While recent attention has been focused on Panasonic's impressive high-end models such as the DMC-FX500, LX3 and G1 , it might seem that the company has been neglecting the other end of the market. The balance is restored now though, with the announcement of four new cameras that bolter the lower end of Panasonic's model range.
First up is the DMC-LS85, an entry-level 8.1-megapixel compact that runs on a pair of AA batteries. It is equipped with a 4x optical zoom lens with a focal length range equivalent to 33-132mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, and a 2.5-inch 230k LCD monitor.
To make life easy for the newbies it features Panasonic's auto-everything Intelligent Auto mode, with the high performance Venus Engine IV processor providing the oomph. It has an improved face detection system that can recognise up to 15 faces simultaneously. The DMC-LS85 will be available from March and will come in a choice of silver or black.
Also announced this week are a brace of new models in the ultra-compact but easy-to-use FS range. The 10.1-megapixel DMC-FS7 and 8.1-megapixel DMC-FS6 cameras both have virtually identical bodies, as well as 4x zoom lenses equivalent to 33-132mm. The FS6 has a 2.5-inch LCD monitor, while the FS7 goes one better with 2.7 inches, although both have a resolution of 230k dots and a wide angle of view, and auto-adjusting backlighting to cope with bright sunshine.
Both models feature Venus Engine IV processing and fast shooting speeds. The FS7 can shoot at 2.5 frames per second, while the FS6 is even faster at 3fps, at full resolution. Additional features include Intelligent Auto shooting mode, 848 x 480 WVGA video at 30fps, and Panasonic's acclaimed Mega OIS image stabilisation system. The DMC-FS7 will be available in silver, black or pink and the FS6 in silver, black, red, blue and pink. The new models will be available from February.
Joining the FS6 and FS7 is the new DMC-FS15, another ultra-compact model featuring a 12.1-megapixel sensor and a 5x zoom lens with a 29mm-equivalent wide angle setting.
Like the other cameras in the range the FS15's features include Venus Engine IV processing, Mega OIS image stabilisation and Intelligent Auto shooting mode. It has the same 2.7-inch wide-view monitor as the FS7, with the same 230k dot resolution and 11-step auto-adjusting backlight brightness. It also has WVGA 30fps video mode, and slide-show picture playback with MP3 background music. The DMC-FS15 will be available from February in a choice of silver, black and blue.
Bundled software for all four new cameras includes the latest version of Panasonic's PHOTOfunSTUDIO 3.0, which you can use to edit and organise your photo collection. fun. It features a face recognition function that can recognizes the faces of friends and family in pictures stored on your PC, and sort photos according to the subject.
With the price of digital cameras changing almost by the day, Panasonic will probably wait until the last minute before announcing the recommended retail prices of all four of the new cameras