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Panasonic replaces TZ cameras with 12x zoom Lumix DMC-ZS3, ZS1
by David Rasnake -  1/27/2009

What was once TZ is now ZS. That's the news that we expect to come out of a Panasonic press conference later this morning in Miami, where the electronics giant behind the Lumix line of digicams will unveil its latest compact ultrazooms: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 and DMC-ZS1.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

Replacing the similarly styled and very popular Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5, the flagship ZS3 and step-down ZS1 up the stakes on small cameras with big lenses – packing a 12x Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens into a camera small enough to carry in a purse or large pocket.

Compared to previous TZ models, the ZS3 gains range at both ends of the spectrum. On the wide end, shooters can now enjoy the equivalent of 25mm wide-angle coverage (the TZ5 used a 28mm lens); telephoto reach grows as well, out to 300mm. As before, though, Optical Image Stabilization is standard on the ZS models, bettering your chances of being able to use the full extent of that zoom range when shooting hand-held.

Both the new ZS models sport 10.1 megapixels effective resolution, albeit from sensors of different physical sizes. In one of this line's other headline new additions, the ZS3's imager supports HD video capture at 1280x720/30 fps. While the ZS1's standard-def video is captured using the conventional Motion JPEG format, the ZS3's HD video is recorded using the new Sony/Panasonic jointly developed "AVCHD Lite" codec. According to Panasonic, the new format offers the typically contradictory advantages of improved audio/visual quality and smaller files for more capture with lower memory consumption.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

Combined with a top-mounted stereo mic, Intelligent Auto scene recognition in video mode, and the ability to use both image stabilization and the full 12x zoom range while shooting movies, the ZS3's specs make it stand out as a potential still/movie "hybrid model," to borrow a phrase from Panasonic's press release.

These high-level functions on the new ZS models are driven by Panasonic's dual-processor Venus Engine HD technology, which provides HDMI out, faster shooting speeds and auto focus, and better noise reduction as well, according to the manufacturer. Panasonic has upped the number of scene modes for its latest Lumix models, with the ZS3 offering 26 still image modes and 17 presets for video shooting.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

The ZS3 uses the same 3.0 inch, 460,000 dot LCD that has graced previous flagship TZ models, while the ZS1 gets a slightly smaller, lower-res 2.7 inch display.

At the moment, Panasonic is planning to ready the new ZS cameras for retail release by April. Available in black, silver, blue, or red, the ZS3 carries an MSRP of $399.95. If you're willing to give up the huge screen, HD video capture, and exotic color choices, the ZS1 should hit stores for about $100 less.

We'll be in attendance at Panasonic's press conference later this morning, and hope to get some shooting time with the new ZS models and the rest of Panasonic's new line later in the day. Stay tuned for updates...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3/DMC-ZS1 Specifications

Sensor 10.1 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD (ZS3); 10.1 megapixel (effective), 1/2.5" CCD (ZS1)
Lens/Zoom 12x (25-300mm) Leica DC Vario-Elmar, f/3.3-6.3
LCD/Viewfinder 3.0", 460K-dot TFT LCD (ZS3); 2.7", 230K-dot TFT LCD (ZS1)
Sensitivity ISO 80-1600 (High Sensitivity mode to ISO 6400)
Shutter Speed 8-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, My Scene 1, My Scene 2, Scene, Clipboard, 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 High Speed, One Point
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, AVCHD Lite (ZS3), Motion JPEG
Max. Image Size 3648x2736
Max. Video Size
1280x720, 30 fps (ZS3); 848x480, 30 fps (ZS1)
Zoom During Video Yes
Battery Rechargeable 895 mAh lithium-ion
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, HDMI, DC input
Additional Features Mega O.I.S., iA Intelligent Auto mode, Intelligent ISO, Venus Engine HD processing, AF Tracking, face detection, Face Recognition, Intelligent Exposure