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The chances are that you have probably owned an electrical item from Panasonic, Sanyo, Matsushita, Technics or National, which is basically all the same company, and if like me you have had a few products bearing some of the above brand names, you will probably have been impressed with the quality and length of time they have lasted without too many things going wrong.
Now I know that there are other good brand names out there when it comes to making cameras; however I do like the idea of a digital camera having the reliable Panasonic electrics which I have trusted over the years, and so that's why I chose this brand for my first Digital camera.
I particularly like this camera because it has a metal body which feels sleek and sturdy just like mine (chance would be a fine thing), with a large 2.5" colour screen on the back which does away with a viewfinder; the good thing about this is that it works a little like an SLR (single lens reflex) where the image that you can see on the screen is the image that you will get on the finished picture. The picture quality of the display screen is just as you would expect from Panasonic with no nasty surprises. The only downside to this is that battery life is soon zapped with the LCD screen sucking away at the power; you can however reduce the brightness of the screen which does seem to help save the power without reducing the image clarity too much. I get into the habit of switching the camera off between using it which can be a bit of a pain if you want to capture something quickly as the camera does take its time to come back on again.
The fx7 comes with just the one battery which is fine for just the odd bit of happy snapping on a night out, providing that you have fully charged the battery prior to setting off. The battery can lose charge if left for any amount of time and I would therefore recommend getting a second battery if using it on Holliday or where you cannot afford to wait several hours for the battery to charge back up again.
There is an additional option for a dc line in to the camera allowing power to be supplied to the unit without removing the battery. This may not be apparent at the time, but when you connect the camera to your PC, you will be relying solely on the power of the battery in the camera to download your images, and unlike most gadgets that plug in via USB, this one does not charge back up; a DC line in cable is available as an extra, along with replacement batteries. Depending on where you buy from, you may be able to get these chucked in with the price, but to be honest I got my FX 7 at Selfridges where I gave it my best shot at getting a spare battery in with the deal and didn't get anywhere. I would have liked to have seen a good quality case in with the deal too, but nope, absolutely nothing.
The fx7 stores its imagery onto an SD format which I find is very compatible and compact. The free 16mb SD card included only holds about 10 photos and is therefore best put to one side and replaced with at least a 1gb or 2gb one which can be had for some amazing prices on the internet.
That's pretty much all the negative points out of the way really because I have owned this camera since it first hit the shelves over here and have not encountered any other issues of concern after using it on a weekly basis. The FX7 looks and works just the same as the day I bought it with no reduction in quality.
I find that 5 megapixels is enough for me especially with the quality 3x optical Leica lens which produces some really fine quality images, and for most people this will be more than enough unless you intend on enlarging your pictures to the size of a house.
I don't really want to go here but if for whatever reason you do develop a shaking hand when taking your pictures; the FX 7 has a fantastic optical image stabilization system which reduces the amount of camera shake.
Quickly moving on, there is an option to use the FX 7 as a video camera which works rather well, recording as much footage as your SD card can take. There is also a built in microphone which records the sound to a reasonable quality, but this cannot be heard during playback on the camera because it doesn't have a speaker; you can however appreciate the sound when it has been downloaded or played through the TV (AV leads are included).
I particularly like the macro mode on this camera which has the ability to focus down to around 5cm which is important for taking those close up pictures. I do find that the focus assist lamp can get a little confused at these levels, especially where the subject matter is lacking in something to focus on.
The good news about this camera is that you don't have to be David Bailey to operate it with the 'simple mode' feature. Just squeeze the trigger and the camera will start to focus until it gives you the 2 friendly beeps and/or a green frame if you have difficulty hearing, and then click. (You also have the facility to allow the image to stay on screen for a few moments to review the image). If the camera has been unable to focus properly on the subject, it will let you know with a series of 4 bleeps and/or a red frame. It's so easy to use that I also bought one of these for my mum who has trouble working the TV remote.
As your confidence grows, you can experiment with the scene mode which alters the settings allowing you to take pictures of night scenery, night portraits, fireworks, party, snow, self portrait, portrait and sports. Once you have mastered this, then there is the option of taking things to a whole different level by manually adjusting the settings in Photo mode. Maybe one day, but I don't think that I am quite ready for that just yet.
Now before you go rushing out of the house to get your mitts on one, you may find that this camera has been replaced by an updated version with more megapixels and even more advanced spec. I do remember paying a whopping £250 for mine, but I'm sure that prices will have dropped dramatically now to a more competitive price.
Some technical specifications of the Panasonic FX7
5.0 million Pixels (2560 x 1920)
3x optical zoom Leica lens (35 - 105 equivalent)
Mega Optical Image Stabilisation (Mega OIS) system.
Compact metal body
2.5" Colour TFT with 114,000 pixels
Venus Engine II
Macro mode: shooting from as close as 5cm
VGA 320/240 30fps movie recording function with sound (unlimited)
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80, 100, 200, and 400 equivalents
Scene modes / Simple mode
3fps mega burst mode.
I purchased one of these excellent little cameras for a holiday to Morocco in 2007. I have to say I am absolutely thrilled with it - in my opinion 5 megapixels is all you need to avoid crashing your PC when you download your holiday snaps, and the excellent Leica lens really captures every detail in superbly sharp focus. The easy to use preset settings include a macro function for extreme close ups of flowers, insects and the like - all of which are presented on a little 'wheel' which you rotate to the desired function.
I was probably less impressed with the night setting - the slow shutter speed really requires a tripod or similar to take a good night shot - not something you really want to be bothering with with a compact camera.
All in all the Panasonic Lumic DMC-FX7 is a cracking little camera - slim, lightweight and robust.