While the FX75 features a 5x optical zoom at full resolution, it also has a little trick up its sleeve to push that zoom out a bit more thanks to the Venus Engine HD II processor and "Intelligent Resolution" technology. From Panasonic's FX75 press release:
With the Intelligent Resolution technology, three areas - outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation - are examined pixel by pixel and automatically detected to enhance any degradation created during the digital zoom process or in high-sensitivity shooting.
I've never been a fan of digital zooms on cameras because of their image quality, but with "Intelligent Zoom" enabled the FX75 goes out to 6.5x "with no noticeable deterioration" in image quality per Panasonic. That equates to about 156mm versus 120mm with the optical zoom. Here are two sets of shots at 5x and 6.5x.
5x Optical Zoom
6.5x Intelligent Zoom
5x Optical Zoom
6.5x Intelligent Zoom
You can decide for yourself, but I'd probably go to intelligent zoom if I needed to be just a bit "closer" on some shots. The FX75 does provide higher pure optical zoom multiplications, but at reduced resolutions.
The FX75 powers up and presents a focus point in about 2 seconds - I was able to get off a first shot in about 2.5 seconds from power up. Single shot-to-shot times ran about 2 seconds. Shutter lag was quick at less than 0.01 seconds, and AF acquisition time was also fast at 0.28 seconds. There is a focus assist lamp and the FX75 retained good AF acquisition times at telephoto in good light, and wide angle in dim light. The camera noticeably slowed at telephoto in dim light. There is an AF tracking option that allows you to designate a focus and exposure point on a subject in the frame via the touch screen - as long as the subject remains in the frame the focus icon will follow them if they or the camera move.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75
|Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS||0.01|
|Fujifilm FinePix JZ500
|Nikon Coolpix S8000||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Nikon Coolpix S8000||0.26|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75||0.28|
|Fujifilm FinePix JZ500||0.38|
|Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS||0.57|
|Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS||∞||3.3 fps
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75||3||1.8 fps
|Fujifilm FinePix JZ500||3||1.4 fps
|Nikon Coolpix S8000||10||1.2 fps
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Continuous shooting in burst mode produced three shots at a 1.8 fps rate. You can get five shots if you drop image quality while retaining resolution, and there are faster rates in the high speed burst mode of the scene menu but at dramatically lowered resolution. There's about a 1 second blackout of the monitor after the first shot in continuous shooting mode; the blackout period is briefer with high speed burst.
The FX75's Power O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) system moves the lens to compensate for camera shake. There are two modes in addition to an auto mode that selects one or the other: mode 1 offers continuous stabilization while mode 2 stabilizes when you push the shutter button.
The camera also offers "motion deblur" which "is a comprehensive integration of Intelligent ISO Control which automatically adjusts ISO setting and shutter speed according to the subject's movement and the advanced contrast control system of Intelligent Exposure that also optimizes the exposure to prevent over/under exposure part in a picture."
I'm not a big fan of "stabilization" systems that ramp up ISOs to get faster shutter speeds as part of the quest for sharper images. With their physically small sensors, compact digitals generally don't have a lot of leeway for increasing ISO sensitivity before noise starts to enter the picture, so that makes such options my last resort. Here's a shot in dim conditions, no flash, with motion deblur on and off. ISO with it on was 5000 (and reduced resolution) - without was 1600 and full resolution.
Motion Deblur On
Motion Deblur Off
I'd shoot the FX75 with the O.I.S. enabled and save motion deblur for "when all else fails."
Panasonic rates the FX75 flash range as about 2 feet to 7 feet at wide angle, and 3.28 feet to 9.18 feet at telephoto with auto ISO. At the camera's base ISO of 80 range drops considerably - 2 to about 5.25 feet at telephoto and Panasonic recommends 4x as the maximum telephoto for flash with both 80 or 100 ISO as "pictures recorded with tele may be darker than normal." It's the maximum aperture of the FX75 lens at telephoto that's largely the culprit - while the lens is a fast f/2.2 at wide angle, it's a slow f/5.9 at telephoto. The auto ISO setting the camera uses for that 9 foot telephoto range is 1600, and we've already seen what that looks like, at least without flash.
Battery life for the FX75 is rated 360 shots according to a CIPA standard of 73 degrees, auto optical stabilization, flash every other shot, zooming to the other end of the focal range for each successive shot and resting the battery after every 10 shots.
The FX75's Panasonic-built Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens was a decent performer at wide angle, with fairly even light distribution across the frame, some softness in the corners and a bit more barrel distortion than I've seen with Panasonics equipped with Vario-Elmar lenses. Telephoto (5x) was a bit better in corner sharpness than at wide angle, and had a slight bit of pincushion distortion.
Intelligent zoom (6.5x) looked a bit softer in the corners than tele and had about the same degree of pincushion. Chromic aberration (purple fringing) was visible in an admittedly worst-case scenario type of shot at 100% enlargement at wide angle; at telephoto and intelligent zoom the effect was much more muted and difficult to find.
Minimum focus can be as little as 1.18 inches in macro mode, and the FX75 briefly displays a handy scale to let you know the focus range at any particular focal length.
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