The FX700 isn't the smallest compact out there, weighing in at almost 200 g. You'll definitely know you've got it in your pocket, then! The camera is well-made and nicely finished, and the matte coating is particularly pleasant. The FX700 doesn't feel too fragile either.
The controls are simple and plain. At the rear, there are only a few physical buttons for selecting the photo mode (iA, p, A, S and M, scene modes) and accessing the menus. Just above, there's a switch for selecting playback mode or shooting mode.
Like on the previous model, the screen can only display 230,000 dots, but is pleasant to use in good light conditions. However, in bright sunlight glare and reflections are a problem, while in low light the image starts to jump and stick. Nevertheless, viewing angles are pretty good. The touchscreen part of the interface has been thoughtfully designed. The camera is responsive and the menus are laid out clearly and logically. A few touches on the screen is all it takes to adjust all kinds of settings. It's also possible to quickly select the focusing zone and take a shot with a simple tap of the finger. Panasonic could have taken things further though, particularly in playback mode when those of you who are used to using touchscreen smartphones might find yourself trying to enlarge a photo with two fingers. This, unfortunately, isn't possible in this camera as the screen doesn't yet integrate multipoint technology.
Apart from a start-up time which may seem interminable to some of you (we seem to be getting more and more impatient these days, and anything over two seconds is starting to feel long ...), the FX700 is an obedient and responsive camera. Focusing takes less than a second in most situations and the time required to save a snap is acceptable too. Burst mode can reach up to 10 fps if the camera's at a low sensitivity setting like 100 ISO. It's also possible to shoot up to 60 fps in a reduced resolution of 3.5 Megapixels. In our tests with the continuous autofocus, we couldn't go faster than 5 fps for a burst of ten frames.
After the fairly mixed results we got with the FZ100, which has the same new MOS sensor as the FX700, we weren't holding out too much hope for picture quality in this camera. We, unfortunately, weren't pleasantly surprised either. The FX700 takes pictures that are grainy from 100 ISO when viewed at 100% size on a computer screen. Plus, smoothing is already noticeable. Generally speaking, pictures taken at 100 ISO lack a little sharpness. But while photos taken at 100 ISO and 200 ISO are still acceptable, at 400 ISO noise and smoothing reduce picture quality considerably. In fact, picture quality is disappointing on the whole. The lens is pretty average too, as the edges of shots taken in wide angle could definitely be clearer. Things are better in telephoto (120 mm) though, where the quality is more consistent across the frame. That said, it's still a long way off the quality seen in the Canon SX210 or the Sony TX9.
For the rest, the FX700 proves typically effective, with good exposure metering and a white balance that's decent in outdoor conditions (but a little too warm indoors under tungsten lights). Certain optical defects are corrected on the fly (chromatic aberration, distortion) and the picture is well-processed in general. The lens is pretty fast in wide-angle mode but this drops sharply as you start to zoom. Optical stabilisation works well enough and the image is clear and sharp at 1/8 sec.
The FX700 has a well-equipped video mode with stereo sound and an optical zoom (see insert). Video quality is good (1080i, 25 fps, AVCHD) as is the quality of the stereo sound recorded. The FX700 is therefore ideal for use as a pocket camcorder as and when you need it.