So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 compact camera
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 review: A compact camera that's decent value for money, but don't expect great image quality
- Comfortable to use
- Shoots HD video
- Includes fun art modes
- Noticeable purple fringing in some shots
- Struggles to find proper exposure on bright days
- Can't handle highlights
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 won't dazzle you with its image quality, but for $199 it's a decent compact that's comfortable to use and it also offers HD video recording. It's useful for taking happy snaps with the intention of sharing them via social networking sites.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 is a compact camera that's simple to operate and it has a decent set of features for its sub-$200 price. You get a 14-megapixel sensor, a 28mm wide angle lens with a 4x zoom, and built-in image stabilisation. However, its picture quality isn't great and it often struggled to properly expose pictures on sunny days during our tests.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 is very similar to the DMC-FH5, with the only difference being a slightly smaller sensor resolution: 14 megapixels for the FH2 as opposed to 16 megapixels for the FH5. The optics and the processing ability of the FH2 are the same as the FH5 and this means that the performance of both cameras is very similar, but you're paying $50 less for the FH2.
In many ways the LUMIX DMC-FH2 is a good value camera — an extra two megapixels doesn't make too much of a difference, but it does help if you want to crop your photos closely. That said, if you crop the photos from the FH2 too much, they will noticeably lose their definition and just look muddy. If all you want to do is capture happy snaps that will then be uploaded to social networking sites, then the FH2 is a camera that's well worth considering. It doesn't come with any manual modes, so it's very simple to operate: plonk it in normal or iAuto mode, look at the 2.7in LCD screen to frame your photos and press the shutter button.
The lens on the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 has a wide aperture value of f/3.1 and the camera will automatically select this in dark conditions when it needs as much light as possible. In our tests, the FH2 was decent in dim lighting conditions and it allowed us to take handheld photos that were reasonably clear even with a reported shutter speed of 1/8sec. The built-in image stabilisation helped in this instance, and the camera also selected a higher ISO speed in this instance.
You won't want the camera to use too high an ISO speed as the picture quality will deteriorate once it goes over ISO 400, and unfortunately, it doesn't have an ISO limiting function like many other LUMIX cameras, which means you can't tell it to only use up to a certain value.
Sunny days can be hard to deal with for the LUMIX DMC-FH2. Highlights were blown out in many of our photos, and in photos with both large dark and bright areas, the camera's metering struggled perform properly. In some shots, shaded areas looked good while sun-drenched areas turned white. We found that we had to aim directly at the brightest part of the photo and then reframe our original shot in order to make the camera perform properly, but even then, it just refused to properly expose some bright areas. We noticed that we had less chance of getting a properly exposed photo with normal mode than we did with iAuto mode.
Another blemish on the LUMIX DMC-FH2's image quality is that it produced noticeable purple fringing in many photos. This was particularly prominent in trees against a bright blue sky in the middle of the day. It's something that you'll have to look out for as it can ruin otherwise good looking images.
When conditions aren't too bright, then the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 is a handy camera to have around. It doesn't feel sluggish in its shot-to-shot performance (not for a sub-$200 compact anyway) and it's very comfortable to hold and use — unlike the similarly-priced Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W530. There is plenty of thumb room and the shutter button has a distinct two-step feel for focusing before ultimately taking a photo. It has the same 28 scene modes as the FH5, and this includes the Film Grain, Pin Hole and High Dynamic art modes. You also get face recognition focusing and focus tracking, both of which are useful, and it can shoot video at a resolution of 1280x720.
Overall, we found the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2's image quality to be slightly lower than the DMC-FH5's, especially in the way it handles bright scenes. Nevertheless, it's still a decent camera to consider if your budget is $200 and you only want to capture happy snaps and shoot the odd video.
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