The Panasonic Lumix FS15 is another dead-simple digital camera, akin to the Nikon S630 or the Sony W290, both of which we've reviewed previously. All of these cameras are simple, with "intelligent" auto modes that essentially put the camera on auto pilot, allowing the photographer to truly point and shoot without concerning themselves with any deeper settings or modifications. Without a doubt, however, the Panasonic FS15 is the most enjoyable to use.
While the S630 was disappointing and the W290 was good, the FS15 is truly excellent. It manages to combine great image quality, simple operation, and a stylish, lightweight design perfectly. The camera was a pleasure to use and would make an excellent choice for consumers interested in a compact, pocket-friendly camera.
The Panasonic Lumix FS15 is a 12-megapixel digital camera with a 5x optical zoom, 29mm wide-angle lens. It has a large, vivid 2.7-inch LCD display and uses Secure Digital memory cards for storing photos. It's a fully automatic camera, with no significant manual controls, so photographers who like to tweak and fiddle with settings should look elsewhere. The FS15 is a casual camera, intended for novices or those who don't want to spend all day frittering with their gadget. The camera has two automatic modes, the traditional kind and the intelligent kind, though it's hard to imagine why you wouldn't want to use the latter.
The FS15 is very similar to the W290 with one exception: high-def video. The W290 has a video mode capable of taking 720p video clips, while the FS15 sticks with a standard-definition mode. If you read our W290 review, you'll see that ultimately, you're not missing much. While the W290's video was alright, it's not worth the trade off in size and comfort. The FS15 does just fine without HD video and definitely has the advantage over the W290 in aesthetics.
The FS15 is a real winner when it comes to design. Panasonic has made this camera incredibly compact, very thin and very lightweight. It weighs only about four ounces and fits comfortably in the palm of one's hand. It can be dropped in a pants or shirt pocket without unsightly bulges or even the slightest hint that you're actually toting a camera around. It disappears into your pocket, you won't think about it until you need it.
The camera is available in silver, black, or a stunning blue color (pictured above).
The Intelligent Auto (iA) button is place right on top of the camera, where you might expect to find a mode dial. Since the FS15 has few modes, that feature has been turned into a button and placed on the rear of the camera. So it's easier to switch into iA when you want to, due to its placement. A few times, I ended up pressing the iA button instead of the shutter because the placement is so close to the shutter finger. It's a minor annoyance, one that's avoided with a little practice.
As you can see in the photographs on the right-hand sidebar, the Lumix FS15 was able to produce truly excellent photos for such a small camera. They are clear, vivid, and colorful, with little evidence of blurring or image noise, something that has plagued Panasonic point-and-shoot models in the past.
Intelligent Auto lived up to its name, moving swiftly and seamlessly through macro, portrait, and landscape mode whenever the environment required it. It made using the FS15 a breeze and gave confidence that each shot would be perfectly tuned to the scenario. Not having to worry about switching modes or adjusting settings really lifts a huge weight off your mind, and can make taking photos far more fun than with a traditional camera.
Conclusion: A User-Friendly Winner
The Panasonic Lumix FS15 is an excellent camera, perfect for those who'd rather focus on what they're shooting than the camera they're shooting with. It produces high-quality images, cuts an attractive figure, and makes photography simple and user friendly for everybody. Plus, it's also very affordable.