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I've already reviewed several of the current 12-megapixel compact cameras, including the Kodak EasyShare Z1275, the Casio Exilim EX-Z1200 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200, so today it's the turn of Panasonic's take on the concept, the Lumix DMC-FX100, which was in fact the first 12MP compact on the market, launched as it was in May of this year. Despite my misgivings about the potential problems of cramming so many photoreceptors onto a compact camera sensor, I have to admit that although the Kodak did have a number of problems, overall they've not been as bad as I'd feared.
The FX100 is a smallish compact camera bearing a strong family resemblance to other recent Panasonic compacts such as the FX33. However the styling of the FX100's body is somehow harder, with bevelled edges and a slightly thicker and squarer shape. It has the same Leica-branded 3.6x zoom f2.8 - f5.6 lens as the FX33, with a wide-angle end equivalent to 28mm, considerably wider than most cameras from other brands. It also has the same 2.5-inch, 207k LCD monitor, and a very similar range of features. It's also not far off the same price as the FX33 either. It is currently available for around £200, just £10 more expensive than its slimmer sibling. However it is also £30 more than the Casio EX-Z1200 and £20 more than the Sony DSC-W200.
Panasonic enjoys an enviable reputation for its digital cameras, thanks to a number of very high quality models featuring Leica lenses. However it has also produced some distinctly second-rate models, and even its best ones are persistently dogged by image noise problems, both of which facts seem to get overlooked. I suspect that the main reason is that the name "Leica" tends to produce a Pavlovian reaction in most photography journalists similar to the reverence for names such as "Porsche" or "Ferrari" exhibited by motoring writers. The very idea that anything associated with that name can be anything less than perfect is tantamount to heresy. There's no doubt that the Leica-branded lenses used on many Panasonic cameras are very good indeed, but they are manufactured in a factory in Japan, not hand-made by Geppetto-like craftsmen in Wetzlar.
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