By far one of the cheapest cameras around, the FH1 is a 12-megapixel point-and-shoot camera with an HD video mode. It retails with a MSRP of $159.95, so that’s probably one of the closest rock-bottom prices you’ll find for a camera. Despite the cheap price, extremely modest looks, and of course the branding, the FH1 isn’t the type of digital camera you can mess around with in modern times: 5x optical zoom, a 28mm wide-angle lens, High Speed Auto Focus, HD video recording, Optical Image Stabilization, and an ISO range of up to 1600. Does it take great pictures? Read on to find out.
Full Disclosure: This camera was provided by Panasonic for review
Price as Reviewed: $159.95 USD
What it Looks Like
Actually it looks like a pretty cheap and moderately durable camera. It’s thin, which is very important, feels good in the hand, and has the controls in pretty well-placed spaces. To zoom in or out in this camera it comes with the DSLR-like (and very common) swivel from left to right that lies in front of the shooting button which lets you flick it as much as you please without much trouble. The buttons do have a very hollow and clicky (cheap?) feel when you press on them, but otherwise things are good and manageable.
As For The UI…
It was confusing at first, with menus and functions scattered everywhere. There are at least 2 ways to change simple functions in the camera (ISO, macro zoom, flash, etc.), which isn’t that much of a feature. One thing I found and still find incredibly annoying is how to mass delete pictures. In order to do that extremely simple function you need to either use the zoom button to see more than one picture (something I’m quite used to) then hit the delete button and choose multi-delete. But once you’re there you’re instructed to strangely use the display button to select photos, then use the OK button; while that might sound simple, most cameras that I’ve used allow you to label the photo using the OK button, then send them off using the delete function. Selecting “Display” is a little strange and new to me, and probably to you, too. (But I think it’s mainly just me).
After the deleting issue, once you get used to it the UI is pretty straightforward, and changing important settings like my beloved macro zoom and ISO is easy, with the latter going up to 1600 ISO which isn’t too bad for evening photos.
The Pictures It Takes….
Are astounding for such an inexpensive, small, and light camera. Using the macro zoom on close-ups, anything is crystal clear, and pictures are at their fullest that they could possibly be in a point-and-shoot of this size and price. For a demonstration of what pictures look like, head on over to the last two reviews I wrote here — the Storm2 9550 and the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000, another camera, but with pictures not even close to what the FH1 can take. All of the photos in those reviews were done using the FH1’s superpowers .
Hey, What About Video?
It can take some HD video, but don’t completely count on it as your main HD video companion. But for the price, can you really ask for more? There’s a wrist strap, AV cables for output to a TV, USB cable, photo transfer software that you don’t really need, and those all too familiar paper instructions.
For the price, you can’t critique it that harshly, but you can’t be too soft on Panasonic either. All in all, if you’re tight on a budget, and I mean very, veeerrrry, tight then the FH1 might just be your savior at a wallet-friendly 160 bucks. Excluding the SD card of course. There’s always a catch, eh?
- It’s cheeaappp!
- Takes great photos
- Has HD video, no matter how imperfect it might be
- It’s cheap!
- It’s not awesome looking
- Finicky and plasticky feel to the controls
- Slightly confusing UI (at first)