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Panasonic Lumix FS7 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 09/11/2009
Rating: Highly Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
Buy Now: Get the Best Price

Introduction: Announced on the 7th of January 2009, the Panasonic Lumix FS7 is one of Panasonic's cheapest compact cameras with optical image stabilisation. It features a 4x optical zoom lens, a 2.7" screen, a Leica branded lens, and promises 360 shot battery life. The Panasonic Lumix FS7 is available from around £115 which makes it excellent value for money. The compact camera is enclosed in a metal effect body and is available in black, silver or pink. The camera measures approx. 97.0 x 54.4 x 21.7 mm, and weighs approx. 117g. excluding battery and memory card.

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"Compact Digital Camera FS7 - Colourful designs with a playful, fashionable look. Cameras that are easy to carry, easy to use, and easy to enjoy. Just press the iA button, aim and shoot. The camera does all the rest, automatically adjusting to the shooting conditions and helping to correct blurring, focus, and brightness problems. iA Mode includes MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) to compensate for hand-shake, Intelligent ISO Control to detect subject movement, Face Detection AF/AE to focus on faces in the frame and remove unwanted red-eye, and Intelligent Scene Selector to select the optimal scene mode automatically for you."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus EVOLT E-500)

Front view - camera off.

Front view - camera on, flash, LED illuminator, lens.

Top: speaker, microphone, power, shutter release, zoom, side: lens strap loop, USB socket.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.

Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • Sensor: 10.1 Megapixels 1/2.5-inch CCD Sensor
  • Lens: 3x Leica lens, Equivalent to 33 - 132mm
  • Screen: 2.7-inch LCD screen, 230,000 pixels
  • Face detection: Yes
  • Colour modes: Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm
  • Video Recording: [4:3] VGA: 640 x 480 pixels, 30fps, QVGA: 320 x 240 pixels, 30 fps, [16:9] WVGA: 848 x 480 pixels, 30 fps all Motion JPEG
  • Continuous Shooting: Full-Resolution Image, 2.3 frames/sec Max. 5 images (Standard mode), Max 3 images (Fine Mode) / High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 6 frames/sec (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9)
  • HD Output : No
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes (Digital)
  • Macro: 5cm Macro mode
  • ISO : Auto / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 High Sensitivity (ISO 1600-6400)
  • IS (Image Stabilisation): Yes - MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer
  • Scenes: Mode button: Intelligent AUTO, Normal Picture, MySCN, SCN, Motion Picture, Scenes: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, / Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, / Hi-Speed Burst, Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, / Aerial photo, Film Grain, Photo Frame
  • Histogram available: No
  • Exposure bracketing: Yes '+/- 1/3 EV ~1EV step, 3 frames
  • Orientation sensor: Yes
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: Yes

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera DMC-FS7
  • Li-ion battery DMW-BCF10E
  • Battery charger DE-A60
  • Strap
  • USB Cable
  • AV Cable
  • Software CD ROM
  • Owner's manual - 111 pages

Average box contents - The camera has a fairly large built in memory (50mb) however this will only let you take about 9 pictures at highest quality so the first thing you'll want to buy is a large memory card. Getting a case is also highly recommended.

Menu system: The menu system is easy to use, logical, well layed out and easy to see thanks to the clear 2.5" screen. The camera has a "Quick Menu" button on the back that gived you quick access to all the most commonly used options whilst taking photos (such as burst mode, iso, white balance, image size etc), and then the Menu can be accessed when additional settings need changing such as setting manual white balance, digital zoom, colour mode, aspect ratio, etc. The playback menu gives all the usual options such as a slideshow, and lets you edit the photo title, or put a text stamp on the photo. An explanation of the scene modes can be viewed by pressing the Display / Info button.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (10m, 7m, 5m, 3m, 2m, VGA), aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 at 9m, 6m, 4.5m, and 2.5m, 16:9 at 7.5m, 5.5m, 3.5m, and 2m), and compression (Fine, Normal). Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, aspect ratios, and compression options.

Bottom - Battery (DMW-BCF10E, 3.6v, 940mAh) and SD memory card slot, metal tripod mount.

Battery usage: Battery life is rated at approx 360 shots with the supplied battery. I managed to take well over 200 shots and before the battery went flat. This seems quite good for a compact camera, although not excellent, when compared to the excellent Fujifilm FinePix F30 that gave around 580 shots with one charge.

Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 1gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can SD or SDHC memory cards - I tend to use Sandisk Ultra II Plus USB SD memory cards as these let you plug the memory card straight into a USB socket making it easy to transfer images onto any computer, they are available as 1GB SD, or 2GB SD cards and 4GB SDHC cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix FS7:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 2gb (2000mb): £5, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £7, 8gb (8000mb SDHC): £13, 16gb (16000mb SDHC): £29
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera switches on and is ready to take a photo in 2.5 seconds. Focusing normally takes under half a second, and in reduced light, focusing was still good thanks to the focus assist lamp. The camera shutter response when pre-focused was less than a tenth of a second and shot to shot time was around 1.5 seconds. In continuous mode I measured a delay of around 0.4 to 0.5 seconds between shots (slightly quicker than 2fps) using an SD card, and was able to take 3 shots in a row. The camera also features an unlimited continuous shooting mode that takes a photo every 0.8 seconds until the memory card is full. Further high speed modes are available in the scene menu, the first one being a high speed burst mode that takes 3mp photos at 5fps, taking around 50 photos before slowing down. The second one is a flash burst mode that will take 5 photos in a row with flash, with a delay of 0.8 seconds between shots, again at 3mp. The cameras menus and zooming seem responsive and reviewing photos is quick. Moving around the different menu options is quite easy and quick. Playback mode is very quick.

Back - 2.7" screen, Mode button, Play / photo switch, 4-way controller, with middle Menu / Set button, display and quick menu buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, with a logical menu system, and easy to access features. The camera has a number of modes such as "intelligent AUTO" and numerous scene modes so that you should be able to get good shots. The face detection focus can help capture photos of people and will automatically expose the photo so they subjects face is correctly exposed. The controls on the back of the camera are straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the mode button. The menus are responsive and are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus using the zoomed review mode. The screen is very clear, and features a bright mode so that it can also be used in bright sunlight. The camera is mostly point and shoot so should be very easy to use.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with all button and controls reachable with your right hand. The zoom control and shutter release is very good. The normal mode dial has been replaced by a mode button, which is a shame, as I prefer having a mode dial, but it still works well.The quick menu button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt very good for a compact budget camera, although there is very little in the way of a hand grip at the front of the camera and I would recommend the use of the wrist strap. The camera feels well made, and quite robust. The camera is quite easy to hold despite the small size, fits very easily into pockets, and looks good, with a premium styled body available in a number of colours. The on / off and play / photo switches both felt very pleasing when used, and should mean that you don't accidentally switch the camera on in your pocket. The tripod mount is made out of metal, but is positioned right at the edge of the camera which could cause problems.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Panasonic Lumix FS7 Sample Photo Gallery!


Heather and Flower (ISO80) Flash photo (ISO100)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, and there is little red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low (often defaulting to ISO100 when the flash was on), noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, although struggled in very dark situations. There is an LED illuminator that helps focus in low light.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels Auto / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 and High Sensitivity (ISO 1600-6400) at 3mp.

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 10 megapixel Canon Powershot A2000 IS and Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR.

Canon Powershot A2000 IS (10mp) Panasonic Lumix FS7 (10mp) Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR (10mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot A2000 IS on the left, Panasonic Lumix FS7 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Canon Powershot A2000 IS (10mp) Panasonic Lumix FS7 (10mp) Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR (10mp)
ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - N/A
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels (Manual mode*)
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels (Manual mode*)
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels 1/4
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (2mp) ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (3mp) ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (5mp)

Noise results: The Panasonic Lumix FS7 puts in an impressive performance with lots of detail, lots of colour, even at the higher ISO settings, and slightly less noise that the other cameras here. *Manual mode used, as the slowest shutter available in AUTO mode is 1/4 second.

Image Stabilisation: The camera features real image stabilisation, in the form of optical image stabilisation. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. With image stabilisation switched on the images are more likely to be sharper and clearer, and is more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. It's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras, and I would highly recommend you make sure your camera features real image stabilisation.


Liverpool shops (ISO80) Manchester (ISO80)

Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours on default settings. There was very good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside, with good contrast, and low chromatic aberrations. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrast benefit from use of the highest quality setting.

Zoom: This lens provides a 4x optical zoom starting at 33mm zooming to 132mm (35mm equivalent) allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. Digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided.

Wide-angle 4x Optical Zoom Full Optical and Digital Zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas although some areas are over-exposed - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation to help preserve detail in bright skies. The camera may benefit from some kind of Extended Dynamic Range mode.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quiet in operation and there are 19 steps between wide angle and full zoom, this gives you good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was low.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO100)

The closest the camera lens can get to the subject when taking macro photos is 5cm. Colour and detail are very good, however it's worth trying to keep the ISO setting low for maximum detail.

Video mode: The camera has three video modes WVGA, VGA, and QVGA, all at 30fps. The videos are recorded with sound as MOV files. It's not obvious whether image stabilisation is in effect when using the video mode. The optical zoom can not be used while recording and sound is recorded at all times.


Image Quality: Image quality is very good - with excellent colour, and high levels of saturation, contrast and detail. Noise levels were average, with results good at ISO400 or below and prints made from this camera looked excellent, with very good detail. There was some red eye in group photos, and purple fringing was rarely seen. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time, even indoors, thanks to the focus assist lamp. There was no noticeable vignetting (darkened corners) despite the wide angle lens, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion in photos. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratios, and a good choice of compression options. Auto white balance, metering and exposure seemed to be very good, and manual white balance can help with photography in artificial lighting. Optical image stabilisation helped keep shots blur / shake free in low light helping the camera get a higher shot success rate than cameras without. The camera has a good video mode (better than VGA). (8.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera has a compact and stylish body, available in a number of colours. The camera feels very well built, with pleasing switches, and is fairly comfortable to hold. It features things you may not need such as face detection, intelligent Auto, but it turns out that these can be useful features. The camera has a good 2.5" screen that works well even in the sun. The camera is easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, and clever auto modes, and provides quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is very good. The camera speed is good, with an average switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and quick continuous shooting mode, and a quick flash recharge time. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit most people, such as face detection focus, red-eye reduction, numerous scene modes, excellent video mode, very good macro mode, an ultra wide angle 4x optical zoom (33mm - 132mm) lens with image stabilisation, manual white balance and numerous photo options etc. The camera even has decent battery life for a compact camera. (9/10)

Value for Money: The Panasonic Lumix FS7 from around £115 is excellent value for money - and is cheaper than similar compact cameras from Sony and Canon. Others to look at include the Panasonic Lumix FS15 with 12 megapixels, 29mm wide angle 5x optical zoom lens and 2.7" screen for £125, Sony Cybershot W220 (£127 - although needs more expensive Sony Memory Cards), and the Canon Digital IXUS 95 IS (£137), IXUS 100 IS (£166) and the rest of the IXUS range. (9.5/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Panasonic Lumix FS7 arrived at the same time as the more expensive Sony Cybershot W220 - and the difference in quality was obvious at first sight. The Panasonic's ultra compact body looks expensive, yet is cheaper than the competition. It's image quality is very good with great detail, colour, and an impressive success rate - I struggled to find a poor shot out of the hundreds of photos I took. Noise is low, and there is very little to fault - perhaps a few extra features would be nice - such as panoramic mode, and maybe an extended dynamic range mode. But it's the core features that Panasonic seem to get right, time and time again, a great 4x optical zoom Leica lens, a clear crisp colourful 2.7" screen, and an easy to use and snappy performing menu system and controls makes this a Highly Recommended camera, especially when the price is so compelling!

Panasonic Lumix FS7 Rating: Recommended (9/10)
Available for £115 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Very easy to use
  • Very good image quality - good detail, great colour
  • Great value for money
  • Looks expensive, stylish metal effect design
  • Ultra compact, good build quality and switches
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • Good Leica lens with 4x optical zoom
  • Bright colourful screen with high-angle view
  • Better than average battery life for a compact (promises 360 shots)
  • Very good shot success rate
  • Focus assist lamp

What I don't like:

  • Would be nice if it featured a Dynamic Range expanding mode
  • I prefer mode dials, rather than a mode button
  • HD video would be nice
  • No panoramic mode

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix FS7 Sample Photo Gallery.

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