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We reviewed three of the more popular 'pocket printers,' the Canon Ivy, Fujifilm Instax Share and Polaroid ZIP. Here's the one we recommend...
Pre-PMA 2009: Next in the line is the Panasonic DMC-FX580 (FX550 in Europe) digital camera. It incorporates a high-resolution 3.0-inch touch-screen interface for easier navigation of options, combined with a faster Venus Engine V processor. Along with a 12.1 megapixel sensor and a 25-125mm equivalent zoom, it features a host of Panasonic’s latest compact camera features such as Intelligent Auto mode and Face Recognition.
27th January 2009: Elegantly demonstrating Panasonic's commitment to excellence, Panasonic’s new DMC-FX550 touch screen interface model includes a whole host of features designed to offer superior image quality and the ultimate in user convenience. Featuring a 25mm ultra-wide angle Leica DC lens with 5x optical zoom and popular touch-screen operation on a large 3inch LCD, the new addition proudly joins Panasonic’s Lumix slim and stylish FX series – making Panasonic Lumix a formidable choice whatever your shooting needs!
Look at me!
The 12.1-megapixel DMC-FX550 packages a ultra-wide*1 25mm Leica DC VARIO-ELMARIT high-quality lens with 5x optical zoom(equivalent to 25-125mm on a 35mm film camera), offering F2.8 brightness. Comprising 7 elements in 6 groups, including 4 aspherical lenses with 6 aspherical surfaces, this advanced lens unit passes Leica's stringent standards and delivers an exceptional optical performance. Notably, the unevenly thick concave meniscus EA (Extra high refractive index Aspherical) lens makes it possible to achieve the 25mm ultra-wide angle high optical performance while keeping the lens unit thin and the body slim. The 25mm ultra-wide-angle lens records almost double the viewing space at the same shooting distance compared to ordinary 35mm cameras.
The zoom ratio can be extended up to 9.8x in 3 megapixel resolution mode with minimal deterioration thanks to the Extra Optical Zoom. By using the central part of the CCD, this powerful zooming function allows you to easily capture and magnify distant subjects. The DMC-FX550 also has an Easy Zoom feature that, at the touch of a button, shifts the lens instantly to full 5.0x zoom power. A second touch of the button activates the Extra Optical Zoom function and extends zoom all the way to 9.8x.*2
The iris diaphragm allows the users to adjust aperture at fine steps manually.
Panasonic incorporated Intelligent Auto mode in pursuit of the ultimate ease of operation and the reduction of misshots. This mode is also further advanced with the inclusion of the Face Recognition*3 feature – a function that ‘remembers faces’.
When a familiar face is recorded several times, the camera will prompt you to register the face*4. Once complete, if the familiar face appears into your frame again, the camera will display the name you specified for that person and prioritize focus and exposure so that the registered face is bright and in sharp focus. Perfect for group shots for example – this new feature will give auto focus and auto exposure priority to a single person, ensuring their loved ones face will be captured beautifully.
During registration, you can change the icon that indicates when the registered subject is in focus – for example you can attach a love heart to your partner. You can also manually register a persons details and the camera will remember them whenever you take a photo.
To further add to its appeal, you can also specify the age of the registered subject and have both the name and the age of the subject stamped onto your photos. When babies under 3 years-old are registered, the camera will automatically switch to Baby mode if the baby appears into the frame. In playback, you can choose to display only photos that contain a specific registered face using Category Playback – so you can search for all photos of your Aunt Yvonne, for example - perfect for compiling a surprise birthday collage.
You can also view image slideshows of only a selected person. Face recognition makes sorting archiving incredibly easy. This advanced face detection system also digitally corrects unwanted red-eye during recording.
With AF Tracking, the DMC-FX550 can lock onto any subject and keep it in focus even if it moves – making it easy to get beautiful, clear shots when a great photo opportunity suddenly arises. Simply aim, lock, and shoot. And the Intelligent Scene Selector automatically detects common shooting situations and switches to the appropriate scene mode and automatically turns backlight compensation on when necessary.
In iA mode the camera does all the work, activating AF tracking, Face Detection with Face Recognition, Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, and Intelligent Exposure. This leaves the user free to simply compose the shot and press the shutter button, with the assurance that the image will be clear, beautiful and properly exposed.
The DMC-FX550 incorporates a large 3.0-inch touch-screen interface to achieve amazing ease in both shooting and playing back the images. Effortlessly easy to navigate thanks to the responsive interface, the FX550’s touch screen is streets ahead of its competitors.
The enhanced hybrid control system in the FX550 combines cursor key control with touch screen operation, allowing a smooth and intuitive operation. Users can make basic settings directly with the cursor key while they can make extensive adjustments intuitively by touching or moving the slider on the screen. Users can set the auto focus and exposure at the desired part of the frame by simply touching the subject at that part while recording. In manual exposure mode, aperture and shutter speed can be adjusted by moving the slider. You can also make fine adjustment of white balance and colour temperature with the touch screen.
In playback mode, even large, high resolution images can be comfortably played back with a touch scroll. The Easy Organization menu is provided to simplify image organizing. The user can quickly select an image to view by scrolling the thumbnails located below the main window, and then edit the image by resizing, trimming and inputting the text title of the picture. You can also flag the desired image as your favorites or delete them in one menu interface.
This touch-screen interface features a high-resolution Intelligent LCD which automatically controls the brightness at a total of 11 fine steps by detecting the surrounding lighting condition. This function gives the display the most appropriate clarity in any situation.
If this wasn’t enough, the menus now look clearer and easier to navigate, even for seniors, thanks to the new Display Size option.
Thanks to the Venus Engine HD, smooth image playback at very high speeds is now available and is approx.17x faster for thumbnails and approx. 4x for a single image, even with image resolutions as high as 12.1-megapixels.
High Performance Venus Engine V
The high-speed, high-performance Venus Engine has been re-engineered and reborn as the even more powerful Venus Engine V. Apart from the conventional imaging engine, the Venus Engine V has twin CPUs to boast approx. 2.4x processing speed. In addition, this high performance LSI elevates the artificial intelligence of the camera, making it possible to “recognize” the human faces individually.
In the image processing, parallel noise reduction in both luminance signal and chromatic signal processing systems is performed. Then, the luminance noise is further two-dimensionally separated into high-frequency and low-frequency noises and only the low-frequency noise, which tends to be conspicuous, is eliminated without affecting the high-frequency noise that greatly influences resolution.
The multi-task image-processing engine Venus Engine V supports super-fast response time. The shutter release time lag is as short as approx. 0.007 second and the camera's quick response makes it easier to capture sudden, spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities. In burst shooting mode, the DMC-FX550 can snap approx. 2.3 shots per second at 12.1-megapixel large full resolution.*5 And in High-Speed Burst shooting mode,*6 it fires off an incredible approx. 10 shots per second.*4 You also get unlimited consecutive shooting which lets you keep shooting until the memory card is full*7. Flash Burst mode makes it possible to take continuous shooting with continuous emission of flash*8.
In addition to outstanding performance, the high performance engine is also superior in its energy efficiency by approx.16% compared with the conventional Venus Engine IV to extend the battery life up to 350 shots (CIPA) per a single charge.
Highly specified, yet remaining easy to use – the new FX550 features a variety of features to expand the fun and convenience for users. For example, the new scene mode for shooting still images includes the Panorama Assist mode, which allows you to create powerful panoramic images - both vertically and horizontally. Simply align your shots according to a guide which overlaps the frame when you shoot, then use the included PanoramaMaker software to create your panorama images.
With the new Macro Zoom function, the user can pull subjects even closer than the closest point possible with the wide-angle setting by using 3x digital zoom, and capture dramatic close-ups.
Additionally, all Lumix cameras can take 1920x1080 pixel high-definition quality photos that are ideal for full-screen viewing on a wide-screen (16:9) HDTV.The new DMC-FX550 even records dynamic HD motion pictures*9 in 1280 x 720p at a smooth 30 fps, in addition to WVGA (848 x 480) and normal VGA (640 x 480)*10. With HD component output capability, you
*1 35mm film camera equivalent: 25-125mm
*2 When the picture size is set to 3 megapixels or larger, the photo is automatically resized to 3 megapixels. When the lens is shifted back to the wide-end, the picture size is set to the original size automatically. The original size is maintained for photos smaller than 3 megapixels.
*3 Depending on background and facial expression, camera may not recognize a registered person. For family members with similar facial features, camera may not correctly identify the intended subject.
*4 A maximum of six people can be registered.
*5 Max.5 images in standard mode / 3 images in fine mode.
*6 In speed priority mode. 3-megapixel (4:3), 2.5-megapixel (3:2), 2-megapixel (16:9) recording. (6 images in Picture Priority mode).
*7 The consecutive shooting speed varies with the memory card, image size, and image compression mode. The number of shots depends on the memory card size, battery life, image size and image compression mode.
*8 Max. 5 images. In 3-megapixel (4:3), 2.5-megapixel (3:2), 2-megapixel (16:9) recording.
*9 For Europe, motion images can be recorded continuously for up to 15 minutes.
*10 In Motion Picture mode, the length of recording time depends on the capacity of the SDHC/SD Memory Card. (Up to the equivalent of 2 GB per motion-image recording.) When you set the motion picture quality to VGA 30fps, WVGA 30fps and HD(1280x720) 30/15fps, we recommend using a high-speed memory card with "10MB/s" or greater on the package. Some lens movement sounds may be recorded.
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