As the run-up to PMA starts in earnest Panasonic has announced a fairly major refresh of its compact Lumix range, starting here with the DMC-FZ8, which replaces last year's DMC-FZ7. The DMC-FZ8 ups resolution to 7.2 million pixels, adds a newly-optimised (we are told) version of the Venus III processor and throws Raw mode into the mix.. The remaining spec (including the stabilized Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 12x zoom lens) is otherwise broadly unchanged. We've had an FZ8 in our hands for a week or so now and a review should be forthcoming very soon.

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Press Release:

Panasonic’s DMC-FZ8; Power and Portability for Truly Creative Photography

The perfect choice for any photographer with varied photographic needs and high ambitions – Panasonic is pleased to introduce the new DMC-FZ8 7.2-megapixel Lumix camera, featuring a powerful 12x optical zoom, LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens and the ever popular and indispensable Optical Image Stabiliser (O.I.S). With a joystick control for manual adjustment of focusing and exposure setting, the DMC-FZ8 offers high end specification and portability.

Bridging the gap between high-end compacts and digital SLRs, Panasonic’s DMC-FZ8 offers a level of control close to that of an SLR, but without the need for interchangeable lenses. Perfect for photographers on the move and families who want to shoot pictures outdoors for example, the FZ8 offers an easy way to enjoy the fun of capturing beautiful digital pictures.

Optical excellence from aperture to zoom

The Lumix DMC-FZ8 is equipped with a 7.2 megapixel CCD and a LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens offering a powerful 12x optical zoom (equivalent to 36mm to 432mm on a 35mm film camera) with an aperture of F2.8 to F3.3. If this wasn’t enough, in 3-megapixel resolution mode, the Extra Optical Zoom function uses the centre part of the CCD to provide additional magnification, extending the zoom power to an impressive 18x. Using this feature in combination with the 4x digital zoom brings the total zooming power to a remarkable 72x.

The combination of 11 elements in eight groups, including 3 aspherical lenses generates superior optical performance while maintaining the compactness of the unit.

Shaken not blurred

Panasonic is the first manufacturer to have successfully incorporated Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) into its compact cameras – a feature strongly appreciated worldwide and now considered to be a standard requirement of photography. O.I.S minimizes the jitter from shaky hands that causes many photos to look blurred. By shifting the O.I.S lens unit to keep the optical axis aligned straight against the CCD, the camera ensures images are captured with supreme clarity and sharpness.

While hand-shake is the single biggest cause of blurry images, it is not the only one. Another problem is the motion blur that can occur when a subject moves as the shot is being taken – particularly common when taking pictures of sports, or young children for example. Building on the success of its predecessor the FZ8 incorporates a new feature designed to resolve motion blur. Intelligent ISO Control detects whether the subject is moving and, as necessary raises the ISO setting and shutter speed according to how fast the subject is moving and the light conditions. This happens automatically, so you can effortlessly shoot without the need to adjust the settings every time the conditions change.

Panasonic Lumix offers solutions for both major causes of blurred images – O.I.S when you are moving, and Intelligent ISO Control when the subject is moving. Thanks to Panasonic, you can now take clear and beautiful images in even the most demanding situations.

The best just keeps getting better!

Heir to the award winning DMC-FZ7, this new addition to the Lumix range has enhanced the excellence of its predecessor not only with the total number of pixels but also with several other innovative technical improvements. A key improvement is the inclusion of Panasonic’s advanced image-processing LSI, Venus Engine III that can record at a sensitivity setting as high as ISO 1250 with full resolution. Noise reduction is also greatly improved, with picture noise removed in stages during image processing. Critical noise is analysed, and chromatic and luminance noise are reduced separately. The chromatic noise, which has greater effect on picture quality, is then selectively suppressed, resulting in clearer images.

Spontaneous moments can easily be captured thanks to a 1.8 second start up time and a 0.005 second shutter release time lag (the time between pressing the button on the camera and the photo being taken). Additionally, the burst shooting mode boasts the capability of sequential shots at a rate of 3 frames per second at full resolution. The unlimited consecutive shooting function allows you to take photos in succession up to the capacity of the memory card or built in memory. Thanks to the energy-efficient Venus Engine III, the FZ8 offers a long battery life, allowing around 380 shots on a single battery charge.

In addition to these technical improvements, the FZ8 also includes a number of user friendly features. For example, the FZ8 is provided with approximately 27MB of built-in memory – perfect for those moments when your SD card is full for that vital shot. The new addition also offers an element of future-proofing by accepting SDHC memory cards – the new SD memory cards with capacity over 2GB – allowing even more digital images to be captured on one card.

So fast, so easy - Auto Focus

The DMC-FZ8 really will work hard to ensure you capture every moment important to you. The various AF methods can be selected according to the shooting environment and the position of the subject: multi, 3 point high-speed, 1-point high speed, 1-point normal-speed and spot. With the 1-point AF method, the auto-focusing area can be chosen from as many as 11 points with the joystick or cursor button. Various group area patterns can also be selected in the new Multi method. As with all high-powered zoom models in the Lumix family, the DMC-FZ8 leads the industry with its short shutter time lag for quick, smooth operation.

Motion pictures at your fingertips

In addition to standard VGA (640x480) motion image recording, the DMC-FZ8 also records stunning full-size movies in wide-aspect VGA (848x480) at 30fps, enabling you to view your recordings on a widescreen television.

Ultimate Control!

Designed with creativity in mind, the FZ8 employs the same intuitive joystick control as appreciated in the FZ7 for manual adjustment of focusing and exposure setting.

To further add to its appeal, the FZ8 can save image data in the RAW file format, which can be edited and developed with the SILKYPIX Developer Studio 2.0SE included software. Using this software, you can freely adjust RAW data settings such as exposure bias and white balance even after shooting – ensuring greater control and greater enjoyment of digital photography.

The DMC-FZ8 packs a wealth of advanced technology and easy-to-use features in a sleek, compact package making it a highly attractive proposition. The DMC-FZ8 will be available from March 2007. For further information, please visit www.panasonic.co.uk/lumix

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 specifications

Sensor

• 1/2.5 " Type CCD
• 7.38 million pixels total
• 7.2 million effective pixels

Image sizes • 3072 x 2304
• 2560 x 1920
• 2048 x 1536
• 1600 x 1200
• 1280 x 960
• 640 x 480
• 3072 x 2048 (3:2)
• 2048 x 1360 (3:2)
• 3072 x 1728 (16:9)
• 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
Movie clips • 640 x 480 @ 30 / 10fps
• 320 x 240 @ 30 / 10fps
• 848 x 480 @ 30 / 10fps (16:9)
File formats • JPEG Exif v2.2
• DPOF
• QuickTime Motion JPEG
Lens • 36-432mm (35mm equiv)
• LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT
• 12x optical zoom
• Extra Optical Zoom (4:3: 14.4x for 5MP, 18x for 3, 2, 1, 0.3MP, 3:2: 18x for 2.5MP, 16:9: 18x for 2MP
Image stabilization MEGA O.I.S. (Mode1 / Mode2)
Conversion lenses Yes
Digital zoom up to 4x
Focus AF/AF-Macro/MF Switchable, Manual Focus(Joystick), Continuous AF On/Off
AF area modes 1-point / 1-point high speed / 3-point high speed / Multi-point / Spot
AF assist lamp Yes
Focus distance • Normal: 30cm-infinity (wide) 200cm - infinity (tele)
• Macro: 5cm-infinity (wide) 200cm - infinity (tele(except tele end)
• Tele Macro(at tele end : 100cm - infinity
Metering • Intelligent Multiple
• Center-weighted
• Spot
ISO sensitivity • Auto
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1250
• High Sensitivity mode ISO 3200
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
Exposure bracketing +/- 1/3 EV -1EV step, 3 frames
Shuttter speed • Program AE: 1-1/2000 sec
• Aperture Priority AE / Shutter Priority AE: 8-1/2000 sec
• Manual: 60-1/2000sec.
• Starry Sky Mode: 15, 30, 60sec
Aperture F2.8 - 8 (wide) F3.1 - 8 (tele)
Modes • Program AE
• Aperture Priority AE
• Shutter Priority AE
• Manual
• Scene
• Simple
• Intelligent ISO
Scene modes • Portrait
• Soft Skin
• Scenery
• Sports
• Night Portrait
• Night Scenery
• Panning
• Food
• Party
• Candle
• Fireworks
• Starry Sky
• Baby 1 & 2
• Aerial photo
• Snow
• High Sensitivity
• Beach
• Sunset
• Pet
White balance • Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Shade
• Halogen
• Flash
• White Set 1/2
White balance fine tune 2-axis adjustable, ±9steps each, Blue/Amber and Magenta/Green bias
Self timer 2 or 10sec, 10sec / 3 images
Continuous shooting Full-Resolution: 3 frames/sec or 2 frames/sec max. 7 images (Standard mode), Max. 5 images (Fine Mode)
Image parameters Cool, Warm, Black & White, Sepia
Flash • Auto
• Auto / Red-eye reduction
• Forced On
• Forced On / Red-eye Reduction
• Slow Sync / Red-eye reduction
• Forced Off
• Flash output adjustment 1/3EV step, +/-2 EV
• Range: 0.3 - 6.0m (wide) 1.0 - 5.4m (tele)
Viewfinder 0.44" Color EVF (188K Pixels), Field of View : approx. 100%
LCD monitor • 2.5-inch Polycrystalline TFT
• 207,000 pixels
Connectivity • DC in
• AV out
• USB
Print compliance PictBridge
Storage • SD/SDHC/MMC card
• 27 MB built-in memory
Power • Li-ion battery pack
• Optional AC adapter
Weight (no batt) 310 g (0.68lb)
Dimensions 112.5 x 72.2 x 79.0 mm (4.43 x 2.84 x 3.11 in)

Additional images