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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

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

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

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

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.