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DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 11, 2008
Last updated: March 13, 2012

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At first glance, you may take a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 ($350) and say, "oh good, another ultra-compact camera". And, in many respects, that's just what it is. What sets the FX35 apart from almost everything else is its super wide-angle lens, which starts at just 25 mm. Panasonic wisely made this a 4X zoom, giving you a top end of 100 mm (instead of 75 mm, had it been 3X).

Why would you want a lens that starts at 25 mm. It's great for those who take a lot of interior shots, or architectural photos. Also, if you take a lot of self-portraits, this lens allows you to fit either more people or more of the background into the photo.

Want a real world example of what a 25 mm looks like? Have a peek at this:

25mm 28mm 35mm

I included three different focal ranges in the example above, each representing common focal lengths on ultra-compact cameras. Most cameras in this class start at 35 mm or greater, though many have started to get closer to 28 mm. The FX35, along with the Samsung NV24 HD, are really in a class of their own, with 25 and 24 mm lenses, respectively.

Other features on the FX35 include optical image stabilization (which you'll find on all Panasonic cameras), a 2.5" LCD display, tons of point-and-shoot features, and 720p "high definition" movie mode.

Sound interesting? Then keep reading, our review of the DMC-FX35 starts right now!

What's in the Box?

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-FX35 camera
  • DMW-BCE10 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio, ArcSoft Media Impression and Panorama Maker, and drivers
  • 131 page camera manual (printed)

Most cameras have built-in memory these days, and the DMC-FX35 is no exception. Panasonic supplies a decent amount of built-in memory on the FX35 -- 50MB to be exact. While that's a lot more than you usually get, it still holds just nine photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and you can choose from SD, SDHC, and MMC media (I'd stick with the first two). I would recommend a 2GB card as a good starter size. Buying a high speed card is a good idea, though you don't need to go over-the-top.

The FX35 uses the DMW-BCE10 lithium-ion rechargeable battery for power. This battery packs 3.6 Wh of energy, which is what most cameras in this class use. Here's what kind of battery life you can expect:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS */** 270 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z200 */** 400 shots
Fuji FinePix F100fd */** 230 shots
GE E1050 * 200 shots
Nikon Coolpix S600 */** 190 shots
Olympus FE-350 Wide * 170 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 */** 290 shots
Samsung NV24 HD */** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 */** 390 shots

* Wide-angle lens
** Has optical image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

While it trails behind the Casio and Sony cameras in terms of battery life, the FX35's numbers are still about 10% above average for the group as a whole.

I do want to mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries used by the FX35 and all of the other cameras on the above list. They're expensive (a spare will cost you around $50), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery in an emergency. That's one of the tradeoffs that comes with owning an ultra-compact camera, if you think it's a negative in the first place.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes approximately two hours for a full charge. This is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall, with no power cable needed.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 in the hand

As with all ultra-compact cameras, the FX35 has a built-in lens cover. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera.

There a just a few accessories available for the Lumix DMC-FX35, and I've compiled them into the following chart:

Accessory Model # Price Why you want it
Underwater case DMW-MCFX35 $180 Take your FX35 up to 40 meters under the sea
Component video cable DMW-HDC2 $35 Allows you to connect to a high definition TV
AC adapter DMW-AC5 From $56 Power the camera without draining your battery
Carrying cases DMW-CHFX30
First one is a hard case, second is a soft leather case that comes in multiple colors (white, black, brown, tan).

Nothing too exciting there... but that's the case with most cameras in this class. Let's move on to software now, shall we?

PhotoFunStudio for Windows

Panasonic includes several software applications with the DMC-FX35. First up, we have PhotoFunStudio 2.0, which is a Windows-only application (Mac users can use iPhoto instead). The first way in which you'll probably use this software is for transferring photos off of your camera. I didn't see a way to select which photos were transferred -- it was all or nothing.

Once on the main screen (pictured above), you'll find a familiar thumbnail view of your photos. Photos can be organized, e-mailed, printed, and rotated from this screen. The organization tools are most impressive: you can sort photos by date, scene mode, keyword, and even camera model.

Editing in PhotoFunStudio for Windows

Select "retouch" and you'll get the editing window you see above. Here you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Images can be changed to sepia or black and white, and redeye can be removed with the click of your mouse.

ArcSoft MediaImpression for Mac

Also included is ArcSoft's MediaImpression software, for Mac and Windows. This appears to be a more modern version of the old PhotoImpression software that Panasonic used to give you. MediaImpression can be used to import photos from the camera, with the unique option of removing redeye during import. After that's done, you get the usual thumbnail view.

Easy-Fix Wizard in MediaImpression

The software doesn't appear to have as many editing features as PhotoImpression used to, but it does have a handy Easy Fix wizard, which helps you straighten, crop, remove redeye, add brightness/contrast, sharpen, adjust color, and "make the subject stand out", all with one click. You can also add text, borders, and special effects to your photos. Naturally, there are e-mailing, printing, and archiving options available as well.

ArcSoft Panorama Maker for Mac

Another piece of the ArcSoft suite is Panorama Maker, 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.

Panasonic includes a detailed, though not terribly user-friendly manual with the DMC-FX35. You should be able to get your question answered, though the manual's cluttered layout doesn't make finding that information as easy as I would've liked.

Look and Feel

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 is an ultra-compact camera made almost entirely of metal. The camera has a solid feel, with the one exception being the plastic cover over the memory card/battery compartment.

The FX35 is easy to hold with one hand, though I often found my thumb sitting on the exposure compensation button. There aren't too many buttons on the camera, which allows you to pick up and use the camera without having to read the manual first.

Images courtesy of Panasonic USA

Like so many ultra-compact cameras, the FX35 comes in multiple colors. You can choose from navy blue, black, and silver.

Now, here's a look at how the FX35 compares to similar 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-Z200 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 119 g
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 170 g
GE E1050 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 145 g
Nikon Coolpix S600 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.6 cu in. 130 g
Olympus FE-350 Wide 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.4 cu in. 138 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.7 cu in. 125 g
Samsung NV24HD 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.6 cu in. 146 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 142 g

The FX35 is very close to being the smallest and lightest camera in its class. Being an ultra-compact camera, the FX35 can go anywhere you do, in any size pocket.

But enough about that -- let's tour the FX35 now, shall we?

Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

As I mentioned at the start of the review, the DMC-FX35's 4X, super wide-angle lens is its biggest selling point. This F2.8-5.6 lens has a focal range of 4.4 - 17.6 mm, which is equivalent to 25 - 100 mm. Yeah, that's not much of a telephoto range, but that's probably not why you're buying the FX35 in the first place. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses aren't supported.

Inside the lens is Panasonic's "Mega" optical image stabilization (OIS) system. The OIS system aims to counter the tiny movements of your hands that cause "camera shake". This shake can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. 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 can't freeze 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 shutter speed of 1/13 sec. That may not seem terribly slow, but this was near the telephoto end of the lens. Anyhow, the OIS produced a much sharper picture, as it should. And, as one would expect, the OIS system works in movie mode as well. You can see how well it performs in this brief video clip.

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's AF-assist lamp, which is used as a focusing aid in low light situations. It also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

Moving to the left, we find the FX35's built-in flash. The working range of the flash is quite good -- 0.6 - 6.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 3.0 m at telephoto -- but keep in mind that those numbers are calculated (as they always are) at Auto ISO. The Auto ISO option will boost the sensitivity as high as ISO 1000, which may not be desirable. If you're using a fixed, low ISO (which I recommend), the range will be considerably smaller. There's no way to attach an external flash to the FX35, not that I'd really expect one.

Back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

The first thing to see on the back of the FX35 is its 2.5" LCD display. The screen looks a bit awkward with its non-symmetrical bezel, but I don't think that'll stop anyone from buying the camera. Anyhow, the screen has the very common resolution of 230,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. Like other recent Panasonic cameras, outdoor visibility is superb, especially with the Power LCD feature turned on (which can be done automatically). Low light visibility was very good, as well.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the DMC-FX35. In fact, none of Panasonic's ultra-compact cameras have them. Whether this is a problem is sort of up to you -- some people require a viewfinder, while others could care less.

At the top-right of the photo you can see the FX35's mode dial, which I'll discuss in detail in a bit, when we can get a better view. Below the mode dial is the switch that moves the camera between record and playback mode.

Underneath that switch you'll find the 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 - Macro (on/off)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync w/redeye reduction, flash off)
  • Center - Menu/Set

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 the Intelligent Auto mode. You may want to use it when your subject has a bright light source behind them. Exposure compensation has the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments range. Auto bracketing takes three shots in a row with each shot having a different exposure. The increment between each shot can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV or ±1EV.

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 white balance feature that I'll discuss later in the review.

Quick Setting menu

Below the four-way controller are the Display and Quick Menu/Delete Photo buttons. The Display button toggles the information shown on the LCD, which includes a histogram and composition grid. The Quick Menu button opens up a shortcut menu that lets you adjust the following:

  • Image stabilizer
  • Burst mode
  • AF mode
  • White balance
  • ISO sensitivity
  • Intelligent exposure
  • Picture size
  • LCD mode

I'll discuss all of those in more detail when we get to the menu discussion later in the review. And that's it for the back of the camera!

Top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

First up on the top of the FX35 is its speaker, with the microphone to the right of that. Next up we have the power switch, followed by the shutter release / zoom controller combo. The zoom controller...

At the lower-right of the photo is the mode dial I mentioned earlier. Here are the options you'll find on it:

Option Function
Intelligent Auto mode Point-and-shoot, automatic scene detection mode; see below for more
Normal picture mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
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, candlelight, baby, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, hi-speed burst, starry sky, fireworks, beach, snow, aerial photo, underwater; see below for more
Movie mode More on this later
Clipboard mode Quickly store photos of things like maps for easy retrieval later

While there are no manual exposure controls available on the DMC-FX35, there are a ton of scene modes, plus an Intelligent Auto mode that can pick a scene for you. The Intelligent Auto mode analyses the scene and then selects from portrait, scenery, macro, night scenery & portrait, or night scenery mode for you. Face detection, Intelligent ISO, and Intelligent Exposure are also activated (I'll tell you about each of those later).

Scene Menu A help screen is available for each scene

If you want to choose a scene mode yourself, then you'll have plenty to choose from on the FX35. Here are some of the notable ones:

The baby and pet modes let you set the birthday and name of your two children or one animal. When you take a picture in either of these modes, the current age of the child/pet is saved, along with their name. This information is available both in playback mode and in the PhotoFunStudio software, so you can print it on your photos.

The high sensitivity mode will boost the ISO to somewhere between 1600 and 6400. At the same time, the resolution is cut to 3 Megapixel or less. If you've read enough camera reviews on this site, then you probably know that I don't care for features like this, and if you need some proof, have a look at this photo.

The hi-speed burst mode takes up to 100 photos in a row at a blazing 6 frames/second. The catch is that the resolution is lowered to just 2 Megapixels (at 4:3), and the ISO sensitivity is set to somewhere between 500 and 800. Thus, the quality of these images aren't as good as they could be. Don't worry though -- you can do full resolution continuous shooting too -- I'll tell you about that a little later.

Starry sky mode lets you take super long exposures: 15, 30, or 60 seconds -- it's similar to "bulb mode" on more advanced cameras.

By the way, if you're confused about any of the scene mode options, you can press the Display button for a screen describing what each one does.

Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

There's nothing to see on this side of the DMC-FX35.

Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

On the other side of the camera you'll find its I/O ports, which are behind a plastic door of average quality. The ports here include component video (HD cable not included), USB + A/V out, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The DMC-FX35 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so data transfers to your Mac or PC will be speedy.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

On the bottom of the FX35, you'll find a metal tripod mount (yay!) and the battery/memory card compartment. The door that covers this compartment is on the flimsy side, though I appreciate the fact that it has a locking mechanism. Whether you can access the memory card while the camera is on a tripod sort of depends on what tripod you're using.

The included DMW-BCE10 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

Record Mode

You'll wait about 1.6 seconds for the FX35 to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's about average for an ultra-compact.

A live histogram is available in record mode

While it doesn't seem quite as fast as some other Panasonic cameras I've reviewed, the FX35 still focuses pretty quickly. At the wide-angle end of the lens, you'll wait for somewhere between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds for focus lock, and maybe a bit faster if you're using one of the high speed AF modes. Telephoto focus times are around 0.6 - 0.8 seconds, and occasionally around a full second. Low light focusing speeds were about the same as they were for telephoto shooting, only occasionally surpassing one second.

Shutter lag wasn't a problem, even at slower shutter speeds, where it usually pops up.

Shot-to-shot delays were brief. You'll wait for around 1.5 seconds without the flash (or 2 seconds with it) before you can take another photo.

There is no quick way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.

Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the FX35. Since there are three different aspect ratios available, it's a pretty lengthy list.

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality # images on 50MB onboard memory # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
4:3 9M
3648 x 2736
Fine 9 390
Standard 20 770
3072 x 2304
Fine 14 550
Standard 28 1090
2560 x 1920
Fine 20 790
Standard 40 1530
2048 x 1536
Fine 32 1220
Standard 62 2360

1600 x 1200

Fine 51 1920
Standard 97 3610
640 x 480
Fine 240 8780
Standard 400 12290
3:2 9M
3648 x 2432
Fine 11 440
Standard 22 870
3072 x 2048
Fine 15 620
Standard 32 1220
2560 x 1712
Fine 22 890
Standard 45 1700
2048 x 1360
Fine 36 1360
Standard 69 2560
16:9 7.5M
3712 x 2088
Fine 13 520
Standard 26 1020
3072 x 1728
Fine 18 730
Standard 37 1420
2560 x 1440
Fine 27 1040
Standard 53 1980
1920 x 1080
Fine 47 1800
Standard 92 3410

Are those enough options for you? While the 50MB of built-in memory is more than you'll usually get, the chart illustrates why you still may want to buy a larger memory card.

When you lower the resolution, the DMC-FX35's extended optical zoom feature kicks in. This lets you have added zoom power, without degrading image quality. For example, lowering the resolution to 3 Megapixels (which is still enough for a 4 x 6 inch print) will give you 7.1X worth of zoom. That certainly helps make up for the lack of telephoto power on the FX35.

The DMC-FX35 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats, nor would I expect it to.

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.

The Lumix DMC-FX35 has a attractive, and easy to navigate menu system. It's more animated than the menus on last year's models, though Panasonic didn't go over-the-top like another Japanese camera manufacturer that will remain nameless. My only wish is that there were help screens for these items, as there are for the scene mode. Now, keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here is the complete list of record menu options:

  • Picture size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9)
  • Intelligent ISO (Off, max 400, max 800, max 1600) - see below
  • Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - auto mode tops out at 400 without the flash, and 1000 with it
  • White balance (Auto, outdoor, cloudy, shade, incandescent, white set) - see below
  • AF mode (Face detection, 9-area, 3-area high speed, 1-area high speed, 1-area, spot) - see below
  • Quick AF (on/off) - camera is always trying to focus; reduces focus times, at the expense of battery life
  • Burst (Off, normal, infinite) - see below
  • Intelligent exposure (on/off) - see below
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - this is the "old school" digital zoom that degrades image quality
  • Color mode (Standard, natural, vivid, black & white, sepia, cool, warm)
  • Stabilizer (Mode 1, mode 2, off) - see below
  • Minimum shutter speed (1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 sec) - slowest shutter speed the camera will use
  • Audio rec (on/off) - add a 5 second audio clip to each photo
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • Clock set

Before I tell you a little more about some of those items, I want to mention a typical option that you won't find in the record menu. That feature is metering, which is fixed to multiple segment.

I want to quickly mention the Intelligent ISO feature, which is always on in Intelligent Auto mode, and is optional in Normal Picture mode. The camera will take a look at what's going on in the frame, and adjust the sensitivity accordingly. If there's nothing happening, it will only boost the ISO enough to produce a sharp photo. However, if the subject is in motion, it'll boost it even higher, in order to freeze their motion. If you're in Normal Picture mode, you can select the highest ISO it will use, and I recommend keeping it at 400 to maximize photo quality.

The DMC-FX35's "white set" option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting conditions. If that's still not accurate, you can use the fine-tuning feature which I mentioned earlier to tweak things even further. Strangely, the camera does not offer a fluorescent preset white balance option.

The white boxes make it difficult to see, but the camera did indeed lock onto all six faces here

The FX35 has numerous autofocus modes, and I want to mention a few of them. The face detection feature will find up to fifteen faces in the frame, making sure that they're in focus and properly exposed. The face detection system performed well here, easily finding all six faces in our test scene. The camera can track the "primary" face (highlighted in green) as it moves around the frame. The two high speed AF modes lock focus quicker than their regular counterparts, though the image on the LCD will freeze briefly during focusing. I think it's worth the trade-off.

I told you about the high speed (but low resolution) continuous shooting mode earlier, and here are the details on the full resolution version:

Burst mode Fine quality Standard quality
Normal 3 shots @ 2.2 fps 5 shots @ 2.5 fps
Unlimited 1 shot @ 1.9 fps, then infinite @ 1.1 fps Infinite @ 1.9 fps

As you can see, you'll get the best performance by shooting at standard quality. Being able to shoot an unlimited number of 10MP photos at nearly 2 frames/second is impressive. The LCD keeps up fairly well with the action, so tracking a moving subject shouldn't be too difficult.

The Intelligent Exposure feature aims to brighten up dark areas of your photos. Features like this have been on other cameras for a few years, with names like D-Lighting, Shadow Adjustment Technology, and D-Range Optimizer. Panasonic has taken a very conservative approach with their implementation of this feature. I took probably two dozen photos with this camera as well as the DMC-TZ5 and only noticed a significant difference on one occasion. In other words, don't expect much from this feature.

There are two image stabilization modes to choose from on the FX35. 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, you'll want to 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.

There's also a setup menu, which is accessible 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
  • LCD mode (Off, auto power LCD, power LCD, high angle) - see below
  • Beep
    • Beep level (Muted, low, high)
    • Beep tone (1, 2, 3)
    • Shutter volume (Muted, low, high)
    • Shutter tone (1, 2, 3)
  • Volume (0-6)
  • Guide lines - put a composition grid on the LCD
    • Rec info (on/off)
    • Pattern (3 x 3, complex)
  • Histogram (on/off) - live histogram for record mode
  • Travel date (on/off) - when set, records what day of your vacation a photo was taken (e.g. day two)
  • Economy
    • Power save (Off, 2, 5, 10 mins)
    • Auto LCD off (Off, 15, 30 secs)
  • Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 2 sec, hold, zoom) - the zoom option shows the picture for a second, then enlarges it by a factor of four for a second
  • File number reset
  • Reset - back to defaults
  • USB mode (Select on connection, PictBridge/PTP, PC)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect (16:9, 4:3)
  • m/ft (Meters, feet)
  • 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
  • Format
  • Language
  • Demo mode (Jitter/subject movement, auto demo) - this is intended for retailers rather than end users

The only thing I want to mention in that list are the LCD modes. First off, you don't have to venture into the setup menu to adjust this -- it's also in the Quick Setting menu. The Power LCD option quickly cranks the LCD up to full brightness, which is handy when you're outdoors. If you want the screen to do that automatically, simply select the Auto Power LCD option. The High Angle option makes the LCD visible when you're holding the camera above you. I don't know how it works, but it does.

Alright, enough about menus, let's talk about photo quality now, shall we?

The FX35 did a good job with our standard macro test "subject". Colors look good here -- they're both accurate and vivid. The subject is nice and sharp, though noise is visible here (at ISO 100). This isn't the last you'll hear of noise in this discussion, but it's not as bad as it sounds.

The minimum focus in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle, and 50 cm at telephoto. While the first number is typical of an ultra-compact camera, the second is on the "far" side.

The night scene test shows you the trade-off of having the 25 - 100 mm lens: there's not much telephoto power. Since there's no way to control the shutter speed on the FX35, you'll have to resort to the night scenery mode to take long exposures like this. The camera took in a decent amount of light with this 5 second exposure. Things are, again, a bit noisy here, though it does clean up well with noise reduction software. Colors are a bit on the yellow side, and since you're using a scene mode, there's nothing you can do about that. Purple fringing was not a problem.

Since I can't control the shutter speed, I cannot perform the low light ISO test. Look for the studio ISO test in a bit.

One of the new features on the FX35 is digital redeye removal. It isn't available in every shooting mode, and you may need to select it manually (check the flash mode), but it does a nice job of eliminating this annoyance. There's no redeye removal tool in playback mode, so this is your only chance to get rid of it on the camera.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the DMC-FX35's lens. That's not too surprising, considering just how wide it is. You can see what this looks like in the real world by checking out the building on the right side of this photo. While vignetting, or dark corners, wasn't a problem, I did see some corner blurring in several photos in the gallery. This is fairly common on ultra-compact cameras.

Here's our studio ISO test, which you can compare against other cameras I've reviewed over the years. Each of the crops below was taken at a different sensitivity, starting at ISO 100 and continuing through ISO 1600. While looking at the crops is good for a quick comparison, it's a wise idea to view the full size images as well.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Though they're a bit soft, the first two crops are pretty clean in terms of noise and noise reduction artifacting. At ISO 400, noise and NR artifacts become more obvious, though it shouldn't keep you from making a midsize or even a large print. Noise reduction becomes a lot more prevalent at ISO 800, and it starts to eat away fine details. This limits your print sizes to small or midsize. The ISO 1600 shot has quite a bit of noise and detail loss, so I would avoid this setting unless you're absolutely desperate.

Overall, the DMC-FX35's photo quality was good, but not great. On the positive side, photos were well-exposed (save for some highlight clipping here), with pleasing, saturated colors. Purple fringing is virtually nonexistent, as the camera's Venus Engine IV image processor removes it automatically. Photos are on the soft side, especially in the corners, where things can be downright blurry. Panasonic has eased off on how much noise reduction they apply to images on their 2008 models. While fine details are still smudged at the lowest ISO settings, it's not nearly as bad as it was on last year's models. When you scale back noise reduction, you can get noise in return. The FX35 has visible noise starting at ISO 100, especially in the shadows. In good lighting, the noise doesn't start to reduce image quality until you pass ISO 400, so this shouldn't be an issue for the typical 4 x 6 printer. However, if you're making large prints, or viewing the images at 100% on your computer screen, you can't miss it.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, maybe printing a few of the photos if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the FX35's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The other big feature on the DMC-FX35 is its 720p high definition movie mode. This allows you to record movies at 1280 x 720 (30 frames/second) with sound, until you hit the 2GB file size limit. That takes approximately 8.5 minutes at the highest quality setting, so your memory card (high speed, please) fills up quickly.

There are several lower resolutions available, as well. If you want to stick with 1280 x 720, you can drop the frame rate to 15 fps, for double the recording time. You can also select resolutions of 848 x 480 (16:9), 640 x 480, and 320 x 240, with a frame rate of either 10 or 30 fps. As you might imagine, the 10 fps frame rate results in very choppy videos, so I'd pass on that option.

As is usually the case, you cannot use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie. The image stabilizer is available, though, which will smooth things out for you.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec. It would've been nice had Panasonic chosen a more efficient codec, which would've allowed for much longer recording times.

Here's yet another train movie, recorded at the 720p setting:

Click to play movie (32.6 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

Playback mode Playback menu

The Lumix DMC-FX35 has a nice playback mode with a few unique features. The basic playback features include slideshows (now with music and special effects), image protection, voice captions, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, 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.

Calendar view Selecting a category of photos to view

Photos can be viewed one at a time, as thumbnails (in numerous sizes), and via a calendar. There's also a category view option that lets you jump directly to photos taken in certain modes (scene or movie).

Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. If you want to change the aspect ratio, you can do that too. If you're viewing a movie, you can grab a single frame, or create a collage consisting of nine frames. There's no way to trim your movies on the camera, unfortunately.

Text stamp feature Entering a title

The FX35 has a rather elaborate date stamp feature. You can print the date and time, the age of your baby or pet, and even a title of your choosing onto your photos, either one at a time, or in a big group. 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).

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. However, you can press the display button and see more info, including a histogram.

The DMC-FX35 moves though photos fairly quickly, with a delay of under one second between each photo.

How Does it Compare?

Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FX35 breaks new ground in ultra-compact cameras. Offering a 25 - 100 mm lens, the FX35 offers the second widest lens you'll find in this class, with only the Samsung NV24 HD ahead of it. Add optical image stabilization, a really nice 2.5" LCD display, and a 720p movie mode into the mix, and the FX35 becomes a very desirable camera for fans of wide-angle shooting. It's not perfect, though: images are on the soft and noisy side, manual controls are lacking, and there's not much telephoto power in that zoom range. Even so, if you're into super wide-angle lens, then the DMC-FX35 is certainly worth a look.

The DMC-FX35 is an ultra-compact camera made almost entirely of metal. The one exception, as is often the case, is the flimsy plastic door over the memory card and battery compartment. Like most cameras in this class, the FX35 is available in three colors: silver, black, and blue. The camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand, though the buttons on the back of the camera could be a bit larger. As I mentioned, the FX35's lens is really the star of the show here. While the 25 mm wide end is great for indoor, architecture, or self-portrait shots, the 100 mm telephoto end is well below what most ultra-compact cameras offer. (Panasonic will be releasing the DMC-FX500 shortly, which will have a 25 - 125 mm lens.) Like all of Panasonic's cameras, the FX35 features an effective optical image stabilization system, which helps to counteract the effects of "camera shake". On the back of the FX35 is sharp 2.5" LCD display. I don't know how Panasonic does it, but they've been able to make the screen extraordinarily visible in bright outdoor light. It performs very well in low light, too. The one thing you won't find on the back of the camera is an optical viewfinder.

The FX35 is a point-and-shoot camera, with just one manual control, and that's for white balance. If you like scene modes, you'll be in heaven -- there are over twenty to choose from. One scene mode I'd skip is the high sensitivity mode, which produces pretty crummy-looking, low resolution images. If you want to "set it and forget it", you can select the Intelligent Auto mode, which will pick a scene for you, detect faces, brighten shadows (though it's barely noticeable), and boost the ISO based on subject motion. In certain flash modes, an automatic redeye reduction tool is available -- and it works very well. In playback mode you'll find numerous ways to view your photos, whether it's by thumbnail, calendar, or category. There's also an enhanced slideshow feature with music and transitions. The FX35's movie mode is very impressive: you can record video at 1280 x 720 (that's 720p) at 30 frames/second, until you hit the 2GB file size limit (which takes just under 8.5 minutes). While the optical zoom cannot be used during filming, the image stabilizer is available.

Camera performance was generally above average. When you flip the power switch, you'll wait for about 1.6 seconds before you can start taking pictures. Autofocus speeds were very good, especially if you're using either of the two high speed modes. Low light focusing times hovered around a second (usually under), and the camera rarely had problems in those situations. Shot-to-shot delays were around 1.5 - 2.0 seconds, even with the flash. The FX35 has several continuous shooting modes. The fastest one is actually a scene mode, taking up to 100 photos at 6 frames/second. However, the resolution is cut to 2 Megapixel, and the ISO sensitivity sits somewhere between 500 and 800. For full resolution continuous shooting, you can select between normal and infinite modes. Normal mode takes 3 or 5 photos at 2.2 and 2.5 frames/second, at fine and standard quality, respectively. Infinite mode allows you to keep shooting at 1.1 or 1.9 fps, again at fine and standard quality. The FX35 has above average battery life, and its support for the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol means that photo transfer waits to your Mac or PC will be brief.

The FX35 takes good quality photos, though there are definitely some issues to point out. On the whole, photos were well-exposed, with pleasing, vivid color. Images are on the soft side, though it's not too bad. Panasonic has made great strides in reducing the amount of noise reduction they apply to images on their newest cameras, and that shows on the DMC-FX35. However, you're taking that problem and exchanging it for another: noise. You'll see visible noise at the lowest ISO setting (100), especially in shadow areas. As is always the case, noise levels go up when light levels go down. Although it's not nearly as bad as it used to be, noise reduction still rears its ugly head occasionally, smudging fine details (or everything, in low light). The FX35 also has problems with corner blurriness, especially at the wide end of the lens. These issues won't be much of a problem if you're making 4 x 6 inch prints, though you will see their negative effects when making large prints, or viewing the photos on your computer screen.

If you like taking wide-angle photos, then I can definitely recommend taking a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35. The 25 mm lens captures so much more than your typical ultra-compact camera. That said, there's not much of a telephoto end to this lens, so weigh your needs carefully when deciding on if the FX35 is right for you. If you want more zoom power, it may be worth waiting for the touchscreen DMC-FX500 and its 25 - 125 mm lens -- it should be available soon.

What I liked:

  • Good photo quality, less noise reduction than previous models (though see issues below)
  • Super wide 25 - 100 mm lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Ultra-compact metal body; comes in three colors
  • Sharp 2.5" LCD with excellent outdoor and low light visibility
  • Tons of scene modes; Intelligent Auto Mode can pick one for you
  • Well-implemented face detection feature
  • Auto redeye reduction
  • High resolution 720p movie mode
  • Above average battery life
  • Optional underwater case, HD video cable
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Images on the noisy side, especially in shadow areas; still some NR artifacting
  • Slightly soft photos; corner blurriness can be an issue
  • Lens is lacking in the telephoto department
  • More manual controls would be nice
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Small buttons on back of camera
  • Flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment

Some other ultra-compact, wide-angle cameras worth a look include the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z200, Fuji FinePix F100fd, GE E1050, Nikon Coolpix S600, Olympus FE-350 Wide, Samsung NV24 HD (the FX35's closest competitor), and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Lumix DMC-FX35 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned out? Check out our photo gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

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.

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