DigitalCameraReview.com is awarding our first ever Editor's Choice recognition for the month of March 2008. Our Editor's Choice picks will provide a monthly recap of what we, the staff of DCR, think are the most innovative or impressive pieces of new tech from among the cameras and equipment we review. Check back at the end of each month for our latest selection. – Ed.
As happens most every month around here, we've reviewed some great cameras in March: the Canon SD1100 (largely) cleared the very high bar set by its predecessor, the Pentax K20D offered lots of power at a great price, and it's hard to imagine full-function cameras getting much smaller than the Casio Exilim EX-S10. Making an inaugural Editor's Choice pick in this field was no small feat.
When it came down to the final selection, however, the one camera that seemed to do just about everything right – functionally as well as stylistically – was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35. The 10.1 megapixel compact with a wide 4x optical zoom impressed us with speedy performance, vibrant color, and essentially flaw-free performance from its 25mm-equivalent wide-angle lens.
FX35 reviewer J. Keenan was repeatedly impressed with the camera's intuitiveness, providing straightforward access to common adjustments and auto-mode performance that makes the FX35's relative lack of exposure controls that much easier to live with – even for more serious photographers. Auto white balance gracefully handles a variety of lighting situations, and with high-sensitivity noise that holds together very well through ISO 800 and looks on par with its competitors at ISO 1600, the FX35 isn't marred by disappointing low light abilities either.
Panasonic highly touts the FX35's wide-angle capabilities, and it is unique (if only by a little bit) in the range of its relatively fast lens. Combine this flexibility with very good color reproduction and sharpness and you've got a winner for grabbing quick, creative shots.
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While the lens opens up possibilities unavailable to many other small cameras, J. Keenan was quick to point out that there's more to this lens than its wide end, and more to the FX35 than its lens:
"The Panasonic's lens separates itself from the crowd with largely distortion free performance, and the camera itself produces excellent image and color quality with ISO performance that looks to be typical for cameras in the class. Add to that good shutter response and decent flash recycle times, and you've got a camera that can more than stand on its own, 25mm lens or not."
For our complete take on how the FX35 performs, take a look at the full review.
There's been some discussion of late about whether the recently announced, similarly speced FX500 touch screen model is gearing up to make the FX35 old news. While the allure of a touch screen may draw away some gadget savvy general consumers, we're betting there are plenty of "touch screen agnostics" out there who will take advantage of the slightly lower street prices that the FX500's introduction may bring about to get on board with the FX35.
Overall, it's been a while since we've reviewed an ultracompact that came up with this few asterisks in the image quality and performance categories. As a camera that makes astoundingly few compromises in the interest of size but still looks stylish doing it, the Lumix FX35 is a great choice and our March favorite.