DPNow reports from Barcelona where Panasonic Lumix introduced its new 2006 autumn range and provided a first hands-on opportunity for its DMC-L1 DSLR
(Almost) all attention was on the soon-to-be available Lumix DMC-L1 DSLR.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 DSLR image samples now up
Update: Panasonic Lumix DMC-Z50 superzoom image samples now up
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• Ten megapixel compact models revealed
• Panasonic claims breakthrough in minimising image noise
• Extended ISO sensitivity across the range
• Hands-on with the DMC-L1 DSLR and lens roadmap unveiled
• More info on SDHC high capacity SD card standard
Read the official model-specific press releases and technical specifications: DMC-FX3, FX07, FX50, FZ50, LX2.
Panasonic introduce the new DMC-FX50 and DMC-FX07 cameras
Panasonic introduce the new LUMIX DMC-FX3 6-megapixel, f/2.8 3x optical zoom
Panasonic introduce the 10.1-megapixel LUMIX DMC-FZ50 with MEGA O.I.S.
Here in Barcelona, today, Panasonic has unveiled its autumn collection of new digital camera models and revealed some interested technical improvements that promise to address some criticisms voiced by in some reviews of earlier models. We have also had the opportunity to try out the new cameras, including the previously announced Four Thirds standard DSLR, the DMC-L1.
More megapixels but dramatically lower noise claimed
Panasonic has decided to go for more megapixels and updates to last year's 8 megapixel wide-shooting DMC-LX1 anDMC-FZ30 21x superzoom, in the form of the DMC-LX2 and DMC-FZ50, now boast 10.2 megapixel sensors. Although generally received well, the Achilles heal of the original LX1 and FZ30, acknowledged by Panasonic today, has been image noise. Upping the megapixels would seem to invite more noise, but Panasonic says it has introduced such an effective noise management solution in its latest Venus Engine III image processor that compared with the previous models, chroma (colour) noise and luminance noise have been reduced by up to 65% and 85%, respectively.
Panasonic had a lot to say about its Lumix plans at its briefing in Barcelona
To date, Fujifilm has been pretty much alone in achieving particularly low levels of image noise in compact digital camera models and even then only in selected models, like the FinePix F10, F11 and the new F30. Panasonic explains that it filters noise at an earlier stage in the imaging pipeline now and processes luminance and chroma noise filtering separately. Until now, most Panasonic Lumix models have been limited to ISO 400 sensitivity and even at ISO 400, noise has been pretty obvious. Panasonic is now confident enough to make ISO 3200 available for use in some models.
Intelligent ISO Control
Another innovation, which supplements Panasonic's well-established Mega-OIS in-lens image stabilisation system, is called Intelligent ISO Control (IIC). This addresses the problem of freezing movement that can't be addressed by image stabilisation (IS) alone. IS compensates for movement of the camera that would, otherwise, cause motion blur. But no matter how still the camera, movement of your subject can also cause blur. The only way to freeze this kind of motion blur is to increase the shutter speed. To do this, you need to increase the sensitivity of the image sensor temporarily. This is exactly what IIC does and is another by-product of the Venus Engine III and only possible because of the improvements Panasonic has made it its noise control.
Among the new Lumix camera models that will be seen in Europe in September and October are (left-right) the DMC-FZ-50, DMC-LX2 and the DMC-L1 DSLR
Panasonic's Lumix DMC-L1 DSLR, plus new lenses on the way
Today has been a welcome opportunity for us to spend some time using the DMC-L1 DSLR announced at PMA earlier in the year. The L1 goes on in sale in Japan later this month, but we won't see it in European stores until September at the earliest. Panasonic has also announced that four additional Four Thirds standard lenses designed and manufactured by Panasonic for the L1 and Olympus Four Thirds cameras, will be introduced next year. All but one will feature image stabilisation. They are: 14-150mm (28-300) f/.3.5-5.6 OIS, 50-150mm (100-300) f/3.5-5.6 OIS, 25mm f/1.4 (50mm f/1.4) and a 45mm (90mm) f/2.0 OIS Macro. While prospective L1 owners must wait for these, Panasonic points out that there are already 23 Four Thirds lenses available from Olympus, Sigma and Panasonic.
SDHC news – 4GB SD cards from next month from Panasonic
If you are shooting ten megapixel images, you need adequate storage and the SD card standard, co-invented by Panasonic with Toshiba and SanDisk, maxes out at 2GB. Panasonic will introduce its first Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) card next month, with a 4GB capacity and all the new Lumix models announced today are compatible with SDHC as well as standard SD cards. However, very few older camera models are SDHC-compatible, though all future SDHC-ready devices should be backwards compatible with older SD cards.
Mr.Yoshida, head of Panasonic's Digital Still Camera business, enjoys one of the perks of the job.
Panasonic has also been talking about new product designations to help people decide which performance level of memory card they require. Three new Speed Class numbers will be featured on standard and HC cards, namely 2, 4, and 6. The numbers happen to relate to the sustained transfer rates, in megabytes per second, required for particular devices. Panasonic will list the Speed Class of its future products so you can match up the most appropriate card. These transfer rates are relatively modest – Panasonic already produces 20MB/sec cards, but the standard is more like an adequacy formula. For example, a video camera might require a level 6 card because a level 4 card might cause frames to be dropped during video capture.
Wide-screen photo paper
Finally, Panasonic has built on its strategy of making its digital cameras work with its wide-screen TVs via SD card networking. The DMC-LX1 camera was the first digital camera to feature a 16:9 wide-screen aspect ratio image sensor and the updated LX2 now has a wide-screen LCD screen. If that wasn't enough, you will soon be able to buy wide-screen photo paper for borderless 16:9 photos. Epson already supplies this paper in Japan and European manufacturer, Tetenal, has announced 10.2 x 18.1cm wide-screen format Spectra Jet ink jet photo paper will be on the market soon in 20 and 50 sheet packs.