July 19, 2012 at 8:41 PM ET
Panasonic has released a few new cameras generally focused on the high-end consumer market, with capabilities aimed at serious amateur photographers. Budget-minded shooters should look elsewhere, but others may find the new gear very compelling.
Their mirrorless lineup has been updated with the G5 model, a modest but significant improvement over the popular G3. It has a new 16-megapixel sensor that will shoot at up to 12,800 ISO, and Panasonic claims low-light performance has been improved generally as well.
The rear articulating touchscreen has twice as many pixels as before, going from 480x320 to 640x480, though the electronic viewfinder appears to be unchanged.
It'll shoot six frames per second and takes 1080p video at a fairly high bitrate, putting it on a level with nicer camcorders and DSLRs. Panasonic also says the autofocus is among the world's fastest, acquiring a subject in less than a tenth of a second.
Next is the luxury point-and-shoot, the LX7. It packs some serious glass: an F/1.4-2.3 3.8x zoom, meaning low-light shots should be a snap, even if you zoom in. It's probably the fastest lens in a compact camera today.
The LX7 also has improved autofocus and video capabilities, the result of a new 10-megapixel sensor. That may not sound like a lot these days, but when the image quality is good, you don't often need more.
Some fun photographer features: a built-in neutral density filter (allowing you to take advantage of that fast lens in more conditions), a time-lapse mode (always fun to play with), and an impressive 11 frames per second rate in burst shooting. Leica usually puts out a modified one of these shortly afterward with a higher price tag, which gives you a general indication of the quality.
The FZ200 is Panasonic's new super-zoom. Prized by parents and travelers, this type of camera isn't usually impressive enough to take attention away from cooler cameras, but this one is an exception. The reason is its insane lens: a 24x zoom with a constant F/2.8 aperture. I actually thought this was a mistake when the company mentioned it. Combined with an improved 12-megapixel sensor like that on the others in the new lineup, this camera really blows away the super-zoom competition.
It has a new high-resolution EVF, though the rear LCD isn't worth writing home about. It can record video at up to 240 frames per second, which is fantastic for slowing down action — and with that lens, getting enough light for that kind of shot won't even be that difficult.
None of these cameras has official pricing yet, but you can be sure they will all fall toward the high end of their respective markets. The G5 will compete with DSLRs at around the $800 level, the LX7 around the $500 range, and the FZ200 for a bit more. The pricing and availability will be announced a month before they become available — perhaps late summer/early fall — so interested buyers will have plenty of time to consider.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for NBC News. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.