The FX70 departs from the design of the previous FX models in more ways than just a slight curve to the right-hand end of the body. It features a new 5x zoom lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.2 and a focal length range equivalent to 24-120mm, 720p HD video recording in the high quality AVCHD Lite format, and more significantly a touch-screen control system. Panasonic has used a touch-screen interface before, but has always kept the traditional D-pad and buttons as well. The FX70 dispenses with this and is operated almost entirely through on-screen controls. The only physical controls on the back of the camera are the menu and mode buttons and the slider switch to select shooting or playback modes. The top panel carries the on/off switch, the shutter button with the zoom control as a rotary bezel around it, and a dedicated button to start video recording in under two seconds.
As regular readers will know, I’m not particularly keen on touch-screen controls for cameras. They’re fine on phones and PDAs where the screen is primarily a control device, but on a camera the screen is mainly used for composing shots and viewing images, both of which are a lot harder to do when it’s covered in grubby fingerprints. The FX70 has a three-inch TFT LCD monitor with a resolution of 230k. It is nice and bright, and has a fast refresh rate and a very wide viewing angle in all directions, but the touch-sensitive layer reflects light internally, making the screen very difficult to see when using the camera in bright sunlight.
That being said, the touch controls do work well. The button areas are large enough even for my fingers, and it is quick and responsive. There are on-screen buttons for most common shooting options, including a quick menu that covers almost everything else. The icons are clear and well spaced out, and the whole thing makes an attractive package.
The camera’s other features are more commonplace, but are still of high quality. The HD video recording mode is particularly nice, offering 1280 x 720 resolution at 50/25 fps, very high quality mono audio and full optical zoom, with the zoom action slowed down to avoid inducing nausea in your viewers. The Intelligent Auto functions can be used in video recording mode, and the camera features Viera Link for suitably equipped Panasonic TVs, allowing camera playback to be controlled from the TV remote.
Since the FX70 is designed to be easy to use the still shooting options are fairly limited, but include the reliably excellent Intelligent Auto mode, a standard auto mode with full menu options, a good selection of scene modes, and something called “cosmetic mode”, which can improve portrait shots by enhancing skin tones. The FX70 is of course equipped with Panasonic’s acclaimed Power OIS image stabilisation system, which offers around three stops of extra stability. It also features the latest of Panasonic’s photo technology, the Intelligent Resolution system, which helps to preserve detail and edge sharpness in digital zoom mode. This is available in both still and video modes.