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DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 26, 2007
Last Updated: February 4, 2008
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55 ($349) is a midrange camera in Panasonic's ultra-compact camera lineup. It features an 8 Megapixel CCD, wide-angle 3.6X optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, 3-inch LCD display, widescreen movie mode, and superb battery life. It's closest competition is undoubtedly the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, which I just reviewed.
Panasonic's current FX-series is a little confusing, so I created this table to help you figure out which model does what:
I hope that makes your camera shopping just a little bit easier!
Ready to learn more about the Lumix DMC-FX55? Then keep reading, our tour starts right now!
What's in the Box?
The DMC-FX55 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Like most cameras in the ultra-compact class, the FX55 has built-in memory instead in lieu of having a memory card included in the box. The camera has 27MB of memory, which holds just six photos at the highest quality setting. Therefore, you'll want to get a memory card right away, and I'd suggest picking up a 1GB card to start with. The FX55 supports SD, SDHC, and MMC cards, and it's worth spending the extra dollars for a high speed card.
The FX55 uses an all new lithium-ion battery known as the DMW-BCE10. This battery packs 3.6 Wh of energy, which is on the lower end of the scale. Still, Panasonic's engineers managed to squeeze pretty good battery life out of it, as this chart illustrates:
As you can see, the FX55 has the best battery life in its class. Way to go, Panasonic!
I should mention a couple of "gotchas" regarding the proprietary battery used by the DMC-FX55 (and every other camera on that list). For one, they're fairly expensive -- an extra battery will set you back around $45. Secondly, if that battery dies, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery like you could on a camera that uses AAs. That said, you won't find a camera this size that uses AAs.
When it's time to charge the battery, just place it into the included external charger. It takes about 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 all ultra-compact cameras, the FX55 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with.
There aren't many accessories available for the DMC-FX55. Aside from extra batteries, the only other options that I can find include the DMW-AC5 AC adapter (priced from a whopping $65) and color-coordinated leather carrying cases (priced at around $17). If you're interested in underwater photography, then you'll have to step down to the DMC-FX33 and its smaller LCD.
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 - main window
PhotoFunStudio for Windows - edit window
Next up we have PhotoFunStudio, which is again Windows-only. This adds a few basic editing features, including brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness adjustment, plus redeye removal. There's also a one-touch image enhancement option.
ArcSoft PhotoImpression for Mac
Another photo editing tool included with the camera is 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. Just a tip for those of you interested in panoramic shooting: use a tripod.
I've never been impressed with the quality of Panasonic's manuals, whether for televisions or digital cameras. The one included with the FX55 is detailed, but you can expect a confusing layout and lots of "notes" on each page. You'll get your question answered -- you'll just have to work for it.
Look and Feel
If you've seen other recent members of the Lumix FX family, then you'll feel right at home with the DMC-FX55. It's an ultra-compact metal camera that's well put together, save for the cheesy plastic memory card/battery compartment door. The camera is easy to hold, with the important controls in the right places. The only design-related thing I wasn't a fan of was the four-way controller, which was awkward. The camera can be operated comfortably with just one hand.
|Images courtesy of Panasonic|
It's practically a requirement for ultra-compact cameras to come in multiple colors. Panasonic knows this, and produces the FX55 in silver, black, and pink.
Now, here's a look at how the FX55 compares to other compact cameras in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
8.5 cu in.
155 g Casio Exilim EX-S880
3.7 x 2.4 x 0.7 in.
6.2 cu in.
128 g Fujifilm FinePix F480
3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
7.5 cu in.
140 g HP Photosmart R847
3.9 x 2.5 x 1.1 in.
10.7 cu in.
204 g Kodak EasyShare M883
3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
6.3 cu in.
116 g Nikon Coolpix S51
3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
6.6 cu in.
125 g Olympus FE-290
3.9 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
8.6 cu in.
142 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55
3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
7.7 cu in.
143 g Pentax Optio V10
2.3 x 0.7 x 3.8 in.
6.1 cu in.
119 g Samsung L74 Wide
4.1 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
8.9 cu in.
174 g Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70
3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
6.2 cu in.