Panasonic brings out three impressive new image stabilised models to further strengthen its digital camera presence.
It's been a hard confidence to keep, but we saw the three new Panasonic Lumix models announced today some six weeks ago when we were invited to meet with Panasonic Lumix design and engineering staff in Japan. We were also treated to tours of two of the Panasonic factories that make Lumix cameras and lenses. It's impressive stuff, leaving us with little doubt that Panasonic has the technical armoury and ambition to fulfil its goal of becoming a top-tier digital camera manufacturer.
Heres a quick summary of the key features of each of the new models. For more details, do have a look at the full press releases and specifications pages for each model.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1
Read the Press Release: Panasonic introduces the 8-Megapixel, 12x optical zoom LUMIX DMC-FZ30
This is an all-new camera. Although it still boasts a 12x Leica-branded zoom, this, too, is new in order to accommodate the larger size 1/1.8 inch CCD sensor. Alas, one penalty is the loss of constant aperture through the zoom range, which would have necessitated a bigger and bulkier lens, but on the plus size resolution has been raised to eight megapixels using a newly developed Panasonic sensor, a tilting vari-angle LCD screen has been added and battery capacity has been improved. RAW file support has also been introduced. You also get a responsive mechanical zoom ring rather than the usual electronically controlled zoom control.
Read the Press Release: Panasonic launches a new LUMIX 16:9 wide LX series
Another all-new model is the Lumix LX1. This is a compact design that sports a brand new and unique 8.4 megapixel 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio CCD sensor and a matching 4x lens that covers a useful 28-112mm range. A new mini joystick controller has been introduced for this model and it also has a pop-up flash. This model also features RAW file support.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9
Read the Press Release: Panasonic is introducing the incoming LUMIX model DMC-FX9
The ultra compact Lumix FX8 has only been available for a few weeks (though not, apparently in the US) and already Panasonic has upped the resolution from five to six megapixels in the new FX9. But there are other detail improvements as well, including a new higher resolution 2.5 inch LCD screen.
The DPNow Panasonic Lumix survey
Prior to our visit to Japan, we surveyed over 600 DPNow visitors and this is the consensus of opinions noted regarding Panasonic Lumix cameras to date
What do people like about Panasonic Lumix cameras?
Wide zoom range in some models
Fixed aperture through zoom range in some models though this has been sacrificed in the new FZ30
Good menu system
Compact designs and light weight
Good picture quality at low ISO speed
Good continuous shooting rate in some models
Next we look at the 'can do better' responses. As the new cameras revealed today prove, Panasonic has been sensitive to some of these issues.
What do people want to see improved in Panasonic Lumix cameras?
Noise performance at mid-high ISO.
CCD size (people assume a larger CCD is better). This has now been addressed in the new FZ30, which has a larger 1/1.8 inch sensor compared to the FZ20 it replaces.
EVF and LCD can be too dark for use in low light situations where focus is critical.
Lack of Flash PC connector on higher end models.
Battery charge life in some models. Again, Panasonic has reduced the power consumption of the Venus Engine processor and introduced bigger batteries.
Apparently no firmware updates are available? Panasonic says it is a requirement that firmware is perfect from day one.
No support for RAW files but there is now in the LX1 and FZ30.
Distortion at wide angle zoom setting in some models.
Not possible to remove SD card or battery when camera is mounted on a tripod. The FZ30 and LX1 have side-positioned card slots to solve this problem.
Angle of view not wide enough at short end of zoom range (28mm equivalence desired). The new LX1 offers a 28mm wide end to its zoom range.
Shutter speed range can be made wider (both slower shutter speeds and faster speeds).
Vari-angle LCD not offered. This has now been implemented in the FZ30.
No provision of dedicated TTL flash in higher models with flash shoe
Panasonic accessories too expensive.
Sensor resolution behind the competition. Today, one six megapixel and two eight megapixel sensors have been introduced and they are all manufactured by Panasonic.
Not enough external controls on higher end models (over-reliance on menus)
Zoom position not remembered after switching off.
Off-centre tripod mount position.
Here are also some selected quotes from our survey regarding Panasonic Lumix cameras:
"We need a little larger sensor, to avoid some of the "noise" above iso 100. I realize the limitations of doing this anc keeping the price, size under control, but I have much confidence in Panasonic that they can accomplish this. Perhaps just a 2/3 sensor, like the LC1."
"The Leica lens is what sold me on the Lumix to begin with, and it has certainly proven itself!"
"I've only had my camera (FZ5) about 2 months so am still learning - but Panasonic would do well to listen to what seems to be (from the forums) a very loyal and committed customer base. The more you listen to current owners the more you will learn and pass on to future models and this will get you further customers. We're a ready made field trial for you - make use of us!"
"Excellent build quality and performance. I love my FZ15 and especially its stabilized Leica lens. It's a beautifully styled camera too, and just the right size for general use. I will definitely look at other Lumix models in the future."
"I'd seriously love to be able to use ISO 400 or better and keep the quality and fine detail of ISO's 80-100."
"Like the Leica lens and it's zoom. I like the ergonomics of the camera in general, especially the hand grip. I like the Menu layout and its ease of use. I like the Macro setting for taking close-ups. I like the Dioptre adjustment and the LCD screen size."
"The FZ series offers a stunning lens and excellent controls with lots of features. physical balance is good, and reliability seems to be excellent. Picture quality is very good. optical image stabilization is wonderful!"
"Optical quality of the Leica lenses makes the Lumix cameras very attractive. (I hope the same quality carries over to the Lumix brand lenses on more recent models.) The very usable manual focus on the FZ20 is also important to me, but the absence of scale markings is disappointing."
"Lumix cameras have a bad reputation with regard to sensor noise. The DMC-LC5 was especially frustrating in this regard. I find the FZ20 much better in this regard, but noise remains a weak point."
"Particularly like the quality of the lens and the F2.8 through the entire zoom range. I also like the ease of navigation through the menus."
"Panasonic has proved it can make good glass. There is no better zoom camera on the market with the abilities of the FZ10/20. However, the small, noisy sensor reduces the abilities of the camera greatly."
"Small sensor makes for unacceptably high noise at anything above ISO80. This issue should be #1 on Panasonic's to-do list."
Give us your views!
We'd like to hear what you think about the new Panasonic Lumix models announced today. Voice your opinion and we will publish a selection soon. We'll also do our best to answer any questions you may have regarding the design and specifications of the new models.