The middle and higher end of the compact camera market is highly dependent on features for sales.
Every manufacturer attempts to score by introducing a battery of new models with eye popping features. Panasonic’s Lumix FX78 is part of this attempt and seeks to attract the stylish and fashion conscious amongst users.
Design & Build Quality
The tried and tested design of the FX series features again in the FX78. It is an appealing design finished to a very high standard and available in silver, black, white and pink finishes. For a camera weighing 142 g, build quality is good. The 3.5-inch LCD which occupies almost the entire back plate is, however, vulnerable. At 99.7 x 55.2 x 20.6mm, the FX78 is one of the smaller cameras around.
Panasonic has filled the FX78 with a whole range of features. The 1/2.33-inch Type CCD sensor (6.13 x 4.6mm) boasts 12.1 MP effective pixels. The Leica DC Vario-Summarit lens has a very useful focal range of 24-120mm (f2.5-5.9) in 35mm parlance. Focusing options include face detection, AF tracking, 23-point AF, 1-point AF, Spot and Touch-area Focusing. Exposure options, however, are limited to Program mode. However, exposure compensation up to ± 2EV is available. Shutter speeds range from. 8 seconds – 1/4000 seconds. The intelligent scene selector options automatically selects from six scene modes to best suit the situation in both photo and movie mode. Panasonic’s intelligent Auto mode also applies back light correction when necessary. The FX78 is equipped with Mega Optical Image Stabilization, the weaker version of Panasonic’s power OIS. High speed consecutive shooting at 3.7 frame per second (at 12 MP) is possible.
The 3.5-inch LCD features full touch screen control and comprises of 230,000 dots. ISO speeds can be set to Auto, Intelligent ISO or manually set between ISO 100-1600. In high sensitivity mode, this can be stretched to ISO 6400. All the usual White Balance options are available.
In the movie mode, the FX78 can shoot in Full High Definition. Sound recording is however, only in mono.
Other features include built in memory of 70 MB, optical red eye correction and aspect ratio of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1. The battery supplied is good for 200 pictures.
Significantly, Panasonic emphasize the ‘Beauty Retouch’ function of the FX78. Using this function, images can be retouched to make them look more ‘beautiful’. An ‘art retouch’ function helps to change brightness and color levels.
The FX78 does not feature RAW, has no manual controls and no White Balance compensation. Clearly, it is aimed at the ‘AUTO all’ brigade which buys a camera for looks and ease of operation.
The FX78 is a tad too small. What makes it worse is the 3.5-inch LCD that effectively covers the whole back plate. Expect the LCD to be smudged instantly. The camera also does not feature a hand grip and is therefore difficult to hold securely especially for someone with large hands.
The performance of the FX78 has to be seen in the light of the fact that the camera is an all auto camera with hardly any manual operations. In line with most Lumix cameras, the FX78’s trump card is its lens which produced sharp pictures with natural color rendition. There was some darkness, however, at corners at full aperture. Barrel distortion was also visible. Nevertheless, chromatic aberration was very well controlled and overall, the Leica lens performed admirably.
Auto White Balance performed very well with only a slight cast being seen in the shade and incandescent options. Digital noise does creep into the camera and manifest itself in the form of lower contrast. Noise reduction kicks in very strongly after ISO 200 and images at ISO 600 were comparatively soft. At 25 percent screen size, no noise was visible till ISO 400.
The Macro performance of the camera was extremely average; the possible reason being that the camera only shoots in auto mode. The ‘Beauty retouch’ function has been emphasized a lot by Panasonic. We tried this out with several subjects and found that it works well only if applied in moderation.
In performance terms, there are several other better cameras in the Panasonic range. The FX78 would be categorized as just about average if it were rated on its own.
Value For Money
The Panasonic Lumix FX78 is available at an MRP of Rs.22,990. Considering that this is an all-auto camera, the pricing seems to be a little high.
+ 3.5-inch LCD
+ Sharp Optics
+ Attractive Design
– Macro performance
– No manual override
Design and Build Quality 17.5/20
Key Features 15.5/20
Noise Control 3/5
Extra Features 2/5
Value for Money 6/10
Grand Total 73.5/100
Before we dismiss the FX78, it is essential to understand the market it is aimed at. For users who want an all-auto camera and for the fairer sex, it is an attractive option. For others, there are several other better cameras in the Panasonic range.
H. S. Billimoria