Thanks to its advanced MOS sensor and Venus Engine FHD processor the FX700 has exceptional performance, although its start-up time of approximately 3.5 seconds is a little on the slow side. Once it's awake however it can really fly, with a shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode of less than a second. In continuous mode it can shoot at full 14.1MP resolution at up to 10 frames a second for up to 12 shots, or at up to 60fps at lower resolutions. There is a distinct audio cue when shooting.
The FX700's autofocus system is excellent. The focus tracking and face detection features work very well. It focuses in a fraction of a second in good light, and also works exceptionally well in poor light. Thanks to its high sensitivity and strong AF assist lamp it will focus in pitch dark at a range of around four metres.
Having spent nearly £400 on a compact camera you would naturally expect superior image quality, and the FX700 generally doesn't disappoint. The Leica-branded lens is very good, and although it does produce quite noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle, it does offer good corner-to-corner sharpness with virtually no chromatic aberration.
Exposure metering is reliably precise, especially in multi-zone mode, and despite the lousy weather this week the results were better than expected. Dynamic range is surprisingly good for a 14MP small-sensor camera, with plenty of shadow detail without losing too much of the highlights. The Intelligent Exposure part of the iAuto mode further boosts shadow detail.
Colour rendition is also very good, although again the dreary overcast conditions slightly spoiled the results. Nonetheless the camera captured what was in front of it with great accuracy. The level of fine detail recorded by the 14.1MP sensor is as high as expected, however examining the sample shots closely does show them to be a bit grainy and processed-looking.
Noise control is a little better than one usually expects from a camera with a 14MP 1/2.3-inch sensor. Images at 400 ISO are sharp and well detailed, but pixel binning at 800 ISO robs images of some fine detail, and 1600 ISO has even less detail, with the addition of colour distortion problems. Higher ISO settings of 3200 or 6400 ISO are available, but only in the High Sensitivity scene mode, and only at 3MP resolution.
The Panasonic FX700 is a very expensive camera for a pocket compact, but it offers a range of features that few others can match. Build quality and handling are up to the usual high standard, performance is outstanding, and while there are camera that offer better image quality the FX700 will seldom disappoint.