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Panasonic today launched its forthcoming series of Lumix compact cameras and HD video camcorders on the 10th anniversary of its push into the point-and-click market.

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Since its birth, Lumix has grown to take on 20 percent of the compact cam market, with its DMC-TZ210 and DMC-FT2 taking the top spots in sales value last year.

“These ten years have seen some real advances in camera technology,” said Panasonic director of marketing, Paul Reid.

While last year saw Panasonic’s introduction of the first 3D consumer camcorder, this year’s is a lot less innovative. Instead, Panasonic has beefed up the megapixel (MP) count and thrown in some new features to fish out customers who admittedly want little more than a high MP count and less tricky buttons.

The flagship take on this demogaphic is the new S series: a camera re-worked for the first-time digi-cam point-and-shooters out there. Sporting a lightweight, slim, rounded design with minimal buttons (and minimal features to boot), the S series packs in up to 14.1 MP inside colourful cases that pay more lip-service to image quality than any real delivery.

As one Panasonic rep put it, the high MP count is basically a way to entice the less educated snappers to pick up the S series. To the layman, higher MP equals higher quality. But for prices under $150 a pop, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better beginner’s shot.

The S3 comes in black, white and red at $169 from March, while the S1 comes in black, silver and pink for $149.

 
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Amongst the rest of the ten cam lineup is the FX78 which drops the MP count to 12.1 but pushes the quality up with its wide angle LEICA lens and high-speed CCD sensor that takes high quality images, even in low light with less chance of blur or noise.

The FX will come in silver finish this April, selling at $499.

The FH is the step-down model suited ‘for families,’ still holding the same picture-grabbing grunt with a smaller pricetag. Bringing 16.1 MP to the table, it can support large, high quality files while still delivering real quality with its LEICA technology lens that’s shrunk 20% since the last model. Intelligent Resolution technology ensures better detail on those close zooms with greater noise reduction – especially important during night shots and when using the 10x zoom.

The FH27 comes in black for $349 in March, while the FH25 will stock in an additional silver, red and blue for $299.

 
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The TZ series is a step up, featuring touch shutter and GPS functionality that is faster than the last generation with an upgraded one million landmarks that you can use to geo-tag onto. 

Its funkiest feature is the Handheld Nightshot that cleverly opts to take 10 individual photos in place of one long exposure to soak up as much light in a shot as possible without the need to use a tripod to avoid shaky-cam syndrome. Its Intelligent Zoom can go up to 21x.

The TZ20 comes in black for $599 this April, while the TZ18 comes in silver for $499.

Panasonic has packed in all the pointless features you could hope for in a rugged cam for the great outdoors that’d probably only suit  you if you’re James Franco in 127 Hours. 

The 12.1 MP FT3 is waterproof to 12 metres, shockproof to 2 metres, freezeproof to -10 degrees Celcius and dustproof. It also features improved GPS since the earlier generations of Lumix cams alongside a highly sensitive compass, altimeter and barometer to give the full geo-tagging experience to the extreme snapper.

The FT3 will come in at $599 in March, coming in silver, orange, red and blue. According to the Lumix team, it can even skip on water – but I wouldn’t put my own $600 on that.

 

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The whole range of compact cameras feature Intelligent Auto (iA) for optimum shot presets on-the-go, Optical Image Stabilisation (IOS) that has been amped up on this years range with action modes that actually manage to take the shaky-cam effect out of walking and filming simultaneously. Alongside all this is a HD filming function across the whole range (though some smaller models will only go up to 720p rather than full HD).

HD filming is a major push in Panasonic’s marketing, as Product Marketing Manager for Camcorders, Aurelie Hayon, puts it: “Emerging bloggers look to share their videos on the Internet,” while others look for hi-def footage for serious filming and HD TV compatibility.

The camcorder range goes from amateur shooters to serious filmers, with the 3MOS broadcast quality cameras pulling together a 3MOS sensor, Hybrid IOS for supreme image stabilising and the star Leica lens. 

The real star, though, is the stable touchscreen sensitive zooming function that allows gentle, refined zooming on a subject. This feature stands out while many other lightweight handy-cams fail to offer a lens ring for sensitive zooming. These cams also have the additional option for 3D recording with the VW-CLT1 3D lens going for $449 in March, applicable with four of the eight camcorders being launched.

The HDC line of camcorders range from $2099 for the 3MOS versions to as low as $499 for the bottom-end 1MOS renditions. The SDR models that feature up to 78x zoom will retail at $549 for the H101 and $349 for the S71 by late February.

Keep your eye on SmartHouse for indepth looks at these cameras, coming up soon.

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