The Panasonic Lumix FX78 is a luxury compact, a Cadillac of pocketable digicams. It probably comes in more colors than a Cadillac with its black, silver, blue, gold, pink, and white offerings. The 3.5-inch widescreen touch LCD is big and comfy. The 24mm, 5x, f/2.5 lens lets in enough light to make dim scenes pop a bit more. And the 1080i video is always a nice extra, as is the 3D image support, even if you don't end up using it (you probably won't).
On paper, the upgrades over last year's FX75 are subtle but significant: The two cameras pack the same 5x zoom, but they offer different maximum apertures of f/2.2 and f/2.5, the latter from the newer model. Having a little less light hit the FX78’s image sensor shouldn’t cause it too much trouble though: it carries a 12.1-megapixel “Hi-Speed” CCD and Venus Engine FHD processor while the older FX75 packed a standard 14.1-megapixel sensor. It is a rare event that a new camera has less resolution than its predecessor, but Panasonic is getting away with this because its new sensor is “Hi-Speed.” We're unclear about what exactly makes this sensor "Hi-Speed" (it could just be the pairing with the particular processor), but according to Panasonic, it speeds up autofocus by 33 percent and allows for full HD video recording, which is rare for a camera with a CCD-type sensor.
As for the 3D imaging, if you're into that gimmick, the 3D Photo mode shoots 20 consecutive images while you pan the camera side to side. It then picks two good ones to blend into a 3D image. The image is small at just 2 megapixels, and you will need a 3D TV or computer monitor to view the images. That seems to be asking a bit much for this feature in our opinion, but Panasonic is probably trying to create some "ecosystem" with all their devices in hopes to sell more 3D Viera TVs. If you own a 3DTV, the Lumix FX78 will be a sweet gadget to show off at parties. Still, if you can stomach the gimmicks, the Panasonic FX78 appears to be a worthy camera, though one that we're not sure will attract much widespread attention.