What’s In The Box
The Lumix FH27, of course, along with a rechargeable battery and plug-in charger. You also get USB and A/V cables, wrist strap and stylus pen for the touch screen. Along with a 36-page printed Basic Owner’s Manual the CD-ROM has the full manual as a PDF and PhotoFunStudio 6.0 software for handling downloads and editing chores as well as a trial for Super LoiLoScope software used for burning and editing videos. LoiLo is a small Japanese company we’ve never heard of, so don’t feel bad if you’re mystified at that name.
Performance and Use
We used the DMC-FH27 intermittently over the course of several weeks with subjects ranging from beaches to budding spring flowers. This camera came along with us to Brooklyn’s Coney Island as we tested it and what seems like 400 other cameras—actually it was four from Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic. This was good as we could compare the same shots from the quartet. Once done, it was time to make 8×10 full bleed prints, enlarge the images 100%+ on the monitor and review everything on a 50-inch Panasonic plasma.
Before getting into the results, let’s discuss the touch screen interface since it’s the only way you interact with the camera other than physically pressing the shutter and zoom toggle. We hate to say it, but this interface is so far behind the new Canon as to seem from the Pleistocene Epoch. It’s not quite that bad, but it really seems very dated compared to Canon’s much larger and readily identifiable icons. The Canon screen is much more responsive and although both let you swipe through choices, the 500 HS is like comparing an iPad 2 to a Coby Kyros using Android 2.1-no contest. We rarely had to use the stylus with the Canon (fingernails were just fine) but the Panasonic’s smaller icons had us tapping away with the plastic stylus. Consider it swinging strike two.
The FH27 is definitely an aim-and-forget camera with no options for adjusting apertures and shutter speeds. The camera has Intelligent Auto (iAuto) which most people will use all the time but this too is behind 2011 levels. With iAuto or Smart Auto, the camera adjusts to the scene in front of it—we’ve always liked this feature as it works well. The Panasonic recognizes six scenes but new Canon PowerShots respond to 32. It’s not a deal breaker just showing how behind this camera really is.
Your other options include Normal which is similar to Program in other cameras. Here you can adjust exposure compensation, ISO (100-1600), white balance, OIS, focus-type, macro, color mode, Intelligent Exposure and Intelligent Resolution among others. In Scene mode you have 28 options, My Scene lets you save a frequently-used Scene mode while Motion Picture adjusts resolution type with 1280 x 720 at 24 fps the max. Hate to belabor it but the more expensive Canon is 1920 x 1080 at 24 fps; 720p is 30 fps. Sound is also stereo not mono. Worse yet, you cannot zoom when shooting videos with the FH27. Sheesh.
We checked out videos on our monitor and the QuickTime clips were OK on a small screen; unfortunately the SD card reader on our plasma only handles AVCHD files. Without the mini HDMI out, we were stuck with the monitor. And as far as we could see Panasonic doesn’t even have an accessory cable that offers component-out for this camera.
To be honest we had low expectations regarding the digital noise handling capabilities of a 1 /2.33-inch 16-megapixel CCD. CCDs typically are much noisier than CMOS devices. Our test results confirmed our initial take—you won’t be happy with the speckles and inaccurate color at ISO 800/1600. 400 is passable but clearly this camera needs a lot of light for good shots–whether it’s sunshine or the flash. We’ve tested a number of newer 12MP CMOS digicams and their low-light results were far superior. And don’t worry– you can easily make large prints even with the lower resolution. The recently reviewed 16-megapixel CMOS Sony WX9 leaves this camera in the dust although it doesn’t have the enhanced zoom range. In other words please don’t be sold by resolution figures alone—reviews matter.
The camera isn’t a total disaster as it focuses quickly and the burst mode is typical of a point-and-shoot (around 1.4 fps). The focal range is good although we do prefer a wider opening such as 24 or 25mm. Colors in the sunshine were natural and on the money. The optical image stabilization also did a good job as most images were very sharp.
In theory, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 had some good things going for it such as compact body with a versatile 8x optical zoom. Yet its video capibilites really seem behind the times with only 720p at 24 fps, mono sound and no zooming capability. The Intelligent Auto only has six choices versus 32 on new Canon PowerShots and the touch screen design is dated as well. Check out the Canon 500 HS to see what we mean. Toss in the noisy 16MP CCD and it all adds up to strike three. As they say in baseball, there’s always next year.
- 8x wide-angle zoom (28-224mm)
- 3-inch screen touch screen
- Battery lasts 250 shots
- Very noisy above ISO 400
- No mini HDMI out
- GUI dated compared to competition