Top critical review
256 people found this helpful
Great features, great lens, less than stellar engineering
on January 19, 2012
I researched this purchase for several months, watching videos made by others using the camera, and pictures taken. I was very impressed with the video quality and picture quality from my research. It also had all the features I wanted (RAW shooting, flip-out LCD screen, a relatively decent "superzoom" lens and small size). I was aware of complaints of build quality, and the user interface, but I wasn't as concerned about that as with the features for the price.
After using the camera for a few months, I have several things to mention.
1.) The HD video quality is top-notch. Very impressive. I love the camera's ability to zoom and refocus while capturing movies. It makes my shots seem more "cinematic".
2.) The photo quality is also excellent, pleasantly saturated colors (adjustable), although a bit grainy at the higher ISOs (not surprising given the camera's sensor size)
3.) The build quality is indeed less than stellar. It seems a little more "plasticky" than it's competitors. This probably adds to the camera's light weight (which I do like), but when I use it, I feel like I have to be more careful than with other simlar camera's I've handled. Consequently, I carry it in a well-padded bag.
4.) The interface is a bit confusing and overly complicated. Panasonic should take a lesson from Canon on interface design.
5.) The buttons are a little small and tightly arranged. Although I've gotten used to it, it does make using the camera feel a little cramped - not a huge issue.
6.) In at least one instance, the EXIF data indicated the flash did not fire, when in fact it did.
7.) This is perhaps the most troubling issue (a glaring design flaw, in my opinion), and the main reason for not giving this product a full five star rating - In some pictures using the flash, white disks or "soap bubbles" (as the camera's manual calls them) appear superimposed over the subject. This phenomenon is mentioned in the PDF manual on page 197 (you can download a PDF of this Manual from Panasonic's website and read it yourself). I did read the PDF manual all the way through before buying the camera but I did not expect those artifacts to be so common (the shot in the manual showing the artifacts is not a picture style I typically shoot). The manual says they "may appear as a result of the flash reflecting off of dust particles in the air". To me, this is a major design flaw and has already ruined a number of my shots. I have never seen such artifacts from any cameras with on-board flash. At times the artifacts are subtle enough to where you don't see them until you download the pictures from the memory card to your computer and examine them - too late to re-shoot the photo without the flash. Of course, I have never seen the problem in video clips, but I have never used a video light source with the camera so I can't say if they wouldn't appear in that case.
I am hopeful a firmware update will fix the EXIF and "soap bubbles" problems. If so, this would be a five-star product, in my opinion. In the mean time, I have created my own "DIY" flash diffuser for the pop-up flash that will hopefully eliminate or lessen the problem. If I can post a follow-up review, I will report the results of the change.