Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS3
- Attractive price point, Auto Intelligent mode, impressive build quality
- Buttons are too small for big fingers, underpowered optical zoom
The DMC-FS3 is capable of producing instant, good quality photos that will more than satisfy its intended user base of casual photographers. If you want to capture great looking shots with a minimum of effort, this compact camera will not disappoint.
Price$ 329.00 (AUD)
The Lumix DMC-FS3 is the obligatory runt of Panasonic's new compact 'FS' camera litter. It sports an 8.1-megapixel sensor and 3x optical zoom (as opposed to the Lumix DMC-FS5/Lumix DMC-FS20's 10.1-megapixel sensor and 4x optical zoom). While it doesn't quite match the excellent image quality of its two siblings, the DMC-FS3 is nevertheless capable of producing high quality photos with a minimum of user input; in large part thanks to its Intelligent Auto mode. Despite a few (very) minor issues, fans of automatic, fuss-free photography are likely to be very impressed with the results.
Making its debut in 2008, the FS range of Lumix cameras attempt to fill the gap between entry level ultra-compacts and their mid-range counterparts; effectively trading in a few high-end features for a lower price tag. The end result is a surprisingly versatile camera that should please both casual and experienced photographers alike; provided they can live with limited hands-on freedom. Indeed, one of the key features of the FS range is its advanced Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, which takes care of all menu corrections for you.
As its name suggests, Intelligent Auto automatically adjusts specific camera settings (such as scene modes and ISO sensitivities) to suit a particular environment; leaving you free to instantly point and shoot. While it might not seem all that different to the auto modes on other compact cameras, iA truly does produce superior results. This is due to its clever combination of independently operating functions; including face detection, automatic exposure and shutter speeds, continuous auto-focus and anti-handshake. As with previous compact offerings under the Lumix brand, the FS3 sports an excellent optical image stabiliser to ensure your photos remain blur-free.
All up, we were quite impressed with the image quality of our test shots; both with iA enabled and without. Although the colours in iA mode were overly warm on occasion, it wasn't something that was really that noticeable and should therefore be of little consequence to casual users. Likewise, while noise became evident at ISO 400, it remained fairly well controlled and will not hugely compromise the quality of your photos. At higher ISO sensitivities, the Intelligent ISO Control kicks in to boost the overall clarity. Even when compared to the output of its superior siblings, the FS3 remains a very solid performer. With that being said, the unimpressive 3x optical zoom will doubtlessly require many of your photos to be cropped, which will reduce the overall quality.
As mentioned above, one of the key features offered by Intelligent Auto is the Face Detection System. Face detection is the latest 'big thing' to hit the market, with most mid-range compact cameras now sporting a version of this technology. It allows a camera to 'see' human faces via complex computerised algorithms and then adjust the focus and exposure accordingly; ensuring your subjects are captured in the best possible light. Up to 15 faces can be detected in one frame, with handy box indicators highlighting which faces have been targeted. We found the face detection to work exceptionally well with this camera, further bolstering its reputation for fast and impressive results.
The FS3 retains the same simplistic design as the FS5 and FS20. Encased entirely in metal, it not only looks classy, but should also be able to withstand the odd knock. Weighing just 118g and sporting dimensions of 94.9x53.4x22.5mm, the camera is certainly on the ultra-portable size, yet it also manages to retain a 2.5in LCD screen. While the controls are laid out intelligently, we found the buttons to be a little tiny for our liking, which may hamper oversized fingers. On the plus side, the menu interface is quite easy to navigate, with the majority of modes and settings residing exactly where you would expect to find them. For those who prefer not to be babysat by Intelligent Auto, the usual suspects are all present and accounted for, including adjustable aperture and shutter speeds, six white balance modes, normal and macro focus, seven ISO sensitivities (including a high sensitivity mode which covers ISO 400-6400), a high speed burst mode (approximately seven frames per second) and 21 individual scene modes.
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