The body design of the FX60 is clean and simple, with a slightly art-deco retro look to it. It’s a well-tested design, but there are a few things I would have like to have seen addressed with this update. For a start the round-ended shape may look nice but it is hard to grip securely, especially if your fingers are wet. The strap lug has been moved to the front of the body to provide some finger grip, and there is a small textured area on the back to provide purchase for the thumb, but these don’t really help much. A slight re-shaping of the body to improve ergonomics wouldn’t go amiss.
There are a couple of other design details that stand out as minor annoyances. I’ve never been keen on the partly-enclosed mode dial common to several Panasonic compacts including the FX series, since it’s impossible to see all of the options at once and their relative positions. The camera only has four modes anyway (not counting the utterly superfluous “clipboard” mode) so does it really need a dial at all?
Another slightly anachronistic feature is the slider switch used to select between shooting and playback mode. With most other compacts, if you’re reviewing your pictures on the monitor and something catches your eye, simply touching the shutter button puts the camera instantly back into shooting mode so you’re less likely to miss that spur-of-the-moment shot. With the FX60 you have to physically move the switch before resuming shooting, which is a lot slower.
That’s enough nit-picking though; let’s take a look at the improvements. The new Power OIS system is certainly impressive, but then Panasonic’s image stabilisation technology has always been among the best on the market. I found I was able to take acceptably shake-free shots at the maximum zoom setting, at shutter speeds as slow as 1/5th of a second, which is certainly the most effective I.S. performance I’ve seen from a compact camera. In fact shooting in low light in iAuto mode with the flash off, the camera’s programming seems to adjust the ISO setting to produce a shutter speed of 1/5th sec., apparently confident in its own ability to deliver a shake-free shot.
The improved autofocus system is less immediately impressive. Panasonic’s AF has always been pretty good, although it’s never really been in the same league as Canon’s or Casio’s lightning-fast focusing. The FX60’s improved AF is certainly much faster than previous models, and has greatly improved low light performance, but even with this improvement it is still barely a match for the tiny £150 Casio EX-S12, or any of the recent models in Canon’s Digital IXUS range.