Announced in July 2009, Panasonic's Lumix FP8 would at first seem to be just another 5x zoom packing 12 megapixels on a 1/2.33 inch sensor. Sometimes looks can be deceiving - the Lumix FP8 doesn't even make 5x, coming in at 4.6x and a 28 to 128mm focal range (35mm equivalent).
One thing you'll look for but never see on the FP8 is the lens extend or retract as you zoom it from one end to the other - in fact you won't see it protrude from the body at all. The FP8's foldable optics Leica DC lens sits comfortably behind a clear screen at the right front of the camera body.
More importantly, Panasonic touts the FP8 as having "high-speed 0.95-second start-ups, AF speeds of approximately 0.3 second, and up to five consecutive shots at 2.3 frames per second with full resolution." They forgot to mention really quick shutter lag times also.
The Panasonic Lumix FP8 is the fastest auto-focusing compact digital I've reviewed, and it manages this distinction across the entire range of focal lengths in good light. I did shoot the FP8 under dim light and the camera looks merely average there, but in open shade or under both overcast and clear skies the camera's AF system goes like blazes. Shutter lag is quick as well - the FP8 takes the shot when you tell it to.
Image quality looks good, on a par with the class competition. Noise performance appears comparable to the other guys as well.
More on the way
There's a lot of shooting yet to come for the FP8 before the full verdict can be rendered, but so far the camera's speed to focus and shoot has proven an enjoyable upgrade from performance levels usually encountered in this class of camera.