The FX75 is just one of the latest arrivals to Panasonic's Lumix digital camera line - a 14.1 megapixel, 5x optical zoom compact that at a quick glance might be mistaken for any of fourteen other similarly shaped and sized models. Ah, but the FX75 is the one with the fast f/2.2 maximum aperture at the 24mm wide end of that zoom, and full touch screen operation.
There's also the usual mix of compact digital features - auto shooting and scene modes, face recognition and detection, stabilization, 720p HD video in either AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG formats and a couple of Panasonic-specific touches, "happy" and "cosmetic" modes. Control freaks need not apply, however - no manual controls for the FX75.
I'm happy about image quality based on a quick first shoot. Color reproduction and image quality look good shooting in the "normal picture" mode that allows me to set ISO sensitivity.
The 24mm is wider than most compacts offering good coverage in close quarters; at the same time the fast maximum aperture is a help in shooting without flash in dimmer conditions.
AF acquisition times seem fairly quick at both wide and telephoto in good to moderately overcast light, and shutter lag seems quick as well. But let's face it, most of you aren't here because of the fast wide angle - the full touch operation is the major drawing point to the FX75.
Here's a quick tour of touch screen operations: the camera body control layout redefines simplicity - on/off, zoom/shutter and motion picture buttons atop the camera body with record/playback, mode and menu buttons on the back. Power up the FX75 and you'll get a screen like this:
Push the menu button and you'll get a specific menu based on the camera being in record or playback mode at the time. Here's the first page of the record menu - the icons in the lower left of the screen allow you to select menus for still images, movies or camera setup, and this screen is set for stills.
The mode button operates in similar fashion - here's the record screen.
You can set the AF focus point on the screen simply by touching the screen in the location you want - to move from the image on the left below to the one on the right all I did was touch the screen where the point is located in the second image.
Panasonic's press release calls the touch screen operation "fluid and smooth" in either record or playback mode, and based on my brief time with it that claim certainly seems on target for the record mode. I was prepared to encounter a system that was convoluted or gimmicky, but the FX75 has proven anything but so far. Once you push the control buttons for either menu or mode the ongoing process is very intuitive.
One potential dark cloud on the horizon might be the cumulative effect of so many fingerprints on the LCD screen that is also used for image composition and capture. Monitors are traditionally difficult to use in some outdoor lighting conditions and smears from fingerprints won't do anything to make this better. Panasonic includes a half-dollar sized stylus to take the finger(s) out of play with the screen, but the natural inclination is to go direct with the finger. Plan to take a lens cloth along to wipe the monitor when things get messy.
Full review soon
The initial verdict on the FX75 is two thumbs up for the images and interface based on one afternoon's shoot. Will the warm and fuzzy feelings still be around when the last capture is on the card? That answer will be found in our complete review which will appear down the road a bit.