Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX520

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      A compact, lightweight digicams with an advanced set of functions, touch screen control and above-average performance.The 10.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-FX520 is Panasonic’s first digital camera with a 3-inch touch-screen LCD and a very compact camera for its advanced range of functions. While the touch screen may excite some buyers, photographers are more likely to be attracted by the P, A, S and M shooting modes and the wide-angle Leica DC lens, which supports 5x optical zoom and covers a focal length range of 25mm to 125mm (35mm equivalent). . . [more]

      Full review


      The 10.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-FX520 is Panasonic’s first digital camera with a 3-inch touch-screen LCD and a very compact camera for its advanced range of functions. While the touch screen may excite some buyers, photographers are more likely to be attracted by the P, A, S and M shooting modes and the wide-angle Leica DC lens, which supports 5x optical zoom and covers a focal length range of 25mm to 125mm (35mm equivalent).
      Solidly built with a smart, brushed metal case that comes in black or gunmetal grey, the FX520 has a retracting lens. A stainless steel finger bar is located on the front panel, with a dimpled thumb pad on the rear. The slim built-in flash tube is slightly off-centre and not directly over the lens to reduce the risk of red eyes in flash shots. The battery and memory card compartment is in the base of the camera, while a metal-lined tripod socket is located at the opposite end of the base plate (not the ideal position).


      Front view showing the retracting lens, slim, off-centre flash tube and stainless steel finger bar.

      But there’s a downside: many of the controls on the FX520 are way too small. Even the on/off switch is tiny and, although it moves positively enough, it would be a challenge for anybody with large fingers or limited dexterity to operate. The record/playback slider on the rear panel is just as small and the Mode, Display and Quick Menu buttons are less than 5mm in diameter. The Mode button is actually flush with the camera body.


      Rear view showing the huge LCD screen and tiny button controls.

      Most difficult to operate, however, is the four-way joystick, which replaces the traditional arrow pad. Not only is it diminutive in size; it is also so cramped we found we could only move it with the tip of a fingernail. Its thrust and accuracy were so limited we often engaged the wrong setting inadvertently. Fortunately, the shutter button and zoom ring are of an adequate size and relatively easy to operate.
      Otherwise, there’s plenty to like in the FX520. The touch screen is part of a hybrid control system that also uses the joystick and Panasonic supplies a ‘stylus pen’ to permit precise control. It clips onto the wrist strap and has a rounded tip that is much smaller than a fingertip. However, we found it’s just as easy to use a fingertip to adjust most controls and slightly easier with some.
      The new Venus Engine IV image processing engine is an LSI (large-scale integration) chip with algorithms for reducing image noise and suppressing colour bleeding. It also improves the accuracy of the image stabilisation system and provides support for functions like Face Detection and Digital Red-Eye Correction.
      The former can identify up to 15 human faces in a scene and will adjust focus and exposure accordingly. The latter uses software in the camera to automatically correct red eyes in flash shots. Power management is also controlled by the Venus Engine IV chip. According to the user handbook, a fully charged battery can support approximately 280 shots (C.I.P.A. standard tests) or up to 140 minutes of video recording.
      Also new to the FX520 is AF tracking, a feature that is common on DSLR cameras but relatively rare on digicams. Useful for photographers who take shots of active children or pets, it allows the focusing system to track moving subjects right up to the point where the shot is taken. The FX520 comes with 50MB of internal memory plus an SD/SDHC expansion slot. It will accept SDHC cards up to 16GB in capacity.
      Like other Panasonic digicams, the FX520 is fitted with the company’s MEGA O.I.S. optical image stabiliser, which works with the built-in ‘Intelligent ISO’ control to counteract camera shake and reduce the effect of motion blur in shots of moving subjects. The Intelligent ISO function boosts ISO sensitivity so if you’re shooting in dim lighting and don’t want grainy-looking pictures, it’s probably best switched off.

      The FX520 is supplied with a software bundle containing PHOTOfunSTUDIO viewer and ArcSoft Software Suite, along with QuickTime, Adobe Reader and a USB driver. PHOTOfunSTUDIO is a Windows-only viewer that lets users upload images to a computer and classify and organise them. It includes a resizing function and some digital effects and supports printing and writing images to optical disk.
      The ArcSoft Software Suite includes the MediaImpression editor and a Panorama Maker for stitching shots. Both are fairly basic applications but they provide a good entry to image usage and prepare users for a step up to more capable editing programs.

      Sensor and Resolution
      The sensor in the FX520 is Panasonic’s 1/2.33-inch CCD, which we estimate measures 7.4 x 5.6 mm. It has 10.7 million photosites in total, with an effective resolution of 10.1 megapixels. The camera only supports JPEG capture but offers a choice of three aspect ratios – 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio






      3648 x 2736




      3072 x 2304




      2560 x 1920




      2048 x 1536




      1600 x 1200




      640 x 480





      3648 x 2432




      3072 x 2048




      2560 x 1712




      2048 x 1360





      3648 x 2056




      3072 x 1728




      2560 x 1440




      1920 x 1080



      Video capture capabilities are above average for a digicam but typical of many Panasonic cameras. Two aspect ratios are supported – 4:3 and 16:9 – with two sizes and two frame rates for each aspect ratio. Typical recording times are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode


      Recording time/1GB card




      11 minutes

      10 fps VGA

      32 minutes 50 seconds

      30fps QVGA


      32 minutes 50 seconds

      10 fps QVGA

      1 hour 35 minutes


      30fps 16:9H


      4 minutes

      15fps 16:9H

      8 minutes 10 seconds

      30fps 16:9L


      9 minutes 20 seconds

      15fps 16:9L

      28 minutes 10 seconds

      Touch Screen Controls
      The touch screen is the main feature that distinguishes the FX520 from its sibling digicams and provides a point of difference in the marketplace. Unfortunately, unlike the touch screen on Sony’s T300 model, you can’t adjust all of the FX520’s functions by tapping on the LCD. Instead you must combine the touch screen with the menu and mode buttons and move through settings with the joystick which, as pointed out above, is fiddly to operate.
      The FX520 provides seven shooting modes, which are accessed via the mode button but selected via the touch screen. The illustration below shows the shooting mode screen. You simply tap on the icon for the mode you wish to use and it is engaged.


      Selecting the A, S or M mode allows you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed settings using the sliders on the screen. In aperture priority mode, the aperture settings slider runs along the lower edge of the screen while a slider for exposure compensation runs down the right hand side. In shutter priority mode, the shutter speed settings run along the lower edge of the screen, while exposure compensation remains on the right.
      In manual mode, the aperture settings are located along the right side of the screen and range from f/2.8 to f/8.0 in 1/3-stop increments. The shutter speed settings run along the lower edge of the screen and extend out to eight seconds in shutter priority mode or 60 seconds in manual mode, with a minimum shutter speed of 1/2000 second.


      The slider controls for aperture and shutter speed settings in manual mode. To change settings, simly touch the cyan bar on the slider and drag it to the new setting.

      Exposure compensation can’t be used in manual mode but auto bracketing is available via the top position for the joystick. The joystick is then used to change exposure settings. Bracketing is available in 1/3 EV steps from +1 to -1 EV. The same joystick control also accesses white balance adjustments, which range from red to blue in 10 steps.


      Exposure compensation is adjusted with the joystick.

      The touch screen accesses 21 scene pre-sets, including two ‘Baby’ modes and a ‘Pet’ mode. When you select one of these modes, the camera prompts you to enter the baby’s (or pet’s) name and age. A QWERTY keyboard is displayed for inputting the former – and here the stylus is preferred over tapping on the alphanumeric icons.
      These modes allow the age of the subject to be recorded in the image metadata for easy retrieval when you wish to know how old the subject was when the shot was taken. They also allow the name and age of the subject to be superimposed on shots for printing. (The default setting is Off for this function.)
      The Intelligent Auto (iA) mode takes advantage of the touch screen by automatically selecting the most appropriate scene mode for the subject. If, for example, you touch a face on the screen, Portrait mode is selected. For outdoor shots, the Backlight control pops up automatically and you can switch it on or off by touching the screen.
      The touch screen can also be used as a focus control. Simply touch the AFAE icon on the lower right side of the screen then touch the screen at the point you want to focus on. Both focus and exposure will be set for that area.

      Menu Controls
      There are two ways to enter the FX520’s menu system: by pressing the Menu/Set button on the joystick and via the Q. Menu button on the lower right corner of the rear panel. Pressing the Menu button calls up the standard Panasonic menu containing three pages of shooting controls and five pages of set-up options. Many of the standard menu settings are replicated in the Quick Menu, although the user interfaces differ, as shown in the illustrations below.


      The standard menu, which is accessed via the Menu/Set button on the joystick.


      The Quick Menu, which is accessed via a dedicated button.

      In both cases, functions are selected by toggling with the joystick and set by pressing it in. Both menus provide the standard resolution, quality, white balance and exposure adjustments and allow you to switch settings like the stabiliser and Intelligent ISO on and off. The standard menu also allows you to set minimum shutter speeds, engage the picture adjustments (contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction) and colour effects and record audio with still pictures. Some of these functions are restricted to the P, A, S and M modes, while others apply more widely.
      The joystick provides quick access to the exposure compensation, flash, close-up and timer settings, all of which are set by toggling. The flash options are shown in the screen grab below.


      Playback mode is selected via the slider on the top right corner of the rear panel. The FX520 supports all the standard playback modes, including single and index playback as well as slideshows. Using the touch screen, you can toggle between single, 12-frame and 30-frame playback or select Calendar Playback, which displays a calendar with an index thumbnail of the first shot taken on each day.


      The calendar displays shots on the memory card with thumbnails for days on which shots were taken.

      Navigation in calendar playback is via the touch screen, with arrows leading to adjacent months. You can also select Dual Play and display two sequential shots on the screen together, allowing you to compare the focus and exposure of sequential shots. You can zoom in on either of the images and delete unwanted shots via the touch screen.
      Panasonic has provided an Easy Organisation menu in playback mode to help users locate favourite shots. Selected images can be tagged as Favourites and up to 999 Favourites can be stored in memory for automated playback.


      The organiser allows users to tag images as Favourites, enlarge, trim and delete shots.

      On-board editing controls include resizing, trimming and titling. The Title Edit function, which allows text to be input into the image metadata, is handy when creating photo albums and can be used to input names of children or travel locations. This information, as well as dates, can be stamped on photos with the Text Stamp function when the images are printed.
      In playback mode, the touch screen can be used as a playback zoom. Simply touch the magnifying glass icon on the lower right side of the screen to select the point you wish to zoom in on. Each time you tap on the screen, the selected spot is magnified, up to a maximum of 16 times. You can move the magnified spot around on the screen by dragging the tip of your finger to another position.

      The test camera was more responsive than many digicams we’ve reviewed and its AF system was fast and accurate, only tending to hunt in very low light levels. The image stabilisation system was effective across a wide brightness range. However, the test camera suffered from the limited dynamic range problems that best small-sensor digicams.
      Imatest showed resolution to be below expectations for a 10-megapixel camera, but relatively good for the size of the camera’s sensor. Edge softening was pronounced at the shortest and longest focal length settings but barely evident between 7.3mm and 12.2mm. Our test results are shown in the graph below.


      We found only a slight decline in resolution as the camera’s sensitivity setting was increased, as shown in the graph below.


      Colour accuracy was shown to be consistently very good in our Imatest evaluations. Saturation was only slightly above the normal level and lateral chromatic aberration was consistently very low. We found very minor coloured fringing in outdoor shots and also evidence of compression artefacts when images were enlarged to 200%. This would not cause obvious problems in everyday photography.
      The auto white balance setting had the usual problems with incandescent lighting but removed almost all the green cast with fluorescent lights. Both pre-sets over-corrected slightly but the manual measurement system delivered neutral colours. Close-ups were competently handled by the test camera and digital zoom shots were slightly soft and relatively artefact-free.
      The flash required at least ISO 200 to illuminate an average-sized room. Flash exposures were generally well-balanced but image noise was just visible at ISO 800 but quite obvious at ISO 1600. Long exposures at night were noise-free at ISO 200, which is the default setting for the Starry Sky scene mode, the only mode to support exposures longer than eight seconds. We found a slight softening of the image with 60-second exposures although images were sharp at 30 seconds.
      We measured an average start-up time of 2.08 seconds and capture lag was consistent at 0.8 seconds, reducing to 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took three seconds to process one high-resolution JPEG image. The high-speed burst mode recording three high-resolution images at 0.4 second intervals, while the ‘infinite’ mode recorded high-resolution shots at intervals that began at 0.6 seconds but slowed progressively to an average of 0.8 seconds.





      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.




      Digital zoom.


      Party shot with slow-synch flash.


      30-second exposure in Starry Sky mode.


      60-second exposure in Starry Sky mode. Slight softening results from noise-reduction processing.




      Image sensor: 7.4 x 5.6 mm CCD with 10.7 Million photosites (10.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 4.4-22mm f/2.8-5.9 zoom lens (25-125mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 4x optical, up to 8.9x digital
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.21); Movies ““ AVI Motion JPEG with sound
      Image Sizes: Stills ““ 4:3 format: 3648 x 2736, 3072 x 2304, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480; 3:3 format: 3648 x 2432, 3072 x 2048, 2560 x 1712, 2048×1360; 16:9 format: 3648 x 2056, 3072 x 1728, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080; Movies ““ 4:3 format: 640 x 480, 320 x 240 at 15/30 fps; 16:9 format: 1280 x 720 at 15 fps; 848 x 480 at 15/30 fps
      Shutter speed range: 8 to 1/2000 sec. (up to 60 sec. in Starry Sky mode)
      Image Stabilisation: optical
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in 1/3 step increments
      Focus system/range: TTL auto focus; range 50 cm to infinity; macro to 5 cm
      Exposure metering/control: Multi/Centre-weighted/Spot metering; Program AE plus 24 scene mode settings
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White set
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, red-eye reduction. Forced on, Forced off, Slow synch; range 0.6-6.0 metres
      Sequence shooting: 2.5 fps (maximum) for 3 high-resolution images; 6 fps at reduced resolution for approx. 20 frames
      Storage Media: 50MB Internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: n.a.
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT LCD Screen (230,000 pixels)
      Power supply: rechargeable lithium-ion battery (approx. 260 shots/charge)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 94.9 x 57.1 x 22.9 mm
      Weight: 155 grams (without battery and card)





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