The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60 offers a comprehensive front line spec to appeal to all those who need to tick the right boxes with their compact camera. It comes with a 12-megapixel sensor, the ability or shoot HD video footage and the promise of good low-light performance from the Leica lens. But does it deliver on these promises?
The FX60 is a good looking camera. It has a premium sheen about it thanks to a metal body and a relatively slim profile, but is carrying a little weight compared to similar spec rivals like the Canon IXUS 120. It measures 97.2 x 54.1 x 19.4mm and weighs 147g all-in with memory card and battery.
Around the back you'll find a 230k-dot display measuring 2.7-inches on the diagonal and offering 100% field of view. It gives great colour reproduction making it a pleasure for previewing images with excellent viewing angles - ideal for sharing images with friends.
Controls are conventionally placed on the top plate and the back of the camera. The top sees the power switch and shutter button encircled by the zoom ring. A mode dial sits neatly on the back edge, falling comfortably under the right thumb. On the back the controls continue, giving you a switch to move from shooting to playback. Otherwise you are left with a four-way controller with the usual shortcuts and finally display and quick menu toggles.
The construction is good, it feels solid and there is a nice precise action to the buttons, the mode dial and the switches. There is no chance of turning this on in your pocket or accidentally changing to video over regular stills shooting. The switch for playback or shooting does mean that you can't simply flip between the two without physically sliding something, which adds an extra step over the more common single press option.
Shooting modes offered on the dial look rather limited, offering Panasonic's iA (or Intelligent Auto), auto, scene, video and a final "clipboard" setting, which takes low res shots and will ultimately be ignored. There is no sign of manual control for more advanced shooting, but all is not lost, because the quick menu does offer up some options for those wanting a little more.
A Leica branded 5x zoom (25-125mm 35mm equiv) F/2.8 lens sits on the front of the camera and isn't the fastest in zooming or deployment, but does offer quite a range from such a compact bundle. There is noticeable barrel distortion at the wide angle as is often the case with compacts.
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Focusing gives you the option of the usual face detection and macro and so on, but also 11-point AF and AF tracking with metering thrown in. A neat AF lock is easily accessible meaning you can lock on to your focal point and aim off for creative effect and it works very well. Normal focusing is a bit hit and miss however, sometimes failing to grab the point of focus you want first time.
Another headline boast tackles the area of low-light shooting. The FX60 has a normal shooting range running up to ISO 1600. You can keep this under control by selecting an upper maximum, to stop the camera bumping the ISO to capture a low light image when it really needs a longer exposure. That said, you can't select the value you want, only limit the range to a maximum of 400, 800 or 1600.
Noise is evident in dark and shadow areas at ISO 400 and gets progressively worse up to ISO 1600, where it is really invasive. The FX60 doesn't bump the ISO high for no reason though, so indoors you'll often find you are shooting at ISO 400, where rivals might take you higher.
Image noise on the crowded 12-megapixel sensor can be a bit of a problem for the FX60, with 100% crops showing this noise bringing in softness in normal shooting that can take the edge off some photos, but this will only bother those who like to crop closer to the detail or who are planning to print at full size.
Boosting the low light performance is Panasonic's famed Power OIS, or optical image stabilizer, giving some compensation for camera shake. It works too, letting you hand hold shots of a longer exposure than you'd often consider, but giving you plenty of warning that shake is possible through icons on the display.
Metering is generally good with great colour results coming out of everyday shooting. You can expect luscious greens and authentic flesh tones, but it does sometimes lose grip on details in tricky sky areas and highlights can lose detail, a common problem on compact cameras. Some purple fringing is evident on high contrast shots.
There is no continuous shooting option, but you are offered burst shooting which will give you three full resolution shots in quick succession. Strangely, this is one of the options that is hidden away in the full menu and not through the quick menu.
Scene settings allow you to take advantage of the preconfigured options to get the result you want in lieu of much direct control. All the normal suspects are in here, from night portrait to pets, including the option to name and age those pets in the picture, if that rings your bell.
Image results overall are generally good, with the iA mode scanning the scene and choosing the appropriate settings. For many point and shooters this will suffice for the majority of everyday shooting, with scene modes being automatically picked out, for example taking indoor shots without using the flash.
Video gives you several options of resolution up to 1280 x 720 at 30fps. HD video capture gives some good results but suffers from noise in shadow areas and in low light. There is plenty of detail at the highest setting however and for those candid moments, you'll get video that is perfectly acceptable on your TV in the lounge. As is often the case, the mic is a little exposed to wind noise.
The battery life is impressive and we managed to get close to the documented 360 shots from a single charge. In terms of connectivity you'll find a flap opens to reveal two bespoke connections and if you want to hook-up to your HDTV you'll need to buy Panasonic's DMW-HDC2 Component accessory cable for an extra £25, or settle for the bundled Composite cable, which won't let you take advantage of your high resolution video.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60 is an easy to use point and shoot, demonstrating excellent build quality and giving results that great for the majority of everyday shooting. The HD video capture will please those who like to bring a little quality to their home movies and the battery life will see you through your average wedding.
The FX60 stumbles on noise however, with crammed sensor showing its hand and bringing in noise sooner and many rivals. However, if you most print album shots and share online this won't be much of an issue as you'll be able to make use of most shots anyway.
It is a little on the expensive side for the range of controls on offer, but overall it is a competent little camera.