Panasonic Lumix LX7 Has an F1.4 Lens

All of a sudden, you face a very difficult decision if you plan to buy a premium point-and-shoot camera. Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LX7, the follow-up to the company's popular Lumix LX5, offers a category-leading F1.4 aperture at the wide-angle end of its zoom, making it a standout option for low-light shooting and shallow depth-of-field effects.

In addition to unveiling the LX7, Panasonic announced a few more cameras and a lens today, including a new midlevel Micro Four-Thirds model, two new megazoom cameras, and a Wi-Fi-enabled camera with a 10X optical zoom lens.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7: A Very Fast Fixed-Lens Camera

The 10-megapixel Lumix LX7 retains the retro look, physical knobs and buttons, hot shoe, and manual controls of the LX5. It also has a 3.8X-optical-zoom lens (24mm to 91mm) like the LX5. Its F1.4-aperture lens at the wide-angle end, however, is a few steps faster than that of its predecessor--or any other fixed-lens camera aside from the Samsung EX2F premium compact camera, which has an F1.4 lens, too. The aperture is still very wide at the telephoto end, with a maximum aperture of F2.3 at full zoom--another rarity.

The sensor is a 1/1.7-inch-type CMOS sensor rather than the CCD sensor found in the LX5. With its CMOS sensor, the LX7 can captures 1080p high-definition video at 60 frames per second, and you can use the camera's manual aperture and shutter controls as you film. Panasonic has added top-mounted stereo mics to the camera, as well.

There are a few other big changes, too. The Lumix LX5 offers quick aperture adjustments via a click-ring around the lens, and you can deploy a built-in neutral-density (ND) filter by adjusting a little dial above the 3-inch LCD on the back. Some new in-camera options complement the new sensor; these include an 11-fps burst mode at full resolution, an HDR mode, a 3D still mode, and several creative filters.

Like its predecessor, the LX7 shoots in RAW; has a hot shoe on top of the camera for external flashes, microphones, and electronic viewfinders; offers Panasonic's fast autofocus system; and provides quick access to macro mode, exposure lock, and other settings via physical buttons and switches. It should cost around $500 when it hits stores in mid- to late August.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5: A Smaller, Lighter DSLR Alternative

The Lumix G5 is a new midlevel mirrorless camera in Panasonic's G series of Micro Four-Thirds System cameras. It has the shape of a DSLR, but it feels significantly smaller and lighter in the hand.

The 16-megapixel Lumix G5 has an eye-level electronic viewfinder and a tilt-and-swivel 3-inch touchscreen, which offers an alternative to the camera's physical controls for focusing and other in-camera adjustments. In past G-series cameras, the touchscreen has worked well for touch-to-focus controls and for dynamically switching focus points while shooting video.

The G5 is also the first interchangeable-lens camera I've seen that has a zoom toggle around its shutter button for controlling the zoom lens. The Lumix G5 is compatible with Panasonic's X series of lenses, whose powered zoom controls this camera's integrated, point-and-shoot-like zoom lever can operate. You'll need to buy the X-series powered zoom lens separately, as the camera comes with a standard, lens-barrel-operated 14-42mm kit lens. When no compatible lens is attached, you can use the camera's zoom lever to navigate the playback and menu functions.

Panasonic is touting the G5's autofocus speeds, along with its new sensor and the latest iteration of the company's Venus image-processing engine. Other highlights include a 6-fps burst mode at 16-megapixel resolution; ISO equivalency settings up to 12,800; RAW and 3D still-image capture; and an array of creative filters. In video mode, the G5 shoots 1080p video at 60 fps in AVCHD Progressive format, and 1080p video at 30 fps in MP4 mode--both with continuous contrast-detection autofocus enabled.

Panasonic has not announced pricing for the Lumix G5, which will be available in August.

The company also presented a new lens for the G series today, the optically stabilized H-FS45150 45-150mm/F4.0-5.6 telephoto zoom lens, which is small and light for its zoom range. Owing to the G series' 2x focal-length multiplier, the new lens will have the equivalent of a 90mm-to-300mm field of view when mounted on any G series camera.

Two Full-Size 24X Megazooms: Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and Lumix FZ60

A pair of 24X-optical-zoom fixed-lens cameras will join the 2012 Lumix lineup, too. The 12-megapixel, CMOS-sensored Lumix FZ200 offers a reach of 25mm wide-angle to 600mm telephoto, with an optical stabilization system to steady the lens. The most compelling feature of the FZ200 is the camera's relatively wide aperture of F2.8 for a megazoom model; rarer still is the fact that the maximum aperture remains at F2.8 throughout the camera's 24X zoom range.

Along with fast autofocus speeds, a snappy burst mode of 12 fps at 12-megapixel resolution, and a super-slow-motion movie mode that captures at 240 fps, the FZ200 offers 1080p video recording at 60 fps. It also boasts a RAW shooting mode, a hot shoe, and a range of in-camera creative filters. For framing shots, it provides both an eye-level viewfinder and a tilt-and-swivel 3-inch LCD screen.

The other new megazoom is the 24X Lumix FZ60, which has the same zoom lens but lacks the constant F2.8 aperture and RAW mode. Its 16-megapixel CMOS sensor is also different, yielding slightly different video and burst-mode specs. Video capture tops out at 1080i resolution at 60 fps, while burst mode maxes out at 10 fps at full resolution.

No official pricing information has been announced for either camera, but Panasonic expects the FZ200 to cost around $600 and the FZ60 to be priced at around $400 when they become available in August.

Panasonic Lumix SZ5: New Wi-Fi-Enabled Compact Camera

With a body measuring only 0.82 inch deep, the Lumix SZ5 somehow fits a 10X-optical-zoom lens (25mm to 250mm) in front of its 14-megapixel CCD sensor. The Lumix SZ5 can shoot at a rate of 10 fps in burst mode, but video capture maxes out at 720p/30 fps.

The Lumix SZ5 is loaded with built-in Wi-Fi features, including the ability for the user to control the camera remotely and to offload photos wirelessly via a free app for iOS and Android devices. The camera also can be set up to sync its photos wirelessly to a computer whenever it's plugged in for charging, and it can beam photos to the big screen whenever it's near a Panasonic HDTV set.

Due in August, the Lumix SZ5 will be priced at around $200.

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