Taking pictures just got easy with Panasonic’s pair of snappers

Panasonic is appealing to photographers who want a camera that makes life simple as well as those who appreciate having full creative control, with two launches this summer.

LUMIX-DMC-FZ48

First up is the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LS5. It’s not slacking in the sensor department – boasting a whopping 14.1 megapixels – plus it has a 26mm wide angle lens and can stop down to F2.8, which means you should get decent pictures in low-light situations – which has long been an issue with digital cameras.

If your hand is far from steady, Panasonic has the answer in the form of the OIS (optical image stabilizer), which corrects any blur caused by handshake.

Along with this facility, the camera also offers the benefits of iA (Intelligent Auto), which basically does the thinking for you. Intelligent Scene Selector is able to automatically select the correct choice of five Scene Modes – Scenery, Night Portrait, Macro, Portrait, Night Scenery – so that you have the right settings for the situation. Face recognitions allows human faces to be captured in focus with the correct exposure, while Face Detection corrects unwanted red-eye digitally.

The new LS5 also records HD movie in 1280 x 720p at a smooth 30 fps and the bundled software, lets you share via Facebook or YouTube.

The only downside may be the fact that the camera runs on AA batteries – my own compact runs on AA batteries and you can guarantee that it runs out unexpectedly and that I don’t have any spares when I need them! Panasonic’s specs quote 160 to 320 images from a full battery charge, depending on settings.

Panasonic’s other launch is a super-zoom camera, which aims to impress not only beginners but more experienced photographers.

The DMC-FZ48, has a 24 x optical zoom and can be operated manually for full creative control. It also has full-HD video recording capability and offers a Miniature Effect mode.

Panasonic promises improved image quality from the 25mm ultra wide-angle LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens, which also features Panasonic’s Black Box Nano Surface Coating technology, which has been designed to minimise light reflection. The lens has been designed to suppress distortion at the wide end and colour bleed at the tele end.

Most useful is the 24x optical zoom (which gives you an equivalent range of 25-600mm from a 35mm camera) so the snapper can be used for everything from lanscapes to sports shots to group portraits.

Price and availability have yet to be announced for both cameras.

The TX-10 Cybershot and two other ‘summer holiday proof’ cameras

Packing for your summer holiday simply wouldn’t be complete without a camera. Taking photos and videos to remember your holiday is priceless and therefore your choice of camera shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt. If you are on the lookout for a new camera ahead of your couldn’t-come-fast-enough holiday take a look at three of the best cameras available geared up for sun, sea, sand and surf.

Summer-Cameras

The TX-10 Cybershot

Being waterproof, drop-proof, dust-proof and freeze-proof, you can safely assume the TX-10 Cybershot will be robust enough to handle all the technology-damaging components a beach holiday comprises of, although let’s hope the latter resilient feature won’t need to be tested on a summer vacation. This stylish camera takes 16-megapixel photographs, shoots HD videos and is available in five different colours, meaning it will impress your mates and not fall apart when you pull it out of your handbag at a foam party in Ibiza!

It doesn’t come cheap though, as the TX-10 Cybershot costs approximately £330, quite an expensive to fork out just ahead of a holiday!

Panasonic DMC-FT10

For a less expensive £159.95 you could own a Panasonic DMS-FT10, which, weighing just 157g and measuring a minute 21.6mm, this stealthily sturdy little snapper won’t take up much of your precious weight allowance on the aeroplane. Not only does the SMC-FT10 boast Panasonic Intelligent Auto Mode, as well as Intelligent ISO control and face detection, but, like the TX-10 Cybershot, its shockproof, dustproof, waterproof and can handle Icelandic temperatures – Great if your holidaying to the southern hemisphere this summer.

Olympus TG-810

With a ‘tank-like chassis’ this little ultra-tough camera is capable of withstanding a load of up to 100kg. Whilst this rock hard snapper may be a great addition to an extreme sportsman’s backpack, it’s perhaps not the ‘coolest’ looking camera to pull out at a club in Ayai Napa. Nonetheless its crushproof credentials makes the TG-810 a safe option to weather the potential injuring elements a summer holiday can pose on our gadgets.

You can pick up the TG-810 and pop it in your hand luggage for £219.

Panasonic HX-WA10 HD action camera review

Having grown up with hydrophobic electronics, there’s always a perverse pleasure that comes with dunking £200-worth of unreleased equipment in a vat of water. Thanks to the waterproof and shockproof Panasonic HX-WA10 camcorder, that joy is now linked to the excitement of full HD recording in a cool, fun form.

Panasonic-HX-WA10

Panasonic invited us to try the new HX-WA10 (alongside its little brother, the HM-TA20) at the Go Ape adventure activity centre where we agreed to give it hell. Rain? It was fine (it can be submerged down to 3 metres). Mud? No problem. Dropping it? No impact (although we’re told the safe limit for drops is 1.5 metres – keep that in mind!).

Of course, a rock can also do all of these things. The real question with the camcorder is: how does it record?

Video
The shadowy realms of the Go Ape jungle were an ideal setting to test the camera’s ability. And even in the difficult recording environment – one that swaps quickly from bright sunshine to dark, under-the-canopy close-ups – the HX-WA10 performed admirably. The good low-light performance comes thanks to a backside-illuminated sensor – a technology you’ll recognise from the iPhone 4.

Auto-exposure adjustment was rapid, while video noise was minimal in the dark areas. Even flying down a zip-wire, the focus kept up with our frantic camera-wielding. With a 16 megapixel sensor (that can record at 1080p), we noticed no artefacting or motion blur in typical fast-moving situations – even at 60fps. The full range of recording options are 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 720/60p, 720/30p, 540/30p and 480/30p.

Zoom

Much has been made of Panasonic’s Advanced Zoom, which claims to record at 12x with no drop in image quality. We were dubious before we saw it – and are still unconvinced. We’ll admit that it’s undoubtedly much better than traditional digital zoom (which we wish would die), but it’s not quite at optical zoom standards (5x on the WA10). It’s actually usable, though – something digital zooms have never achieved.

Controls

We come to this camera from the old Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10 pistol-grip, with its 720p recording. The Panasonic bests the two-year old Sanyo in every department – except controls. The Xacti has a thumbstick exactly where your thumb rests on the back of the camera, for super-quick menu navigation and menu options.

The Panasonic has this horrible little d-pad on the side of the camera that makes it difficult to fiddle-and-video at the same time. It’s a real shocker – but not a deal-breaker. As this is our biggest complaint about the camcorder, you can probably understand the quality of the rest of the device.

Conclusion

As we said in the video (look at one minute in – that’s us!), it’s great for families. It’s tough – it can cope with the beach, the sea – even the drops and scrapes of letting the kids play with it. And it manages all this while providing excellent video quality. Recommended!

Ravishing in red – the Panasonic Lumix GF3

The first image I saw of the Panasonic Lumix GF3 was of the rather sexy-looking raspberry red model, which looks like a compact but sporting the kind of lens you’d see on a DSLR. Well, I’m always a sucker for a good-looking camera and this fits the bill, but do its practical functions love up to its irresistible looks?

Panasonic-Lumix-GF3

When Panasonic launched its latest baby to the world, it did so with the tagline, ‘a new age of photography’, and as Panasonic is also promising that this is its smallest and lightest (222g) interchangeable lens camera, perhaps it’s right – the days of carrying round hefty kits bags if you’re anything like a serious photographer, look like they may well be over.

Mind you, on closer inspection, after I had wiped away the dazzle of that ravishing red body, I noted that there was no hotshoe – instead it has been replaced by a pop-up flash. This may make serious amateurs think twice, I would imagine – plus it only boasts a 12.1 million pixel sensor, while many of the cameras coming onto the market now, head into the 14 or even 16 million pixel range.

So should we wipe it off our wishlists then? Not necessarily. It has a very desirable aluminium body, and promises great photos and high-def video even in low light. A dedicated button on the top of the snapper allows you to instantly switch to movie mode if the need arises, so you shouldn’t miss anything.

It also jumps on the latest bandwagon by allowing you to take images in 3D, with the Lumix G 3D 12.5mm/F12 lens.

This camera also has a touchscreen, which adds a novel way of autofocusing – touch in on an area in your viewfinder and that’s where the camera will focus, which means you can touch on someone’s face, or on a single flower if you wish, to get the focus just where you want it. Autofocus speed is also promising – Panasonic claims the snapper can focus from 2m to infinity in 0.18 seconds

Sensitivity ranges from ISO 160-6400, which should be okay for most situations, and there are a host of settings to choose from. Plus you can add visual effects such as Sepia and Retro effects.

Panasonic also claims that you will have a choice from the world’s largest range of Micro Four Thirds lenses, including the newly unveiled H-H025 25mm/F1.4 lens.

It offers plenty for your everyday snapper, and keen photographers who fancy a more portable camera that still offers the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, may also be tempted.

So how much is all this photographic finery going to set you back? The camera should be available about now in three kit versions. The GF3 with 14-42mm OIS zoom lens, will cost £499, while the body with pancake lens kit will cost £549, while a kit with the GF3 and both lenses will set you back £629.

More at www.panasonic.co.uk

Lumix G3: Panasonic does away with the weighty issue of DSLR cameras

While lots of us who are keen photographers love our DSLR cameras, we often end up resorting to taking out a compact model instead because we can’t face lugging our camera around. Sure. It’s fine when you’re out on a photo-taking trip, but if you’re just heading out for a day with the kids or with friends, carting round a weighty piece of kit can be a bit of a pain.

So, the news that Panasonic has come up with the world’s lightest changeable lens system ever, must be good news, surely?

Lumix-G3

The Micro Four Thirds Lumix G3 offers a massive 16-megapixel sensor and a Venus Engine V1 FHD which, says Panasonic, will offer the same image quality as your hefty DSLR, while it weighs in at just 340g (that’s 25% smaller and 10% lighter than the LUMIX G2).

Like DSLRs, the G3 has an electronic view finder, or you can use the free-angle LCD screen so you can capture shots even if you’re holding the camera over your head at a concert, for instance.
Panasonic also claims to have come up with the fastest pinpoint auto focus speed of 0.1 second, so you shouldn’t miss a shot.

You can set autofocus with one touch, while Face Recognition will remember settings for your friends and the Inteligent Scene Selector automatically switches to the correct mode.

Plus the G3 has full HD move capacity, recording in Full HD AVCHD 1920 x 1080, 50i. Panasonic has packed all these goodies into a compact, lightweight aluminium chassis.

We’ve not seen the Lumix G3 hands-on, but those who have have been full of praise for it, with its only downsides being that it could offer better battery life and have more straightforward menus

The Lumix G3 with 14-42mm kit lens should retail at around £629.99, although we have found it on the net for nearly 100 quid less than this.

For more details head to www.panasonic.co.uk/lumixG3

Panasonic Hi-Fi HC15 review

Uh-oh. A new Hi-Fi without an iPod dock? What were the engineers behind the Panasonic SC-HC15 thinking? That people could live with MP3 CDs and USB sticks filled with tunes as long as the system looks good enough? We tested that theory out.

Panasonic-Hi-Fi

Sound

First of all – it sounds good. Whatever voodoo that goes on in the name of the Aero Stream Port, it works well. You get a rich, robust bass from the 10W speakers when the volume is at normal levels – and it really pounds as your crank it higher.

The sound distorts a bit at very low-levels – although that can only be expected. You should probably stop worrying about your neighbours and crank it up, anyway.

Design

It’s also pretty beautiful. It’s piano-black finish and slender design (just 69mm thick) make it an ideal shelf-sitter. The thin profile and sleek design mean that it’s really unobtrusive – unlike bigger CD systems.

The front even mechanically slides open in a very-futuristic-for-1990 kind of way. The display is equally bachelor-tastic – a white on black.

Connectivity

The device plays normal CDs, MP3 CDs and USB sticks – so it’s not totally old tech. We’re not entirely sure who still uses MP3 CDs, but it’ll be great for the less-tech savvy generation.

Plug an iPhone into the USB dock and it won’t work, however – a big disappointment for today’s Apple generation. We still can’t get past the question – who downloads music onto USB sticks to play? If you do, please write in. Our thoughts are that a dock with a built-in mini-jack cable would have been more useful.

Conclusion

The HC15 sounds good, and its bachelor-friendly 90’s design is still in style. Unfortunately, the technology also feels a bit 1990’s. This means that today’s tapping and sliding iOS generation may find it a bit retro, in the “oh wait, this Sega Megadrive isn’t very good anymore” kind of way. Tech-heads should move on.

If you’re looking for a device for a less tech-aware consumer, the Panasonic sounds good, and is so simple, elegant and small, it won’t look out of place anywhere.

Panasonic’s Viera Tablet – Providing an ‘intuitive’ viewing experience

Bill Gates words that “tablets are the future it seems” are certainly bearing some truth, as this year’s CES was, on all accounts, all about tablets. Panasonic were amongst the many companies getting in on the tablet act, by unveiling its Viera Tablet in Las Vegas.

Viera-Tablet

Known primarily for producing some wonderfully high-end TVs, it seems appropriate that the Panasonic Viera Tablet was positioned strategically amongst the giant plasma and 3D TVs on display at the world’s most exclusive technology show, after all the company is marketing the tablet principally as a TV companion.

Whilst the information divulged about the Viera Tablet was relatively modest, what we did learn was that the tablet is Android based and will be available in 4.7-inch and 10-inch sizes. Asides these two significantly different sized models, both tablets will contain identical hardware, including a feature called Viera Connect.

As its name suggests, Viera Connect will enable users to connect to a Viera digital TV and transfer the content between the tablet and the TV, giving consumers greater flexibility over digital content. For those die-hard viewing fanatics, Viera Tablet users will have the privilege of viewing the same content simultaneously from different angles. The tablet will also function as a highly sophisticated remote to control content and your home theatre components.

As well as tablets, touch screen technology was also a fundamental feature at the year’s CES, and was another arena were Panasonic excelled. The tablet-type terminal will be operated with a small touch screen LCD display, thus enabling users to exploit its ‘creative functions’ with easy operability.

Although apart from the ‘intuitive’ new viewing experience the Viera Tablet will provide, namely being a “visual remote control” and enabling users to view scenes from different angles, nothing seems to be that remarkable of the tablet’s so-called many “creative functions”.

Nonetheless it’s portable, slim, lightweight and stylish, and will allow us to communicate via social network services whilst watching TV, meaning Panasonic’s Viera Tablet is likely to be a hit.

The exact launch date of the Viera Tablet has yet to have been announced, although Panasonic assure it will be some time this year

CES 2011: Panasonic Tablet, Crayola for iPad & Breffo’s tablet Spiderpodium

Continuing our series of round-up stories from this year’s CES in Las Vegas, we’re focusing on a new tablet, a way for kids to safely ‘crayon in’ your iPad and a funky spider that will help you position your tablet in all sorts of ways.

So, lets get started with three tablet-related products that caught our eye…

Panasonic Viera Tablet

First up is the Panasonic Viera Tablet – which we mentioned briefly back in our press round-up story. The tablet will come with all the basic features of a tablet (web browsing, e-mail, e-book viewer, etc.), as well as access to the Viera Connect app market place. Obviously the main selling point of this tablet is it’s connectivity with Viera TVs to allow you to watch TV ‘anywhere you want’. The tablet will link with the TV to enable you to use it as a visual remote control, get multi-angle viewing, chat with others while watching content and order downloadable content.

As seen in the pictures above (click to enlarge), the tablet currently comes in three sizes. The largest one, in layman’s terms, is slightly smaller than an iPad (or A4 pad of paper) and the smallest is smart phone sized. It was so similar in design to a smart phone (see photo comparing it to the iPhone 4) that we asked whether this was their intention. According to the rep we spoke to, the official answer is ‘no’ – although it should be noted that Panasonic already make and sell phones in other countries (mainly Japan) and therefore we wouldn’t be surprised if this size ended up as a phone-cum-tablet.

Griffin/Crayola ColorStudio HD

The guys at Griffin and Crayola have come together to make an animated colouring in book for the iPad. We had a demo of this and it looked like great fun for kids. In addition to downloading the app, you use a stylus called ‘iMarker’ which can work as a crayon, pen, paintbrush, etc. However, the app will also detect and allow a child to interact with their fingers without the need to disable any kind of ‘stylus mode’ – which makes it particularly user friendly.

The ColorStudio HD app will come with over 50 game and activity pages with the promise of free content updates at regular intervals. Kids can also design their own pages as well as print out their designs to colour in with the more traditional Crayola crayons. Check out the images above for an example of an activity page – and no, it’s not our colouring in, so don’t blame us for going over the lines!

Breffo Spiderpodium for tablets

London based Breffo, already responsible for the creepy crawly inspired Spiderpodium grip/stand for phones, sat navs, etc., were at CES to showcase their forthcoming Spiderpodium for tablets, which is expected to go on sale from the end of January for around £25. We had a play (see photos above) with the stand and were blown away with the number of different ways you could manipulate it’s ‘legs’ to accommodate pretty much any angle. The company walked away with a CES Design and Engineering Innovations award for their work at its easy to see why. We’ve been trying out both products since the show (think planes, trains and automobiles) and haven’t found anything it can’t hold on to or rest comfortably on.

A quick word of thanks…

Enjoyed some of our photos above? Well. we’d like to give a quick ‘hat tip’ to the guys at Lenmar who really helped us out and ensured that we could continue to take pictures and video of the show when we encountered a “did anyone remember to pack the charger” moment!

CES 2011 Coverage

Stay tuned for what else caught our eye at this year’s CES. Related links will appear below as they are published: