Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX90 at IFA – first look review

New compact digital camera with built-in WiFi and Facebook fun
Photo of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX90 at IFA – first look

The crowds parted at Berlin’s huge IFA consumer electronics fair this weekend just long enough for us to get our hands on Panasonic’s latest Lumix, a social media mogul’s dream compact camera.

The sleek, though not so slim DMC-FX90′s chief feature is its built-in WiFi capabilities, which make posting video or snaps to Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and You Tube a cinch.

Slated for sale in the UK during October, the DMC-FX90 achieves 12.1-megapixel stills, with a 5x optical zoom from its 24mm Leica DC Vario-Summarit lens. It feels sturdy in the hand, a bit like one of the brand’s ‘tough’ cameras, and the three-inch touch screen on the camera’s rear is clear, with plenty of contrast.

Touchscreen interface
The interface is typical Panasonic fare – reliable and easy to navigate without ever being quite as intuitive as we’d like. It also suffers from the usual problem in that while holding the camera it’s natural to use thumbs on the touch screen instead of fingers – something that isn’t helped by the overly small on-screen buttons, though the DMC-FX90′s bigger problem is that the touchscreen isn’t quite as sensitive as it could be.

The SDHC Card-powered DMC-FX90 can shoot video at 1080i resolution and 60 frames per second (fps), which can then be sprayed around the globe with ease – along with stills – thanks to some software that should make it easy to upload your media to several places simultaneously. It does this by collating your login details to the various websites.

It’s a simple idea with a single button activation (that being the hard-to-miss ‘WiFi’ button, on the thing’s right hand side), though it does meaning becoming a member of the ‘Lumix Club’.

The obvious problem with this kind of idea is an annoying lack of reliable public WiFi, especially in the UK. Luckily, Panasonic has thought of that and is also packing a smartphone app to cover the cracks.

Smartphone integration
Available for both Android and iPhone, the free Lumix Link app takes your Lumix Club login and your phone’s 3G connection, then pairs with the DMC-FX90. In practice it’s merely a case of pressing the WiFi button, which then brings up some options including linking to a wireless access point, pairing with a smartphone, or linking to a computer.

And it’s that last connectivity option that leads us to a question. Facebook and its ilk don’t really rely on having high-resolution photos from a camera like this, so might it not be easier to carry on using a phone’s camera (especially as they improve)?

As a ‘networked’ camera this is decidedly first-gen, though the flipside to the DMC-FX90′s WiFi-ness is much more appealing; remote back-up of files to either a PC or NAS drive. Now you’re talking…