Monday, 11 January 2010

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS4 and my new blog

I started a new blog last week:

It's part of my 'creative' new-years resolution to take more pictures. If I stick to it (and so far so good), then I will have to take at least one new photograph every day, for the rest of the year. That's a lot more than I took last year, and although rather daunting, it's started very well.

It has also meant that I now make sure I always have a camera with me. And for the sake of ease-of-use and sheer portability, that was always going to be a compact point-and-shoot. My weapon of choice is the Panasonic Lumix DMC - FS4 (and no, I don't know what all those letters stand for either?!)

But when I say 'weapon of choice', what I'm really saying is that it's the only point-and-shoot I own. I purchased it late last year on a whim (because it was cheap, and came with heaps of accessories), and I'd be lying if I said I didn't experience a good amount of 'buyers remorse' soon after purchasing it.

Don't get me wrong, I think Panasonic make some of the best point-and-shoots you can get. But the DMC-FS4 is the very basic, entry-level model with very limited user control. In fact, it really only functions using 'Scene' modes. Pretty crap, I thought, and left it in the box.

But - now I've got this new blog. And now I need to have a camera with me all the time. And now I have to actually use it. And boy, am I glad I did. Because it turns out the DMC-FS4 is an absolute cracker of a camera. A wee gem. And I'm loving using it. Not to mention the results I'm getting from it!

It may only have scene modes (and dozens of them), but they work brilliantly, and I'm not disappointed by the results from such a cheap camera. It doesn't have an optical viewfinder (they're junk on these wee compacts anyway), but does have a big, bright 2.5" lcd screen, with optional gridlines for aiding composition and keeping horizons straight. It also has image stabilization built-in (Panasonic call it Mega O.I.S.) as well as automatic ISO control - both working together to reduce blurry photos due to camera shake.

This was shot using the Panasonic's 'macro' setting (make sure the lens is set for wide angle otherwise macro doesn't work), and I'm just amazed that it allowed me to capture the fly, let alone produce a sharp image. This tiny little fly was on the leaf for all of a nano second, yet the result is tack sharp on the fly, and beautifully soft in the background. Wow!

And it was by no means a fluke - I got dozens of useable images, just from half an hour spent at lunchtime chasing insects around the garden. I don't know, but I reckon I'd be hard pressed to do that with my SLR?

But it's not just the macro's that have impressed me. Over the last 5 days I've taken indoor and outdoor portraits under varying lighting conditions, as well as landscapes - all using the various scene modes - and the camera has handled it all brilliantly.

Even in 'standard' mode, the colours are punchy and vibrant - the lens is sharp, contrasty and renders colour accurately. The exposures from the camera have been 99.9% accurate, without any need for exposure compensation (you can set +/- 2 stops), under some very tricky lighting conditions - from harsh sunlight to dark interiors. Check out my 'A Year in Pictures' blog for more examples of what the Lumix has been producing for me over the last week.

For a point-and-shoot camera that I was initially disappointed in due to its perceived lack of control, the Panasonic Lumix has turned out to be a stellar performer - under all conditions. Yes, I'm sure it has it's limitations. I'd love for the lens to go a little wider (it's a 33-132mm equivalent lens), and the ability to shoot RAW - but having said that, the jpegs it produces with its 8MP sensor look gorgeous! I'd also like it to be heavier - not so much plastic - but keep the same size (very pocketable).

Yet despite all that, and much to my surprise, I'm loving using the Panasonic DMC-FS4. And given that I have to take at least one image, every day, for the next 360 days, I hope to become even more impressed by this pocket-sized picture maker. If you're on the look out for a cheap, but very capable little point-and-shoot, then look no further than the Lumix DMC-FS4.