Like its older (and more expensive) sibling, the Lumix DMC-FS25, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85 has a convenient Intelligent Auto (iA) button on its top, next to the shutter button. Pressing the iA button turns on various in-camera optimisation features, such as optical image stabilization, automatic scene selection based on the shooting environment, red-eye correction, and ISO adjustment.
It's a handy thing to have right next to the shutter button, and it did a good job of tweaking the settings based on what we were shooting. Casual set-it-and-forget-it photographers will definitely like the iA button.
You can also select your scene mode manually, and there are 21 settings to choose from in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85's menu. Old standards such as Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Candlelight are in the mix, but there are also some unique modes, such as Aerial Photo (for taking pictures through airplane windows), Fireworks, Food, and a High Speed Burst mode that reaches up to 5 shots per second at the lowest-resolution setting.
It's also great to have optical image stabilisation in a camera of this price. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85's stabilisation works well, too, as we captured sharp images even when we shook the camera around dramatically.
Other convenient features include the ability to run on two AA batteries and an SD/SDHC card slot that is on the side of the camera, rather than hidden in the battery compartment. As for battery life, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85 fared well in our Test Centre evaluations, firing off 280 shots before the batteries needed to be replaced. That's short of the 300-plus shots we've seen in a lot of other point-and-shoots, but good enough to net a battery life score of Good.
On the downside, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85 has a plasticky, cheap-feeling build that's also a bit bulky in the hand thanks to the AA batteries. The 2.5in LCD screen on the back is also a bit small, but it's plenty bright enough to see in sunlight.
Like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85, most of the controls are handled by switches and buttons. The shutter button, zoom ring, Intelligent Auto button, and on/off switch are all on top of the camera. To the right of the LCD on the back are a photo playback switch, a dedicated mode button, and a menu button surrounded by four navigation buttons that double as one-touch controls for exposure settings, the flash, the macro mode, and the timer.
Under that are two more buttons to adjust display settings and access a separate menu for image stabilisation, auto focus, white balance, and LCD brightness.
In Test Centre jury evaluations, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85 matched up well to its similarly priced competition, earning an overall image quality rating of Good. Colour accuracy and low levels of distortion were its strong suits, but its images weren't as sharp as those from much of the competition.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85 also shoots motion-JPG standard-definition video at 30 frames per second, but like most point-and-shoot cameras, you can't zoom in or out while you're shooting video.
The all-business Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS85 certainly won't induce awe-inspired gasps with its plain looks and plasticky feel, but for a very affordable camera - indeed, one with a rock-bottom price - it does offer a stunning set of features. If you've only got £100 to spend, this camera might be the best option out there right now.