By Martin Vedris in Singapore

SINGAPORE: In a development that is set to continue, Panasonic has introduced a new range of ‘hybrid’ LUMIX compact digital still cameras with High definition (HD) recording using the AVCHD Lite format, which improves the video recording capability.

These cameras are called hybrids because they not only shoot high quality digital still images but the video recording capability is now even more advanced and no longer a function that these cameras ‘also’ do.

Panasonic says that compared with the conventional Motion JPEG format, AVCHD Lite allows almost double the recording time with HD quality.

Panasonic’s research suggested that consumers regularly used the video recording functions on their digital still cameras. So this year Panasonic is offering new LUMIX models with AVCHD Lite recording capability. The 2009 Australian LUMIX range will also include new TZ and FS series models.

The new Panasonic Australian LUMIX digital still camera range will be available from March and April this year, depending on the model, with RRPs starting at $249 for the new DMC-FS4, up to RRP $699 for the ruggedised DMC-FT1 and RRP $769 for the DMC-TZ7.

At the current time of launch, Panasonic has claimed its new LUMIX FT1 (RRP $699) to be the world’s first waterproof, shockproof and dustproof digital camera with AVCHD Lite High Definition video recording capability.

In fact, Panasonic Australia is so confident of the FT1’s video recording capability that it will not be introducing an Australian replacement for the existing SW20 waterproof and shockproof camcorder, saying this FT1 does everything from HD video to still images and is waterproof to three metres, shockproof against drops from 1.5 metres and dustproof.

Also new in the hybrid range for Australia in 2009 will be the 10.1 megapixel LUMIX DMC-TZ7 with a 25mm wide-angle lens and 12x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent: 25-300mm) for RRP $769.

Both the FT1 and TZ7 will be available in Australia from April.