Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Leads the Fall Camera Lineup

It's only July, but the holiday shopping season for cameras is coming into sharp focus. Panasonic is the latest big-name company to announce its late-2010 camera lineup, and the new offerings hold good news for anyone who's been itching for a sequel to the Lumix DMC-LX3.

Positioned as a point-and-shoot camera for serious photographers (and as a secondary, pocketable camera for DSLR owners), the Lumix DMC-LX5 tacks on significant enhancements to the performance-oriented LX3 and is one of five new cameras announced by Panasonic today.

Your DSLR's Bullpen: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

The long-awaited Lumix LX5 offers the same RAW-mode shooting capabilities, the same manual controls, the same bright f2.0 ultra-wide-angle Leica lens, and the same retro-stylish looks as the LX3, but it has significant changes lurking inside.

The 10-megapixel Lumix LX5 nearly doubles the optical zoom range (3.8X, from 24mm to 91mm) of the LX3, and Panasonic's lightning-fast autofocus system has been added to the mix. It's the first camera in the LX series to offer the Sonic Speed AF focus system, which worked brilliantly in last year's Lumix DMC-ZR1 and in this year's Lumix DMC-ZS5 cameras.

The LX5's CCD sensor is also the same size as the one found in the LX3 (1/1.63 of an inch, which is large for a point-and-shoot camera), but it has been redesigned for improved low-light shooting. Panasonic says the new, thicker sensor is more efficient at harnessing available light and is capable of low-noise shooting at higher ISO levels; during a demo, a test shot taken at ISO 3200 looked impressively crisp for a high-ISO photo taken with a point-and-shoot camera.

According to Panasonic, the LX5's sensor and brand-new Venus Engine FHD image processor work in tandem to improve color saturation levels, dynamic range, and chromatic noise reduction. The LX5 also boasts improved range-of-motion correction in its optical image-stabilization system and a proprietary hot-shoe mount on the top of the camera. The hot shoe accepts the same eye-level electronic viewfinder as Panasonic's Lumix GF1 Micro Four Thirds camera, as well as a compatible external flash (the LX5 also offers a built-in pop-up flash).

Another key addition is the ability to shoot 720p high-definition video in AVCHD Lite and motion JPEG formats. The camera's manual settings are enabled in video mode, allowing videographers more-granular control over footage; during AVCHD Lite video capture, you're also able to change the bit rate from 17 mbps to 13 mbps or 9 mbps.

The LX5 also has the same quick-access aspect ratio controls and macro/autofocus/manual focus toggle on the top and sides of its lens, and a new 1:1 aspect-ratio setting has been added. In addition, Panasonic claims that, with the LX5 battery life, has gone up to a CIPA rating of 400 shots per charge, and that the camera has an improved 3-inch LCD screen with an antireflective coating.

Due to hit stores in August for $500, the LX5 will be available in an all-black body or a white body with a gray handgrip.

Two New 24X Megazooms: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 and FZ40

Panasonic is also bulking up its high-zoom stable with two new 24X-optical-zoom offerings. The higher-end Lumix DMC-FZ100 features an optically stabilized 24X-optical-zoom low-dispersion lens (25mm wide to 600mm telephoto, f2.8 to f8.0), which Panasonic says eliminates wide-angle barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, and off-color fringing.

The FZ100 boasts a 14-megapixel CMOS sensor, RAW-mode shooting, the new Venus Engine FHD image processor to combat noise in low-light images, a side-mounted toggle for focus settings, and 1920-by-1080 AVCHD Lite video capture at 60 interlaced fields per second (or 720p video shot at 60 frames per second). Full manual controls, aperture priority, shutter priority, and Intelligent Auto mode are available for still-image capture, although the manual controls for video aren't available as they are in the LX5.

Panasonic is also touting the FZ100's burst mode, which offers high-speed shooting at up to 11 frames per second at full resolution (and up to 220 fps for both stills and video at a much lower resolution). Auto-focus tracking of a moving subject is also possible in burst rates of up to 5 fps at full resolution.

The FZ100 also offers a tilt-and-swivel 3-inch LCD for odd-angle shots, a built-in eye-level EVF, and a proprietary hot shoe on top of the camera's flip-up flash that can handle an external flash or microphone. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 is slated for an August launch at $500.

Similar to the FZ100, the Lumix DMC-FZ40 has many of the same features, but a few notable differences: It lacks the high-speed shooting modes, the side-mounted focus controls, the top-mounted hot shoe, the flip-and-swivel LCD, full-HD video shooting (the FZ40 maxes out at 720p at 30 fps), and the low-light-optimized CMOS sensor of the FZ100 (the FZ40 has a 14-megapixel CCD sensor, instead).

The FZ40 will be available in August for $400.

Feature-Filled Touchscreen Camera: Panasonic Lumix FX700

With a 3-inch touchscreen, the pocketable Lumix FX700 offers the same low-light-optimized, 14-megapixel CMOS sensor as the FZ100. It adds a bright f2.2 Leica lens to the equation (5X optical zoom, 24mm wide to 120mm telephoto) and is possibly the most-advanced touchscreen camera we've seen to date.

In addition to touch-based focusing and motion-tracking features, the FX700 offers full manual controls, aperture priority, shutter priority, and Intelligent Auto mode. The camera shoots 1920-by-1080 AVCHD Lite video at 30 fps and offers a pair of unique shooting modes for capturing fast-moving subjects.

Motion Deblur mode detects the speed of a moving object and the lighting conditions surrounding it, then adjusts ISO levels and shutter speed in tandem to optimize the settings for a crisp freeze-frame photo. An Intelligent Burst Shooting mode also detects the speed of a moving object and sets the camera's burst rate accordingly: either 10 fps for a fast-moving object, 5 fps for a slower-moving object, or 2 fps for an object that isn't moving all that fast.

Available in silver or black, the Lumix FX700 will go on sale this August for $400.

Quick-Focusing Rugged Cam: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS10

Panasonic is also adding a new rugged camera to its lineup, the waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and dustproof Lumix TS10. The camera is rated as waterproof down to 10 feet underwater, drop-proof to falls of up to 5 feet, and freezeproof down to temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Its 2.7-inch LCD screen has an antireflective coating for tricky viewing situations.

The 14-megapixel TS10 offers an optically stabilized 4X optical zoom lens (35mm to 140mm), Intelligent Auto features, the high-speed autofocus system found in the LX5, and 720p video recording as motion JPEG files.

Available in September for $250, the camera comes with a protective rubber jacket to further protect its frame, which comes in black, silver, red, or blue.

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