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Panasonic unveils new compact Lumix models at Vegas press conference
by David Rasnake -  1/29/2008

At an ongoing press conference in Las Vegas this morning, Panasonic has presented some top-level specs for several new models.

Panasonic Lumix compacts

The 9 megapixel Panasonic Lumix TZ5 advances the line of compact ultra-zoom "travel cameras" in the tradition of the popular TZ3. As with the TZ3, the TZ5 features a 10x zoom with wide angle capability to 28mm, Optical Image Stabilization, and Panasonic's iA Intelligent Auto Mode. A 460K-pixel, 3-inch LCD looks as stunning as it sounds.

Panasonic Lumix compacts

Panasonic Lumix TZ5

Panasonic Lumix compacts

Panasonic Lumix TZ5

The Panasonic Lumix TZ4 is identical to the TZ5, with 8 megapixels resolution, no HD video and output, and a smaller (2.5-inch) LCD.

The 10 megapixel Panasonic Lumix FX35 is a slimline model featuring, most notably, a stunning 25mm wide-angle zoom with a 4x range. Full HD video recording and output, iA, and a 2.5-inch LCD.

Panasonic Lumix compacts

Panasonic Lumix FX35

Panasonic Lumix compacts

Panasonic Lumix FX35

In the entry-level stylish FS series, Panasonic unveiled the Lumix FS20, with a 30mm wide-angle lens, Venus Engine IV processing, and ISO to 1600. The nearly identical FS5 wears a 2.5-inch LCD.

The Panasonic Lumix FS3 features a 33mm wide-angle lens and a 2.5-inch LCD, in addition to iA and Venus IV processing.

Panasonic Lumix compacts

Panasonic Lumix FS3

The 10.1 megapixel Panasonic Lumix LZ10 and 8 megapixel LZ8 feature wide-angle lenses, manual control and iA Intelligent Auto mode. Designed as "growth cameras," the LZ models offer step-up features and AA power.

Panasonic Lumix compacts

Panasonic Lumix LZ10

All new cameras utilize several new general technologies announced by Panasonic this morning, including the company's iA Intelligent Auto system. iA increases dynamic range, preventing both clipped highlights and lost shadow detail, making Panasonic the latest manufacturer this year to get onboard with a DR technology for its compact cameras.

Other general updates include the release of Panasonic's Venus Engine IV processor, which claims to address some of the noise reduction issues and loss of detail that Panasonic compacts have suffered in the past. Differentiating between high-frequency noise and low-frequency noise, the Venus Engine IV looks promising in terms of noise processing all around. The slightly washed out color look of some Venus Engine III cameras also appears to have been addressed by the upgraded processor.

Panasonic reps have reiterated the idea that the company is "Pursuing high picture quality in 10 megapixels," suggesting that they haven't been deaf to consumer complaints about increased graininess and noise issues in higher-res compacts. The new processor should help here, as should a larger 1/2.33" CCD sensor.

Low-distortion, high-sharpness Leica DC glass promises some improvements in terms of overall optical quality.

The company also teased again a collaboration with T-Mobile and Google Picasa to bring Wi-Fi technology to their Lumix line. Yet again, however, no specifics as to which models or ranges might expect to see this technology.

"High Definition" has also been a key phrase this morning, with several new models looking to get full HD video recording in addition to an HD-ready 16:9 still shooting mode.

On the industry side, Panasonic announced its intent to control 15 percent of the digicam market by 2009 – an aggressive growth goal for sure, given the strength of dominant manufacturers in this market.

What we didn't see this morning, interestingly, were any new ultra-zoom or SLR offerings from Panasonic. For those of you looking for a new 4/3rds DSLR model, it doesn't look like it's coming from Panasonic this spring.

We'll put together detailed announcements with specs on the new models as soon as we can sift through the official press releases.