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Professional quality photography moves into compact cameras

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August 19, 2005

Professional quality photography moves into compact cameras

Professional quality photography moves into compact cameras

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August 20, 2005 There is no question that the capabilities of the upper end Pro-sumer digital camera market is filtering down to the compact camera range and no more compelling evidence of this could be found than Panasonic’s new LX1 – the first of the new LUMIX 16:9 wide LX series – look at the specs: 8.4-Megapixel, 4x optical zoom (equivalent to 28 mm to 112 mm on a 35mm film camera) with full manual controls, all on a compact camera. The LX1 incorporates an 8.4-Megapixel CCD and a high resolution 2.5-inch LCD creen in its undersized body. The aspect ratio is easily selectable between 16:9 wide, 3:2 and conventional 4:3 with a switch located on the lens barrel to shoot in the framing aspect that best suits the subjects' composition or image's purpose of use.

The lens unit is comprised of 4x optical zoom LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT Lens and renders superb picture quality. Like other LUMIX cameras, what distinguishes the DMC-LX1 from the rest is MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), a key feature Panasonic considers should be standard in all digital still cameras. Unintentional handshake, the major cause of digital camera misshooting, is controlled by MEGA O.I.S. to allow every user to take clear, beautiful images even indoors or at nighttime. The newly incorporated Extra Optical Zoom extends the zoom ratio by using the center part of the high resolution CCD to achieve 5x for 5.5-Megapixel 16:9 image recording with minimal deterioration.

Extensive manual controls including manual focus and manual exposure can be smoothly operated with a joystick incorporated along with an omni directional cursor. Just pressing and holding the joystick shortcuts to a setting menu containing the frequently used white balance adjustment, ISO setting, image size setting and compression format. Taking advantage of these outstanding features, the LX1 incorporates the high speed, high quality image processing LSI, the Venus Engine II. It boasts quick responsiveness that realizes the best-in-class level release time lag of 0.01 sec. For the AF, five AF modes are available; 9-point, 3-point high speed, 1-point high speed, 1-point normal speed and spot. The 1-point high speed AF boasts predominantly fast AF for stress-free focusing.

In addition, the DMC-LX1 is the first digital still camera that can record moving images at 848 x 480 16:9 Wide VGA, as smooth as 30 fps.

With a volley of features providing both enhanced image quality and responsiveness, the DMC-LX1 is an advanced compact offering elaborate manual controllability while being accommodating to entry-level users through a variety of scene modes and auto setting functions. Panasonic dares to introduce this artistic instrument suited to users at all levels who enjoy creative shooting.

8.4-Megapixel 16:9 aspect CCD and 28mm wide 4x optical zoom LEICA DC Lens.

The DMC-LX1 features the 8.4-Megapixel Industry's first* 16:9 aspect CCD and 4x optical zoom 28mm wide angle** (equivalent to 28 mm to 112 mm on a 35 mm film camera) LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens. Incorporating three aspherical lenses provides high optical performance while preserving the compactness of the unit. The aspect ratio can be easily selected between 16:9 or 3:2 in addition to the conventional 4:3 with a switch on the lens barrel on a shot-by-shot-basis to best suit the composition of the image. Even after shooting, the 16:9 ratio can be converted to 3:2 or 4:3 with the camera according to your purpose of use.

The extra optical zoom, made possible by using the center part of 8.4-megapixel high resolution CCD, further extends the zoom ratio to 5x for 5.5-Megapixel image recording in 16:9 aspect with minimal deterioration.

* As a CCD of digital still camera, as of July 7, 2005.

**In 16:9 aspect ratio.

Image stabilizing technology MEGA O.I.S.(Optical Image Stabilizer) and high speed high quality image processing LSI Venus Engine II. MEGA O.I.S.(Optical Image Stabilizer), that Panasonic thinks it indispensable for all digital cameras, especially for compact models that lacks stability, is subsumed under LUMIX all line-up released in this year. Every slight hand-shake movement is detected accurately with the sampling frequency at 4,000 times per second and will be compensated to render clear, sharp images.

MEGA O.I.S. is equipped with 2 selectable modes. In "Mode 1", the O.I.S. lens continuously compensates for vibration and in "Mode 2", the O.I.S. lens suppresses hand-shake only at the moment the shutter button is pressed. In this mode, the lens can move in all directions at the moment to maximize its effect, and higher-resolution image can be taken by capturing the image as close as to the center of the lens. In consequence, since MEGA O.I.S. enables a beautiful picture shot without blurring at slower shutter speeds of more than three steps compared to the conventional models without O.I.S., you can enjoy shooting clear and beautiful pictures easily even in the situations using slow shutter speeds, like indoor shots for portraits and nighttime scenery for illuminated object, as well as in shootings using zoom or macro mode.

For the brain of the camera, high-speed high-quality image processing LSI Venus Engine II is incorporated to render clear images in detail, compensating for the color aberration at the edges subject to occur. It also compensates for vignetting and generates bright image in every detail. This engine boasts its high performance resulting in the industry leading level in class release time lag of 0.01 sec for achieving more stress-free operation.

*Not including the time for AF.

Joystick-operated intuitive manual control

The DMC-LX1 offers manual focus and manual exposure, and both are adjustable with a joystick independent of an omni directional cursor. A switch on the side of the lens barrel lets you quickly change the focus mode between MF, AF or Macro AF. When you focus in the Manual Focus mode, not only the focus distance but also the DOF (depth of field) according to the zoom range and aperture is displayed. An MF assist function enlarges the center of the image to make focusing easier. Both features contribute to easy and comfortable manual focus.

A joystick was incorporated to facilitate operational ease and thereby get the best technical advantage of the multitude of functions offered by the camera. You can quickly shortcut to frequently used variables containing white balance adjustment, ISO setting, image size setting and compression format just by pressing and holding down the joystick, even while monitoring a subject on the LCD.

Shutter speed extends up to 60 sec at slowest in Manual Exposure mode and adjustable from 1/2000 to 60 sec for wider ranging shooting opportunities. Noise reduction is available for images taken at slow shutter speed.

The AF/AE lock button supports free framing while keeping the focus locked or fixes the same exposure setting regardless of the color of a subject for taking multiple shots.

Crystal-clear, large 2.5 inch LCD monitor

The 2.5 inch large LCD is excellent not only in size but also in the resolution, which is as high as 207 k pixels. The advantage is apparent when you check the focus during or after shooting, or when you display images even in tiny thumbnail size, across which you can move an omni-directional cursor to select. They can be played back in 9, 16 and 25 on multi-split screen in addition to the normal 1 frame playback thanks to the large high resolution LCD. This helps you to search for the image you want out of a number stored on the SD Memory Card, even if the images are in bulk. Furthermore, you can virtually checkmark your favorite images and keep them selected apart from the others to make a special slideshow with them only, or make concurrent deletion of the non-checkmarked ones if you do not need them anymore. Thanks to this feature, the LX1 can serve not just as a tool of shooting images but also as a digital album, to enjoy the seeing and showing of your favorite pictures.

To offer a clear view even in sunny outdoor conditions, the Power LCD function increases brightness by 140 percent just by pressing an independent button. Excellent responsiveness, smart control and quick AF

The DMC-LX1 incorporates high performance image processing LSI the Venus Engine II in both speed and image quality. Thanks to the multi-task image processing, response has also been accelerated, resulting in the best-in-class level release time lag of 0.01 sec achieving more stress-free operation. For the burst shooting mode, it also boasts high consecutive shooting performance, providing shooting at 3 frames/second at 8.4-Megapixel full resolution. This function can be instantly activated with the independent button*. Unlimited Consecutive Shooting function** allows limit-free consecutive shooting up to the capacity of the SD memory card.

An AF method can be selected according to the shooting situation: 9-point, 3-point high-speed, 1-point high-speed, 1-point normal-speed and Spot. The 1 point high-speed AF, initially incorporated in the high zoom line DMC-FZ5, dramatically reduces the AF time to realize stress-free operation. Although screen-freeze in high-speed AF is now minimized, if you take the picture of subject with fast movement, you can select 1 point normal-speed AF which does not have any screen-freeze while focusing.

*The button also performs as "DELETE" in playback mode.

**The speed of the unlimited consecutive shooting varies depending on the SD Memory Card.

Industry's first 16:9 aspect Wide VGA moving image recording

In addition to the conventional 4:3 VGA moving image recording, the LX1 can record moving images even in the 848 x 480 16:9 Wide VGA format at 30 fps, making the most of the industry's first 16:9 CCD. Shooting is one thing but viewing is another, and you will be suitably impressed by the 16:9 moving image when it is displayed on a wide screen TV.

Easier and more comfortable operationality

Along with the joy stick and omni-directional cursor, a dial-operated mode shift also improves the camera's controllability. The mode dial allows quick, direct switching between various shooting modes, moving picture mode and playback mode. In addition to the conventional ProgramAE, the LX1 is equipped with Auto mode, which caters for the entry level users. A total of 14 scene modes including Baby, Soft Skin, Food, Starry Sky and Candle helps you to take beautiful images easily in wide-ranging situations. Still it is easy to select the one out of them thanks to the Scene Mode Help Screen that shows the description of each mode and the knack for shooting of each scene and helps users to take beautiful image easily.

The LUMIX DMC-LX1 is like no other compact camera, enabling both high-end amateurs and entry-level users to explore the creativeness that surely enhances the joy of shooting

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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