Panny’s really pushed the boat out with this one. Wow. Pretty much everything you would want from a cutting-edge, pocketable camera has found its way onto the DMC-FX500, from the premium metal build, to the touchscreen controls, to the hi-def video recording. This is a no-compromise product and, as such, brings with it high expectations.

Certainly it looks and feels right. That metal casing is solid and, although this isn’t a really teensy snapper like the Canon IXUS 85 IS, it’s small for the amount of tech it houses.

Innovation’s what you need

The 3in touchscreen offers some innovative ideas. It’s not so completely controlling as the screen on the Sony DSC-T300, as there’s also a small joystick and other buttons alongside it for some more traditional functions, so you’re offered the best of both worlds.

Like the DSC-T300 you’ve got the simple but clever concept of touch-focusing – just press a point on the screen where you want to focus, rather than relying on the autofocus to pick the right focal point.

Another really nice feature is the aperture and shutter-speed adjustment – when you’re in manual mode, two slider bars appear on screen, so you can easily alter the settings.

It might seem churlish to complain, but occasionally you’ll find yourself heading to the joystick to alter a setting when you should be prodding the on-screen icon, and vice versa. You’ll get used to it.

Class-leading pics

And the good news is that it takes the best photos we’ve seen from such a small camera, with very accurate colours, minimal noise throughout the ISO range and excellent flash performance. The 5x zoom Leica lens starts at a very useful 25mm-equivalent ultra-wideangle and has a maximum aperture of f2.8 for low-light shooting without flash.

The optical image stabilizer is up to Panasonic’s usual high standards, too. The lens also provides one of the few bugbears, though, by being so sluggish to zoom in and out.

The 720p hi-def video – saved as .mov files – is good for a camera, and smooth, but not as crisp and contrasty as the 720p footage from the much cheaper Samsung NV24HD.

This is a camera that tries to do everything well without bulging out your pocket, and asks you to pay a high price for its lack of compromise. It’s worth the money, but only serious snappers will want to fork out that much for a compact.


Stuff says... 

Panasonic DMC-FX500 review

It’s certainly expensive, but you get what you pay for – excellence