The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX78 is a very compact digital camera packed with dozens of features. Touted by Panasonic that this "hybrid camera is the perfect answer to those who want to have it all", it is interesting to see how camera manufacturers are innovating digital imaging experience.
Comparing the Samsung ST550 (left) with the Lumix FX78 (right)
Measuring 100 x 55 x 21 mm, the FX78 has only 4 hardware buttons, with the rest of the controls achieved by tapping on the 3.5-inch touchscreen monitor. Its maximum angle of view is 24mm, excellent for group and landscape photos. Its maximum aperture is f/2.5, so that you can capture images at higher shutter speeds under low light conditions. The FX78 is fitted with LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMARIT lens with 5x optical zoom.
When trying out cameras, I am always very particular about the interface speed and would give high weightage in this department. I believe that no matter how good a camera is, if it cannot allow me to capture the moment quickly, it would have lost the purpose. For that, I must say that FX78 performs admirably well. The FX78 lets me trigger the shutter within 2 seconds of start-up, AF is fast and very silent, shot-to-shot is excellent. These plus points make the FX78 very usable to capture fast moving situations.
The touch screen is generally responsive if you press accurately. In some menu selection screens, the screen buttons are placed rather close to one another so it may require some care to press the right buttons. Apart from touching the screen to select camera options, you can touch the screen to select AF, zoom, and even trigger the shutter. As the touch zoom lets you zoom in 3 speeds, I wonder why a dedicated zoom button is necessary, though I would prefer hardware buttons anytime over soft keys.
Shoot Modes Galore
Besides the usual iAuto and Program modes, the FX78 offers dozens of SCENE modes to entertain the user. Actually, the term "SCENE" is liberally used here: the modes also contains effect and shoot settings. Here are some unique SCENE modes that I find it useful:
- Baby 1, Baby 2, Pets: allows you to record the name and date of birth, so that the photos will capture the name and the exact age.
- Handheld Night Shot: 3MP burst shots, from which the shots are merged into one image to achieve a low-noise shot
- Hi-speed Burst: 3MP burst shots allowing you to take continuous image of up to 10 fps.
- Flash burst: 3MP burst shots with flash, for moments when you need the flash continuously for every shot.
Some unusual SCENE modes: - Transform: a mode to allow you to distort the photo and make the subject appear squashed or stretched.
- Aerial Photo: it comes with a warning about using the camera on the plane!
There are also 2 other shooting modes that makes FX78 fun. Cosmetic mode applies a skin tone to the photo so that you can look tanned or fairer. My Color mode lets you capture the images with art effects like Vivid, B&W, Pinhole, HDR.
FX78 supports capturing images in 3D, although you need a 3DTV to actually see the result.
The Lumix FX78 also offers some photo retouching capabilities during playback. You can retouch your photos with 2 functions. Beauty retouch actually helps you apply makeup effects on the subject's face. The results can look very funny, but what amazes me is that the FX78 can accurately identify the facial areas to apply the cosmetic effects on the specific areas individually. It even whitens your teeth! Art retouch basically lets you adjust brightness and saturation.
There is also a playback feature called Dual Play, very useful for displaying 2 images side by side for comparison.
The FX78 can also help the user upload images to social networks easily via LUMIX Image Uploader application. Once you select the photos on the camera, just run the uploader software stored on the SD card and select your desired social website to upload to. Certainly a very convenient feature such that users need not go through the laborious process of downloading the photos to the PC, resize the photos, select and upload the photos manually.
The FX78 is one of the better compact cameras I have experienced. It has a good balance of features and size, plus I like the overall response of the interface. Camera starts up rather quick, shot-to-shot performance is good, AF is fast. There are interesting shooting modes for me to have hours of fun with the camera.
I like that the FX78 remembers which photo I stopped the playback review, even after i switch off the camera. I also like the ability to customise 2 on-screen shortcut icons. I also found that I can take a picture even before the camera's on-screen display appears during start-up, effectively reduces the wait time and allowing me to capture the moments faster. Finally, the ability to display 2 images on-screen during playback is a nice feature to compare photos.
Some little challenges that I faced:
- no space to rest the fingers in order not to touch the screen, so basically this camera is not suited for one-hand operation.
- short battery life: heavy use doesn't last me more than 3 hours.
- lacks manual shooting controls, though I should not expect that from a consumer compact camera.
The FX78 is one camera that I would love to bring it with me everywhere for casual occasions, because in such a pocketable size it lets me capture the moment and have loads of fun experimenting with the dozens of shooting effects and modes. I was not a fan of Lumix user interfaces but this camera has changed my opinion.