet mode (same concept as baby mode), starry sky (a kind of bulb mode), and aerial photo (for taking photos out of airplane windows). There's also a high sensitivity mode, which drops the resolution to 3MP and boosts the ISO as high as 3200, which results in some really mediocre-looking photos that are not suitable for printing (in my opinion). Another scene mode is the "hi-speed burst" mode, which reduces the resolution to 2MP and then takes an unlimited number of photos at a whopping 9 frames/second. There are two more continuous modes that I'll discuss in the next section of the review.

If you're confused about any of the scene mode options, you can press the Display button to get more information about the selected scene.

The Easy Zoom button moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto (or vice versa) with one press. I can't say that I've had any trouble using the regular zoom controller, but there you go.

Nothing to see here.

On the other side of the camera you'll find its I/O ports, which are protected by a plastic cover. The ports here include USB+A/V out (one port for both) plus DC-in (for the optional AC adapter). Panasonic doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard on their flagship ultra-compact camera, so data transfer to your computer or printer will be slow.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find its metal tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. The plastic door over this compartment is very flimsy, so be careful. You may or may not be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod -- it depends on what tripod you're using.

The CGA-S005 battery can be seen at right.

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100

Record Mode

The Lumix DMC-FX100 extends its lens and is ready to go in about 1.8 seconds, which is about average.


A live histogram is shown in record mode

Like most Panasonic cameras, the FX100 is really snappy when it comes to focusing. If you're using one of the "regular speed" AF modes, expect to wait between 0.2 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle, and rarely more than a second at the telephoto end. Set the camera to use one of the "high speed" modes and those numbers drop considerably -- focusing is almost instantaneous. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the FX100's AF-assist lamp.

I did not find shutter lag to be an issue on the FX100, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

Shot-to-shot delays were fairly short. You'll wait about 1.5 seconds before you can take another shot.

There is no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you must use enter playback mode (by pressing down on the four-way controller) first.

Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the FX100. Since there are three different aspect ratios available, it's a pretty lengthy list.

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality # images on 27MB onboard memory # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
4:3 12M
4000 x 3000
Fine 3 330
Standard 8 650
8M
3264 x 2448
Fine 6 490
Standard 13 970
5M
2560 x 1920
Fine 10 790
Standard 21 1530
3M
2048 x 1536
Fine 16 1220
Standard 33 2360

2M
1600 x 1200

Fine 27 1920
Standard 53 3610
0.3M
640 x 480
Fine 130 8780
Standard 210 12290
3:2 10.5M
4000 x 2672
Fine 4 370
Standard 9 730
7M
3264 x 2176
Fine 7 550
Standard 14 1070
4.5M
2560 x 1712
Fine 11 890
Standard 24 1700
2.5M
2048 x 1360
Fine 18 1360
Standard 36 2560
16:9 9M
4000 x 2248
Fine 5 430
Standard 11 860
6M
3264 x 1840
Fine 8 650
Standard 17 1270
3.5M
2560 x 1440
Fine 14 1040
Standard 28 2040
2M
1920 x 1080
Fine 25 1800
Standard 48 3410

See why you want a memory card right away? This shouldn't be a surprise, but the FX100 doesn't support the RAW or TIFF image formats.

Like all of Panasonic's cameras, the FX100 has an "extended optical zoom" feature. By lowering the resolution, you can use digital zoom without reducing the image quality. The lower the resolution goes, the more zoom you can use. For example, if you select the 3 Megapixel setting, you can get a total zoom power of 7X. By the way, you can do the same thing with your favorite image editor on your computer -- the camera is basically just cropping the center of the image.

The camera saves images with a name of PXXXYYYY.JPG, where X = 100-999 and Y = 0001 = 9999. The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as you erase and switch memory cards.

There are two totally different menu systems on the FX100. If you set to the mode dial to the Simple position, you'll get the very basic menu you see above. Items here include:

  • Picture mode (Enlarge, 4 x 6, e-mail)
  • Auto review (on/off) - post-shot review
  • Beep (Off, low, high)
  • Clock set

In the other shooting modes you'll get a more traditional menu. Do note that some of these items may be "grayed out" in the auto and scene modes. And with that, here's the complete list of items in the record mode menu:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, white set) - see below
  • Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250, 1600)
  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9)
  • Picture size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • Audio recording (on/off) - record a 5 sec audio clip with each picture
  • Metering (Multiple, center-weighted, spot)
  • AF mode (9-area, 3-area high speed, 1-area high speed, 1-area, spot) - see below
  • Stabilizer (Mode 1, mode 2, off) - see below
  • Burst (Off, normal, infinite) - see below
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • Slow shutter (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 sec) - slowest shutter speed the camera will use
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - this is not the same as extended optical zoom; best to keep it turned off
  • Color effect (Off, cool, warm, black & white, sepia)
  • Picture adjustments - lots of useful options in here
    • Contrast (Low, standard, high)
    • Sharpness (Low, standard, high)
    • Saturation (Low, standard, high)
    • Noise reduction (Low, standard, high)
  • Clock set

The DMC-FX100's "white set" white balance option lets you use a white or gray card as a reference to get accurate colors in mixed lighting. If you need to tweak things further, there's also the WB fine-tuning feature that I mentioned earlier. This is the only manual control on the camera.

I already told you about the autofocus performance on the FX100, but I should tell you what the tradeoff is that comes along with using the high speed AF modes. That is, the image on the LCD will freeze very briefly while the camera is focusing. It never bothered me, though.

There are two image stabilization modes to choose from on the camera. Mode 1 activates OIS as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release button, so you can compose the shot without any camera shake. For more effective stabilization, use mode 2. It doesn't activate OIS until the photo is actually taken, but it does a better job at reducing shake. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if the camera is on a tripod.

While there's a low res hi-speed burst mode in the scene menu, the real continuous shooting modes can be found here. In regular burst mode, the camera takes three photos in a row (at the highest quality setting) at about 2.3 frames/second. Put the camera into infinite mode, and it'll keep shooting at 1.3 frames/second until you run out of space on your memory card (high speed card required). The LCD lags behind the action a little bit, but you should still be able to track a moving subject.

There's also a setup menu, which is accessed via the record or playback menu. The items here include:
  • Clock set
  • World time (Home, travel)
  • Monitor brightness (-3 to +3 in 1-step increments) - these can be set separately
  • Guide lines - put a composition grid and more on the LCD
    • Rec info (on/off)
    • Histogram (on/off)
    • Pattern (3 x 3, complex)
  • Travel date (on/off) - when set, records what day of your vacation a photo was taken (e.g. day two)
  • Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 3 sec, zoom) - the zoom option shows the picture for a second, then enlarges it by a factor of four for a second
  • Power save (Off, 1, 2, 5, 10 mins)
  • Economy (Off, level 1, level 2) - how quickly the LCD turns off
  • Beep sound
    • Beep level (Off, low, high)
    • Beep tone (1-3)
  • Shutter sound
    • Shutter volume (Off, low, high)
    • Shutter tone (1-3)
  • Volume (0-6)
  • File number reset
  • Reset
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect ratio (16:9, 4:3)
  • Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you turn the mode dial to the scene mode position
  • Dial display (on/off) - whether a "virtual" mode dial is shown on the LCD as you rotate the real one
  • Language

All of those should be self-explanatory, so let's move on to our photo tests now, shall we?

If I could describe our macro test shot in one word, it would be "saturated". Yes, the colors are quite vivid here, and that's at the default settings too! The subject is mostly sharp, though the top of the "hat" is on the soft side. Noise was not an issue.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle, and 30 cm at telephoto.

Our usual night scene has been spiced up with the moon over the San Francisco skyline. Since the FX100 doesn't let you set the shutter speed yourself, you'll have to use the night scenery mode instead. That's what I did, and I got nice results. The camera took in enough light, noise levels are reasonable (especially given the resolution of the camera), and there's no purple fringing to be found. There's a tiny bit of "pitting" from noise reduction, but not much.

Since I can't control the shutter speed and ISO at the same time, I was unable to do our low light ISO test. I'll have the studio ISO test for you in a bit.

As with most ultra-compact cameras, the FX100 has a big problem with redeye -- even with the flash set to the redeye reduction setting. Unfortunately, the camera lacks any on-board redeye removal tool, so you'll have to use software to rid your photos of this annoyance.

There's surprisingly little barrel distortion at the wide end of that 3.6X, 28 - 100 mm zoom lens. There's no vignetting (dark corners) to be found, but corner blurriness is a noticeable problem, as you can see in this photo.

Here is our now standard ISO test. This test is taken in our studio, and can be compared between cameras that I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you a decent idea as to the noise levels at each settings, viewing the full size images is always a good idea.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1250

ISO 1600

The ISO 80 and 100 shots are nearly identical. There's some noise in the shadows, but really, things aren't too bad considering the ultra high resolution and tiny sensor size of this camera. At ISO 200 things start to soften up a bit, and noise reduction artifacts begin to smudge fine details. Noise reduction does more damage at ISO 400, bringing your maximum print size down to 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 (and maybe larger if you use noise reduction software). It's all downhill from there, with the ISO 800, 1250, and 1600 shots getting progressively muddier. I would avoid using the top ISO settings for sure, and save ISO 800 for desperation only.

If you keep the ISO low enough you'll get very good results from the DMC-FX100. Photos were well-exposed, with accurate colors. Photos are a bit soft (probably due to noise reduction), and if that bothers you, you can crank up the sharpness in the record menu. This won't fix the corner blurriness that I just mentioned, though. Noise can be found in shadow areas even at the lowest ISO setting, but it never really becomes a "problem". That's because the camera is applying a lot of noise reduction, which results in smudged details and blotchy solid colors. You won't see this at ISO 80 or 100, but once you hit ISO 200, it'll be there. The FX100 isn't a great high ISO camera for sure -- if you want better ISO performance, you may want to look at a lower resolution camera. Purple fringing generally wasn't a problem, though it popped up quite a bit in this particular photo.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, and print a few of the photos if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the FX100's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The DMC-FX100 has a very nice movie mode, with three resolutions to choose from. Which ever one you choose, you can record video with sound until you run out of memory, or until the file size reaches 2GB. A high speed memory card is recommended, and you cannot use the internal memory for recording videos at the high quality setting.

The camera can record at 720p (that's 1280 x 720), but at only 15 frames/second. So it's high resolution, but very choppy. You can record about 17 minutes worth of 720p video before you hit the file size limit. Drop the resolution to 848 x 480 (16:9) or 640 x 480 (4:3) and you'll get a more reasonable 30 fps frame rate. Here the maximum recording times are 19 and 22 minutes, respectively. If that's still not enough record time, you can drop the resolution to 320 x 240, cut the frame rate to 10 fps (NOT RECOMMENDED), or both.

As is usually the case, you cannot operate the optical zoom while recording a movie. The image stabilizer is active, however, which helps remove the "shakes" from your video clips.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format using the M-JPEG codec. A capture of the first frame of the movie is saved as JPEG along with the movie.

I've got two sample movies for you: one is recorded at 1280 x 720, the other at 848 x 480. I apologize in advance for the wind noise.


Click to play movie (12.8 MB, 1280 x 720, 15 fps, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.


Click to play movie (22.1 MB, 848 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The Lumix DMC-FX100 has a nice playback mode with a few unique features. The basic playback features include slideshows, voice captions, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view (in many sizes), and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the image by as much as 16X (in 2X increments), and then move around the enlarged area.

Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. If you want to change the aspect ratio, you can do that too.

The FX100 has a rather unique date printing feature. You can print the date/time on your photo, the age of your baby or pet (if you used those scene modes, of course), or what day of your vacation you took the photo on. Do note that the camera will downsize the image to 3 Megapixels or less when using this feature, which is fine for what most people will be doing with them (printing them at 4 x 6).

Calendar view Selecting a category of photos to view

The camera offers a calendar view of your photos, in addition to the usual one-at-a-time and thumbnail views. A new category feature lets you jump directly to photos taken in certain modes (scene or movie), so if you want to find all your pet mode photos, this is the fastest way.

If you're viewing a movie, you can grab a single frame, or create a collage consisting of nine frames (you can select the interval between each frame, as well). There's no way to edit movies on the camera, unfortunately.

The camera lets you delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all -- a feature I always appreciate. Lastly, as you'd expect, you can copy images between the internal memory and an optional memory card.

By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. But press the display button and you'll see plenty of info, including a histogram.

The FX100 moves through photos at an average clip, with a one second delay between each image.

How Does it Compare?

Writing this conclusion feels a bit strange. While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 is a really nice ultra-compact camera, I think it's more than most people need. Why? Simply put, the 12 Megapixel CCD on the FX100 is overkill for the point-and-shoot crowd. If you're willing to give up a few million pixels, you can get the DMC-FX33 or DMC-FX55, which offer the same features, faster performance (due to smaller file sizes), and better image quality. Do I recommend the FX100? Absolutely. But unless you're making absolutely gigantic prints (and will be keep the ISO really, really low), check out the FX33 or FX55 instead.

While it's not the smallest or most stylish ultra-compact camera out there, the DMC-FX100 is still eye-catching. It's made mostly of metal, and is well put together, save for the flimsy plastic door over the memory card slot. The camera is available in silver or black. One of the FX100's claims-to-fame is its 3.6X, 28 - 100 mm lens, a nice change from the usual 35 - 105 mm (or worse) lens found on most cameras in this class. Its other big selling point is Panasonic's optical image stabilization system, which does a great job at reducing your chances of taking a blurry photo. On the back of the camera you'll find a large and fairly sharp 2.5" LCD display. It's easy to see outdoors, especially with the Power LCD function turned on, and the High Angle feature is a nice touch. In low light situations the screen is just as viewable, as it brightens automatically for you. There's no optical viewfinder to be found on the FX100.

The FX100 is a point-and-shoot camera, with just one manual control (and it's for white balance). If you're a real beginner you can use the "simple" mode, which is the most basic menu system that I've ever seen. More experienced users will find the "regular" menu to be attractive and easy-to-use. The camera offers the usual assortment of scene modes, plus some unique ones, such as baby, starry sky, and aerial photo mode. There's the ubiquitous high sensitivity mode as well, though I don't recommend using it. The FX100 also offers Panasonic's Intelligent ISO Mode, which boosts the ISO based on subject movement. If you use this, keep the maximum at 400, unless you like noisy photos. The camera's movie mode is nice, offering widescreen video recording with sound, at both 1280 x 720 (15 fps) and 848 x 480 (30 fps). Do note that there is a 2GB file size limit for a single movie, which arrives in about twenty minutes.

Camera performance was very good in most respects. The FX100 is ready to take its first picture in 1.8 seconds, which is good, but not great. Focus speeds were spectacular though, especially when you're using either of the two high speed options. Low light focusing was very good thanks to the camera's AF-assist lamp. Shutter lag was not an issue, and shot-to-shot speeds were average for this class. The FX100 has a decent continuous shooting mode, though the frame rate is on the slow side due to those huge 12 Megapixel photos. Battery life was well above average, which is the case with most of Panasonic's cameras. The one disappointment in terms of performance is that the FX100 does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol.

Photo quality was very good, as long as you keep the ISO sensitivity low. The FX100 took well-exposed pictures, with pleasing colors and minimal purple fringing. Images aren't really noisy, but they do suffer from noise reduction artifacting, especially as the ISO passes 400. This smudges fine details, make your images look more like watercolor paintings than photographs. This is not a camera for those who like taking high ISO shots! The upside is that noise isn't really a problem, since the camera is working so hard at reducing it. There's also quite a bit of corner blurring, especially at the wide end of the lens. Like nearly all ultra-compact cameras, the FX100 suffers from a bad redeye problem, and since there's no redeye removal tool on the camera, you'll have to fix it on your PC.

There are just a few other negatives to mention, and all of them are related to the camera bundle. First, the 27MB of built-in memory is way too little for a camera with this resolution. You also cannot record movies at the high quality settings to it. While the included ArcSoft software is decent, the two WIndows-only Panasonic products are mediocre at best. And finally, while I like the amount of detail it goes into, the camera manual is anything but user-friendly.

In conclusion, I like the Lumix DMC-FX100, and can recommend it. At the same time, I'd say that the 12 Megapixel resolution is overkill for the vast majority of people, and that buying one of the lower resolution Panasonic ultra-compacts would be a better idea. You'll get the same features, better photo quality and performance, and it'll cost less too. Thus, unless you're printing billboard-sized ISO 80 prints, I'd take a look at the DMC-FX33 and DMC-FX55 instead.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality at lowest ISO settings (though see issues below)
  • Wide-angle 3.6X optical zoom lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Ultra-compact metal body, comes in two colors
  • Large, sharp 2.5" LCD display; screen visible outdoors and in low light; useful Power LCD and High Angle features;
  • Snappy focus speeds; very good low light focusing
  • Tons of scene modes
  • Nice movie mode records in widescreen format (though see issues below)
  • Some handy features in playback mode: calendar and category view, enhanced date stamp, multi-photo delete
  • Above average battery life

What I didn't care for:

  • Noise reduction smears details when ISO is 200 or above
  • Corner blurriness, redeye are both problems
  • 720p movie mode only 15 frames/second
  • High sensitivity mode not terrible useful
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Flimsy door over battery/memory card compartment
  • No USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • More manual controls would be nice
  • 27MB of built-in memory too little for this resolution
  • Manual, bundled Panasonic software leave something to be desired

Some other ultra-compact cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z1200, Fuji FinePix F50fd, Kodak EasyShare V1233, Nikon Coolpix S700, Olympus Stylus 1200, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33 (8MP, 2.5" LCD) and DMC-FX55 (8MP, 3" LCD), Pentax Optio A30, Samsung L74 Wide, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Lumix DMC-FX100 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want a second opinion?

You'll find another review of the FX100 at CNET.