Earlier this year Panasonic launched a whole swath of new cameras, updating most of its existing compact camera lines and adding a couple of new ones. We've already taken a look at some of them, such as the FS20, the TZ4, the LZ10 and the FS5. Today it's the turn of the flagship of the premium ultra-compact models, the 10-megapixel 4x zoom FX35. As one might expect from the model number it replaces last year's popular FX33.
The FX35 is currently available for around £170, although some outlets are asking closer to the official list price of nearly £300. It is quite expensive, but when compared to the top premium compacts from other manufacturers it seems like rather better value. Other wide-zoom ultra-compacts with mechanical image stabilisation include the Nikon CoolPix S600 (£220), the 8-megapixel Canon IXUS 860 IS (£254) and the Sony Cyber-shot W170 (£170, review coming soon).
Rather than re-think a successful formula, Panasonic has instead opted for an upgrade, but this is more than just the usual incremental increase in megapixels; the FX35 improves on all of the FX33's key features.
Where the earlier model had a 3.6x zoom lens with a 28mm wide-angle, the new camera features a 4x zoom Leica-branded lens with a wide-angle setting equivalent to 25mm, one of the widest on any current compact camera. Of course the sensor gets an upgrade too, from 1/2.5-inch and 8.1 megapixels to 1/2.33-inch and 10.1 megapixels. The LCD monitor is improved as well. It's still 2.5 inches, but is now sharper with 230,000 dots.
Unchanged however is the slim, pocket-sized all-metal body, measuring 94.7 x 51.9 x 22.0 mm, although somehow it manages to be a little lighter at 125g minus battery and card (146g loaded). Like most of Panasonic's compact cameras the FX35 is available in matt black or the anodised silver finish of my review sample. There are a couple of detail changes to the controls; the on/off slider switch and the shutter button with its rotary zoom control are slightly different shapes, although they still work in exactly the same way.
Main mode selection is still adjusted by a small partially covered thumbwheel, although it has one less setting this time, since the choice between shooting and playback mode has now been moved to a small slider switch on the back of the camera between the mode dial and the D-pad.
The pad and the two small buttons at the bottom of the rear panel are unchanged, although the ‘FUNC' button has been re-named as the ‘Q.MENU'. It still performs the same function, bringing up a handy function menu for quick adjustment of frequently used shooting options.