The quick guide to Panasonic's 2011 compact and camcorder lineup

The quick guide to Panasonic's 2011 compact and camcorder lineup

With 10 new Panasonic Lumix cameras and eight new camcorders coming to Australia, there are a lot of cameras to wade through in Panasonic's just-announced lineup. Here are the highlights.

We’ve just attended Panasonic’s media launch for its 2011 compact camera and camcorder lineup. It’s a big launch with 10 new Lumix compacts and eight new camcorders scheduled to arrive this year in Australia.

To make things easier, here are the most interesting of the new products and trends:

HD recording hits $149

Video recording is the flavour of the month (or should that be year). At the CES gadget expo in Las Veags this year it was everywhere, from tiny flip camcorders to compacts. Panasonic’s 2011 range continues the trend, though perhaps the most interesting was the announcement of HD recording in a $149 photo camera. OK, the S1 actually records in 720p, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind if you’d like the ability to take small video grabs for Youtube, or to show on a TV. The S1 also has a 28mm wide angle lens, 4x zoom and optical image stabilisation. Video recording is at 30fps.

World’s lightest HD camcorder

The Flip changed the game for portable video devices. The device has several limitations though, which is why Panasonic's HDC-SD40 camcorder is so interesting. At 169g it is light (lighter than a banana, as Panasonic likes to point out). Panasonic claims this to be the world's lightest Full HD AVCHD camcorder. At $499 you pay more than a Flip, but you get optical image stabilisation which minimises blurring from hand shake, intelligent auto mode which automatically selects the most appropriate scene mode, and 50 frames/sec burst photo shooting. Panasonic claims the SD40 battery will give you 135 minutes of shooting, and the camera has a 16.8x optical zoom. We're big fans of the Flip, but if you've a bit more money to spend, you'll have more control over your videos with even a cheap camcorder like this.

The Panasonic DMC-FT3: the MacGyver of cameras?

Waterproof cameras have been around in the consumer market for years, but yet there's still something novel about seeing one dunked underwater. The $599 (due in March 2011) DMC-FT3 is the latest of Panasonic's breed of tough consumer cameras, and is waterproof to 12 metres. The results are impressive; in our initial play with the camera we managed to get great results from hitting the video record button and holding the camera a couple of inches under a running stream. The FT3 is also shockproof, and we've seen a journalist test this by dropping from a distance of about 1.5 metres onto rocky ground. It is also capable of withstanding temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius. Like the TZ20 travel camera, the FT3 also has a GPS to tag photos with location. It also comes with a couple of quirky features - an altimeter and barometer. The FT3 is comparable with the TZ20 (which isn't waterproof), with both featuring Full HD recording in AVCHD, intelligent auto and image stabilisation, though here there's only a 4.6x optical zoom.

Big travel zoom

We covered the TZ20 yesterday - it's a standout for having a big 16x zoom in a compact body. At $599 (due in April 2011), the camera includes Full HD video and a 50i recording mode for smoother shots, GPS tagging, a "handheld night mode" and improved optical image stabilisation.

Your wedding photos in 3D

While blockbuster movies are the big drawcard for 3D, but we're seeing more and more camcorders with the function. Overseas, Sony has announced the TD10 which is expected to sell for approximately US$1,500. Panasonic also made headlines last year with the HDC-SDT750, which launched at $1999 and came with an attachable 3D lens for when you want to shoot video. Panasonic has now introduced two more camcorders compatible with the separate 3D lens - the HDC-HS900 ($2099) and HDC-SD900 ($1499), the main difference being the 220GB HDD on the HS900, while the SD900 records to memory card. The 3D lens costs an extra $449. While these are a step above in price from Panasonic's cheaper camcorder line, they include 3MOS processing and 50p progressive recording as well as improved noise reduction, and a shoe adaptor for accessories. Panasonic has also introduced 3D in some Lumix compact photo cameras. Hold the shutter on the DMC-TZ20 in 3D mode and the camera takes multiple images, then picks two to combine to create a 3D image. Of course you'll need a 3D TV or compatible photo frame to view the image in 3D. We've already heard of someone requesting a photographer to shoot their wedding in 3D.

Your photos, straight onto Facebook

For some people, most of their photos get saved to hard drive and there they remain, with the exception of a smattering of photos burnt to disc, emailed or uploaded to Facebook. To make the sharing process easier, Panasonic has introduced a Facebook and Youtube upload function in its latest camcorders and cameras, which let you tag the photos and videos on the camera you want to upload (which is done once you've plugged the camera into a laptop or PC). For Facebook users this could be a handy feature, if it works smoothly.

Stock up on memory cards

While camcorders  that record to hard disk still offer plenty of storage space, we're seeing more cameras designed for recording to memory cards. Many of Panasonic's new camcorders for 2011 use SD cards. The great news in that SD is easy to carry, though as we found in testing the cameras this week, you'll want to stock up on those high capacity cards. We found it easy to fill an 8GB card in a day.

Disclaimer: William Maher travelled to the Panasonic 2011 camera launch in New Zealand courtesy of Panasonic.

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