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Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX07
Roughly about a year and half ago I started to hear about a “new” trend coming out of Japan. People were reviving their old sub seven-megapixel CCD sensor digital cameras, coined “digicams”. This got me thinking, and the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX07 is the camera which I had handy and was brought out of retirement.
Trends come and go. The digicam trend is still a bit of a slow burner but is gaining momentum. Partly because film has gotten so expensive. Quite a few film shooters are trying this out with the expectation that the small CCD sensors gives a film type look. But I personally think it is because they are fun. Digicams allow you to shoot with gay abandon and at the same time challenge you to get a good result due to their limitations.
The FX07 is part of what seems like thousands of different LUMIX digital compact models Panasonic had and still produces. They are well regarded, especially the models which sport a Leica designed lens. Many of them fit into a pocket, so they are quite small, and have so much functionality which requires a thick instruction manual. Ironically, the printed manuals are many times bigger than the camera itself.
Mine was a family camera, so when I looked back into my photo catalogue, I mainly found thousands of photos of my children as they grew up. Fantastic for me, it did exactly what I had got it for. Not much in terms of photography for photography’s sake, as I used my “serious” camera for that, the DLSR. For that purpose, this little camera is perfect, always available, and ready to shoot in an instant.
Rather than inflict my family photos on you, I took the LUMIX DMC-FX07 out with a purpose of shooting it with a less personal nature and to put it through its paces. I must admit, I have done that while quickly filling out a new branch of my camera collection. Digicams now have a corner of the room to themselves.
Being restricted to only JPEG files takes a bit of getting used to, but also causes a bit of thought to be put into a photo. While shooting photos of my kids or general travel I, or when it was used by the rest of the family, it never got in the way. It was set to auto and fired away.
That is something I believe is important, they were designed to be automatic, not something with too many manual controls. Lots and lots of options, but you really must give into the automation of it. For instance, instead of working out depth of field you select scenes. While many of the scene selections are not to my taste, I did try them. I also set it onto Black and White mode when that mood took me, rather than shoot colour and convert.
So, from general family camera to take-with-me-shooter many years later. A bit about the camera and then how I got on with it these days.
The LUMIX branding began in 2001, with a cooperation treaty between Panasonic, a giant in electronics, and Leica Camera AG, an iconic camera manufacturer. The LUMIX word is a combination of luminance (LUMI) and mixture (MIX).
The first two cameras that year were the DMC-LC5 and the DMC-F7. Leica specifically contributed to the optical technology. The following year MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilisation) was introduced. This allows for sharper images at slower shutter speeds by shifting the lens with any slight movement.
In 2003, Panasonic was first in the world to implement MEGA O.I.S. into an Ultra Compact Camera in the DMC-FX5/DMC-FX1. It was also the start of the FX range of LUMIX cameras. One of the other innovations that Panasonic kept applying is updates to the Venus Engine, which is the image processor in the LUMIX cameras.
The DMC-FX range within the LUMIX cameras is the high-end ultra-compact digital camera range. These tend to have more stylish looks aimed at the being used as a social camera. One of the highlights in this range is the that in 2006 it was the first time a 28mm (35mm equivalent) lens was installed into an ultra-compact digital camera. This was marketed as “156% wider than before”, specifically referring to a 35mm equivalent lens.
The wider lens was there to enhance the concept of social photography. It made it easier for travel photography, especially including architecture and monuments, group photography at parties etc. while still pocketable.
The LUMIX DMC-FX07 was introduced in 2006. According to the Panasonic site, this camera was the world’s first with “motion recognition” installed. The DMC-FX range has continued to recent times, as has the LUMIX branding and the Leica partnering.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX07 is a compact digital camera. It was released in 2006 and as part of the DMC-FX range is considered one of the higher end compacts. It has a 5.76 x 4.29mm (1/2.5”) CCD sensor. Image size is a maximum of 7.2 megapixels. Sensor sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 1250 but can be extended to 3200 with an option. Intelligent ISO is available, which chooses the best ISO for you to avoid camera shake.
The Leica branded lens is a DC Vario-Elmarit 4.6-16.8mm f/2.8-5.6 Aspherical zoom. That equates to 28-102mm in 35mm terms, or a 3.6x optical zoom. The lens has built in MEGA O.I.S. image stabilisation. Shutter speed range from 1/2000 second to 60 seconds.
The screen at the back is a 2.5” LCD, with 207,000 pixels which at the time was one of the higher resolution ones. No optical viewfinder is available on this camera. Photos are stored on an SD card which is inserted next to the rechargeable battery.
There is an options panel on the back next to the screen, which gives access to the exposure compensation, delay timer, quick review, and flash. In the middle of the panel is the menu button which doubles up as the set (ok) button. Under the panel is the button to control the display options and delete/burst shooting button.
On top is the on/off switch, the shutter button which also has the zoom lever around it and the MEGA O.I.S. control. The image stabilisation has two options, 1 being where it is on all the time and depletes battery faster, and 2 where it is activated when the shutter is depressed. It can also be turned off.
At the back of the top is the mode dial, which has modes for Playback, Picture, Simple Mode, Macro, Scene Mode, and Motion Picture. Within each of these there are lots, and I mean lots, of options. I have no intention of going through all of these but will concentrate on what I found useful in the way I use the camera.
Picture mode basically takes a fully automatic picture. All settings are chosen regarding exposure, and a neutral file is produced. If Intelligent ISO is selected, even the speed is selected. You can still select options like monochrome though.
Simple mode literally takes absolutely everything away from the menus for beginners. Macro mode sets the camera up for close-up photography, as close as 5cm (2”). Motion picture mode is used for video recording which it does with sound.
Scene mode is where it pre-sets for specific situation. Examples are night photography, fireworks, portraits, landscapes etc. There is an option to set up two “baby” scenes which allows you to enter children’s birthdays and track them over the years.
If you want to dive into the details of every menu item, you can find the manual here.
I remember buying the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX07 in a camera shop in central Sydney in 2006. At the time I thought my one and only previous digicam (which was not what they were called back then) had died, a Canon PowerShot S45. It had not, but that is a sixteen year story for another time.
I wanted a new compact digital camera for family pictures and to take with us on upcoming travel, including Fiji the following year. The salesperson brought the FX07 out and said these are popular and well regarded. He pointed to the Leica lens, and how it shoots a whopping seven megapixels. I had not considered such a small camera until then, but it is a very well finished camera, all chrome and stainless steel, and surely, he would not embellish its capabilities.
One thing I really do remember is the price I paid for the kit, which included memory cards and a few other things like a little Lowepro pouch, which it still gets put into. Walking out of the store $700 AUD lighter, I really hoped this would be a good camera.
We started to use it for everything, whenever we went out with the boys, when we would go to the zoo, to the park, to visit the grandparents etc. Of-course it would come with us when we travelled, alongside the SLR and later the DSLR. It captured a lot of my sons’ childhood.
The camera being so small and easy to use, it ended up in both my sons’ hands on many occasions. The LUMIX DMC-FX07 was pretty much the introduction into photography for them. Back then though, it was not used much for any “serious” photography, apart from some monuments and landmarks on our travels.
If we now fast forward sixteen years to the current time of writing, it came out of retirement. It has been used a handful of times in the last ten years or so, but not much. The first thing I noticed was the battery did not hold charge for long. I groaned, as from memory, replacements were usually quite expensive. To my surprise, both batteries and new chargers are extremely cheap these days. I ordered a new battery quick smart.
I’ve since been shooting with the little LUMIX for about eight to nine months. It has been on rotation with what I put in my work bag, and also as it is small, gets added often into the camera bag. Using it has been very easy, especially as I only use three or four main functions.
The functions I tend to use are, normal Picture mode, Macro mode and for both I will swap to monochrome when the mood hits me. That latter setting is interesting as the camera does not shoot raw you are locked into a monochrome photo. Just like using black and white film. Macro I particularly enjoy and these little digicams seem to do a fantastic job of that. The scene modes I rarely use, but they can come in handy on occasion.
Other settings I tend to use are iISO (Intelligent ISO) and MEGA O.I.S. set to 2, where it only stabilises the image at the time of shooting. This seems to work well all the way out to full zoom.
In terms of image quality, it is an impressive little camera. The colours are usually fairly accurate, with Colour Balance set on Auto, and do not need much done to them in Lightroom. Just as well, as seven megapixel JPEGs do not give you much latitude. One thing I have noticed is that it does tend to blow out the highlights, which I suspect it has been programmed to do, to ensure capturing the subject well exposed. I don’t mind that, and sometimes I do use the exposure compensation to help out. It can show the histogram, which helps in shooting.
Colours are vibrant and accurate. Images are nice and punchy, and the camera seems to have good noise control. Not much is needed to adjust them in the computer. Some sharpening and a bit of contrast adjustment is all. Very few times I might get Lightroom to auto adjust the colour balance.
It has been extremely fun to pull out this little pocket rocket of a camera. And it is a true pocketable camera. Despite my love for shooting my film cameras, I have enjoyed using it again. This is coupled with the results being a decent quality. If you want to have some digicam fun, this one and some of the similar LUMIX digicams are definitely worth a shot. Many of them are going for peanuts, though I have seen a little shift in price recently. While you can, go out and grab one like the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FX07 and do what photography is supposed to be about, have fun!
If you would like a technical review, PhotoReview has you covered.
PhotoThinking Digicam Reviews.