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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS7 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS7
The body design follows the usual styling cues of the Lumix range, with rounded corners, chrome details and a vaguely art-deco classic look. The control layout is simple and traditional, and although the buttons are quite small they are clearly labelled and operate with a nice positive click. The top plate carries a rotary bezel zoom control and slider power switch, as well as a dedicated button to activate the Intelligent Auto mode. The back panel has a normal five-button D-pad, buttons for mode selection, display and the quick menu, as well as a slider switch for shooting and playback mode. There is a small textured area to serve as a thumb grip, and despite its small size the camera handles well and feels comfortable and secure in the hand. The zoom control is especially nice, with a very responsive slow-start progressive action that makes it easy to precisely frame shots.
Although the FS7 is a very simple camera to use, it isn't short on useful features. It has Panasonic's excellent optical image stabilisation system, which produces reliably shake-free shots at 1/25th of a second. The 2.7-inch LCD monitor has a resolution of 230k dots, and has a very wide viewing angle. It also has automatic brightness adjustment, and although it does have a highly reflective surface it is quite easy to see even in bright sunlight.
One thing that differentiates the FS7 from Panasonic's more up-market models is the lens. It has 4x optical zoom and bears the Leica brand name, but while many of Panasonic's other compacts have ultra-wide-angle settings, the FS7 has a more prosaic zoom range equivalent to 33-132mm. This isn't a bad thing, since it's still a very useful range, but if you're looking for a new camera with 25mm ultra-wide angle you'll have to wait for the new FX40.
The FS7 has two menu systems, a quick menu that allows rapid adjustment of commonly-used shooting settings such as drive mode, AF mode, white balance, ISO and picture quality, as well as image stabilisation mode and LCD viewing mode. These are duplicated in the main menu, along with a brief list of other options including colour mode and digital zoom. As usual the menus are clear and easy to read, and the controls are quick and responsive.