Expert Recommendation

.
Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $250
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
April 12, 2009
Overview

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 is a lightweight, fit-in-your-pocket, take-anywhere, durable, metal body ultra-compact with a 10.1 effective megapixel sensor, a 25mm - 100mm (35mm equivalent) 4X zoom lens, optical image stabilization, Intelligent Auto Exposure control, 720p HD video, and my Best-in-Class pick.

Best badge
My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35

In the world of ultra-compact auto cameras, it is rare to find one with a zoom lens that begins at a very wide 25mm (35 equivalent) when most ultras start at the mid-30s at best. But Panasonic has succeeded with the excellent Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.4-17.6mm f/2.8-5.6 4X zoom lens specifically designed for the DMC-FX35. And what a lens it is, coupled with Panasonic’s own in-the-lens MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization, a 10.1 megapixel (effective) image sensor and the Venus Image IV image processor, you’ll get sharp, blur-free, vibrant color images with no more effort than just pressing the shutter.

The DMC-FX35 is a auto-only camera–that is, no manual setting of exposure or focusing–which some might consider a drawback, but with Intelligent Multiple Auto Exposure Control, 9-point TTL autofocus with Face Detection, +-2 stop Exposure Compensation, 22 Scene Modes and a plethora of other settings, the average user will never notice. Additional features include four White Balance presets, plus auto and manual; ISOs from 100 to 6400; Normal 2.5 frames/sec. and High-speed Burst mode for up to 10 frames/sec., Quicktime movie and 720p HD video.

But what of its flaws? There are some. Ironically, the small size is one. There’s a dearth of space available for controls and such. If you have big hands, the FX35 might be unsuitable for you. All it would take is one misplaced finger covering the flash or the lens or microphone to ruin a shot or video. The one caveat that is significant, however, is image noise, but this is an inherent problem plaguing all small, high density image sensor cameras and not just something particular to the FX35. What really matters is not that there is noise, but how well it is controlled without adversely affecting the image. In this respect, Panasonic has done a good job–better than most–reducing noise while preserving image quality. And that’s what counts. The camera produces excellent, well-saturated images with little noise at ISOs less than 400. At 400 and 800, noise is apparent, but images are still sharp and usable. Speeds above 800 should only be used for emergencies as images are very noisy, soft, and smeary.

So, if you’re in the market for an auto camera that is small and light enough to comfortably carry in your pocket, and won’t put too much of a dent in the ol’ budget, then the Panasonic DMC-FX35 is the camera for you.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

The DMC-FX500 is for all practical purposes an FX35 internally–same image sensor, same image processor, same features and settings, etc.–but with just a few external improvements, namely, a 5X zoom lens (25-125mm equivalent) instead of 4X, and a 3 inch touch-operated LCD. It is also slightly larger, a little heavier, and more money. However, the image quality from either camera is the same.

Pros
  • +
    Lens
  • +
    Intelligent Multiple Exposure Control
  • +
    720p HD video
  • +
    Quicktime movie format
  • +
    Size
  • +
    Metal Body
  • +
    Build quality
  • +
    Price
Cons
  • -
    Image noise
  • -
    Small 2.5" LCD
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
Customer Rating
Price $279.00
?
Effective Sensor Resolution
10.1 megapixels 10.1 megapixels
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift)
?
Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
25 mm 25 mm
?
Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
100 mm 125 mm
Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused) 0.01 sec 0.01 sec
?
Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.6 sec 0.6 sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 2.5 frames/sec 2.5 frames/sec
Min ISO Setting 100 100
Max ISO Setting 6400 6400
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes
?
LCD Screen Size
2.5 in 3.0 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 230000 pixels 230000 pixels
Battery Life 300 shots 280 shots
Size (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
Weight (with batteries) 5.6 oz 6.2 oz
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

Introduced about 3 months after the FX35, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 built on the former’s attributes, but added a couple new hardware features of its own while keeping the camera small, light and easy to use. If you like the FX35, but need a larger, touch-controlled LCD and a longer zoom range lens, the FX500 is a good alternative.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $250
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
  • Best Price: $279
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

How It Works

You tell us your budget, intended uses, and desired features. We show you personalized recommendations from unbiased experts to quickly identify the best digital camera for you.

Advertisement

best hdtv Looking for an HDTV? BestInClass.com also provides expert recommendations for the best HDTV for you.