Three new Lumix digital cameras from Panasonic

Two ultra-compacts and a superzoom share new easy-to-use features

Panasonic has today announced the launch of three new models in its Lumix range of digital still cameras, all of which share a couple of new features designed to make taking photos even easier.

Two of the new models, the Lumix DMC-FX33 and FX55, are ultra-compacts, and build on the success of the popular Lumix FX30, with which they share many design features. Actually, calling them two new models is a bit of an exaggeration, since the only difference between them is that the FX33 has a 2.5-in LCD monitor, while the FX55 has 3.0-in. Both screens are 230k pixels resolution. As a result the FX-55 is slightly larger.

Other than that difference, both cameras have a similar list of features, and it makes for impressive reading: a 28mm wide-angle Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and a 3.6x optical zoom (equivalent to 28-100mm on a 35mm film camera); an 8.1-megapixel CCD; Panasonic’s impressive Mega OIS optical image stabilisation system; intelligent ISO control for faster shutter speeds and of course a face detection system for portrait shots. Both cameras can shoot 3fps bursts in continuous mode, and have a special image mode to shoot at the 1920 x 1080 resolution of HD TV sets, and a wide-screen video mode capable of 848 x 480 (WVGA) resolution at 30fps.

New features for both models include the Venus Engine III image processor, which will hopefully improve the disappointing image noise problems that have plagued most Lumix cameras.

Also new is the “Intelligent Auto” mode, which does basically the same job as Pentax’s Hyper Program mode. In this mode the camera will automatically select the best scene mode program, ISO setting and face-detection mode for the type of shot being taken, with no further input from the user other than pressing the shutter button.

The FX55 will be available in silver, black or pink, while the FX33 will have a wider colour range with silver, black, blue, brown, pink and white, each with a specially textured finish, although not all colours will necessarily be available in all markets.

The third camera announced is the DMC-FZ18, a development of the excellent FZ8. It too features the new Venus Engine III and Intelligent Auto mode, along with a lovely 18x zoom image stabilised f/2.8-4.2, 28mm wide-angle Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens. Try trotting that one out in polite conversation.

Other features include a 2.5-in 207k LCD monitor, a 188k electronic viewfinder, a 3fps burst mode (four or seven shots depending on quality setting), six different AF modes and easy manual focusing. The maximum ISO setting is an impressive 6400, but we’ll have to wait and see what the noise control is like at that speed. The claimed battery life is also larger than average at 400 shots on a single charge, thanks to energy-efficient electronics, which sounds a lot more useful.

Prices and on-sale dates for the new models have yet to be announced, but we’ll be sure to let you know.

”’UPDATE:”’ Just confirmed by Panasonic, the new models will be available from September. The FZ18 will have an RRP of £329, the FX55 £279 and the FX33 £249 .

Link: Panasonic cameras

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