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Review of the Panasonic Lumix FS-16 camera

Recently I've been wanting to replace my old point and shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot A620. I've got a pair of DLSR cameras and I do frequently carry one of them out with me, but there are undoubtedly occasions where I'd rather not bother, or where I find myself wanting to take a picture without having one to hand.

Unfortunately the PowerShot is pretty large itself, although significantly less so than the DSLRS I possess. (I cannot remember the last time I used the PowerShot outside my flat, that is how rarely it goes outdoors).

The PowerShot has been a good camera to me for many years and the three features I liked the most:

  • A real view-finder.
  • It runs on 4x AA batteries; easy to find.
  • Shoots (smallish) movies.

Picking a replacement camera, even with the help of fine comparison websites like snapsort.com is hard. Cameras have moved on and "improved" a lot over the last few years - to the extent that finding one with a built-in viewfinder is hard. Finding one with a built-in viewfinder and running on easily replaceable batteries was virtually impossible.

Eventually I settled on the Panasonic Lumix FS16, which omits both:

  • Integrated rechargeable battery.
  • LCD-only viewfinder.

The way that you use the LCD or viewfinder differs pretty significantly, but the LCD wasn't as bad as I'd feared:

ViewFinder

You hold the camera to your eye, and press the appropriate buttons.

LCD

You typically hold the camera at arms length, which means you're prone to shaking your hands/arms and getting blurry shots.

Because you're holding the camera relatively far away from your eyes if you have the sun at your back you're liable to need to squint.

The LCD on the Lumix FS-16 isn't amazing, but neither is it horrific and it is better than expected in dark locations.

So after a week what do I think? On the whole it is a fine camera, better than the PowerShot in many ways, and while it has draw-backs none are deal-breakers:

Size

The best camera is one you have with you; on that basis this camera is a clear win being smaller, lighter, and more compact than the Canon.

I've taken this camera with me, randomly, to several places and returned with useful and interesting images.

Low Light

Low light performance is pretty poor. With only one manual control you see noise if you're shooting in gloomy pubs, and outdoors. With the flash you can get acceptable pictures if you're careful - but its a tricky thing to get right.

(To update this a little: Outdoors at night? No. In a pub with poor lighting you'll be alright.)

Manual Controls

The camera features precisely two manual controls:

  • "Flash on" vs. "Flash off".
  • ISO can be changed from: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1200 and 1600.

There is no notion of shutter speed, nor is there any ability to change the aperture size. (Though both these values are displayed on the screen as you take a picture I wonder why? As you can't change anything you can't use the information in any useful fashion, and presumably a non-camera-person wouldn't understand what these numbers represent.)

The lack of these two controls is a little galling, but pretty common for the low-end P&S cameras.

Video Recording

There is no external MIC so sounds aren't great, but they're not horrible either.

Video recordings are limited to the smaller of 8 minutes or 2Gb. So no long films, but short ones look fine. Just be aware that once you start recording focus won't change, nor will zooming work.

Compared to the canon the quality is improved; but the Canon allowed you to (optically) zoom whilst recording. Here you can only zoom with your feet.

Recharging Time

When I received the camera it took about an hour to charge. The battery life seems reasonable - the level is 2/3 a week later and I've been shooting, reviewing, and deleting regularly.

(Note: I never use USB to transfer pictures, I always remove the card and plug it into my PC. Whether this makes a difference to battery life I don't know.)

Controls

Physical controls are reasonable. There is a mechanical slide-switch to turn on/off. I like that, as it is less prone to being knocked by keys, change, etc.

There is also a physical slide-switch to change from "shoot" to "review current images/videos". (Same as my Canon) I think this is a mistake, and don't see why it can't be a soft-button.

Full Auto

There are several modes available in the camera (remember the caveat about lack of aperture/shutter speed) I've been using both full-auto and manual modes, and both are good. Full auto would suit most people - it has clever face-tracking.

Focusing Speed

As expected this is not stellar. Walking to the corner shop the other lunchtime I found a cat in the road, I talked to her and she rubbed herself against my ankles. Could I focus fast enough to catch her looking up at me? No.

For static scenes, and candid shots of people it'll suffice. For fast action and moving children probably not a chance.

On balance, the upgrade was worthwhile.

ObQuote: "I don't mean to lecture and I don't mean to preach. And I know I'm not your father..." - Spider-Man