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As mentioned, the FX3 uses the same sensor as the FX9, and that camera suffered from image noise even at low ISO settings. What the FX3 adds is more effective noise reduction, so the standard of the 100-400 ISO shots is thankfully much improved.
Colour rendition is good, producing natural tones even in the overcast weather we’ve had down here. It coped well with a range of exposure conditions and showed better dynamic range than some comparable cameras I’ve seen recently. The lens is also good, offering edge-to-edge sharpness and minimal spherical distortion at wide angle. There was some purple fringing on some high-contrast shots, but it was fairly unobtrusive.
Switching to the High Sensitivity scene mode allows the camera to set ISO speeds of 800 and 1,600 for low light shooting. However, shots taken at these speeds show that the new noise reduction system can be very heavy-handed. High Sensitivity mode images look as though they have been blurred and then sharpened several times, so while they have little in the way of visible noise they also lack fine detail.
This isn’t too much of a problem for casual snapshots, which is after all what the FX3 is intended for. However, don’t expect to get any big prints from shots taken in this mode. It’s certainly no match for the outstanding high-ISO performance of cameras like the Fujifilm F30 or Canon IXUS 850 IS, although to be fair it is cheaper than both of these models. In practice I found I was able to take blur-free pictures hand-held without a flash in a room lit by a single 60w bulb - quite impressive I must admit.
Basically the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX3 is an upgraded DMC-FX9 with improved noise reduction, better low-light capability and a more competitive price. It's an above average social snapshot camera with bags of style, good performance and decent handling, but the image quality at high ISO settings leaves a lot to be desired.
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