The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25 does cost a shade more than the competition (the suggested retail price is £229), but we've seen it available around the web for closer to £200.

A few distinguishing characteristics make the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25 a phenomenal buy if you can find it at that price point, as well as a great value for the full SRP. One of them is Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode, which consists of six in-camera features working in tandem: optical image stabilisation, ISO optimisation, automatic scene selection, backlight correction, red-eye correction, and face detection.

Rather than having the user dive into the menus to choose this mode, Panasonic has put a dedicated Intelligent Auto button right next to the shutter button to turn it on. It's a very handy feature, and Intelligent Auto did a good job of selecting the right settings in our informal tests.

Part of its success is the excellent optical image stabilisation, which kept the image crisp both when zoomed in to the max and when we shook the camera around dramatically. Adding to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25's list of key draws is its wide-angle chops, thanks to a 5x optical-zoom Leica lens that reaches from 29mm to 145mm.

A great feature, especially for a camera in this price range, is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25's AF Tracking mode, which lets you lock in on a moving subject and keep it in focus as the subject (or the photographer) moves around. In our informal tests, it worked best with bright, solid-coloured objects; coupled with the optical image stabilisation, it's very helpful for those who want to shoot sports or action scenes.

Another nice touch is the inclusion of a few unique selections among the 21 scene modes. You still get the old standbys, such as Portrait, Sports, Scenery, Sunset, and Fireworks, but rare options such as Pinhole (which mimics the effects of a pinhole camera), Film Grain (which applies a gritty black-and-white filter), and Photo Frame (which puts teen-centric, partytime borders around your shots) are also in the mix.

Other in-camera features include a burst mode that shoots about two images per second, manual and pre-set white balance selections, and seven different "colour" modes that apply effects such as sepia tone and vivid colors.

In jury evaluations, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25 earned one of the best image-quality scores for an inexpensive compact camera. Colour accuracy, exposure quality with the flash turned on, and image sharpness were all notable strong suits, earning it an overall image quality score of Very Good.

Battery life is also excellent. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS25 netted 320 shots on a single charge of its rechargeable lithium ion battery, for a battery life score of Very Good. Most other cameras in the £200 price range topped out at about 250 shots per charge.