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Japanese consumer electronics company Matsushita has shown a strong will to carve out a large slice of the digital camera market for itself, with products sold under its Panasonic brandname. Without question, the company has done a fine job - its cameras have offered strong feature sets, and have continually been well received by reviewers and the public alike. Sound decisions like the inclusion of optical image stabilization across the entire product line have helped offer differentiation from competitors. At the Spring 2006 Photo Marketing Association tradeshow, the company launched three new fixed-lens Lumix-branded cameras,among them the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01.

The DMC-FX01 digital camera is based around a six megapixel imager coupled to a Leica-branded 3.6x optical zoom lens with MEGA O.I.S. image stabilisation, which yields effective focal lengths from 28 - 102mm. ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 400, with the option to extend this to ISO 800 / 1600 in high sensitivity mode. Images can be previewed or reviewed on a 2.5" LCD display with a higher than average resolution of 207,000 pixels. Unfortunately, there's no optical viewfinder - something which is sadly becoming rather rare on a lot of digicams these days.

The FX01's body has the minimalist styling common on Panasonic's cameras, being almost completely smooth with the exception of controls and a small oval trim piece on the front that also serves as a grip for your fingers. Focusing is catered for with a 1, 3, or 5-point autofocus function with AF assist lamp. Exposure modes include a generous sixteen scene modes, including two unusual "Baby" modes that allow you to program a date of birth in each, and then have your images tagged with your children's current ages at the time a photo is taken. Exposure variables are determined using an intelligent multiple metering system, and users can tweak the exposure with +/-2.0EV of exposure compensation, in 1/3EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 60 seconds - quite a bit longer than is common on many digicams - and the DMC-FX01 offers automatic or manual white balance control with four presets, and a custom white balance mode - letting you save white balance measurements for common situations for later recall. The FX01 also includes a built-in five mode flash, with a range of up to four meters at wide angle or two meters at telephoto.

The FX01 offers a higher than average movie resolution of 848 x 480 pixels, as well as lower-resolution 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixel options - all of which use the QuickTime MotionJPEG format common on most digicams. The Panasonic DMX-FX01 draws power from a proprietary 1150mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery pack, and records images on Secure Digital or MultiMedia cards (with a not-so-generous 16MB card in the product bundle - plan to buy a larger card straight away). There's also both USB computer connectivity, and an NTSC / PAL switcheable video output to show your images on a TV, with the necessary cables included. An Arcsoft software collection rounds out the product bundle.