The gap between still cameras and video cameras is getting narrower every year. If you look at the specification of high-end compact cameras from the middle of 2008, most of them offered at best 640 x 480 resolution video with mono audio. Over the past year or so, more and more compact cameras have come along offering 1280 x 720 resolution HD video, until it's now more or less a standard feature. Now Panasonic has taken it one step further. The new Lumix DMC-FX700 is a sleek luxury compact camera which features full 1920 x 1080 50i (25fps interlaced) HD video with stereo audio, recording in the high quality AVCHD format.
That's not all it does either. The FX700 also features a fast f/2.2 5x zoom Leica-branded lens equivalent to 24-120mm, a big 7.5cm (3in) touch-screen monitor, a 14.1-megapixel 1/2.3-in MOS high-speed sensor which enables high-speed continuous shooting at up to 10fps at full resolution, and the option of full manual exposure control. There aren't too many cameras on the market that can come close to the FX700's specification, and what few there are are very expensive. It is competing with only a handful of top-end models such as the Canon IXUS 300 HS (£280) or the IXUS 1000 HS (£350), the Sony HX5 (£275) or the new TX7 (£350). However compared even to to these top-of-the-range luxury models the FX700 is expensive, with a current high street price of £379. It is possible to find it for less online, but then the same is true of its competitors.
To be fair though the FX700 certainly looks like £379 worth of camera. Despite its exceptional specification it has a sleek shape that it almost small enough to earn the description “ultra-compact”, measuring 103.5 x 55.8 x 24.5mm. Like most expensive gadgets it is heavy for its size, weighing a reassuringly hefty 176g including battery and memory card. It's difficult to tell what the body is made of – presumably aluminium – because it is covered in a smooth matt black plastic which looks great, setting off the bright chrome details nicely.