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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48, DMC-FX580 update FX line
by David Rasnake -  1/27/2009

Panasonic is making two new additions to its Lumix FX series of premium ultracompacts today. The pocket-size Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48 and touch-screen equipped Lumix DMC-FX580 follow up on the popular FX37 and FX500 models, respectively, with the sleek form factors, advanced point-and-shoot functions, and wide-angle lenses that are the trademarks of the FX series.

Lumix FX48 gets Face Recognition, new processor
If you're familiar with Panasonic's previous high-end ultracompacts, you'll easily be able to trace the FX48's heritage.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48

The camera's 12.1 megapixel CCD imager is all new for 2009, but the FX cameras' signature technology – an ultra-wide, fast aperture 5x zoom (25mm wide-angle at f/2.8) – returns unchanged from the previous FX37. As expected, the lens receives Panasonic's Mega O.I.S. image stabilization treatment.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48

Intelligent Auto, or iA, mode is another Panasonic staple, and the bundle of auto-exposure technologies developed for the FX48 includes Intelligent ISO Control, AF tracking, face detection, and automatic scene selection.

The FX48 adds Panasonic's new Face Recognition feature as well: an extension of face detection, Face Recognition is able to identify faces as belonging to specific individuals. According to Panasonic, "when a familiar face is recorded several times, the camera will prompt the users to register the face." Once registered, a face can be given exposure or focus priority in group situations, and the FX48 is even savvy enough to automatically switch into its Baby scene preset when the registered faces of very young children show up in the frame. Not surprisingly, there are playback-side integrations as well, allowing users to search for shots of a specific person.

Admittedly, we're a bit frightened by the prospect that a camera may show us up when it comes to remembering names of casual acquaintances or distant relatives, but Face Recognition is unquestionably a clever idea – though we'll want to spend some time with it before making a judgment on its usefulness.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48

Users interested in a single-camera solution for both stills and video will be interested to learn that the FX48 is capable of shooting 1280x720 HD video. An HD component out simplifies the task of playing back both videos and stills straight from the camera onto HDTVs.

All of these functions are powered by Panasonic's latest-generation Venus Engine V processor, which in spite of different branding, appears to be technologically similar to the dual-chip Venus Engine HD seen in other models.

FX580 updates high-performance touch screen model
Panasonic also opted to refresh its advanced touch screen model, the FX500, today with the launch of the FX580.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580

Basic specs for the FX580 are similar to those laid out for its stablemate, the conventionally controlled FX48. The same 12.1 megapixel imager seen in the FX48 is at the heart of it all. In front of the sensor, the FX580 shares the FX48's 5x zoom lens: it's a Leica lens, covering the equivalent of 25 to 125mm. Even more impressive is the optic's f/2.8 maximum aperture at wide angle.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580

Not surprisingly, while the FX48 uses a typical 2.5 inch LCD, the FX580's touch interface mandates a larger screen for easier access. Hence, the FX580 gets a 3.0 inch, 230,000 dot touch-sensitive panel.

We're not big fans of touch interfaces, but the original FX500 rose to the top of its class with Panasonic's decision to use a "hybrid operation system" that uses touch-responsive functions when they make sense but also provides a four-way controller for conventional menu navigation and settings changes.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580

The FX580 follows this same rubric, with the touch screen providing convenient access to features like point-to-set spot focus and metering, slider-style aperture and shutter speed controls, and touch-responsive white balance and color temperature adjustments.

With its Venus Engine V processor, the FX580 gets all of the iA functions outlined for its FX48 cousin – including the advanced Face Recognition and HD video features. Like the foregoing FX touch screen model, though, the FX580 is more than an auto-exposure camera, with aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual exposure controls keeping the latest FX in the good graces of shooters seeking more control.

Pricing and Availability
Both the FX48 and FX580 are slated to go on sale in the U.S. in April. Suggested retail for the FX48 is $349.95, while the FX580 should ring up closer to $399.95.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX48 Specifications

Sensor 12.1 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD
Lens/Zoom 5x (25-125mm) Leica DC Vario-Elmarit, f/2.8-5.9
LCD/Viewfinder 2.5", 230K-dot TFT LCD
Sensitivity ISO 80-1600 (High Sensitivity mode to ISO 6400)
Shutter Speed 8-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Scene, Motion Picture
Scene Presets Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst (Image Priority / Speed Priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, Underwater
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, User Set
Metering Modes Intelligent Multi
Focus Modes Face, AF Tracking, Multi, One Point, One Point High Speed
Drive Modes Normal, Burst, Self Timer
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced Off
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
40 MB
File Formats JPEG, Motion JPEG
Max. Image Size 4000x3000
Max. Video Size
1280x720, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Rechargeable 940 mAh lithium-ion, 350 shots
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input
Additional Features Mega O.I.S., iA Intelligent Auto mode, Intelligent ISO, Venus Engine V processing, AF Tracking, face detection, Face Recognition, Intelligent Exposure

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580 Specifications

Sensor 12.1 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD
Lens/Zoom 5x (25-125mm) Leica DC Vario-Elmarit, f/2.8-5.9
LCD/Viewfinder Touch-sensitive 3.0", 230K-dot TFT LCD
Sensitivity ISO 80-1600 (High Sensitivity mode to ISO 6400)
Shutter Speed 60-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, My Scene, Scene, Motion Picture
Scene Presets Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst (Image Priority / Speed Priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, Underwater
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, User Set
Metering Modes Intelligent Multi, Center-Weighted, Spot
Focus Modes Face, AF Tracking, Multi, One Point, One Point High Speed
Drive Modes Normal, Burst, Self Timer
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced Off
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
40 MB
File Formats JPEG, Motion JPEG
Max. Image Size 4000x3000
Max. Video Size
1280x720, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Rechargeable 940 mAh lithium-ion, 350 shots
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input
Additional Features Mega O.I.S., iA Intelligent Auto mode, Intelligent ISO, Venus Engine V processing, AF Tracking, face detection, Face Recognition, Intelligent Exposure