Panasonic DMC-FX700 Review

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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700
Resolution: 14.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.33 inch
(6.1mm x 4.6mm)
Kit Lens: 5.00x zoom
(24-120mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
Extended ISO: 100 - 6400
Shutter: 1/2000 - 60 seconds
Max Aperture: 2.2
Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
(104 x 56 x 25 mm)
Weight: 6.2 oz (175 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $400
Availability: 08/2010
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic DMC-FX700 specifications
5.00x zoom 1/2.33 inch
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700
Front side of Panasonic DMC-FX700 digital camera Front side of Panasonic DMC-FX700 digital camera Front side of Panasonic DMC-FX700 digital camera Front side of Panasonic DMC-FX700 digital camera Front side of Panasonic DMC-FX700 digital camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 Overview

Previewed: 17/21/2010
Test Results: 10/25/2010

**See Test note below**

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 offers an effective resolution of 14.1 megapixels, from a 1/2.33" RGB MOS image sensor. Panasonic has coupled this to an image stabilized, Leica DC Vario-Summicron branded 5x optical zoom lens, offering a range from a very generous 24mm-equivalent wide angle to a moderate 120mm-equivalent telephoto. The Panasonic FX700's lens has a maximum aperture that varies from f/2.2 to f/5.9 across the zoom range. The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-FX700 is ordinarily half a meter, but drops to just three centimeters when switched to Macro mode. As with most compact cameras these days, there's no optical viewfinder, with the Panasonic FX700 instead opting solely for a roomy 3.0" LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution on which images and videos are both framed and reviewed. Thanks to a touch panel over the display, it serves as a point of control as well.

The Panasonic DMC-FX700 has an 11-point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point "high speed" focusing mode. There's also a face detection function, with Panasonic's implementation using the information to adjust both focus and exposure to properly capture your subjects' faces, and goes a step further, by enabling the Lumix DMC-FX700 to recognize specific individuals' faces, and prioritize these over other detected photos when capturing photos, or search for photos containing a specific face in playback mode. The Panasonic Lumix FX700 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required. Panasonic's AF tracking is linked to the face detection system, allowing the camera to continue tracking a face even if it briefly turns to a side profile - although it should be noted that the face detection system does require the subject be looking towards the camera to achieve its initial detection. It's also possible to select a point on which to focus by tapping it on the camera's touch-screen panel.

ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 100 to 1600, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6400 equivalent in High Sensitivity Auto mode. Shutter speeds from 1/2000 to 60 seconds are possible, and a Touch Shutter function allows a picture to be captured simply by tapping the touch panel. The Panasonic DMC-FX700 uses Intelligent Multiple metering, and also provides center-weighted and spot options. It offers seven white balance settings including Auto, Manual, four fixed presets, and the ability to specify a color temperature. A whopping selection of twenty eight scene modes let users tailor the look of their images, and the Panasonic FX700 also provides aperture-, shutter-priority, and fully manual modes for those who want more control. There's also an Intelligent Scene Selection function, which can automatically select from a subset of six scene modes. A five mode flash strobe includes red-eye reduction capability, and has a rated range of up to 7.4 meters at wide angle, or 2.8 meters at telephoto. There's also Panasonic's Intelligent Auto, Intelligent Exposure and Intelligent ISO functions as seen on past models.

As well as JPEG still images, the Panasonic FX700 can capture movies with sound at up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution or below. Movies at 720p or below can be recorded using either the older, less efficient QuickTime Motion JPEG compression. In addition, 720p mode allows AVCHD Lite compression for lower file sizes. At Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, the only option is AVCHD compression. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCards, including the newer SDHC or SDXC types. There's also a generous 40MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, plus mini-HDMI high definition or NTSC / PAL standard definition video output. Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion battery, which includes Panasonic's ID Security function to prevent use of counterfeit or third-party battery packs. Battery life is rated as good for 300 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO v5.2 HD Edition.

The Panasonic Lumix FX700 is available from late-August 2010, priced at about US$400.


Test note: After running the Panasonic FX700 through our standard suite of tests, we decided its overall image quality, even at its lowest ISO setting, was not worth a full review. Many 14-megapixel sensors have been soft this year, but this one was particularly soft thanks to overaggressive noise suppression. It's a clear sign that the 14-megapixel sensors were not ready for prime time, and that the recent step backward to 10-megapixel sensors was a good idea. Last year's 12-megapixel sensors were turning out quite good images that printed well at 13x19 inches, but most of the 14-megapixel sensors have brought that down to 11x14 at best. Granted, most people don't enlarge that big, but this significantly reduced quality makes cropping more difficult too.

If all you'll do with the Panasonic FX700 is make 4x6 images, you'll never notice what we're talking about, but there are too many other good quality cameras out there -- many of them made by Panasonic -- for us to spend more time reviewing the Panasonic FX700.

Feel free to look at the crops and test images to make the determination yourself, paying particular attention to the ISO and Print Quality sections.

Other quality cameras you might look at include the Panasonic FH20 ($150-200), Panasonic ZS5 ($220-299), or the Canon PowerShot SD1300 ($150-200).


Panasonic FX700 Lens Quality

Wide: Sharper at center
Wide: Very soft and dark at lower left
Tele: Sharper at center
Tele: Soft and noticeable color shift, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX700's zoom shows strong blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, with the strongest effect occurring in the lower corners. At telephoto, performance is a little better, with only mild softening in the corners. In both shots, corners are also darker, with a noticeable warm color shift at telephoto.

Wide: Noticeable barrel distortion
Tele: Visible pincushion distortion

Geometric Distortion: Barrel distortion is noticeable at wide-angle, though less than average (0.6%), and pincushion distortion is a little higher than usual at telephoto (0.3%). This will have a noticeable effect on many subjects, such as architectural scenes.

Wide: Low but bright
Tele: Low

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is fairly low in terms of pixel count, and the same goes for telephoto. Just a shade of intense bluish pixels are visible at wide angle, with more red pixels noticeable at telephoto.

Macro with Flash

Macro: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700's Macro mode captures a small image area, measuring 1.52 x 1.14 inches (39 x 29mm). However, details are soft throughout the frame, with a high level of image noise competing with blurring in the corners to deteriorate fine detail. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is essentially useless, with a strong shadow from the lens and a dark overall exposure.


Panasonic FX700 Viewfinder Accuracy

Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700's LCD monitor showed about 100% coverage accuracy at wide-angle and at telephoto, which is excellent.


Panasonic FX700 Image Quality

Color: Overall color looks pretty accurate, though bright yellows are somewhat muted, and dark green, red and blue are pumped a little. Hue is also a little off for colors like yellow, orange and cyan. Dark skintones are fairly accurate, and lighter skin tones show a small nudge toward pink. Still, good results overall, though some may find the Panasonic FX700's default color reproduction a little flat.

Auto WB:
Reddish tint
Incandescent WB:
Much too warm
Manual WB:
Very good, a hint warm

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting much better than the Incandescent setting, which produced a very strong warm cast. The Auto setting produced a noticeable red tint.

Horizontal: 2,000 lines
Vertical: 2,000 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height in both directions; however, there is an unusual amount of noise and other artifacts around the lines, preventing us from calling the image "sharp." Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,400 lines per picture height.

Wide: Bright
Tele: Slightly dim and uneven
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows fairly bright results at the rated distance of 12.1 feet, though ISO was raised to 400. At the telephoto distance of 4.6 feet, results were a bit dim and uneven, also at ISO 400.

Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a hint of the ambient light despite a quick shutter speed of 1/60 second at ISO 400.


ISO: Noise and Detail: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 struggles greatly with image noise, even as low as ISO 100. Noise pixels are quite visible at this lowest setting, and detail is very soft. This effect only intensifies as sensitivity increases. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.

Printed: ISO 100 Printed results are very soft at 11x14, but are passable at 8x10. Most cameras we've reviewed in the past few years start out looking good at 13x19 inches. This is not a good start.

ISO 200 shots are even softer, and though usable at 8x10, I wouldn't be happy until they were printed at 5x7, where they're still soft.

ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 5x7.

ISO 800 images are soft but usable at 4x6.

ISO 1,600 images are also usable at 4x6, but very soft.

This is the worst performance we've seen since we started printing out images as part of our test results. More alarming is that it's from a camera whose price starts out at $399.


Panasonic FX700 Performance

Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.35 second at wide angle and 0.38 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.016 second, pretty quick.

Cycle Time: Cycle time is fair, capturing a frame every 1.10 seconds in single-shot mode. The Panasonic FX700 has a very fast burst mode, though, rated at 10 frames per second for 15 full-resolution frames. A high-speed mode is rated at up to 60 frames per second with resolutions under 3.5 megapixels.

Flash Recycle: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700's flash recycles in about 5.2 seconds after a full-power discharge, about average.

Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.

USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 download speeds are quite fast. We measured 6,745 KBytes/sec.


Panasonic FX700 Conclusion

Again, printed results are so poor that not only can't we recommend the FX700, we chose not to review it, and instead recommend the Panasonic FH20 ($150-200), Panasonic ZS5 ($220-299), or the Canon PowerShot SD1300 ($150-200).


Panasonic DMC-FX700

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