Can't afford a Panasonic LX3? Try this one instead
Panasonic’s FS series cameras are designed to appeal to those looking for an easy-to-use but stylish ultra-compact. The FS7 is a mid-range model in the series, featuring a 10.0-megapixel CCD sensor, 4x optical zoom Leica lens and a 2.7in wide-view LCD monitor
The FS7 features 10MP, has a strong all-metal body finished in an attractive brushed texture, and is available in black, pink or silver. It is a very small and lightweight camera, measuring 97 x 54.4 x 21.7 mm and weighing just 139g including battery and SD card.
Although the FS7 is a simple camera it isn’t short on useful features including optical image stabilisation. The 2.7in monitor has a very wide viewing angle and automatic brightness adjustment, and is easy to see even in bright sunlight. The 4x zoom lens bears the Leica brand name, and has a zoom range equivalent to 33-132mm.
The FS7 has two menu systems: a quick menu that allows rapid adjustment of commonly-used shooting settings, and a main menu that has the same options plus colour mode and digital zoom. The menus are clear and easy to read, and the controls are quick and responsive.
The control layout is very simple, and although the buttons are quite small they are clearly labelled and easy to operate. Despite its small size the camera handles well and feels comfortable and secure in the hand. The zoom control is especially nice, with a progressive action that makes it easy to precisely frame shots.
The FS7 starts up in a little over two seconds, and shuts down again in about the same. Shot-to-shot time in single shot mode is about average for its class at two seconds, but in continuous shooting mode it can manage an average of 1.35 shots per second, which is pretty quick. It also has a three-shot burst mode which is faster still at 2fps.
The autofocus works well in almost all lighting conditions. Low light performance is especially good, with an AF assist lamp helping it to focus even in total darkness.
Overall image quality is excellent. Exposure, colour reproduction and auto white balance are all reliably accurate. The lens is superb, with excellent sharpness and virtually no distortion at any focal length. The level of detail is about average for a good 10MP camera, with no compression artefacts. Average file size is around 4.5MB, and a 1GB memory card provides enough space for approximately 200 shots.
The FS7 has outstanding noise control, producing extremely high quality results up to 800 ISO. At 1600 ISO there is some loss of detail due to noise reduction, but exposure and colour balance remain accurate at all ISO settings.
The Panasonic FS7 offers superb build quality, stylish and ergonomic design, ease of use and quick performance, combined with excellent image quality. If you are looking for a sub-£200 ultra-compact, then it is worthy of serious consideration.