Panasonic, Sony Add Mirrorless Digicams



One of the hottest growth segments in the digital camera market this year comes in mirrorless compact system cameras, and both Sony and Panasonic upped the stakes this month by introducing new smaller, lighter and lower-priced models to build out their selections.

Sony introduced a second-generation NEX-series model in the model C3, along with a new d-SLR offering the company’s translucent mirror technology in the SLT-A35.

The NEX-C3 ships in August at a $650 suggested retail, including an 18-55mm kit lens or $600 for the camera with a 16mm f2.8 lens. It will replace the NEX 3 model in the line. Consumers will have a choice of three body colors: silver, black or pink.

The NEX-C3 includes an Exmor APS HD 16MP APS-C sensor (the same as that used in the A35), and captures video in MPEG-4 720p HD resolution. Features include a new press-and-rotate user interface with a number of picture effects listed on a control wheel that enables quickly adjusting key settings, such as White Balance (marked as color), for example.

Photo creativity effects include background defocus, soft-skin effect, and the ability to additively make adjustments for brightness, color and focus.

Also included in the camera are shooting tips, face detection, a number of scene-selection modes including multi-shot layering and a help guide.

The camera includes Sweep Panorama and 3D Sweep Panorama shooting capability.

Sony is also supporting the NEX family with the introduction of a new 30mm E-mount lens and a new flash with bounce capability ($150 for the latter).

Meanwhile, Panasonic officially took the wraps off its latest mirrorless compact system camera — the Lumix GF3.

Darin Pepple, Panasonic’s imaging senior product manager, said the new model continues to omit the electronic viewfinder and mode command dial in the fashion of the GF2, and also leaves off a hot shoe from the distinct hump above the lens.

However, it continues to offer the built-in popup flash.

All of the camera controls are accessible through the 3-inch intelligent touchscreen LCD, which shooters can use to engage functions by tapping on icons or specific zones of the frame. As with past Panasonic touchscreen models, the GF3 also has a touch shutter control that enables shooting the picture with a tap on the LCD panel.

Panasonic reduced the size (107.7 by 67.1 by 32.5mm) and weight (225 grams) of the camera even further to bring greater appeal to the target audience of mostly young adults stepping up from smartphones.

The GF3 features a 12.1-megapixel LIVE MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor and a new Venus Engine FHD image processor first produced for the step-up GH2 compact system camera. The sensor and processing engine together are expected to help the GF3 reach the image quality levels of APS-C sized sensors using the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor chip.

The camera also offers a manual/automatic ISO range from 160 to 6400 for strong performance in a wide range of lighting conditions.

The GF3 ships in one of two bundles including: a 14mm f/1.4 lens for a $699 suggested kit price due in July, or a 14-42mm lens for a $599 suggested kit price, due in late August.

The GF3 records video in up to 1080/60i or 720p HD resolution, both in AVCHD compression. A built-in mono mic is included for sound pickup.

Also added to the GF3 is the recently upgraded iA-Plus fully automatic mode that engages when the iA setting is activated. The iA-Plus is said to provide “some degree of manual control in an automatic way.” New iA-Plus controls include background defocus, brightness and white balance (color).

For shooting speed, the camera features a 3.8 fps burst shooting rate (at 12-megapixel resolution) and adds to the GF3 the Light Speed (0.1 second) contrast- based AF system first developed for the GH2 model to focus faster than a traditional SLR. A Full- Time AF system is also available for video shooting, in addition to a touchscreen-activated AF Tracking system.

To expand the G-series camera lens options, Panasonic introduced a new smaller, lighter and less-expensive version of its 25mm f1.4 lens. It will ship in August at a $600 suggested retail.


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