I wish it were possible to know exactly what a camera is really like just from looking at it; my job would be so much easier. Although actually thinking about it I wouldn’t have a job at all. Let’s face it, I’m here to be massively disappointed about a new camera so you don’t have to be.
Take this Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9 for example. Seldom have I seen a more attractively designed camera. Like most of the Lumix range it looks functional but elegant, with a slightly retro and almost art deco style to it. Just 24mm thick and weighing only 155g fully loaded, it is small and light enough to slip into a shirt pocket. It is available in either black or silver.
It has all the right trimmings, including a 6MP CCD and a big 2.5 inch LCD monitor which with 207k pixels is admirably sharp. It has a neat 3x optical zoom lens that folds flush with the camera body, and bears the prestigious Leica name. The FX9 is also one of the smallest cameras on the market to be fitted with an optical image stabilization system.
The design excellence extends to the controls too. The 6-position main mode dial is partially enclosed, and the on-off switch is just that; a simple slider switch. It’s easy to operate, resists accidental activation and looks good. The other controls are equally simple and well-thought-out, and the menu is also admirably simple, although its limited colour palette and non-aliased typeface do ring a few warning bells.
The FX9 is powered by a big 1150mAh Lithium-ion battery which Panasonic claims is good for 270 shots, but is actually capable of well over 300.
In the highest resolution and quality mode the JPEG file sizes produced are around 2.2MB, which is a bit heavily compressed for a 6MP image. However it does mean that you can fit approximately 334 shots onto a 1GB SD card.
It’s a little on the expensive side. With a high street price of £249.97 or £196.85 online the FX9 is considerably more expensive than most other current 6MP ultra-compacts, such as the Pentax Optio S6 or Olympus mju 600 (both £189) or the Casio Exilim EX-Z60 (£169). But that’s OK, because you’ve heard that Panasonic cameras are really good, so it’s probably worth the extra, right?