By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Panasonic today updated its camcorder and digital still cameras ranges, launching two full HD camcorders including Australia’s smallest full HD camcorder, and two Lumix cameras featuring the new Intellegent Auto mode.

Panasonic today released its second generation AVCHD camcorders which now feature full HD video capture (1920x1080p) – a step up from its original models launched late last year which only shot at 1440×1080 resolution.

The new range includes the HDC-SD5 (RRP $1,899), which Panasonic claims is the world’s smallest full HD camcorder on the market, and the HDC-SX5 (RRP $1,799).

The compact SD5 uses SD/SDHC card media for up to 180 minutes recording time on an 8GB disc, while the SX5 uses either DVD disc or SD card storage.

Panasonic today announced the September availability of 8GB SDHC cards and said that 16GB cards will be available before the end of the year.

Both models will be available mid-September and boast new features including Advanced Optical Image Stabiliser, which performs eight times more compensating movements than the previous system, Intellegent Contrast Control to adjust exposure in high-contrast scenes, and the Pre-Rec feature, which stores three seconds of footage before the record button is pressed to ensure the user doesn’t miss the shot.

Panasonic also launched two Lumix digital still cameras today – the DMC-FZ18 (RRP $879) and the DMC-FX33 (RRP $659).

Both models feature 28 mm wide angle lenses and the new Intellegent Auto mode, which gives the camera’s internal digital processing smarts significant control of the various aspects of the shot.

“Most cameras today have an auto mode which makes decisions on basic functions such as using flash,” explained Panasonic category marketing manager – Mobile AV, Alistair Robins.

“However, with Intellegent Auto, a number of features work together collectively. For example, the camera will decide if you have hand-shake and switch on OIS; or if there is movement in the picture it will switch on Intellegent ISO; or, it will determine whether you are photographing a landscape or portrait and choose the scene for you; if there are people in the picture, it will turn on face detection mode.”

The 8.1 megapixel FZ18 boasts 18x optical zoom for a 28 mm to 504 mm range (35mm equivalent), a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit f/2.8-4.2 lens, optical image stabilizer, 400 shots battery life and face detection.

Panasonic claims to have 36 per cent market share in the high zoom market segment, consisting of cameras with 10x optical zoom or larger.

In the compact segment, the new FX33 boasts a 2.5-inch LCD, 3.6x optical zoom (28-100 mm in 35 mm equivalent scale) and a Leica DC lens with f/2.8 apeture. The new high sensitivity mode allows shots up to ISO6400 for extremely low-light conditions.

Both models will be available in September.