04 July 2010

Panasonic DMC-FH1

I just received this camera last night and, well, it's going straight back. It is certainly not bad, but just does not work for me.

The Good: It looks like the younger sibling of the ZS1 I just reviewed. In other words, beautiful. But thankfully it has much faster focus and performs very nicely. The lens is very sharp and contrasty, and is a wide 28mm, with 5x optical zoom and image stabilized. I took sharp handhelds with it at 1/8 sec shutter speed, no problem at all. It also has 720p HD video. For a $125 camera, it is very feature rich.

The Bad: The UI is redundant and, for a camera with so few settings, a bit hard to navigate. It has three buttons that get you to basically the same settings. Entirely too much. And as I say, it really has very few settings. It is an automagic point and shoot with almost no manual options. I was not expecting much that way, but the one must-have feature it lacks is any kind of exposure lock or panorama assist. I shoot panoramas all the time, so this was a deal breaker. But in addition, the image quality was just not good enough. Even moreso than the ZS1, it has a tendency to produce blotchy chroma noise in the shadows. Its image noise in general is unaesthetic (and yes, some noise is prettier than other) and its sharpening is set to nuclear. The result is some pixel-level nastiness, even at ISO 80, that I just could not live with.

The Verdict: So back it goes. I wanted to like it, but for just a bit more money I can get a Canon SD940 IS, which is roughly equivalent in specs, but has more manual features, including both exposure lock and panorama assist. Test images in reviews also look very good and noise-free at low ISOs. I've owned a lot of Canons and always liked them. So back to Canon I go.

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