The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 is the successor to the FX33, and on the surface, little has changed. What draws us to this stylish 10-megapixel point-and-shoot is the innovative wide-angle lens, developed by Leica. It also helps that it looks so sleek, but is it enough to charm £200 out of your pocket?
The FX35 is about the size of a candy-bar mobile phone. There aren't any great cosmetic differences between the FX33, apart from the addition of a switch that toggles between playback and shooting. Panasonic has not included the easy zoom button found on other new models.
A dial under your right thumb on the FX35 accesses video, stills, automatic or scene modes. It doesn't go all the way round, but is well located. A quick menu gives access to the most commonly-used shooting options.
The screen is a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD with 230,000-dot resolution that suffers from the common problem of a black border making it feel small. On the plus side, a feature that automatically adjusts the screen's backlighting based on the available light works well. It altered the screen so we could still see it whether in sunlight or indoors.
One of our favourite details on the Lumix series is the use of hinged doors to cover sockets instead of fiddly rubberised flaps. The FX35 has HD-friendly component out as well as USB and a DC input.
The big feature with the FX35 is its 25mm wide-angle lens, equivalent to a 35mm film camera. It gives you the ability to fit more of a rolling, sheep-covered hillside or your group of friends into the frame. The lens also stretches to a large 4x optical zoom so you can get closer to the baby lambs.
The FX35 is a true point-and-shoot, offering little in the way of manual control. For you hands-off, start-my-orange type of users, it has a fully automated intelligent auto mode, coupled with face detection that focuses and exposes for faces. Your control is limited to adjusting shooting options like white balance, ISO speed and choosing from the assortment of scene modes. Red-eye is also digitally corrected in-camera.
If you suffer from unsteady hands, Panasonic's mega OIS system balances out camera shake and keep images blur-free. We've been impressed with this system across the Lumix range.
High definition is available, with 720p HD video and stills that can be watched back in slideshows on an HD TV. These will eat the internal memory in seconds, so as always, handfuls of SDHC cards are a must for shooting with this option.
With the FX35's biggest feature being its wide-angle lens, we feared that it would show distortion. Pleasingly, we had nothing to fear. Images were soft around the edges, but straight lines did not curve.
The FX35 starts up in 2 seconds. Shot-to-shot time was equally brisk. The continuous mode would manage 6 frames per second, but only at a 2-megapixel resolution.
In low lighting conditions, the autofocus wasn't as fast as we'd like, hunting around like Elmer Fudd. Face detection was generally reliable, and did well to track faces once it had locked on. The intelligent auto exposure function didn't make much difference in our tests, but the auto scene selector was competent. Portrait mode and face detection handled human subjects well, although it could be hit and miss when we wanted a macro shot.
The battery lasted a day spent shooting more than 200 pictures, including some with flash and some short videos. We were somewhat frustrated that once the battery died, the camera would not draw power from the USB connection, so it had to be recharged before we could transfer the images.
Generally, we're resigned to the lack of manual controls on point-and-shoots, but we would like to have more control over our images to make the most of the spectacular wide-angle lens. Still, that's not a major issue: as a point-and-shoot with excellent automatic capabilities, the FX35 is magnificent. Cameras like the Fujifilm FinePix F50fd have bigger screens or more functions, but for its competent automatic ability we think the FX35 is worth every penny.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday