If you haven’t already guessed I like the FX7. It has a combination of high-technology features such as the large 2.5-inch screen and optical image stabilisation that make it a cut above and that’s before we get to the stylish all-metal and oh so shiny bodywork.
Handling is best described as adequate, the camera’s small size necessitates a certain amount of compromise in terms of buttons and control size: the FX7’s are all quite small and so anyone with stubby fingers like mine will have the same problem accidentally pressing two buttons at once.
However, the controls are nonetheless neat offering a basic, four-way control on the back for scrolling with a central menu button. The surrounding controls are the two and 10-second self timer control, exposure compensation and auto bracketing, flash button (off, auto, slow sync, redeye reduction and forced flash) and image review buttons.
The on/off control, zoom control and shutter release are placed neatly across the top plate with an extremely small mode dial buried on the right, trailing edge. From here, a seemingly modest range of shooting options are accessed, but you actually get playback, the auto shooting mode, a simple setting (denoted by a little heart icon) and a macro mode with an excellent 5cm macro mode.
A scene mode setting includes night portrait, firework and landscape settings completed with a movie mode offering 320x240-pixel (max) resolution at 30fps to the limit of the SD storage card in use.
Additionally, a burst-shooting mode of 3fps for seven shots helps capture fleeting moments and you get audio recoding, image audio annotation (10-second clips) and sensitivity settings of ISO 80, 100, 200 and ISO 400 among others.
In other words, the diminutive camera has a remarkable specification and we’ve still not looked at the Advanced Mega Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), which can be activated in two modes: the always-on mode and the on-only-at-the-point-the-shutter-fires mode.
It has to be said it’s a good job the OIS is there as camera shake can be a serious issue with such a small camera. On the whole though, the image quality is surprisingly good with excellent auto white balance, exposure and focus is consistent and reliable plenty of detail thanks to the excellent Leica Vario-Elmarit 3x, 35-105mmF2.8 lens.
Noise control - at all sensitivity settings up to ISO 200, after which noise seems to leap - is well controlled and the colour is good too, with, if anything, almost to subtle colour rendition, but highlights can be blown away too quickly in high contrast areas though.
A couple of more serious issues are low battery life, which creates a real problem given there’s no optical viewfinder at all, and a flimsy plastic USB and DC in port is a tad, well, cheap. The 2.5-inch colour screen looks lovely but it’s a low-resolution LCD making true image assessment problematic and the flash is similarly underpowered.
In other words and overall, the FX7 is a small but very well-formed digital camera that offers enough resolution and detail for prints well over A4, A3 at a small pinch and beyond, if you know what you’re doing in a basic image editing package.
Given the manufacturers pedigree; until two years ago it did not really have one for digicams, the FX7 is testament to the companies back room boffins, which have consistently produced stingingly good cameras since Panasonic got serious about digital imaging. The FX7 is a joy to use and given the few foibles evident, it deserves to be a winner and should certainly be on your list if you're in the market for such a camera. Enjoy.