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8/10

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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX60, which will be going on sale later this month, is the product of long evolutionary process of small changes and upgrades. The basic design dates back to the Lumix DMC-FX1, launched in 2003. That was before I started working for TR, but I did review the Lumic FX3 in 2006. If you compare that review with the product shots on this page you'll see at once that the basic design of the FX series hasn't changed all that much. It has been slowly refined over several generations, with models such as the FX33, FX35 and FX37, as well as the FX40 launched earlier this year, all bearing a strong family resemblance despite the continual improvement in specification. Details such as the position of the main controls, the flash and the AF assist lamp, even the row of four holes over the speaker in the top panel, have all remained pretty much unchanged since the first model in the series.

This policy of incremental upgrades is no more apparent than when comparing the FX60 with its immediate predecessor the FX40. The two cameras are virtually identical, both featuring a 12.1 megapixel CCD sensor, a 5x zoom f/2.8-5.9 lens with a focal length range of 25-125mm, and a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor, housed in identical all0aluminium bodies. They both feature 1280 x 720 HD video recording with component video output, and a range of other advanced automatic features grouped under the Intelligent Auto setting, all driven by Panasonic's high performance Venus Engine V processor.

In fact the FX60 only offers two significant improvements over the older model. It features Panasonic's improved Optical Image Stabilisation system, dubbed Power OIS, and also an improved autofocus system which Panasonic claims is twice as fast as the FX40. While these are certainly worthwhile additions to an already very competent camera, and will no doubt tempt new customers, existing owners of the FX 40 or FX37 will have to ask themselves if it's enough to justify upgrading.

The Lumix FX60 is operating in a very competitive area of the camera market. There are quite a few advanced wide-angle compacts available at the moment, including the Canon IXUS 110 IS (£210), the Nikon CoolPix S620 (£195), the Sony Cyber-shot W290 (£185), and the new the Samsung IT100 (£170). By comparison the FX60's £244 price looks a bit high, especially considering that the FX40 is still around the same price.

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