New Panasonic Lumix Cameras: Big Zoom in a Tiny Room

Panasonic Lumix SZ7
A few big lenses in mighty small packages surfaced at CES in Las Vegas today, as Panasonic unveiled five new additions to its Lumix line of point-and-shoot cameras. The highlights are a pair of pocket megazooms that pack 10X-optical-zoom lenses in 0.9-inch-deep frames, as well as two even-slimmer cameras that have relatively wide maximum apertures of F2.5.

Panasonic Lumix SZ7 and SZ1: Ultraslim Pocket Megazooms

The 10X-optical-zoom (25mm to 250mm) Lumix SZ7 and Lumix SZ1 are each just 9/10 of an inch thick, and the have different in-camera specs despite being the same size and offering the same optically stabilized zoom lens. The SZ models represent the first in a new series of cameras in Panasonic's Lumix line.

Panasonic Lumix SZ7
The 14-megapixel Lumix SZ7 is built around a CMOS sensor, giving it the ability to shoot 1080i AVCHD video and 720p video at 60fps, as well as a 10fps burst mode at full resolution. It also shoots 3D still images in .MPO format through a single lens, and its ISO equivalency stretches up to 3200.

Panasonic also says the SZ7 offers the company's "Light Speed" autofocus system, which it claims can lock in on a subject in 0.1 seconds. We haven't tested it yet, but Panasonic's cameras have had unbelievably fast AF systems for a few years now.

The 16-megapixel Lumix SZ1 has a CCD sensor, which means it lacks the "Light Speed AF" system and its video mode caps out at 720p video at 30fps. It also lacks the AVCHD video and 3D still-capture modes of the SZ7, and ISO maxes out at 1600.

Panasonic Lumix SZ1
The SZ1 offers slightly better battery life, rated at 250 shots per charge as opposed to the SZ7's 220 shots. Both cameras offer a 3-inch-diagonal LCD screen.

While we've seen similar features in competing cameras, these are also the first two Panasonic Lumix cameras to offer motion-controlled panorama modes and a miniature mode that simulates the effect of a tilt-shift lens. The Lumix SZ7 also features a few additional modes due to the speed of its CMOS sensor: automated in-camera exposure-bracketing for HDR and low-light shooting.

No pricing or availability information has been released for the two new SZ series cameras.

Panasonic Lumix FH8 and FH6: Wide Apertures for Casual Shooters

Panasonic Lumix FH8
The 16-megapixel Lumix FH8 and 14-megapixel Lumix FH6 both have CCD sensors and relatively ho-hum 5X-optical-zoom lenses (24mm to 120mm), but the tradeoff on both is a brighter-than-most F2.5 aperture at wide angle. Both cameras also come in at less that 0.8 inches thick.

The two new FH series cameras look like your average auto-and-scene-mode ultracompacts, but the Lumix FH8 offers a few extra in-camera goodies: The miniature mode found in the SZ models, 720p video recording as .MP4 files, and continuous autofocus modes for video and macro photography. The Lumix FH6, on the other hand, doesn't have the miniature mode, records its 720p video as .MOV files, and doesn't have a dedicated AF option for macro mode.

Pricing and availability are also not finalized for the FH series additions.

[For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.]

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