The has a simple, clean design with a metallic finish and rounded corners. It is available with a silver, black red or violet finish.
There are three menus on this camera: the mode menu, the quick menu and the main menu. The mode menu is launched by pressing the mode button, and this allows you to set the basic mode of the camera to intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Mini, scene or 3D mode. Missing, though are the 3D and miniature shooting modes of the higher end DMC-SZ7 and "DMC-SZ8": https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/content/Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-SZ7-Digital-Camera-First-Impressions-Review/Handling.htm models.
The Quick menu is triggered by pressing the button in the middle of the directional control, and offers quick access to settings for image size, ISO, white balance, metering and other settings. They are accessed from a horizontal bar, with the options on the vertical. The main menu is accessed through the menu button, and allows for access to all of the other controls that the camera offers.
The is a simple, straightforward camera to use.
The is a small, compact camera, but it fits well into the hand, with the index finger falling naturally onto the shutter button and the zoom control dial that is around it. The same finger can also reach over to the power switch,so it is easy to turn the camera on and start shooting quickly.
There are a good range of modes on offer on this camera, with two fully automatic modes, 16 scene modes and a handful of other modes on offer. One thing that is lacking is a manual mode; there is no way to go in and directly set the aperture or shutter speed on this camera.
There are two automatic modes on this camera. First is the iAuto (for intelligent Auto) mode that is present on all Panasonic cameras which chooses all of the settings for you. Next is the Normal mode, which is equivalent to the program mode on other cameras.
There is no separate movie mode on this camera, but it can shoot video at any time by pressing the dedicated movie shutter, which is to the right of the main shutter. This camera can record video at a resolution of up to 1280 by 720 pixels at 30 progressive frames per second (also known as 720p video) which is stored in MP4 format. This can be read by most video editing software, and the maximum length of videos is 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
Panasonic claims that this camera can shoot 1.3 frames a second at the 16.1 megapixel maximum resolution of the camera, but it also offers a 10 frames per second mode that shoots at a lower resolution.
A good selection of playback features are on offer, with the ability to show up to 30 thumbnails on screen at once, or to zoom in up to 10x on images. Slideshows can also be created, and a basic selection of editing features (such as red eye removal, cropping, etc) are available.
The offers eight options for image size, ranging from 4,608 by 3,456 pixels, down to 640 by 480 pixels. Five of these use a 4:3 aspect ratio, while the others have aspect ratios of 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1
The miniature mode uses a selective blur to give your images the look of a miniature model scene. This works for both still images and videos, with the video being sped up 10x to produce a rather amusing effect.
The does not have many high-end shooting modes, but it does offer a panorama mode, where the user can take a panoramic mode by pressing the shutter and panning the camera. The camera then takes 20 images and stitches them together to form a single panorama image.
A limited selection of focus modes are available, including an AF tracking mode that tracks a moving object in the frame. While shooting video, the camera offers a continuous mode that keeps the camera continuously focusing as it records video.
Options for face tracking, AF tracking and an evaluative mode that uses either 23 areas that cover most of the frame or one area in the center of the frame. Although these differ from the more standard evaluative, center weighted and spot metering modes, these fulfill much the same functions.
The offers an ISO range of 100 to 1600 in 1 stop steps.
The usual options for white balance are available, with an auto setting and 4 presets. A manual white point setting mode is also available, where you set the Kelvin value directly.
The uses Panasonics Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization) system, which moves an element of the lens to compensate for camera shake.
There are a number of special filter effects on offer, including color modes called standard, black & white, sepia, Vivid and an odd mode called happy which boosts the image saturation for a more movie-like look.
The lens of this camera is a 5X zoom with a wide angle focal length of 24mm that goes out to a maximum zoom length of 120mm. That's wide enough for a good group shot, but not quite long enough to get. The lens also has a decent aperture range, ranging from f/2.5 to f/9 at the wide angle end of the zoom to f/6.4 to f/20 at the telephoto end.
The sensor that the camera uses to capture the image is a 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor that captures 16.1 megapixel images. It can also capture video at a 1920 by 1080 pixel at 30 frames a second.
The LCD screen of the is a 3-inch screen that has a resolution of 230k pixels. That's a good sized screen (especially for the size of the camera), but the resolution is a little low. We were not able to test the screen in bright sunlight, but previous screens of this type have been a little hard to see in bright light.
The flash is a small unit built into the front of the camera body. We were not able to test the power of this unit, but Panasonic claims a range of 18 feet, but this is probably on the optimistic side.
There is only single port on this camera: a non-standard USB port that allows you to connect to a PC and offers an analog video output. Panasonic continues their unfortunate approach of using proprietary USB ports, which only work with their own cables. So, if you loose the cable that comes with this camera, you'll have to get a new one from Panasonic.
The battery fits into a small cavity on the bottom of the camera. It is a 680 mAh lithium polymer that Panasonic claims will last for 260 pictures, but we'll have to wait to get this into the lab to see how long it really lasts.
A small (but useful) 70Mb of memory is built into the camera which can hold a handful of images, but the main image storage location is the SD card slot, which supports SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.
The is a simple, but straightforward to use camera. It doesn't have a huge range of features, though, with no 3D or other more sophisticated shooting modes that more expensive models may offer (there is a panorama shooting mode on offer, though). But it has all the basics required for casual shooting, with a good (but not overwheliming) selection of scene modes and two fully automatic modes.
So the signs look good for a simple, straightforward camera that is light (at 0.28lb) and small enough (at 0.77 inches thick) to slip into a pocket, but which still offers more features and flexibility than the typical cell phone. Pricing and availability for the FH8 has not yet been announced, but it is likely to be released in the first quarter of 2012.
Meet the tester
Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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