Good looks, good performance and some fun modes from this snapper
The latest fad among technology manufacturers is for touch-sensitive screens. It's all very well if the screen provided is big and responsive, but for every product with a great touch-screen, such as the iPad, there's a mediocre one.
Fortunately the 3.5in screen on the back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX77 camera is both large for a camera and responsive. Though it looks like a conventional rectangular-shaped snapper from the front, there are no physical controls on the back plate – the screen takes up the entire rear panel of the camera.
The screen is in the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, the same as a flat panel TV, so it's good for video viewing (see below) but still images are shaped differently so they don't take up the whole screen. The large screen also means there is no viewfinder, so the screen must be used to compose images too.
On the top of the cameras there is a standard shutter button for taking pictures, though alternatively the screen can be tapped with a finger to take a shot. There is also a switch to control the 5x optical zoom lens (equivalent to a 24-120mm lens on an old 35mm film camera). The zoom too can be controlled by sweeping a finger in a semi-circular motion around the right-hand side of the screen.
It takes 12-megapixel still images and can shoot video in the highest 1080p high-definition resolution. As well as the expected modes for different environments (such as snow, fireworks, portraits and so on) there is the Panasonic ‘Intelligent Auto' that will pick the best settings for the scene you are shooting.
It took around two seconds to power up, ready to take a shot. The FX77's on-screen buttons were large enough to allow them to be selected with a finger tap without hitting adjacent keys, but the screen did inevitably become smeared with fingerprints. The resolution of the screen could have been higher to make for a clearer view.
It has a couple of special features such as the 3D photo mode which prompts you to swivel in a narrow arc and automatically takes a sequence of 20 shots, then stitches them together to make a three-dimensional image, though viewing this requires a 3D-enabled TV or computer.
The colour modes are also fun, changing photos to look like ‘pop art', silhouette and pinhole camera shots, and more. These are well presented on screen, four at a time.
Though sometimes the FX77's automatic white balance was a little off, giving things a strange cast that needed to be adjusted on the computer, we were generally very pleased with the colourful, sharply focused shots. The brighter-than-average f/2.5 aperture lens allowed noise-free images up to a rating of ISO 1600.
This camera looks the part, and for those wanting both style and substance it's a winner.
Read more reviews
A fun 3D mode and good colour filters to lift snaps beyond the average – and though it's not cheap, it's good value
Large, responsive touch-screen; small but sturdy; fun 3D mode and colour filter selection; bright lens provides better results in lower light without using the flash
Slight premium for touchscreen and slender dimensions; if you find touchscreens fiddly, avoid it; white balance occasionally off in daylight setting
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