Panasonic has come up with a new 'hybrid' 12.1Mp digital camera with a 27mm wide-angle lens and an 18x optical zoom, the DMC-FZ38.
Hybrid cameras combine some of the attributes of a compact camera with the advanced manual controls and powerful zoom capabilities of a digital SLR model.
Enhancements over previous FZ models include the ability to take 2.3 shots per second at the camera's full 12.1Mp resolution or 10 shots per second in high-speed burst shooting mode. A new Flash Burst mode allows a series of shots to be quickly fired off with the flash active.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 boasts improved OIS (optical image stabilisation) provision and HD video capture - something lacking from its FZ28 predecessor model which was able to take standard Mpeg footage. Dolby Digital stereo sound capture has also been added to the new model.
The camera's AVCHD Lite video capture capability is shorthand for almost high-definition video - in common with many compact models the FZ38 offers 1280x720p resolution rather than the 1920x1080p resolution of 'true' HD.
For the more advanced photographer there's a Creative Movie mode, which lets the user set the shutter speed and aperture manually - useful if there are several subjects in a scene positioned differing distances from the camera.
Panasonic has also imported the MyColour feature from its Lumix G Micro System cameras. This allows the user to control the saturation levels, brightness and contrast. Supplementing this are Art options to make images look more or less naturalistic or stylised.
Panasonic is also touting the new model's 1.2-second startup time and lightning-quick autofocus. An iA (intelligent auto) mode detects the prevailing light conditions and selects the most appropriate settings.
The face-detection feature learns to distinguish when a shot contains the same person as in a previous photo and mentally tags it. An extension of this feature enables the user to view a slideshow containing only the selected person. It's also possible to add an age so an under-three-year-old detected in a shot automatically gets the soft-focus treatment of the camera's Baby mode.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has a battery rated by CIPA for up to 470 shots between charges and records to either Secure Digital or SDHC memory card.
It will go onsale in the UK in September.