Panasonic has been a pioneer in putting very wide lenses into its compact cameras and has once again raised the bar with the Lumix DMC-FX35. Sporting a 4X optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalency of 25-100mm, the FX35 is designed for people who love to take wide landscape photos but don't want to spend a lot of money on their cameras. And while the 10.1-megapixel FX35 achieves that and more, its image quality is only average, making this model a very good but not great sub-$400 compact camera.
Panasonic's compact digital cameras over the last several years have maintained tasteful if somewhat dull designs. That tradition continues with the familiar-looking FX35, which combines a metallic polycarbonate body with some genuine metal accents on the chassis. Available in silver, black, and blue, the camera is on the thick side at 0.9 inches, but it fits comfortably in your pocket.
Controls and LCD Quality
Buttons and controls on the FX35 are small but manageable, though we did have some trouble with the tiny mode dial, which had a tendency to stick. The camera's 2.5-inch LCD looks big, thanks to a black glass frame around the screen that helps accentuate your photos. With 230,000 pixels of resolution, images looked sharp in playback.
Overall speed was serviceable but not super fast, with the FX35 taking a full 3 seconds to start up, extend its lens, and capture a first shot. The camera also had below-average speeds shot-to-shot but no shutter lag so long as it was prefocused.
Auto Mode, Evolved
We like Panasonic's newly expanded Intelligent Scene Selector mode, which lets the FX35 pick the appropriate scene mode based on the surrounding conditions. Most of the time, the camera guessed correctly when selecting among Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait, or Night Scenery modes. We didn't always like the results, however, especially when shooting close-ups of flowers. Though it selected Macro mode, many of our close-ups came out blurry.
The FX35's Scenery mode delivered good results, thanks to the camera's 25mm lens. It was able to capture much of the span of the George Washington Bridge with good overall sharpness. Portraits were less successful: The camera over-juiced skin tones, so they came out too red.
Motion and Video Tests
Our indoor shots of a basketball game were mostly blurry and suffered from too much image noise when shooting at ISO 800 and above. This is definitely a camera you want to shoot in optimal lighting conditions, which is disappointing, considering it features Panasonic's usually reliable MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer).
Finally, we liked the image and sound quality we got from the VGA (30 fps) Movie mode. But the focus and zoom are fixed from when you begin recording, which is limiting.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 Verdict
Panasonic crams a lot into the Lumix DMC-FX35, including an expansive zoom range that's perfect for landscape photos and an innovative Intelligent Scene Selector. However, its overall picture quality was inconsistent, keeping the FX35 from being a top pick.