Panasonic Adds Features to Higher-End Lumix Cameras
Panasonic announced several additions to its Lumix camera line today, including a GPS-capable camera, additional Intelligent Auto mode components across the board, basic in-camera video editing functions, enhanced smash-proofing, and compatibility with ultra-high-capacity SDXC cards.
But the most exciting announcement may be the range of manual controls tacked on to its high-zoom compact cameras.
Panasonic hasn't revealed pricing or availability for the new Lumix announcements.
Lumix DMC-ZS7: Pocket Megazoom Adds Manual Controls and GPS
The 12-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 is a 12X-optical-zoom (25mm to 300mm) follow-up to 2009's versatile Lumix DMC-ZS3. Among the few major differences in the new model: The Lumix ZS7 adds a built-in GPS receiver that geotags images as you shoot them, and it also adds aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual exposure controls to the mix.
Those manual controls are a welcome addition to the almost-fully-automated Lumix ZS3; the optically stabilized Lumix ZS7 retains the Intelligent Auto mode found on the ZS3, but unlike the ZS3, the shooter isn't limited to those automated settings.
Judging from the images released by Panasonic, it also looks like the top-camera layout on the ZS7 fixes two minor usability bugs found in the ZS3: the shutter button and zoom are now to the right of the mode dial, and the mode dial doesn't have any unused space on it.
The ZS7's suite of scene modes has a few new offerings: a high dynamic mode (which worked well on last year's Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35), as well as a "Happy Mode," which Panasonic describes as boosting the hue, saturation, and brightness in the shot.
The ZS7 also adds support for SDXC cards and basic in-camera video editing features for trimming clips and extracting still images from video.
Like the ZS3, the ZS7 will shoot 720p AVCHD Lite (17Mbps) high-definition video at 30fps, including the ability to use the optical zoom while filming. Both cameras share the same size LCD (3 inches diagonally) and not-quite-pocketable dimensions (1.3 inches deep, 4 inches wide, and 2.35 inches tall).
Lumix DMC-ZS5: Same as the ZS7, Minus the GPS and AVCHD Lite
Panasonic also announced the 12-megapixel Lumix ZS5 pocket megazoom, which (logically) splits the difference between the ZS7 and ZS3.
The ZS5 offers the same 12X optical zoom lens and range of manual controls as the Lumix ZS7, but without the GPS capabilities or the AVCHD Lite format video (the ZS5 will shoot MPEG-4 video at 30fps). The ZS5 also has a slightly smaller LCD screen (2.7 inches).
Lumix DMC-ZR3: 8X Optical Zoom With Fast Focusing
The just-announced Lumix DMC-ZR3 is a follow-up to last year's solid Lumix ZR1, offering the same optically stabilized, fast-focusing, and unbelievably quiet 8X-optical-zoom Leica lens (25mm to 200mm) in a 1-inch-deep frame.
The ZR3 adds a 14-megapixel sensor, AVCHD Lite video recording, SDXC card support, in-camera video editing, and the high-dynamic and "Happy" scene modes to the mix. Alas, none of the manual controls that made their way into the ZS7 and ZS5 are in the new ZR3.
Panasonic is touting the ZR3's fast start-up time (1.1 seconds) and autofocus speeds (less than a third of a second). Although I haven't had any hands-on time with the ZR3, I believe the hype in this case: both the Lumix ZR1 and the Lumix FP8 had ridiculously fast autofocus performance.
Lumix DMC-TS2: Faster and Possibly Vikings-Saints-Proof
Unfortunately, the new addition to Panasonic's durable camera line was announced a few days too late to be of use in Sunday's fumble-heavy NFC championship game.
A follow-up to last year's TS1, the Lumix DMC-TS2 is now more everything-proof, according to Panasonic: shockproof to playoff-game fumbles of up to 6.6 feet in the air, waterproof down to 33 feet, freezeproof in temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and dustproof against that really dusty dust. It also has a built-in LED lamp to assist with underwater shots.
(Note: After this story went live, Panasonic updated the drop-proof rating of the TS2 to 6.6 feet from 10 feet. The story has been updated to reflect the change.)
Fittingly, it looks like it could beat you up:
The TS2 has a 4.6X optical zoom lens (28mm to 129mm) and shoots AVCHD Lite video. It also shares the same fast start-up and autofocus claims as the ZR3, as well as the SDXC card compatibility, the high-dynamic and "Happy" modes, Intelligent Auto settings, and in-camera video editing features as the other new Lumix cameras.
Product mentioned in this article
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 Compact Camera
The Lumix DMC-ZS5 brushes aside most fancy extras and gets down to brass tacks. Its manual controls and fast-focusing 12X-optical-zoom lens make it a big step up from 2009's Lumix DMC-ZS3.