Touch Me, Hold Me
To be fair, the Lumix series, though not as aesthetically pleasing as its competitors such as Canon's IXUS series or the Sony Cyber-shot T series, suffices just fine with its simple and basic form factor, which we do appreciate. Still, we were a bit apprehensive with the FX520's slightly hefty 155 grams weight (and that's without the battery and SD memory card). To its merits however, when compared with the Sony Cyber-shot T300 that's slightly lighter at 149g (without battery and SD memory card), oddly we felt the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX520 was actually less cumbersome than the T300 did in our usage. This probably has more to do with the form factor and design of the camera, so the FX520 fared a little better in usability comparison.
Sporting a cool silver metallic chassis that encompasses the front and the sides, the FX520 also has a dash of glossy piano black at the back that surrounds its comfortably sized 3-inch LCD screen. For us, the 3-inch LCD screen makes a whole lot of sense, especially so as the FX520 is the very first Lumix camera with touch-screen capability for an enhanced navigation experience. Nonetheless, the FX520 retains much of the common control interfaces, with a dedicated slider to switch between Play and Camera mode at the top right. Moving down, there's the Mode button for you to choose your specific modes (which we'll delve later on), and the Display button to switch between Detailed, Simple and Grid view as seen on the LCD display.
Surprisingly, the FX520 comes with a five-way joystick which kind of stumped us. The usual Exposure, Flash, Macro and Timer functions are attached to each side of the joystick (starting from the top clockwise, while depressing the joystick brings you to the main menu. Integrating the joystick as its main navigation interface is definitely space-saving when considering the larger screen based touch interface, but it comes at the expense of a stiff and inflexible experience. Frankly, we would have preferred the conventional five-way navigational pad but with space being a premium, a better joystick mechanism would have helped much. If you're highly concerned of the user interface experience, you could probably try it out at a retail shop to see how tolerable it feels for you.