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We were left in the unfortunate position earlier this year of having to replace our digital camera very quickly. We were very happy with our previous model, a pentax, but it took a tumble onto a concrete floor landing on the open lens, and completely destroying the camera. Needing another one before a family wedding, we turned to my father in law who is a bit of an expert to help us get the most for our budget - approximately £100.
I had a quick look myself before he gave us his recommendation, and I was feeling very uninspired by newer Pentax models as they were all weird shapes, so when the Panasonic Lumix model was suggested, I thought it looked really stylish and I was happy to go with what was recommended.
This was on sale when we bought it, for around £90. Currently the price is around the £130 region, which is still a good price for the features this camera has. I was pleased for that price that there was a case thrown in, and that our existing memory card fit in this. I was worried I would have to fork out for one of those too as all these incidental purchases really knock up the price of your camera.
This is a fairly standard looking camera in my opinion, with the main body of the camera being made from a black plastic material, with silver trim to the lens and around the edges of the camera. I find the design to be really slim and comfortable to hold in my hand, and this camera is exceptionally easy to use.
I use a digital camera a lot for taking pictures on days out, taking pictures of things that the kids are up to such as when they build a lego model, or just generally for reviewing purposes when I want to illustrate my review with photos. So this can be pretty much on a daily basis. On our previous camera, I had never worked out how to do anything other than take a basic picture and look through them on the digital screen. I couldn't even delete a picture without removing the card and putting it in my computer. This didn't improve with over two years of ownership.
With this camera, everything is so simple and intuitive that within minutes I was adjusting settings, and deleting pictures all at a tap of a button. Now I don't think I am suddenly more of an expert in the field, I just think that this camera is exceptionally well laid out and clear how to use it properly.
I'm more of a point and shoot type of girl rather than into fiddling about, but just knowing that I can use it properly has given me a bit more confidence and my pictures do seem better on this camera, which I am sure is only partly from moving from 10 megapixels to 16.1 megapixels. Another feature I use rather a lot is the 10x zoom. This is so simple to us with a dial on the button on the top of the camera that you press to take the picture. It is so easy to move this dial with my thumb. The first time I really tried this feature was when we went to the Walking with Dinosaurs show, and I found I got a really good view on the screen, but unfortunately the light levels were a bit too low to get pictures of the same quality. I've had much better results more recently taking pictures outside when we went to the local Wildlife Park for taking shots of animals, and when we were at the British Touring Car racing taking pictures of cars as they raced.
Something that bugged me with the last camera we had was that the on/off button was near the button to take the picture, so I sometimes got that instead of taking a picture. As anyone with kids or pets knows, when you want to take a picture, you often don't have time to be wasting like that. Here, the on/off button is a slide switch on the top of the camera, so it is pretty much impossible to accidentally turn off.
On the back of the camera the predominant feature is the 3 inch screen where you can view your pictures. A slide switch swaps you from viewing mode to an active mode for taking pictures. There are also buttons for switching between modes and deleting your pictures, and most of the control comes from a round joypad style button which reminds me a little of the apple devices control method - the options are found at 4 locations around this button.
Battery and SD card are both stored in the one slot at the bottom of the camera. The SD card is removed by pressing it to release, and the battery is removed with a button. Again, its not easy to accidentally remove the wrong thing.
Battery life seems really good. It has taken hundreds of pictures between charges. If I were going to somewhere very special I would make sure it was charged before we go, but picking it up to go on a casual day out I am confident it has enough charge to last for the outing.
There is a record feature which I must admit we have not even played with yet as we have a seperate digital camcorder and I am not keen on my SD card being filled really quickly from using the camera in this way. I can't comment therefore on how good this particular feature is, but its there if I really want it.
For the casual user, this is a really nifty compact camera. It is comfortable to hold, and I have been reassured at letting my kids use it by the addition of a wrist strap to secure it round their wrist so it can't get dropped like the last camera. The pictures that come out are pretty good. The image stabilisation feature seems to result in less blurring on pictures occuring. I think for the price, you get a lot for your money and I am very pleased with our purchase. I find it is brilliant at taking the portrait style snaps of the kids that are the most common sort that we take, and it is more than adequate for things at a longer distance or lower light levels. For anyone wanting more of this type of shot, this perhaps is not the camera you need.