May 21, 2007 11:50 AM PDT

Panasonic gooses megapixels, zoom

Panasonic announced a new Lumix camera Monday that squeezes a wide-angle lens, a 12.2-megapixel sensor and a novel way of extending zoom lens range into a compact camera.

The Lumix DMC-FX100 is equipped with a 3.6x zoom that spans the equivalent of 28mm to 100mm--an ordinary span but with a wider-angle ability than found on typical point-and-shoot models today. What's more unusual is a lens-shifting technology called Extra Optical Zoom that extends the range to about 196mm.

Panasonic asserts that the zoom feature provides sharper images than so-called digital zoom technology that doesn't move a camera's lens elements but instead trims away pixels from the periphery of the image sensor to concentrate only on the center.

But there's no free lunch: Extra Optical Zoom yields 3-megapixel images. The feature also is available on the Lumix FX9, FZ30 and LX1 models.

Lumix DMC-FX100
Credit: Panasonic
Panasonic's Lumix FX100 compact
camera has a 12.2-megapixel sensor.

The camera will be available in June, but Panasonic hasn't yet released the price.

The FX100's light sensitivity reaches ISO 1600. In a high-sensitivity mode, it can reach ISO 6400, but only with 3-megapixel resolution. Image processing in the camera is handled by a Venus Engine III chip. The camera also features image stabilization to compensate for shaky hands and some dim situations.

Panasonic manufactures the sensor, which measures about 0.58 inches diagonally. Some experts object to the combination of small image sensors and high megapixel counts, complaining that it has degraded image quality by increasing noise levels, but the megapixel race shows few signs of slowing down.

Also Monday, Casio announced its 12.1-megapixel Exilim Zoom EX-Z1200, a new $400 flagship model. It also has image stabilization, face detection technology, a 3X zoom lens ranging from an equivalent of 37mm to 111mm, and the Exilim Engine 2.0 image processor.

And in February, Sony introduced a 12.1-megapixel compact camera, the Cyber-shot DSC W200.

One advantage of SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras is a larger image sensor that's more sensitive to light. Panasonic entered the SLR market in 2006 and plans a new lower-end model this year.

See more CNET content tagged:
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I'm curious to know if your average consumer truly needs a 12 megapixel camera, or is it something that's largely marketing hype? I don't work with physically large pictures, for example. How much of those 12 megapixels finds its way onto a 4x6 photograph?

I suppose that as long as the technology's there and it's affordable, we might as well be moving forward. But are we sacrificing producing more beautiful photographs at the expense of creating colossally massive file sizes?
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
12 Megapixels = 4"x5" @ 775 dpi
... or an 8x10 at 387 dpi. It still isn't the resolution of 35mm film
(which is analog and essentially has both higher physical resolution
and larger color range), BUT, in 35mm film processing to prints
introduces considerable resolution and contrast loss over digital.

My camera is only 7 megapixels, and I can see the difference
between 35mm and that as plain as day, but my wife can't
generally tell. Perhaps this would be a little more compelling.
Posted by FellowConspirator (397 comments )
Link Flag
The average consumer needs only 6-8Mp for their photos, as that provides the resolution for details and the quality they need. Anything higher (for thenormal consumer) is marketing hype. People who photograph for the detail can use the extra MP, but they should be using an SLR anyway.
Posted by hawkeyeaz1 (569 comments )
Link Flag
More and more
While these camera makers keep feeding the buyers desire for megapixels, most of these new "improvements" lead to worse and worse pictures. I will reserve judgement, but if these new cameras are anything like the old 10 megapixel point and shoots, people would be better off with their "old" 5 megapixel point and shoots. These sensors are just so tiny that increasing the megapixel on most of the current crop of point of shoots, just amplifies noise with the result being a worse picture. We will see, but I am not holding my breath.
Posted by Priaptor (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sensor Size
Cramming more pixels onto tiny sensors is just a marketing tatic; "Wow, is that 12 megapixels"

Pixel cramming leads to serious degradation in image quality especially at ISO400 and above.

APSC sized sensors, as in most DSLR cameras, at 10 megapixels are about right. Bigger photo receptors - a bit like paint buckets, the bigger the bucket the more paint you can get in there.

See this link from DP Review

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Posted by peterduce (3 comments )
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