Panasonic has launched a Wi-Fi compatible digital camera, the TZ50, that comes with a year's free use of T-Mobile's Hotspot service in the US. The TZ50 is, essentially a TZ5 with Wi-Fi but the new tie-up allows users to upload to their Picasa Web Albums while out and about. There is no word yet on a similar tie-up or camera for European customers.

Press release:

PANASONIC’S COMPACT WI-FI LUMIX DIGITAL CAMERA UPLOADS PHOTOS TO GOOGLE’S PICASA WEB ALBUMS VIA T-MOBILE HOTSPOT SERVICE

New Wi-Fi LUMIX TZ50 Digital Camera in Japan and US markets only features HD Video, 28mm Wide-Angle Lens, 10x Optical Zoom Ideal for Active Users to Share Photos On-the-Go

Panasonic today introduced a new addition to its award-winning TZ-family of digital cameras, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ50. Complete with Wi-Fi capabilities,  standard 802.11b/g wireless LAN connectivity and access to T-Mobile® HotSpot service, users can upload digital photos taken with the TZ50 directly to Picasa Web Albums, a free online photo-sharing service from Google. The 9.1 megapixel TZ50 is packed with a 28mm wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom and the ability to record HD video, making it the ideal digital camera for active users.

“This advanced digital camera makes it possible for users to share their photos with friends and family with unprecedented ease and without a computer,” said Alex Fried, National Marketing Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “Active users will appreciate the TZ50’s Wi-Fi capabilitilies so they can share photos whilst on-the-go, but they will also benefit from HD video recording, a 10x optical zoom and a 28mm wide-angle lens, so capturing images, whether far or wide; moving or still – is all possible with this compact camera.”

Panasonic uses the T-Mobile Hotspot service and Picasa Web Albums’ APIs to create a new optimal online environment and community for sharing digital photos. After taking photos with the new Panasonic LUMIX TZ50, users will be able to wirelessly send one or even multiple photos at a time, directly to Google’s Picasa Web Albums.  Users can connect to standard wireless home networks. In addition the TZ50 can also connect to the T-Mobile HotSpot Service, which provides fast and reliable Wi-Fi Internet access at more than 8,800 public locations throughout the United States, including Borders® Books & Music stores, Hyatt Hotels and many major airports.  The LUMIX TZ50 comes with an offer of 12-months complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot W-FI service**.

Users can simply register one email account with their TZ50, so after uploading their photos to Picasa Web Albums, they can have the URL to that album sent to the registered account. Since many cell phones and smartphones receive emails, users can register their own email address and then forward that Picasa Web Album’s URL to friends and family, without using a computer. In addition, users can browse their albums to confirm that photos have been successfully uploaded, and choose to delete uploaded photos directly on the digital camera.

The TZ50 is the latest member of the LUMIX TZ-Series, renowned for packaging a 28mm wide-angle 10x optical zoom Leica DC lens (equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm film camera) into a compact body. The 28mm wide-angle lens captures subjects and scenes wider at the same standpoint than a normal 35mm camera. Notably, the new TZ50 integrates the capability of recording 720p HD (high-definition) motion pictures together with its direct output function allowing users to enjoy watching both still and motion pictures in impressive HD quality on a HDTV via an optional component cable, or by inserting the SD Memory Card into the SD slot, which is available on all Panasonic VIERA HDTVs.

The Panasonic LUMIX TZ50 also incorporates Panasonic’s advanced Intelligent Auto (iA) mode consisting of seven intuitive technologies, all which are specifically designed to help make photo-taking enjoyable and easy. When in Advanced Intelligent Auto mode, the following technologies all operate automatically; the user does not need to change any settings:

  • Intelligent Exposure – Photos will no longer be under- or over-exposed.  Instead, the TZ50 instantly analyses the framed image and adjusts the brightness in areas that are too dark because of dim lighting, backlighting, or the use of the flash. The camera will automatically adjust the brightness accordingly. 
  • Digital Red-eye Correction– Helps eliminate the red-eye problem that sometimes results when taking flash shots at night.  Incorporated into the built-in flash, the camera emits a small preliminary flash before the main flash which detects red-eye and digitally corrects it.
  • MEGA O.I.S. – Gyrosensors detect hand-shake and the lens system shifts to compensate, helping to prevent blurry images.
  • Intelligent ISO – Determines if the photo subject is moving and changes the ISO setting and shutter speed accordingly. 
  • Intelligent Scene Selector – Senses the ambient conditions, recognises the shooting environment and will automatically select the appropriate scene mode from: Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait or Night Scenery mode.  This intuitive technology helps the consumer use the most common scene modes that are built into the camera, but often go unused, without making any manual adjustments.
  • Face Detection – Detects faces anywhere in the frame and automatically chooses the optimal focus and exposure settings so that portraits come out clear and crisp.  Detecting up to 15 faces, Panasonic’s Face Detection can even track a face if the subject is moving. 
  • Continuous AF The Continuous AF (auto focus) system maintains focus on the subject even without pressing a shutter button halfway, thus minimizing the AF time.

Once the user is in iA mode, these multi-capable functions happen automatically, no adjustments or changes to setting need to be made. Furthermore, the DMC-TZ50 boasts Intelligent LCD function, which detects the lighting condition and controls the brightness level of the LCD in 11 fine steps, to offer a display with excellent clarity in any situation with the newly developed 460,000-dot high resolution in 3.0-inch LCD screen.

The TZ50 incorporates the Venus Engine IV, Panasonic’s new high-performance image processing LSI.  The Venus Engine IV produces higher-quality pictures than its predecessor, the Venus Engine III, by using a more advanced signal processing system.  The new Venus Engine IV also improves noise reduction, elevates the detection accuracy and corrective effects in both MEGA O.I.S. and Intelligent ISO and reduces the shutter release time lag. 

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ50 will be available in silver in May 2008 for a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $449.95. 

* *35mm film camera equivalent: 28-280mm
** One year of complimentary, camera-specific T-Mobile HotSpot service begins from the first time you automatically connect your LUMIX digital camera to the T-Mobile network at a T-Mobile HotSpot location within the U.S, subject to certain limitations, terms and conditions.  The complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot service does not include access to the Internet at other Wi-Fi roaming locations.  This offer expires on August 31, 2009.