While it may
look like just another compact metal camera, the Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FX7 ($499) has an exciting feature
hidden from view. That feature is an optical image
stabilizer, just like their big ultra zoom cameras.
If you're like me, you've probably taken your share
of blurry indoor shots. While the stabilizer can't
eliminate this problem, it will let you take sharp
photos at shutter speeds that would be unusable on
other cameras. In addition to this feature, the FX7
also has a 5 Megapixel CCD, huge LCD display, AF-assist
lamp, and super-fast performance.
The camera is available in black and
The ultra-compact field is very crowded
these days. How does the FX7 compare against the competition?
Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The DMC-FX7 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.0 effective Megapixel Lumix
- 16MB Secure Digital card
- CGA-S004A lithium-ion rechargeable
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring ArcSoft software,
SD Viewer, and USB drivers
- 110 page camera manual (printed)
Panasonic includes a 16MB Secure Digital
(SD) memory card with the camera. That holds a grand
total of 5 photos at the highest quality setting, so
consider a larger card "a must". I'd recommend
a 256MB card as a good place to start. While the camera
can use MultiMedia (MMC) cards, I would recommend against
it. The FX7 does take advantage of high speed memory
cards: you'll notice the improvement mostly in burst
mode, but it helps with overall camera performance
The DMC-FX7 uses a different battery
than the big ultra zoom models (not surprisingly).
The CGA-S004, as it is called, packs just 2.6 Wh of
energy into its compact plastic shell. That translates
to 120 photos per charge using the new CIPA battery
life standard, which is below average for a camera
in this class.
Proprietary batteries are par for
the course on ultra compact cameras like this, so I'm
not going to complain about them. You should certainly
buy a spare, though, but be prepared to shell out around
$50 for one (a third party version is available for
When it's time to charge the battery,
just snap it into the included charger. The charger
plugs right into the wall -- no power cord is needed.
It takes about two hours to fully charge the battery.
There's a built-in lens cover on the
FX7 so there are no messy lens caps to worry about.
As you can see, this is one small camera!
The only accessory I could find for
the DMC-FX7 was an AC adapter for about $50.
Panasonic includes ArcSoft's Camera
Suite with the DMC-FX7. This includes PhotoImpression
5, PhotoBase, and Panorama Maker for Mac and Windows.
PhotoImpression (shown above) lets you view, enhance,
and share images. The interface is unique and easy-to-use,
and the whole product is well designed. PhotoBase is
a less impressive product that you can use for organizing
and performing basic edits on your photos. Panorama
Maker will stitch together several shots into one big
Panasonic's manuals leave much to
be desired. Much like the manual that came with your
VCR or DVD player, there's tons of fine print and bullet
points, and finding what you're looking for can be
Look and Feel
The Lumix DMC-FX7 is a slim and compact,
all-metal camera. It's quite stylish and it looks good
up against the Canon Digital ELPHs. It's easy to hold
with one hand, and the controls are easy-to-reach (though
a bit cluttered).
Now, let's take a look how the FX7
compares in size and weight to other cameras in this
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 2.1 x 0.8 in.
x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
x 2.5 x 0.8 in.
Minolta DiMAGE G600
x 2.2 x 1.2 in.
x 2.5 x 0.6 in.
x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
x 2.5 x 0.8 in.
x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
x 2.0 x 1.0 in.
x 2.0 x 0.8 in.
x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
While it's not the smallest or lightest
camera in the group, the FX7 is still very compact.
Okay, enough numbers, let's start
our tour of the camera now!
The FX7 has an F2.8-5.0, 3X optical
zoom Leica lens. This lens has a focal range of 5.8
- 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The
lens is not threaded.
The FX7 proves that little cameras
can have image stabilizers too. If you're tired of
blurry photos (especially indoors), the FX7 can help.
Sensors in the FX7 detect camera movement, and an element
in the lens is shifted to compensate. This lets you
use shutter speeds 3-4 stops slower than what you can
use on an unstabilized camera. For example, a 1/30
sec shutter speed will result in a blurry photos for
most people (unless you have hands of stone), but with
image stabilization you'll most likely get a nice,
Here's an example:
Both photos were taken at 1/3.2 seconds.
The one on the left was taken without image stabilization,
while the one on the right was taken with Mode 2 stabilization
(more on that later).
To the upper-left of the lens is the
FX7's built-in flash. The flash has a decent working
range of 0.3 - 4.0 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 2.2 m
at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash to
On the opposite side of the picture
is the AF-assist lamp, which doubles as the self-timer
lamp. The AF-assist lamp helps the FX7 focus in low
light conditions and is always a welcome feature.
The other "big" feature
on the FX7 can be found on the back of the camera.
That is, of course, the large 2.5" LCD display.
While it's large in terms of size, it's not big on
resolution, with just 114,000 pixels. While I noticed
the low resolution while viewing images on the screen,
it didn't particularly bother me. In low light, I found
the LCD to be a little hard to see. While it "gains
up" a bit, things were still pretty dark in my
opinion. The "power LCD" function didn't
really help matters, either. Keep this in mind if you
do a lot of shooting in dim conditions.
In case you didn't notice, the FX7
does not have an optical viewfinder. This is one of
those personal decisions that you have to make when
buying a digital camera. The lack of a viewfinder bothers
me, but it may not bother you.
Just to the right of that huge LCD
is the four-way controller. This is used for opening
and navigating the menu system, as well as:
- Up - Backlight compensation, exposure
compensation, auto bracketing, white balance fine-tuning
- Down - Review (jumps to playback
- Left - Self-timer (2 or 10 secs)
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto
w/redeye reduction, 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 this 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
lets you adjust the preset or custom WB that you've
selected in the red or blue direction, with a total
range of ±10 (in 1-step increments).
Below the four-way controller are
two buttons. The one on the left toggles the LCD and
what is shown on it on and off. Holding this button
down boosts the LCD brightness which comes in handy
when shooting outdoors. The other button activates
the FX7's burst mode and is also used to delete photos
in playback mode.
Speaking of burst mode, there are
three of them on the FX7. In high speed mode the camera
takes four shots at 3 frames/second. In low speed mode
the frame rate drops to 2 frames/second with the total
number of shots remaining at four. An infinite recording
option will keep shooting at 2 frames/second until
the memory card is full. Here's one of those places
where a high speed SD card is advisable.
Up on top of the FX7 you'll find the
speaker, microphone, power switch, shutter release
button with the zoom controller around it, mode dial,
and a button for the image stabilizer. Thankfully only
a few of those require further discussion. Before I
do that, let me point out that the speaker is only
for operational sounds. You cannot hear the audio track
in a movie you've recorded.
The first thing to mention here is
the zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle
to telephoto in about 1.8 seconds. I counted ten steps
throughout the zoom range.
The next item over is the mode dial.
I'm not thrilled with its placement, as I found it
easy to accidentally bump with your thumb, throwing
the camera into a different mode. The items on the
mode dial include:
- Movie mode - more on this later
- Scene mode - pick a situation
and the camera uses the appropriate settings; choose
- Night scenery
- Night portrait
- Self portrait
- Macro mode - more on this later
- Simple mode - a "dumbed down" mode
with a simplified menu; I'll describe that menu in
the next section
- Record mode - normal shooting mode
with full menu access
- Playback mode - you guessed it,
more on this later
The last item up here is a button
for adjusting the image stabilization feature. When
the "mode 1" setting is used, the stabilizer
is always running, which helps you compose your photo.
Mode 2 only activates the stabilizer when the picture
is actually taken, which actually does a better job
of eliminating camera shake. You can also turn the
whole thing off, which is advisable under certain situations,
such as when the camera is on a tripod.
Nothing to see here!
On this side of the camera you'll
find the FX7's I/O ports, which are protected by a
plastic cover. These ports include USB + A/V out (one
port for both) as well as DC-in (for optional AC adapter).
The final stop on our tour is the
bottom of the FX7. Here you'll find the battery compartment,
memory card slot, and metal tripod mount (barely seen
in this picture). The battery/memory card slots are
covered by a very flimsy plastic door.
You should be able to open that plastic
door while the camera is on a tripod.
The included CGA-S004A battery is
shown at right.
Using the Panasonic Lumix
It takes about two seconds for the
FX7 to extend its lens and "warm up" before
you can start taking pictures.
There's a live histogram!
Autofocus speeds were good, with the
camera locking focus in about 0.4 seconds in most cases.
Even when the camera had to "hunt" a bit
to lock focus, it didn't take very long. Low light
focusing was good, thanks to the FX7's AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was low, even at slower
shutter speeds where it often occurs.
Shot-to-shot speed is excellent, with
a delay of a little over a second before you can take
another shot, assuming the post-shot review feature
is turned off.
There is no easy way to delete a photo
immediately after it is taken -- you must use the Review
Now, here's a look at the resolution
and quality choices on the FX7:
||# images on 16MB card
||# images on 256MB card
Yes, you DO need a larger memory card
right away! The FX7 does not support the RAW or TIFF
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 menu systems on the
FX7. One is used only in "simple mode" and
it's quite stripped down. The other is the menu you're
used to seeing on the other FZ-series cameras. Here's
a quick look at the simple menu:
- Pict mode (Enlarge, 4 x 6, e-mail)
- changes the resolution and quality
- Auto review (on/off) - post-shot
- Beep (Off, low, high)
- Clock set
If you want access to the full menu
you'll have to use one of the other shooting modes.
In those modes you'll get to use the attractive new
menu system that I also saw on the FZ-series models.
The full menu includes the following options:
- White balance (Auto, daylight,
cloudy, halogen, white set) - the latter option will
let you use a white or gray card to set a reference
for white, allowing for accurate color under any
lighting; I mentioned the ability to fine-tune the
WB earlier in the review
- Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 80, 100,
- Picture size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- Audio recording (on/off) - record
a 5 sec audio clip with each picture
- AF mode (9-area, 3-area, 1-area,
- AF-assist lamp (on/off)
- Slow shutter (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1
sec) - lets you choose the slowest shutter speed
that the camera will use; the slowest options really
require a tripod
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best
to keep this off
- Color effect (Off, cool, warm,
black & white, sepia)
- Picture adjust (Natural, vivid)
- Flip animation - see below
The flip animation feature lets you
take up to 100 shots in a row and then throw them together
into a 320 x 240 movie up to 20 seconds long. You can
choose from a frame rate of 5 or 10 frames/second.
This feature can be used for making "stop motion" animation.
There's also a setup menu, which
is accessed from the record or playback menu. The items
- Monitor brightness (-7 to +7 in
- 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)
- more power saving functions
- Beep level (Off, soft, loud)
- Beep tone (1-3)
- Shutter (1-3)
- Clock set
- File number reset
- Reset - back to camera defaults
- USB mode (PC, PictBridge/PTP)
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set
to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you
turn the mode dial to the scene mode position
- Language (English, French, Italian,
Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese)
Well that's enough menus for one day,
so let's move on now to our photo tests!
The DMC-FX7 did a fine job with our
macro test. Our test subject is quite smooth, with
no noise or grain to be found. Colors are accurate
You can get as close to the subject
as 5 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at the telephoto end
on the FX7.
The only way to take really long exposures
like this one (4 secs) is to use the Night Scenery
mode. This allows for exposures as long as 8 seconds.
In the regular shooting mode, the camera will not go
any slower than 1 second, which isn't enough for this
photo. In Night Scenery mode, the ISO is locked at
100, so noise levels are a bit higher than they would
be at ISO 80.
Back to the picture at hand. The FX7
took in plenty of light, as you can see. The photo
does look a little over-processed to me, but it should
be fine when downsized or printed. Purple fringing
was not an issue.
I got full-on demon redeye on the
DMC-FX7, which isn't surprising considering how close
the lens and flash are to each other. While your mileage
may vary, I expect that you'll have a problem too.
Redeye can be cleaned up fairly well in software these
There's mild barrel distortion at
the wide-end of the FX7's lens. I see a bit of vignetting
(dark corners) as well, but this was not an issue in
my real world photos.
Overall, image quality on the FX7
was very good. Images were sharp, well-exposed, and
low in terms of noise and purple fringing. Colors could've
been more saturated in my opinion, and thankfully there's
a vivid color option on the camera if you agree with
my assessment. I didn't see any "funny stuff" like
blurry corners, either.
Please don't just take my word for
it -- have a look at our gallery and
decide if the FX7's photos meet your expectations!
I encourage you to print the photos, as well.
While decent, the FX7's movie mode
isn't really anything to get excited about. You can
record video at 320 x 240 at either 10 or 30 frames/second
until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded as
The included 16MB memory card can
hold just 25 seconds of video at the 30 fps setting.
For the sake of comparison, a 256MB SD card will allow
you to take a movie 8 minutes long.
As is usually the case, you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming. The image stabilizer
functions in movie mode, which is certainly helpful.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format.
A capture of the first frame of the movie is saved
as JPEG along with the movie.
Here's a brief sample movie for you.
I apologize for the wind noise.
to play movie (5.7 MB, 320 x 240, 30 fps, QuickTime
Can't play it? Download QuickTime.
The DMC-FX7 has a pretty standard
playback mode. Basic playback options include slide
shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail
mode, audio captions (10 seconds), and zoom and scroll.
The camera is also PictBridge-enabled for direct printing
to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom in as much as 16X (in 2X increments)
into your photo, and then scroll around. This feature
is well-implemented on the FX7.
You can also rotate, resize, and crop
your photos in playback mode.
One other feature that I appreciate
is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead
of just one or all.
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
Photo playback speed varies a bit,
depending on the speed of your SD card. It can range
from instant on an "ultra" card to about
0.5 second on a regular one.
How Does it Compare?
There's a lot to like about the Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FX7. It's small and stylish, it takes great
photos, it's fast, it has a HUGE LCD display, and last
but certainly not least, it has image stabilization!
Let's start with the last thing on that list. Image
stabilizers are typically found on big ultra zoom cameras,
and it's great to see this feature trickle down to
a compact camera. While it won't work miracles, the
stabilizer will allow you to take photos at slower
shutter speeds than you could otherwise. In this very
review I have a sharp photo taken a 1/3 second without
a tripod -- try that on a regular camera!
There's plenty more to talk about.
The FX7 takes great photos -- maybe a little dull in
the color department but that's easy to fix if it bothers
you. Camera performance is quite good, and gets even
better with a high speed SD card. The FX7's AF-assist
lamp makes low light focusing a breeze. This is pretty
much a point-and-shoot camera, though it does have
manual white balance. Long exposures are also available
by using the Night Scenery mode. The FX7 has a huge
2.5" LCD, though the resolution isn't very high
and low light visibility isn't great. Like the FZ-series
models I just tested, the continuous shooting modes
on the FX7 are impressive. Lastly, the camera is nice
and small, rivaling the latest Digital ELPHs in terms
of size and weight.
There are a couple of things that
I didn't like about the FX7, and I mentioned a few
of them above. Other things include the lack of an
optical viewfinder, major redeye in flash shots, below
average battery life, and a so-so movie mode. Despite
all that, I recommend the DMC-FX7 as a great compact
camera whose image stabilizers gives you a lot more
flexibility than the competition.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality
- Compact, stylish metal body; available
in two colors
- Image stabilization system
- Huge LCD display (but see negatives
- AF-assist lamp
- Robust performance, especially
with a high speed SD card
- Good continuous shooting mode
- Histograms in record and playback
What I didn't care for:
- No optical viewfinder
- LCD resolution isn't great; screen
can be hard to see in low light
- Flimsy plastic door over battery/memory
- A VGA movie mode would've been
- Below average battery life
- Small memory card included
Some other ultra compact cameras worth
considering include the Canon
PowerShot SD300 Digital ELPH, Casio
Exilim EX-Z55, Fuji
FinePix F450, Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 and G600, Nikon
Coolpix 5200, Olympus AZ-2
Zoom and Stylus
Optio S5i, and the Sony
As always, I recommend a trip to your
local camera store to try out the DMC-FX7 and its competitors
before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality
turned on? Check out our photo
Want a second opinion?
You'll find another review at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
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.
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