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I bought this camera in silver from Argos' Clearance Bargains Ebay shop for just under £130 delivered, and what a brilliant investment it was! I chose it due to its wide range of features, and the fact that you can get an underwater case for it, as I would like to do underwater photography.
The first thing that struck me was just how good the battery life was, easily outstripping the 2 2700mAh AA batteries my old Samsung S830 used! It seemed to last for hours, even when I used the flash! I took this camera to a disco and was extremely impressed by how good the low light pictures looked when I used party mode.
The video is also very good quality, and includes a 720 HD widescreen mode as well as all the standard definition modes in 15 and 30 fps. However, I must point out that you can't zoom in while filming, and there is a limit to how long you can film for in one go, meaning that it is very difficult to tell how long you can film for until you run out of memory. The manual is very clear, however, in that it tells you how long you can video for with different sized memory cards.
I'll move on to the macro mode. Buying this camera made me want to experiment with macro mode, something which I had never really tried properly, as many compacts don't produce good macro results. However, the fx35 was an exception, producing fantastically clear and sharp results as close as 5cm from the subject. I would recommend using spot focusing and focus lock for the best results.
Overall, I think that the FX35 is a fantastic camera, even by today's standards, and would recommend it to anyone who wants an easy to use camera without manual controls or a massive zoom, particularly those who take a lot of landscape shots or photos of lots of people. It is very easy to use, especially on intelligent auto mode, which detects what type of picture you're trying to take, so you don't have to adjust a single setting!
I have to confess, the only reason I bought the FX35 was for its ability to shoot 720p HD video (actually it's QuickTime Motion JPEG). This even though, having owned over a half dozen digital cameras in the past 8 years, I know a digital camera's ability to shoot any kind of video is often more of a gimmick than useful tool. Still, the ability to shoot HDTV resolution quality video with a pocket camera when I don't have a camcorder around is a good thing to have. And what I discovered after getting over the HD video feature is that the FX35 is a very capable digicam too.
I owned Canon Powershot digicams for years, and loved them for everything except their dismal battery life, especially when sitting idle. But my experience was that nearly every time I went to pick up my camera the battery was dead! I was then lured to Sony Cyber-Shot cameras with their Zeiss lenses. And to this day, I was happy with all four I owned, including the terrific battery life. But even when you think you are satisfied with something, along comes a product that makes you lust for more. For me that was the FX35.
Touch My Body
The Panasonic DMC-FX35 looks like most other pocket digicams. It's approx 2" (h) x 3.75(w) x .87 (d) and weighs 4.5oz. It slips into my jeans and shorts pockets with ease and it's so light there are times my heart skips a beat because I think it's slipped out or was pick-pocketed. The backside features a rather standard 2.5" 230K pixel display. One negative (for me at least) though is that there is no optical viewfinder for days when the sun washes out the LCD screen. Normally absence of a viewfinder is a deal breaker for me. I made and exception with the FX35 though. You will also find the "menu," "flash mode," "macro," and "self-timer," buttons on the back, as well as the photo/viewing modes switch.
At the top of the camera is the power button switch, something I find much more ergonomically pleasing than the on/off push button found on most cameras. The physical toggle makes it impossible for your fingers to mistake it for the shutter button. There have been many times when using my last Sony W90 where I have accidentally turned off the camera when I wanted to take a picture. Next to the power switch is the telephoto lever. You use your forefinger to wide or telephoto. Again, compared to the thumb lever on the W90 I find this more comfortable. The last button on the top is the photo mode thumbwheel. The wheel is actually on the top right back corner, but you read the wheel from the top, not the back of the camera. Once more, I find this more convenient and quicker than having to look at the back to set a new mode. I'll get to the available modes later.
At the right side of the camera, hidden under a well integrated metal flap (as opposed to the cheap rubber ones you usually find on pocket cameras) are the input jacks: DC power, AV Out and Digital AV Out. The included USB cable fits in the AV Out jack as does the TV composite cable, also included. If you want external DC power or HD video out (to TV) capability you have to buy the optional cables.
At the bottom of the body you'll find a standard tripod hole and the battery and SD card slot. The FX35 accepts standard SD cards, but a faster and larger capacity SDHC card is required if you want to shoot video. You'll also find something else that is very impressive for a camera in the FX35s price range, a stamp that says "Made in Japan." My last Sony was made in China, and I have to say the build quality on the FX-35 is top notch and plastic is kept to a minimum.
Sure, She's Lovely, but Can She Perform?
Part 1: Video
I'm kind of surprised I own a Panasonic camera. The two words just don't seem right together. You think of Panasonic you think DVD players, TVs, even video recorders, but cameras are not the first, second, or third thing most people associate with Panasonic. The one thing that gave me some reassurance though was the Leica lens. Leica IS a name you link with good photography. Of course brands have been known to "sell out," but I don't think that is the case here. The FX35 is impressive for what it is, a sub £200 pocket cam with bountiful features.
I read a few FX35 reviews before I bought, and frustratingly, none really covered the HD video feature well. This is probably because the FX35 is a camera, not a camcorder. But since it was the #1 reason I even considered this camera (I would have stayed with my Sony W90 otherwise) I'm going to start here.
In the two months I've owned the FX35 I've frequently used the video function, especially in those unplanned moments, you know the one's were you say "darn I wish I had my video camera!" But let me start with saying what the FX35's video mode does not do: zoom while filming. I say this to avoid any confusion that the FX35 makes a good camcorder substitute, not replacement. If you want to film your kid's football game or ballet recital you are not going to want to do it with the FX35.
Eight movie modes are available. In the "old school" square TV 3:4, you can shoot either in 10fps or 30fps VGA or QVGA, and in the modern widescreen 16:9 you can either SD quality (848x480) at 30 or 10fps or in HD (1280x720) at 15 or 30fps. The high the frame rate, the faster you'll use up memory, but you will also get a smoother video. For example, 2GB at the highest quality will get you about 8 minutes of video.
Speaking of memory, there are two things to keep in mind. First, while the FX35 accepts larger SDHC cards, the video will only use up 2GB maximum. So if you buy an 8GB card, you can't allot 4GB for video and 4 for photos. The camera will automatically stop after acquiring 2GB of video no matter how much more room is left on your card. Also, when shopping for a SDHC card be sure to buy a "Class 6" for best video results. A "Class 4" will work, but the video will look jerky, even when recorded, or perhaps especially, in the highest quality mode.
The video quality produced by the FX35 in daylight is quite outstanding for what it is, a camera. In daylight outdoors the footage comes very close to that of a 720p SDHC card camcorder. You don't get that extra "pop" so noticeable in HD video, but the picture is crisp and sharper than anything I've seen any other camera produce. Indoors, however, the picture is on the grainy side and suggestion of HD video is lost. To be fair my video cameras sans video light perform no better.
The real "catch" with the video feature is that panning back and forth creates an uncomfortable jerkiness. It's really best to aim and let the action move as opposed to the camera. Bottom line though is the video is a feature I use all the time, something I can't say for my previous cameras which also shot video, but at a quality that made it not worth the effort.
Part 2: Still Pictures
Let's get over the basic specs first. The FX35 is a 10 Megapixel camera that can shoot pictures in 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9 aspect ratios. It has an optical image stabilizer (this is a good thing, avoid cameras with digital stabilizers or none at all), as well as a 4x optical zoom (same deal). There is also a 4x digital zoom, but please turn this off if you want decent looking pictures. Digital zoom is the biggest gimmick going in digital photography and almost always produces an undesirable picture.
One final feature of note is the wide (for a point and shoot) lens which has a 35mm equivalent range of 25-100mm. (The smaller the first number the more picture you can get in your field of view. The larger the second number the closer you can zoom in). Most point and shoots have a standard wide range of 35mm, and the extra 10mm the FX35 offers can make a difference in scenic shots or big family photos - you know the ones were everyone has to smoosh together to get in the picture.
The FX35 has an abundance of automatic picture "scene" modes. However, there are no manual or semi-manual modes, though you can change the white balance and ISO in most automatic modes. Some of these scene modes are useful, like "baby," and others a bit esoteric like "aerial," for that one time you take a picture from a plane. Personally I just find it easiest to keep it on the standard mode. There are also several focus modes, including the mode du jour, "face detection," which softens the background by using smaller f-stops.
The number one reason most people buy digital camera is to take pictures of their kids. If you are one of these people, and your kids are in the perpetual motion years this may not be the camera for you. I say this because the flash recycling (the time it takes for the flash to get ready for the next picture) is fairly slow at around 2-3 seconds. For comparison my Sony W90 only takes about a second. Of course, this is separate from shutter lag, where the FX35 is reasonably quick. It's just in low light situations where flash is need that you'll feel each tick of the clock as the flash recharges. If you have older kids or kids are not the primary object of your lens this may not be an issue. Also, if speed is important and you can forgo the flash, there are two "burst" modes in which the camera will take several pictures in rapid succession.
There are many review sites that will give you the ultra-technical breakdown of the quality of pictures the FX35 produces. They'll blow up the picture 1000% so you can see the purple fringe and artifacts. But the reality is, most people don't care what the new baby looks like under a loupe. What they want to know is does the camera produce clear, sharp, colorful 5x7 pictures? And to that I give a resounding yes. The picture quality is great. It's not perfect, but if you were looking for perfect you wouldn't be buying a point and shoot.
What's In The Box:
FX35 Camera (available in silver, black, and blue)
USB and A/V Cable
CD (for PC only. No drivers needed for Mac computers. The FX35 is 100% compatible with iPhoto)
So Curtain Call or Just Curtains?
The FX35 is an outstanding package that I have to applaud. Panasonic is no where near the lead in the digital camera market and its ingenuity here to include HD video capabilities helped to sell me. But it wasn't until I became familiar with other aspects of the camera that I really came to appreciate it as a whole. I hate it has not optical view finder and don't love it's slow flash recycle times, but other than that it's a solid camera both in construction and engineering. Battery life is great, and keeps a good charge even when shelved for days. And both picture and video quality is on par or better than most other point and shoots in the price range. I stuck my nose up at Panasonic cameras previously but this is a great product unless you have young non-stop kids.
Typical price: £165 at Amazon UK.
This review can also be found on Epinions.
We bought this camera about 3 months ago as our old camera the sony cybershot was a few years old and was too big and very slow. Its a really nice size camera, its not too small and not too big, its very easy to use with a slide along dial to select the mode. The face recognition feature is also good as it looks for a face in any picture you take and will focus on that. the pictures are very clear and we are very impressed with them when we have had them developed. The software that came with the camera is also great and easy to use. The camera looks nice and smart and has even been dropped a few times and still works with no problems whatsoever. All in all this is a fantastic camera, one of the best I have ever used and I would have no problems in telling all of my friends to buy one.