Everywhere you go, there are options coming out of your ears. For example, when you go to delete a photo in playback mode, you get the options to delete one image, a selection of images or all images. Contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction can all be tweaked.
Our only reservation about the controls is that the touchscreen and the joystick sometimes compete with one another, as some features are adjusted onscreen and others with buttons and joystick. But the more familiar we got with the camera, the less of an issue this became.
One other feature worthy of note is the 60-second long shutter option for interesting night shooting.
The Lumix range features some excellent lenses and the FX500 is no exception. The Leica-developed lens delivers really crisp images corner-to-corner with no trace of barrel distortion despite the width of the frame. Purple fringing is also kept under control very well.
The only image quality issue we have with the FX500 is that when it comes to noise control, the sensor isn't quite up to the high standard of the lens and the feature set. It's not bad: it just doesn't stand out from the compact crowd as much as it does in other areas. The price of a small sensor, especially when it's a high resolution sensor, is that more noise shows up. There's evidence of noise at ISO 200 with 400 and 800 showing sharp dips in quality and 1600 essentially unusable. The less said about the 3-megapixel, ISO 6,400 mode the better.
Still, images are fine for Web sharing and prints. Delving into the menus pays dividends as the ISO speed can be limited to a specified maximum and noise reduction can be tweaked to avoid smearing of detail. Playing about with the manual exposure controls, especially when using the long shutter, can also lead to some great night shots.
If looks are the most important criteria in your decision, the rather plain FX500 can't hold a candle to the comely likes of the Canon Digital IXUS 90 IS. But in just about every other area, the FX500 knocks its competitors into a cocked hat. The Casio Exilim EX-Z200 is another wide-angle option, but you really can't go wrong with the excellent FX500.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday