Panasonic’s 2009 LUMIX digital still cameras cover all bases

By Martin Vedris in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Panasonic’s 2009 Lumix digital compact camera range comprises three ranges, the entry-level FS Series, the ‘Traveler’s Zoom’ TZ series and the new ruggedised FT1.

The FT1 (RRP $699, available in April), a hybrid camera and High Definition (HD) camcorder in one is one of the highlights of the new range. It is not only a 12.1 megapixel still camera, it is a HD camcorder, recording at 720P resolution using Panasonic’s proprietary AVCHD Lite format.

AVCHD Lite provides almost double the recording time of the Motion JPEG format in HD. Anyone thinking that this is a compromised video recorder will be surprised with the results. Having a HD camcorder built into a camera that fits into a pocket has the potential to make recording video much more of a common, daily thing. And with this camera being waterproof to 3 metres, shock proof against drops of up to 1.5 metres and dustproof, it is the sort of camera and camcorder that can go just about everywhere.

Another feature on the FT1 is autfocus tracking called ‘AF Tracking’. Once you focus on a subject, the camera continues to track the subject and keep them in focus, without having to hold the shutter button down. The camera also incorporates other Intelligent Auto (iA) functions introduced in previous LUMIX models.

The other hybrid camera/HD camcorder in the 2009 Lumix line up with AF Tracking and AVCHD motion picture recording is the LUMIX DMC-TZ7 (RRP $769, available April), Panasonic has called it the “World’s Smallest Digital Camera with 25 mm ultra-wide angle, 12x optical zoom and AVCHD Lite Motion Picture Recording”, as at the camera’s Asia Pacific launch date of 9 February 2009.

The TZ7 is joined by the new TZ6 ‘Traveler’s Zoom’ in 2009 as well (RRP $659, available April). Both new ‘Traveler’s Zoom’ cameras feature iA and a new LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens. Compared with previous TZ models, the power of the optical zoom has been extended from 10x to 12x, while at the wide-angle, the range broadens from 28mm to 25mm.

The TZ7 has a 12-megapixel CCD, which allows full 10.1 megapixel resolution in all aspects, including 16:9.

Also new in 2009 will be the entry level FS series, all models incorporating iA mode. The range starts at RRP $249 for the 8-megapixel DMC-FS4 with a 4x optical zoom and in silver and black. The 10-megapixel DMC-FS7 (RRP $389, available March) also has a 4x optical zoom and is available in a bright pink colour, which is bound to appeal to sections of the market.

The 12-megapixel DMC-FS15 (RRP $439) has a 5x optical zoom and a 29mm Leica DC VARIO-ELMAR lens in a slim, compact body.

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