The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150 is a compact camera with a sleek sense of style. The Lumix FX range are always slickly-styled, but when we looked closer we felt the FX150 had a few hairs out of place. We tested to see if the camera's performance is up to the Panasonic pedigree.
Overall, the FX150 is a great-looking camera in many ways, but disappoints on closer inspection. For example, it's reasonably sleek -- if not the sveltest camera we've ever seen -- but looking closer, the protruding lens ring and raised screen add to the width. The 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen is a good size on paper, but up close the black bezel makes it feel smaller.
The matte gunmetal casing gives this a more serious look than shiny silver cameras, and we like the contrast with the slightly darker lens ring. But we would have liked that darker, matte colour to continue on the top plate and rear buttons, which instead have a brushed silver effect.
We're also not that keen on the square buttons. The combinations of square and round buttons, some topped with ridges and some flat, give the controls a mish-mash appearance.
We realise we're nitpicking on these details, some of which might not bother you, but some things are worth noting -- like the fact that the black version looks lethal and as such minimises the small niggles. Whatever the colour, the FX150 has the usual excellent Lumix build quality, extending to a dinky metal door covering the connections, and locking battery cover.
The FX150 packs a 1/1.72-inch 14.7-megapixel CCD. It has satisfyingly wide 28mm wideangle f/2.8 Leica lens. The optical zoom leaps to its full 3.6x extent with a push of the easy zoom button at the top of the camera.
Panasonic's proven Mega OIS system provides image stabilisation, helping to claw back a couple of stops of exposure. You can adjust shutter speed in Program and Manual modes, but can only set a minimum and maximum aperture in Manual mode. Exposure compensation mainly tweaks the shutter speed, with the aperture never changing in our tests. You can also limit the ISO speed, to save your pictures from image noise in low-light conditions.
Manual mode is not the focus on this point-and-shoot, however. Intelligent auto (iA) mode has also proved its worth across the Lumix range. This mode keeps things simple, but also strips some functions out of the menus almost at random: for example, if you want to turn the shutter sound off, you have to do it in Manual mode and then go back to iA.
The usual features are all included: face detection focuses on and sets exposure for faces in the frame, while light detection adjusts the brightness of the screen. Slow sync and red-eye reduction flash modes cut down on glowing eyes. Intelligent scene selection works out what kind of scene you are pointing the camera at, such as landscape, macro or portrait, and adjusts accordingly.
Images are crisp, even at longer zooms, although as always we recommend you brace the camera when zoomed in. The image stabilisation system is extremely effective, but as the light dims it's necessary to steady the camera yourself when shooting at longer zooms. In lower light, there is the option to adjust exposure compensation and take charge of exposure yourself. We found it extremely handy to be able to adjust shutter speed in increments of 1/10 seconds, but we would have preferred slightly more control over the aperture.
The wideangle lens does experience a slight softening towards the edges, but it takes a close look to notice. There's no darkening around the edges, and very little trace of purple fringing. It's possible to manufacture purple fringing with high-contrast shots of light skies against dark buildings or trees, but in everyday use it's unobtrusive.
Burst mode captures a creditable four shots in one second. The Infinity mode is somewhat misnamed, with the camera stopping after roughly 118 shots each time, in about one minute and twenty seconds. This works out at about 1.5 frames per second.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX150 looks good and performs well. There are a few niggling doubts on styling when we look closely, but that's probably just a personal opinion. We would have preferred more manual control, but in a point-and-shoot we'll take what we can get. A capable automatic mode and the option to at least tweak shooting settings make this a solid choice for snapshots.
Edited by Marian Smith