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At the minimum sensitivity setting, on shots taken in bright sunlight and ideal shooting conditions, there was visible image noise and extensive red-green colour speckling in all the darker and mid-tone areas, while deeper shadows lacked any kind of detail. Add to this the obvious JPEG compression artefacts visible in almost every shot, some nasty purple fringing and burned out highlights in many daylight shots, and it’s clear that the image quality is pretty much a total loss. I was going to say that I haven’t seen image quality this bad in five years, but I have. I reviewed the Panasonic DMC-LZ5 in April and found the same problems. If anything the FX9 is even worse.
It’s very sad to see the illustrious Leica name attached to such a substandard camera, but in fairness the lens is probably the best part of it. It is a bit slow at f2.8-f5, but produces reasonably good edge-to-edge sharpness, and manages to avoid serious barrel distortion in wide-angle shots. However, although I know there are Leica fanboys out there who would flay me alive for suggesting such a thing, I suspect the some of the purple fringes I saw may in fact have been due to chromatic aberration rather than sensor charge leakage.
Panasonic has worked hard to build a good reputation over the past few years, despite being a relative newcomer to the digital camera market. It does make some excellent products, including the brilliant FZ30 and the terrific high-end cameras that it makes for Leica. However with recent cameras like the FX9 and the equally disappointing LZ5 blotting its copybook Panasonic is in danger of losing some of the goodwill it has built up. I for one shall be reviewing my next Panasonic with caution.
Although it looks great, performs well and has the Leica name above the lens, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9 fails to deliver the expected picture quality, especially considering the cost when compared to many other 6MP ultra-compacts. A very disappointing camera from a company that can do better.
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