Panasonic Introduces a Range of Cameras with Versatility in Mind
Panasonic has just announced a range of new cameras spanning the spectrum from compact point and shoot to an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera, with multiple choices in between. This new lineup of cameras is designed to fit the needs of a variety of photographers, from pure beginner to experienced professional, with different cameras striking different notes along the way.
On board with a recent trend of compact cameras housing impressive optics and greater manual control, the DMC-LX7 integrates a Leica lens with full aperture control and an integrated ND filter for greater control over exposure settings. The G5 usurps its predecessor’s (the G3) crown and adds some new refinements by improving an interchangeable lens design. Delving deeper into ease of use and simplicity of recording imagery, the SZ5, LZ20, FZ200 and FZ60 cameras all integrate new features that separate themselves from their predecessors and continue to redefine intuition and enjoyment for capturing the best images possible—without the learning curve of more complex camera systems.
The Lumix DMC-LX7 (available in black or white) is the follow-up to the popular LX5 and improves upon it with a redesigned lens, image sensor and processor for greater image quality and speed throughout. The LX7 features a newly designed 1/1.7" MOS sensor, but maintains the same effective resolution of 10.1 megapixels. The MOS sensor allows for a 1.5 dB increase in the signal-to-noise ratio, which provides greater clarity and a wider dynamic range in a greater variety of lighting situations. Giving light to the improved image clarity, the LX7 also includes the Venus Engine image processor for advanced signal processing. This processor helps to reduce noise levels while allowing for heightened low-light sensitivity. Additionally, it gives way to faster image handling and permits continuous shooting up to 11 full-resolution frames per second, or 5 fps with continuous autofocus. Full HD 1080/60p video recording is supported in the AVCHD (MPEG-4/H.264) format, or 1080/30p in the Web-friendly MP4 format, and audio is recorded via the Dolby Digital internal stereo microphone with built-in wind filter.
Complementing the sensor nicely, a refined Leica DC Vario-Summilux 24-90mm f/1.4-2.3 lens is incorporated into the design, which is about 1 stop faster than the LX5’s f/2.0 lens. This wide maximum aperture is ideal for working in low-light situations or times when a higher shutter speed is best. It also allows you to control your depth of field and selective focus more easily through its ability to defocus the background when working at wider apertures. The construction of the lens is made up of 11 elements within 10 groups, with 5 aspherical lenses and a total of 9 aspherical surfaces including a dual-sided, aspherical surface extra-low-dispersion element (ED). This advanced system of construction further enables the lens to render scenes with a pleasing image quality with minimal distortion and great detail. The lens also features a Nano Surface coating, which helps to improve light transmission and diminish reflections across the entire visual spectrum.
The lens has also been aided with the inclusion of a manual aperture ring, an internal neutral density filter, focus lever and rear dial to modify exposure and focus settings with greater precision. A built-in level gauge also serves as a visual tool for checking your composition and maintaining level horizons. High-resolution monitoring and image review are possible on the 3-inch 921K-dot LCD, with 11-step brightness control for visibility in any setting.
When working the camera, a number of creative functions have also been incorporated to help render scenes in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. iA and iA Plus modes automatically determine exposure settings, based on an intelligent system of criteria, to analyze how to carefully depict difficult lighting situations. These modes include AF tracking, Intelligent Dynamic Range Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Recognition, Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent HDR, Intelligent Handheld Night Shot and Motion Deblur. When working in the iA Plus mode, you can fine-tune your defocusing, exposure compensation and white balance settings. Additionally, there is also a Time Lapse mode and 16 different creative filter options for even greater possibilities in the way your final images appear. Among other features available, it should also be noted that full-manual control is possible with the LX7, for those times you want complete rule over your camera settings, similar to the possibilities afforded by a DSLR.
The Lumix DMC-G5, available in black and bundled with the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens, is Panasonic’s newest mirrorless camera and the successor to its DMC-G3. This interchangeable-lens camera is a cross between a full-fledged DSLR and a point and shoot, bringing the highlights from both technologies into a single entity combining control and efficiency. Similar to the G3, the G5 features a 16.05MP Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine image processor; however both have been modified to deliver clearer, sharper imagery than before. The redesigned Venus Engine now features more advanced signal processing, akin to the LX5, and controls the amount of noise applied to images to deliver better resolved, more descript pictures. Additionally, brightness levels are modified in order to control and reduce the amount of noise, which, in turn, also gives leeway to an integrated HDR mode that automatically layers several images into a single file. By building up individual images, you are able to capture better-exposed shadows and highlights than a single exposure’s range is capable of containing.
Beyond still-image capabilities, the G5 has the ability to record full HD video up to 1080/60p in AVCHD format, or 1080/30p in MP4 format. You can utilize continuous autofocus while recording video, including the touch screen, to pick specific focus points for a high level of control. There is also a subject-tracking function to help maintain sharp focus on your subjects while moving.
The G5 utilizes a contrast AF system that is controlled by the imaging sensor in order to determine focus. The benefit of this type of focusing system is greater accuracy, especially when paired with faster lenses. While the AF system is accurate in nature, to give even greater control over the image’s appearance, the G5 incorporates full-area touch AF for setting focus points directly from the rear LCD. This is ideal for selective-focus shooting and does not confine you to pre-set points or crosses in order to determine focus. This touch functionality is paired with Light Speed AF for acquiring focus quickly even on moving subjects, which is then further enhanced by the G5’s ability to record up to six frames per second at full 16.05MP resolution.
For composing images and video, a high resolution 1440K-dot electronic viewfinder is incorporated into the design, providing consistent feedback when switching between the LCD and EVF. An automatic eye sensor determines when the EVF is being used or not used and turns the other screen on or off accordingly. Additionally, the viewfinder features Eye Sensor AF, which automatically begins focusing once your eye is up to the viewfinder; this allows for more spontaneous shooting with more time allowed for composing your shots. The rear, 3-inch LCD is a 920K-dot articulating touch screen that rotates 180° to the side and tilts 270° up and down. The touch-screen functionality creates a more intuitive and interactive experience for seamless navigation through menus and greater control over taking and reviewing images.
Besides the LCD and EVF, other design functions have been enhanced in order to increase efficiency during use with the G5. A newly added function lever near the shutter release permits adjustment of zoom or exposure settings and can also be used to magnify images during playback. When used in combination with the rear dial, this lever can also be used to modify major shooting settings for a more intuitive method of navigating the camera features. Additionally, for greater ease of use with the G5, a unique Scene Guide function is specifically designed for novices or newcomers to interchangeable-lens cameras. This tool provides 23 sample images from professional photographers, allowing you to select the image that most closely resembles the scene you’re photographing, and have similar exposure settings applied to your image. There are also other tips or procedural techniques given that help you choose the best lens for the scene, or other considerations to take into account, while familiarizing yourself with the camera.
Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f/4-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. Lens
In addition to the G5 itself, there is also a new telephoto zoom lens available for Lumix G-series Micro Four Thirds cameras; the Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f/4-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. (available in black or silver). This lens’s wide ranging focal length is equivalent to a 90-300mm lens in 35mm format, giving you portrait length to long telephoto abilities. The MEGA O.I.S. function employs an optical image stabilizer to significantly reduce the appearance of camera shake, which is especially helpful when working in low-light situations. The focusing system integrates a stepping motor, too, for near-silent, quick focusing—perfect for video work. This lens is constructed of 12 elements in nine groups, including one UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index) lens and two aspherical lenses for uniform sharpness across the image plane, and overall clarity. The seven aperture blade diaphragm gives way to a smooth out-of-focus quality when working with shallow depth of field and selective-focus applications, which is further enhanced by a multi-coated lens element to reduce flare and ghosting.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 (available in black or white) differs from the former two cameras and features a wealth of technology in a very slim, compact form. This small point and shoot integrates a 10x optical zoom lens, ranging from 25-250mm (35mm equivalent), and a 14.1-megapixel CCD sensor for a high level of image quality. The Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens contributes to this image quality by providing a great deal of optical clarity and resolution at any focal length. In addition to the 10x optical zoom, Intelligent Resolution Technology can also be applied in order to increase the effective zoom ratio to 20x without noticeable degradation in image quality. A Sonic Speed AF system also enables the lens to acquire focus quickly when working with still or moving images, enabling you to capture spontaneous moments with greater ease. MEGA O.I.S. is also incorporated, helping to significantly reduce the appearance of camera shake that can often occur when working at longer focal lengths.
The 14.1MP CCD sensor utilizes the Venus Engine image processor for enhanced speed and low-light sensitivity in both still photos and movie recording. HD video capture is possible up to 720/30p in MP4 format, which can be played back on a computer without any conversion as well as uploaded directly to the Internet. For easy, intuitive use of the SZ5, Panasonic’s iA (Intelligent Auto) mode is built-in and utilizes a host of technologies to determine the best exposure settings, based on your working environment. These include Face Detection, AF Tracking, Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, and Intelligent Exposure. Once images have been recorded, there is also an Auto Retouch feature for adjusting contrast, levels, and colors in-camera. For more creative manipulation of imagery, numerous creative effects are available to use, including Miniature Effect, which can be used with either still or video work, or Panoramic Shot. All of these image enhancements can be reviewed and previewed on the 3-inch Intelligent LCD monitor with High Angle Mode that automatically adjusts the screen’s backlighting, depending on your viewing conditions.
Outside of the camera being an attractive image-making device, the SZ5 also features Wi-Fi connectivity and simple smartphone integration. The camera can utilize a smartphone as a wireless router, which eliminates the need to search for a Wi-Fi hotspot when uploading images directly to social networking sites. You can also upload your imagery directly to Panasonic’s proprietary cloud service, Lumix Club, and transfer your images to a wide variety of social sites from there. The Lumix Link app, available for both iOS and Android platforms, allows remote control of your camera from your phone for as well as the ability to embed GPS data to your images from your phone. You can even use your smartphone to view what your camera is seeing in vivid 30 f-p-s playback. Wireless connectivity also extends itself by allowing you to wirelessly archive your images while charging your battery, eliminating the need to eject your SD card or connect the camera to a computer via USB.
You can also upload your imagery directly to Panasonic’s proprietary cloud service, Lumix Club, and transfer your images to a wide variety of social sites from there.
The Lumix FZ60 is a point-and-shoot camera featuring a different form factor than the SZ5, favoring a more ergonomic design and housing a large zoom lens. This camera has a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25mm lens with a 24x optical zoom, bringing it to a 35mm equivalent of 25-600mm. When paired with the Intelligent Resolution technology, the effective zoom range doubles to 48x with little perceivable image degradation. A Nano Surface Coating is applied to improve light transmission and reduce reflections, and a 14 element/10 group construction with 3 ED lenses and 2 aspheric lenses with 3 aspheric surfaces provides noticeable image clarity. POWER O.I.S. is also integrated into the lens design for reducing camera shake and blur.
A 16.1 megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor and LSI Venus Engine gives tremendous image quality and fast performance, while allowing for extended low-light sensitivity. The image processor also provides high speed capabilities for up to 10fps continuous shooting or 5fps shooting with continuous AF. Full HD video recording is possible up to 1080/60i (NTSC, sensor output 30p) in the AVCHD format, or 30p in MP4. In addition to having the camera dictate prime settings for video recording, you can also take full control and manually manage the aperture and shutter speed settings while recording video—giving you more creative abilities. The video mode is easily accessible via a dedicated movie-record button, allowing quick transitions between still and moving image recording.
The FZ60 makes use of the iA mode to apply a system of image enhancements for hassle-free shooting, which is usable in both still and movie modes. AF Tracking, Face Recognition, Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, Intelligent D-range Control, Intelligent Handheld Night Shot, Intelligent HDR(High Dynamic Range) and Motion Deblur are among the modes taken into consideration when determining the ideal exposure settings. Outside of the elegant automated features, you can also forgo the camera settings and go fully manual. You can work in P, A, S and M modes, giving you the option to input the settings depending on your desired effect.
The Lumix FZ200 is another point-and-shoot camera combining ease of use functionality with a host of image and optical performance features. This camera features the ability to maintain its maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the entire zoom range; which is quite impressive at 25-600mm (35mm equivalent). This allows you to garner the same low-light benefits throughout the zoom range, as well as giving you greater ability to capture fast-moving subjects at long distances. The Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens also provides great clarity and is complemented by an anti-reflective Nano Surface Coating to minimize reflections and ghosting, resulting in greater light transmission and clearer imagery. The 24x optical zoom capabilities can be increased to 48x when the Intelligent Zoom function is used, which is based on Intelligent Resolution technology to ensure there is little loss in image quality. Further aiding the great zoom range of this camera is Panasonic’s POWER O.I.S. for reducing the appearance of camera shake at longer focal lengths.
In regard to imaging power, the FZ200 has a 12.1MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor and utilizes the LSI Venus Engine for high speed, sensitivity and image quality. The speed is manifested through the camera’s ability to record up to 12 full-resolution frames per second and a start-up time of less than 1 second. Additionally, there is a high speed video mode, allowing you to record up to 120 fps (NTSC/HD) or 240 fps (NTSC/VGA). More traditional video recording is offered in full HD up to 1080/60p in AVCHD or 1080/30p in the MP4 format. For creative effects, regardless if you’re working with still or moving images, there are 14 different creative filters you can apply to your images; these include Toy Effect, Star Filter, Miniature Effect and Soft Focus, among others.
These features are all contained within a newly designed body featuring a side lever for more precise zooming control. There is an articulating 3-inch, 460K-dot Intelligent LCD with AR coating for viewing in a wide variety of conditions, as well as a 1312K-dot electronic viewfinder for high resolution eye-level monitoring.
The Lumix LZ-20 is a digital point-and-shoot camera that also provides, with a very wide zoom range, high image quality and a variety of imaging features. There is a high-resolution, 16-megapixel CCD sensor paired with an LSI image processor; providing high-quality stills and video as well as an extended sensitivity range up to ISO 6400. The 25-520mm (35mm equivalent) lens is balanced by an optical image stabilizer, to counter the effects of shaky hands even at the longest focal lengths.
For tremendous ease of use, the LZ20 makes prominent use of an iA mode. This comprehensive mode combines numerous features into a single function, which allows you to focus your attention on the moment at hand rather than concentrating solely on handling the camera. These modes include Face Detection, Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Scene Selector and Intelligent Exposure, all of which work in conjunction automatically depending on the scene in which you are photographing. An automatic panorama mode is also available, allowing you to seamlessly overlay six frames into a congruent single image.
Besides still-image performance, you can also record HD video in 1280 x 720 format up to 30 fps, saved in the Motion JPEG format. PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.2 Lite Edition software is included with the camera for easy editing and uploading straight to YouTube or other video-sharing sites. For reviewing your images or movies on-camera, a rear 460K-dot LCD is incorporated into the ergonomic design, providing you with a high level of visibility, regardless of the ambient lighting conditions.