Not too surprisingly, considering how many components they share, the FX37’s overall performance is identical to that of the FX35. It starts up in a creditable 2.5 seconds, and in single-shot mode it can sustain one shot every 1.7 seconds, which is pretty quick, and in long-period continuous shooting it more than doubles that to a shot every 0.7 seconds.
The autofocus system is as good as ever, with excellent low-light performance. It has the same nice bright AF assist lamp, and can focus in total darkness at a range of around three metres. As with the FX35, if it fails to focus an on-screen display tells you the safe in-focus area so you can tell if the shot will be sharp.
Unfortunately the one major difference between the FX37 and its predecessor is image quality, and ironically the blame here sits with the only major new component, that 5x zoom lens. While focusing, exposure metering and colour rendition are all very good, the lens design just doesn’t work as well as the previous 4x zoom, and despite the Leica badge it suffers from both barrel distortion and significant corner blurring at wide angle.
While the FX37 has the same Venus Engine IV processor as the FX35, I think the noise reduction system may have been turned up to eleven for the new camera. Noise reduction effects are now plainly visible from 200 ISO upwards, blurring fine detail and fine gradations of tone. 400 ISO looks very messy and and the 800 and 1600 ISO settings are best avoided altogether. I was just beginning to believe that Panasonic was making some progress against its perennial noise problems, but in this respect at least the FX37 is a big step backwards.
If the Panasonic Lumix FX37 was crammed full of any more advanced technology it would glow blue and hum like a lightsabre, but for all its cleverness and sleek style it still suffers from significant image quality problems. The lens simply isn’t as good as the one on the FX35, and the brutal noise reduction system robs images of detail and tonal subtlety. Considering its very high price, I’d have to say that it’s simply not worth the money. Get the FX35 instead.
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