Image quality is about on par from what you might expect from a camera in this price range. Outside with good lighting, the FP8 captured crisp detail and accurate color, both in normal mode and with Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto calling the shots. Panasonic’s Mega Optical Image Stabilization system also seemed to do its job – far-away street signs and license plates always seemed legible, even in shots we barely composed or shot on the move.
Inside, Panasonic’s age-old problem with noise became more pronounced. In contrast to the recently reviewed Panasonic ZS3, which shirked Panasonic’s somewhat noisy reputation with clean photos up to ISO 800, the FP8 exhibits noticeable noise at ISO 400, which becomes downright egregious at ISO 800. Although Intelligent Auto did an excellent job managing white balance and other settings, its propensity to shoot at ISO 400 and higher indoors caused visible noise in many shots.
Noise was also quite pronounced in indoor videos, where we actually preferred the output from cheaper dedicated cameras like Kodak’s Zi8. The FP8 did have some positives, though. Unlike many point-and-shoot cameras that capture video but only allow digital zooming after the camera starts rolling, the FP8 allows full use of optical zoom and autofocuses on the fly, making it feel like a real camcorder.
As a still camera, the FP8 delivers respectable, if not exactly best-in-class, image quality. But perhaps that’s missing the point. Photographers will value the FP8 for the same reason western gunslingers used to value the Colt Peacemaker: It’s quick on the draw. With the FP8 at our side, we felt ready to capture anything in an instant. Think: The difference between a picture of milk shooting out your friend’s nose, or your friend hovering over a pool of milk. And the slim body and LEDs don’t hurt its image, either.
• Quick start-up, autofocus and low shutter lag
• Attractive design
• Unique LED-backlit keys
• Excellent image quality in proper lighting
• No lens cover
• Initially unintuitive rear controls
• Noise at high ISOs hampers indoor shooting