By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Looking to get better attention in the U.S. for its advances in digital photography, Panasonic will use the upcoming PMA Show to announce a $30 million national advertising and promotional push behind its 2010 Lumix digicams that will feature an expanded assortment of compact point-and-shoot models.
The company has also elected to put the Panasonic brand back on the front of its 2010 models to give them stronger pull with U.S. consumers, who are less familiar with the Lumix sub-brand than consumers in other parts of the world.
Panasonic's broadened digital camera lineup will include price ranges spanning the gamut from mass-merchant audiences to photo specialty clientele, said Dave Briganti, Panasonic digital cameras senior product manager.
“The co-branding on the front of the cameras and our advertising campaign will be huge for us,” Briganti said. “The product has always been there, we just need to start educating the consumer about the technology.”
Four of the step-up compact models in the 2010 line will include Panasonic's new Intelligent Resolution and Intelligent Zoom technologies, which work hand-in-hand to digitally expand the optical zoom range of the camera while providing an image noise cleanup system to remove digital artifacts and render clear, sharp zoom shots taken at longer extensions.
The camera's processor will automatically detect areas of deterioration in the image created by the digital zoom and correct just the noisy areas of the image, such as blurring in fine areas or jagged lines in areas of edge contrast.
The effect in the new advanced ZS series of point-and-shoot models, for example, is to give a 12x optical zoom an effective extension to 16x, while keeping images sharp and clear.
In ZR-series models, an 8x optical zoom lens is boosted to 10x, and in a new Tough Camera, a 4.6x optical zoom is boosted to a 6x effective zoom range using the new technologies.
When placed in Panasonic's Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, all cameras carrying the feature will automatically shift into Intelligent Zoom and Intelligent Resolution modes. The system can either be switched off or on in any other mode.
Intelligent Resolution will also function in scenes that don't require zooming to provide greater noise reduction in difficult areas, such as low-light settings.
The new flagship, high-zoom compact DMC-ZS7, which replaces the DMC-ZS3, offers the same cosmetic design as last year's model, but steps up the optical zoom range to a Leica 12x optical zoom lens/16x extension in Intelligent Zoom and Intelligent Resolution modes.
Also included is 12.1-megapixel resolution; a 3-inch, 460,000-pixel LCD viewscreen; 720p/30 fps HD video recording using the AVCHD Lite codec; Dolby stereo mic; HDMI output; and a full suite of intelligent auto modes, including face detection for focus priority and image sorting, and AF tracking. It also adds a 2x improvement in optical image stabilization using a newly named Power OIS system.
A new Sonic Speed AF system in the camera reduces auto focusing time to 0.3 seconds, putting it in a class with many digital SLRs.
The DMC-ZS7 will also add GPS technology to add image location tagging, in addition to automatically inserting the correct date and time in the picture's XF data. When combined with Google Maps, the feature will present a map showing everywhere a group of images was taken. All DMC-ZS models will have manual over ride control. The DMC-ZS7 also will be offered in a choice of silver, black, red or blue.
The DMC-ZS5 will replace the DMC-ZS1 and offers the same basic feature set as the DMC-ZS7, omitting the GPS function, the AVCHD Lite codec (substituting Motion JPEG for 720p HD recording), and substituting a 2.7-inch LCD screen for the 3-inch screen on the DMC-ZS7. It will be offered in black or silver.
The DMC-ZR3 will replace the DMC-ZR1 and will include a compact body design, a Leica 8x optical zoom lens (starting at 25mm) with 10x extension using Intelligent Zoom and Intelligent Resolution, full suite of iA features, Power OIS, 14.1-megapixel resolution, and AVCHD Lite for 720p HD video capture. It will be offered in blue, red, black and silver.
In the Tough Camera lineup the DMC-TS2, which will ship in mid March, will replace the TS1 offering a new ruggedly designed entry level long-zoom compact camera. Other features include 14.1-megapixel resolution, Leica 4x optical zoom with up an extension to 6x (starting at 28mm) in Intelligent Zoom and Intelligent Resolution mode, Power OIS, full suite of iA features, 2.7-inch LCD viewscreen, and AVCHD Lite 720p video capture.
The TS2 is waterproof to 33 feet (10m), shockproof to 6.6 feet, freeze-proof to 14° F (-10° C) and dustproof.
Panasonic said pricing on the ZS7, ZS5, ZR3 and TS2 will be announced 30 days prior to shipping in mid March.
In standard retractable lens compacts, Panasonic will offer starting in mid-February the Lumix DMC-FH1 ($159), FH3 ($179) and the previously announced FH20 ($199).
All have slim, pocket-size bodies with long zoom ranges starting at 28mms. All record 720p HD video and feature a suite of automatic settings in iA mode.
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