For style junkies the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7 digital camera competes with the slickest, smallest phones. However, if aesthetics are not your priority two major features of this camera may turn you off. First, it doesn't have a viewfinder so taking photos is limited to looking at its LCD screen, a drain on the battery. Which leads to its second possible turnoff. It has a rechargeable battery, which means you are likely to run out of juice at inconvenient moments unless you carry a spare. On the up side, it is very light and lean enough to disappear into an average pocket, which is great.
The caveats can be over-ruled, however, by the Lumix's classy design and the lure of the excellent optics (with x3 zoom) and high resolution (5 megapixels) supplied by that legendary camera brand, Leica. There is also the anti-shake technology supplied by Panasonic to lessen the effects of shaky hands.
Don't dismiss the Lumix as an expensive toy for gizmo gurus. Bear in mind that there are people (special needs students for example) who can't use a viewfinder and so have a serious need of a large LCD screen (with excellent zoom). The same applies to technology that helps people with shaky hands to take better photos. And the camera's simple graphical help, that instructs you step-by-step through the camera's options, lets you off carrying complicated manuals. The camera's preset shooting modes are sufficient for many users, but the automatic mode seemed to ensure the best quality photos all round. Editing images on camera is also a nice feature, rotating and cropping and slide shows. There's also a video mode with sound.
For uncomplicated picture-taking and brand name assurance this camera is ideal, if expensive.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7
Digital camera (5 megapixel), extremely compact with 2.5-inch LCD screen and 5.8 - 17.4mm 1:2.8 - 5.0 zoom lens. Records images, video and sound on to Secure Digital (SD) card. Price around pound;300
Fitness for purpose ****
Ease of use ****
Value for money ****