Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 Digital Camera Review$399.99
The thing we love about the FX580 is its slew of manual controls, especially in terms of shooting modes. In addition to program mode, there's aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting modes.
Auto Mode Features
There is no shortage of focus modes on the FX580. One of the cool features of a touch screen is the ability to tap anywhere on the LCD and have the camera focus on that point. If you want to cancel out of this focus mode, there's an appropriate button on the bottom right of the screen.
If you don't use face detection, then the focus can be set to 11-area-focusing (full frame), 1-area-focusing (center), or spot-focusing. 1-area-focusing can also be put into a high speed mode, which is meant to make focusing a bit faster, though we didn't find it too slow regardless.
With face recognition turned on, faces can be saved, with a name and birth date attached, and the camera will try and identify them. However, over the course of this review we couldn't get this function working quite right. Consider it a work in progress.
Evaluative, center weighted, or spot, plus if you touch on the screen to focus on an area, it will meter from there too.
The only timers available are the standard 10 and 2 second affairs.
Of course in addition to this is intelligent auto (where it guesses the scene mode), scene mode, my scene mode, and motion picture. My scene mode is just a shortcut to a scene mode that you've set as your favorite. Then there are 26 different scene modes, a few of which are worth discussing. Soft skin is part of a growing trend in cameras, whereby they digitally smear over your skin in an odd attempt to beautify you. Transform either stretches or squishes the image, and is all but useless. Panorama mode helps you line up pictures for a panorama, but still requires an outside program to stitch them together. Baby1 and Baby2 modes are identical, they just let you save details about a different child in each (age and name), which is then imprinted on the image. There are also two artistic filters: pin hole and film grain.
From the scene modes menu, you can add a pinhole lighting effect, or film grain to the image. The color effect menu changes the image to black and white, sepia, cool or warm. Finally, the image can be adjusted for contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction over five levels each.
Panasonic knows the way to this reviewer's heart is through manual controls. They've taken many of the exposure controls normally seen in SLRs, and tucked them into the FX580. The exposure compensation range runs ±2 EV in 1/3 EV steps, but in addition to that you can auto bracket three shots in 1/3, 2/3, or 1 EV steps. There's also color bracketing which takes the photo in normal, black and white and sepia. Finally, flash exposure compensation runs ±2 EV in 1/3 steps.
The presets on the camera run through some of the usual suspects: daylight, cloud, shade and tungsten. Strangely lacking is any sort of fluorescent preset. However, in the camera's favor, it also offers auto white balance, custom white balance, and the ability to manually enter the kelvin value of a light setup. Not only that, but any of the settings or presets can then be tweaked along the green/magenta and amber/blue axes, allowing you to fine tune them. This is something we almost never see in point-and-shoot cameras. One black mark against the camera is that its auto white balance seemed to have difficulty properly accounting for common light sources.
The maximum aperture is a speedy f/2.8, which is just about as good as you'll get on a point-and-shoot. However, the smallest aperture is only f/8, so you won't be able to get an incredibly wide depth of focus. Thanks to the manual and aperture priority shooting modes, the aperture is completely controllable, a flexibility we heartily appreciate.
The shutter speed can be manually set in manual and shutter priority modes, from 1/2000 to 8 seconds. Starry sky mode also allows settings of 15, 30 or 60 seconds.
At full resolution, the camera took two photos very quickly, then slowed down vastly, averaging only 0.4 fps over the five shots we take. However, in hi speed burst scene mode, you prioritize speed (10fps) or image quality (6fps) with 3M images.
Shot to Shot ()
The overall speed of 0.4fps over a five-shot sequence was substantially behind the other cameras.