updated 07:35 am EST, Fri January 16, 2009
Panasonic FS7 FS15 LS85
Panasonic on Friday stepped out of its usual update schedules with three new Lumix pocket cameras that all add live autofocus tracking absent in most previous models. The leading model, the 12-megapixel FS15, can not only use this to maintain focus even as the subject moves but has a new auto-exposure function to avoid blowing out highlights or to bring out detail in darkened areas. The FS15's 29mm wide-angle lens also contributes to a better image and comes optically stabilized and with a 5X zoom.
The 10-megapixel FS7, as the relative budget model, drops the AF tracking and auto-exposure but keeps the stabilization for its standard-angle 4X zoom lens.
Both of the FS updates can record video in a wide 848x480 format and have new formats for beginners, including a My Scene mode to create a personalized scene mode and a Photo Frame mode that adds a border for images that will be printed as-is from the camera.
The LS series gets a new entry-level model, the LS85. The pocket camera operates at just 8.1 megapixels and is targeted at occasional or travel shooters with its dependence on AA batteries; it nonetheless includes almost all the features of the FS7, including the optical stabilization, 4X zoom and widescreen movie capture. Improvements on its predecessor the LS80 also come through doubled internal memory of 50MB and longer runtime that lasts for up to 270 shots before a replacement.
Panasonic ships the higher-end models first, delivering the FS7 and FS15 in late March for $160 and $200 respectively. The LS85 surfaces in April for $120.