A flick of the power switch and the FX77 powers up ready for the first shot in two seconds, which is reasonably rapid for a compact of this calibre.
In standard 4:3 aspect ratio stills shooting mode – the Panasonic’s default setting – black bands crop the left and right hand side of the screen, and it’s against this backdrop that the basic function buttons are overlaid at the outer edges so as not to distract from the main subject matter. Tap one of these virtual icons and a menu extends out across the screen presenting various options; tap again on one to select and it reverts back to the original display. Not as instant as a quick twist of a shooting mode dial or press of a button to select the mode you want – and to select the likes of an ISO setting, there are up to five button presses, for example – but use of the screen quickly becomes intuitive nonetheless.
Usefully, should you be reviewing a shot at the same time as you spot a further photo opportunity out of the corner of your eye, a half press of the shutter release button will throw you back to image capture mode – no additional button pressing required. A half press of the shutter release button and focus and exposure is determined instantly, central AF point highlighted in green with a beep of affirmation; press down to fully take the shot. This is in contrast to using the touch shutter facility of the screen itself, which with the gentlest of taps immediately fires off a shot. In single shot mode a full 12 megapixel resolution JPEG is committed to memory in around two seconds, which is again par for the course. The screen display blacks out very briefly before displaying the captured image briefly and then returning to the ‘live’ feed.
In terms of image quality, as one would expect from a Panasonic camera, good results are delivered with the minimum of fuss and with a reassuring consistency and reliability. If we’ve a grumble it’s that sometimes the white balance is a tad off – daylight scenes imbued with a blue/purple wash if looking particularly closely as on some of our ISO samples – whilst blue skies can sometimes appear a shade turquoise. But these are minor grumbles. Most of the time you really can just point and shoot and get fuss free results that better expectation and give the lie to the inherent suggestion here that the FX77 may be as much about style as it is substance. Thanks in part to the combination of a brighter than average lens and a latest generation image processor we were able to achieve usable low light results shooting up to and including ISO1600. Although that top setting may look modest compared to compacts that offer ISO6400 as a manually selectable option (here it’s only via High Sensitivity mode, and then, if opted for by the camera’s choosing), at least the top setting here is one worth having – and indeed using.
This is a sleek, user friendly compact that, when you strip away the glossy looks and technological gimmicks, is your point and shoot compact pure and simple. This means that inevitably it’s devoid of much in the way of manual control, apart from the ability to literally get hands on via the touch screen, plus apply attractive digital effects filters to raise your images above the level of pure snaps. Which is arguably all anyone could ask anyway of a snapshot camera. That said, the touch screen doesn’t particularly add to the experience of using the camera and in fact gets in the way sometimes when trying to grip one handed. So, while it’s still a good choice, you may prefer some cheaper non-touchscreen alternatives, including this camera’s predecessor the FX70.