Panasonic FS37 £159.99
17th May 2011 | 14:29
A slim 16MP 8x zoom compact with touch screen operation
Panasonic FS37 review: Overview
Priced at around £175, Panasonic's Lumix FS37 sits in the middle of Panasonic's digital compact camera range, offering a few more features than basic models, whilst keeping operation simple and straightforward.
For a camera with an 8x optical zoom lens, the FS37 is impressively compact and light, weighing only 159g with the battery and a memory card installed. It is also small enough to be carried about in a shirt pocket or handbag.
A focal range equivalent to 28-224mm on a 35mm camera is covered by the Leica branded optic, providing a useful amount of wide-angle coverage for group shots of people and enough telephoto reach to pull in relatively distant subjects. Panasonic's Mega Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) is also included, to help iron out any wobbles, which will be especially useful at the telephoto end of the zoom range.
An additional 2x zoom can be added to the range at the touch of a button via digital zoom.
Disappointingly, the ISO range available is quite conservative by modern standards, with the maximum sensitivity being only ISO1600. Saying that, the 16MP resolution is plenty for producing A3 sized prints from images taken in good daylight. Intelligent ISO control also automatically varies the sensitivity used between ISO100 and ISO800, making shooting in changing light a little easier for those who prefer to point and shoot.
The major unique feature of the FS37 is the three inch touch sensitive LCD screen. The touch interface is a resistive type, so a stylus, can be used for increased accuracy. Touch focus and touch shutter modes are included allowing you to take a picture by touching your main subject on the screen.
HD video recording is supported, but only at 720p resolution and at 24fps which is a little disappointing. Many cameras at this price point now offer full 1080p resolution video capture at 30fps, and this higher quality standard seems to be fast becoming the standard.
Panasonic FS37 review: Build & handling
At only 27.7mm thick at its widest point, the FS37 is remarkably slim for a camera sporting an 8x optical zoom lens, making it perfect for slipping into a pocket or handbag for social gatherings or nights on the town.
A two-tone finish has been applied to the metal body, which is typical of Lumix cameras. The silver lens surround protrudes from the body by about 4mm and a chrome finger grip is located on the front. This grip is very close to the edge of the camera, making it difficult to use to gain any extra purchase over the camera body. Despite its light weight, the metal body feels very solid and durable.
Due to the touch screen interface, the FS37's rear is clear of any buttons and the camera looks very sleek and stylish as a result. Only a narrow space has been allowed to rest your thumb to the right of the three inch screen. This can occasionally result in the touch screen being activated accidentally if due care isn't taken.
At 230,000 dots, the screen resolution isn't the highest currently available, but it is clear enough for evaluating images and menu text is easy to read, if a little chunky in appearance. In bright light the screen can be quite difficult to see clearly, due to the mirror-like touch-sensitive finish and its tendency to become covered in fingerprints during use. A small stylus is supplied, which attaches to the wrist strap. Operating the touch interface is much easier with this, as the touch targets are quite small and unresponsive when using fingers to navigate the menus.
Panasonic FS37 review: Performance
Noise is visible in images taken at the base ISO100 when viewed at 100% on a computer screen, which is probably the price paid for squeezing so many photosites onto a small sensor. Many recent cameras have overcome this issue by using rear illuminated sensor technology, which locates the sensor's circuitry out of the light path. Images taken at settings up to ISO200 will still make a good A4 print.
As the sensitivity is increased and noise reduction does its work, fine details become softened. By ISO800, images are noticeably softer than those taken at lower settings, but levels of chroma noise are kept in check. ISO1600 should be reserved for small print sizes as images lack detail and chroma noise becomes much more visible.
Focusing is quick in good light and noticeably slower in dark conditions, as you might expect. A bright orange AF illuminator helps in the dark when shooting at close quarters, although it is so bright it can result in squinty faces when taking portraits after dark. The touch shutter function is quite pleasant to use, although there is a noticeable pause between touching the screen and the image being taken. Care also needs to be take to hold the camera steady when using this feature, as camera shake can become an issue when jabbing at the screen with a finger or the stylus.
Exposures are well balanced, rarely needing compensation and auto white balance performs well outdoors, in daylight or shade. Under artificial light it is advised to take advantage of the various preset white balance options, as the automatic setting doesn't do much to correct the cast present under incandescent or fluorescent lighting.
Panasonic FS37 review: Sensitivity images
ISO 100, see full image
ISO 200, see full image
ISO 400, see full image
ISO 800, see full image
ISO 1600, see full image
Panasonic FS37 review: Image quality and resolution
ISO 100, score 22, see full image
ISO 200, score 22, see full image
ISO 400, score 20, see full image
ISO 800, score 18, see full image
ISO 1600, score 14, see full image
Panasonic FS37 review: Sample images
The 224mm equivalent maximum telephoto is useful for capturing distant subjects
Colours are naturally reproduced, being less vibrant than many other digital compact cameras
The auto white balance struggles to correct strong colour casts
The standard macro mode allows you to get a little closer you your subject
The super macro mode allows photos to be taken from much nearer
Occasionally low contrast subjects can lack definition
The bright primary colours in this shot lack vibrancy and look quite muted
Panasonic FS37 review: Specification
Sensor: 1/2.33-type with 16.6 Total Million pixels
Lens: Leica DC VARIO-ELMAR 5-40mm f/3.3-5.9 (28-224mm in 35mm equiv.)
Memory: Built-in Memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
LCD Screen: 3.in TFT Touch Screen LCD Display with 230K dots and 100% field of view
Video resolution: 1,280 x 720 pixels at 24 fps in Motion JPEG Format ISO range
ISO range: ISo 100-1600
Focus modes: Normal / Macro, Zoom Macro, Quick AF (Always On), AF Tracking, Touch AF/AE
Max burst rate: High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 4 frames/sec (image priority) / (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9)
Shutter speed: Still: approx. 8 - 1/1600 sec / Starry Sky Mode : 15, 30, 60sec.
Weight: 159g with Battery and SD Memory Card
Dimensions:- 99.2 x 56.5 x 27.7 mm
Power supply: Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 660mAh)
Panasonic FS37 review: Our conclusion
On paper the FS37 has a lot going for it. A high resolution sensor, useful 8x zoom range and an innovative touch screen interface.
In practice it doesn't seem to cut the mustard when compared to some of the competition. Images are quite noisy and soft at high sensitivities, the auto white balance doesn't perform well under artificial light and the touch screen interface can be unresponsive if using fingers to navigate the menu.
All this considered, those who are in the market for a well constructed, compact and lightweight camera for taking shots mainly in good light reasonably small print sizes or sharing on the web may find the simple sleek design and ease of use suits them just fine.
The simple, sleek design, compact size, good build quality and the useful 8x zoom range are all positive aspects of this camera.
Noise can be an issue at higher settings and the touch screen interface can take some getting used to