Panasonic zooms in with Lumix portfolio

Keen to capitalise on its burgeoning profile in the digital still camera (DSC) market, Japanese vendor Panasonic recently launched the latest installment of its in-demand Lumix camera range. Aaron Greenwood reports.

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By  Aaron Greenwood Published  February 28, 2007

Panasonic has emerged as a notable player in the digital camera market as a result of the growing popularity of its Lumix DSC range, which spans budget compacts to the impressive top-end DMC-L1 digital-SLR (d-SLR).

Keen to maintain its momentum in the market, the company recently revealed a completely overhauled product portfolio boasting a host of new features designed to improve overall ease-of-use.

The overhauled portfolio also forms part of Panasonic’s strategy to maintain the pressure on its more established rivals, such as Canon, which dominates the compact DSC market.

Key to Panasonic’s success in the sector so far has been its comprehensive marketing assault, which has promoted the combination of Leica DC lenses and optical image stabilisation technology (in Mega O.I.S. in Panasonic parlance), which comes as standard across the Lumix range.

With the launch of its latest portfolio, Panasonic has added two additional features to its range of compact cameras in the form of a 28mm wide-angle Leica DC lens (equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm film camera) and Intelligent ISO Control, which works in harmony with Mega O.I.S. to ensure smooth image capture under a wide range of conditions.

The technology leverages Panasonic’s Venus Engine III image-processing engine to automatically raise the ISO setting and shutter speed according to the motion of a subject and the given light conditions.

In practice, the system works well in most conditions, although there is a noticeable delay between pushing the shutter button and the shutter closing. But this won’t faze most consumers in this sector, whose primary concern is convenience over outright performance.

The new Lumix portfolio commences with the entry-level DMC-LS range, which consists of the 6.0-megapixel DMC-LS60 and 7.2-megapixel DMC-LS70 and DMC-LS70 models.

The three cameras feature Mega O.I.S. and Intelligent ISO Control and an optical 3x zoom DC Vario lens, in addition to a bright 2.5-inch LCD screen as standard.

The LS series’ ‘easy zoom’ feature allows users to shift the lens to full 3x zoom using a dedicated button, while a quick setting function allows users to quickly and easily access and set the functions used most often in the menu setting.

The new DMC-TZ2 and DMC-TZ3 are the successors to the popular Lumix TZ1 and feature 28mm wide-angle Leica DC lens (equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm film camera), Mega O.I.S. and Intelligent ISO Control as standard.

The DMC-TZ3 boasts a 7.2-megapixel CCD and a large, three-inch LCD screen, while the DMC-TZ2 features a 6.0-megapixel CCD and a 2.5-inch LCD.

Both cameras retain the 10x optical zoom capabilities of the TZ1, but boast the additional feature of Panasonic’s extra optical zoom that provides additional magnification – up to 15x in the TZ3 and 13.8x in the TZ2 – when taking photos in three-megapixel resolution.

Panasonic also claims the DMC-FX30 is the world’s slimmest compact DSC to feature a 28mm wide-angle lens as standard.

In addition to standard Mega O.I.S. and Intelligent ISO control, the FX30 combines 7.2-megapixel image recording with the newly developed Leica DC lens that features a 3.6x optical zoom (equivalent to 28-100mm on a 35mm film camera) and f/2.8 brightness.

The FX30 boasts 27MB built-in memory and accepts large-capacity SDHC memory cards, providing greater flexibility when shooting and recording.

The new compact DMC-FX10 and FX12 models feature six-megapixel and 7.2-megapixel CCDs respectively with 3x zoom (35-105mm, on a 35mm film camera equivalent) Leica DC lenses (f/2.8 brightness). In addition to quick setting menu access, the cameras feature a date stamp function.

With Panasonic choosing not to update its high-flying L1 d-SLR for 2007, attention has turned to its new semi-manual DMC-FZ8 camera, which is the successor to the popular FZ7.

The FZ8 incorporates Panasonic’s image stabilisation technology and a 12x optical Leica zoom lens with f/2.8 brightness and simple manual operation.

Panasonic claims that while the DMC-FZ8 boasts the same zooming power as the DMC-FZ50, it enhances mobility with its compact form and joystick operation.

Panasonic’s extra optical zoom function provides additional magnification to 18x when taking photos at three-megapixel resolution. The resolution of the LCD has also been increased to 207,000 pixels, and the larger, 0.44-inch EVF (electronic viewfinder) has a resolution of 188,000 pixels, enhancing image playback.

The aforementioned joystick provides easy access to various functions including light metering, AF (auto focus) mode, ISO setting, and white balance adjustment.

The position of the AF area can be selected among the 11 positions in single point mode, multi-point mode and spot mode. Under manual focus, the target area is automatically magnified and movable offering users enhanced control.

The Japanese company is also committed to expanding its camera accessories portfolio in a bid to consolidate its market position.

The company recently debuted its latest range of high-speed Pro SD cards with class 6 SD speed specifications in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB memory capacities. Panasonic claims the new SD cards’ high-speed data writing capability enhances the function of advanced SD/SDHC compatible devices, providing stable performance.

Panasonic also recently debuted its new DMW-SDP1 HDTV photo player, which is designed to enable users to review images from their SD cards on a high definition-compatible monitor, such as an LCD or plasma TV.

Panasonic claims the compact DMW-SDP1 is different from other photo viewers in that it incorporates Lumix’s Venus Engine III image processor to ensure reduced start-up times and image-to-image intervals of around one second.

The viewer also supports motion JPEG playback and features a remote control as standard.

The full range of new Lumix products will be launched in the Middle Eastern market later this month.

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