Secaucus, N.J. - Panasonic unveiled Thursday the newest addition to its Lumix G Series Compact System Cameras (CSC) - the Lumix DMC-G3, and said it would also add a high-performance 16.1 megapixel point & shoot at a date to be announced.
Panasonic is calling the G3, which will ship in June at $700 suggested retail for the body and a 14-42mm zoom kit lens, "the company's smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a viewfinder to date."
The G3 stands as Panasonic's new next-best option to the top of the line Lumix GH series cameras, sharing many of the features of that step-up segment.
The camera adds a number of features that improve on the prior G2 while at the same time matching or, in some cases, bettering the performance of many entry level d-SLR cameras, said Darin Pepple, Panasonic imaging senior product manager.
Some of the highlights include a new 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds image sensor that is said to produce four full resolution frames per second burst shooting using a mechanical shutter or up to 20 fps at 4MP resolution using an electronic shutter. It also has a lighter weight and smaller size than many popular entry d-SLRs, and 1920-by-1080/60i Full HD video recording capability with stereo sound in AVCHD format.
The camera packs a wide range of features into a touch-screen LCD menu system, but also maintains a top-mounted mode dial for camera traditionalists.
Beyond setting: program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual shooting models, the G3 adds dial settings for custom mode, scene mode and a creative control mode.
A dedicated video button is added to eliminate shooting confusion in the field.
It also includes a built-in pop-up flash with a hotshoe for more powerful add-on flashes, and an eye-level 1.44m-dot electronic viewfinder with 100 percent field of view for WYSIWYG framing, exposure, focus, and white balance.
In addition, Panasonic has added an iA Plus (intelligent auto) mode with touch-screen slider controls and live on-screen histogram that let users shoot in automatic and look through the view finder to custom tweak white balance and exposure if the auto settings need adjustment before the shot.
Meanwhile, a touch-screen shooting system lets photographers focus on the subject by tapping its image on the 3-inch LCD touch screen.
The auto focus tracking system will then lock on the subject and follow it around in the frame to keep it in focus until the image is snapped.
In addition to its 23 area auto focusing points, the G3 features a new pinpoint AF function that allows a near-pixel-level focus point setting at the touch of a finger for macro focus images and other situations.
Unlike competitor's d-SLRs that limit the number of fixed hardware focus points, the Pinpoint AF system can be set by touch control to very fine points anywhere on the LCD.
When magnification is first enabled at 4x by touching the subject on the LCD, that subject is enlarged in a small window inside the main image frame for reference.
Beyond 4x, the small window fills the monitor to allow more control over focus fine-tuning.
Panasonic is also using a new Precision Contrast LightSpeed AF system, for very fast (14-140mm ~0.1 sec. 14-42mm ~0.18 sec., 45-200mm ~0.15 sec.) focus setting.
Panasonic said it achieved the LightSpeed AF feature by reducing the detection time for focusing by doubling the Live MOS Sensor speed from 60 fps to 120 fps.
Manual control over focus is available in the Lumix G3 and has been greatly improved over the prior G2 model, Panasonic said.
Panasonic is also adding to the G3 an improved Venus Engine FHD image processor which works in tandem with the 16MP Live MOS image sensor to produce selective noise reduction in images for a more naturally-balanced curve without image deterioration, Panasonic said.
Noise is said to be suppressed by more than 66 percent and when shooting at high ISO settings, the signal to noise value is improved by approximately 200 percent compared with the conventional 12.1-megapixel sensor.
The sensor performance is said to be improved by 6db at ISO 3200 and a maximum 9db at ISO 6400.
The iA (intelligent auto) and new iA Plus modes are enabled automatically once the iA button is pressed. These provide intelligent resolution, MEGA O.I.S. (included in several lenses), intelligent ISO control, and intelligent scene selector. The iA Plus mode is said to add the aforementioned touch-screen-slider controls for background defocusing; exposure control compensation and white balance.
A Creative Control mode allows images to be taken with popular visual effects that previously required software post processing. Effects include: Retro, High Key, Sepia and High Dynamic. The conventional film mode has evolved with a new effect control, Photo Style, which has Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, and Portrait presets that allow finer adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction by each.
The Lumix G3 incorporates a Dust Reduction System that uses a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor. Vibrating vertically around 50,000 times per second, the filter repels dust and other particles effectively.
The DMC-G3 has an aluminum body and will be available in four body colors including black, red, white and brown.
Meanwhile, the Lumix DMC-FH7 (pricing and availability to be announced) point and shoot, features a 16.1-megapixel senor, touch-screen controls, and an ultra slim and stylish design.
The tiny camera includes a retractable 28mm wide-angle Leica DC lens with 4x optical zoom and 720/24p HD video capture.
The camera's 3-inch Smart Touch Screen offers Touch Auto Focus (AF), Touch Zoom, Touch Shutter and Intelligent Scene Selector control by tapping the screen.
In playback mode users can drag the image across the screen with their finger to browse the collection of photos, as if it were a page in a book.
Also included are three modes for adding creative effects by manually (with the touch of a finger) editing their photos. The modes include: beauty retouch; esthetic to clear skin texture and whiten teeth; and makeup for foundation, eye-shadow or coloring effects.
The Panasonic Lumix FH7 includes an Image Uploader for instantly sharing images via Facebook and video via YouTube.
Other features include: iA mode, Mega optical image stabilization; intelligent ISO control, face detection; intelligent scene selector; and intelligent exposure. The fast Venus Engine VI image processor enables a shutter release time lag of 0.006 seconds.