In the world of photography, Cologne Germany is where it’s all happening this week. That’s where Photokina, the world’s largest show for photographic and imaging equipment, is taking place this week. So, naturally, Panasonic was there was a new lineup, and the promise of a shiny new flagship model.
Let’s start small with the new compact: the Panasonic DMC-LX10. Priced at $999, it comes with an unusually advanced lens for a pocketable (106 x 60 x 42mm and 310 grams). The Leica DC-Vario Summilux lens offers an extraordinarily wide aperture of f/1.4 to f/2.8 across its 3x optical zoom range, from 24mm to 72mm (35mm equivalent). It has a 9 blade aperture and 11 optical elements in 9 groups. Macro shooting down to 30mm is supported.
There’s five axis optical image stabilisation, and a one inch MOS sensor with 20.1 megapixels of resolution (up to 5472 by 3648 pixels). RAW (unprocessed, uncompressed) photography is supported. Auto-everything, including focus (49 areas, tracking and face and eye detection) is available. A one megapixel 75mm tiltable LCD screen is used for framing. WiFi is built in. The camera even includes Panasonic’s recently (that is, last year) released “Post Focus” function, which takes a bunch of pictures focused at different points within the frame and allows you to choose particular ones.
The other stand-out feature is full Ultra High Definition video recording (ie. 3840 by 2160, not 4096 by 2160 pixels) at frame rates of 24, 25 and 30 frames per second, with bitrates up to 100 megabits per second.
With all that, it makes you wonder how the more expensive models could improve things. Which brings us to the DMC-FZ2500 ($1699). This also uses the 20.1 megapixel MOS sensor and a non-interchangeable lens, but with upgraded features. The Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens features 20x optical zoom, from 24 to a super telephoto 480mm (35mm equivalent) with a respectable f/2.8 to f/4.5 aperture. It adds a Cinema 4K mode (that’s 4096 by 2160 pixels at 24 frames per second) to the UHD modes.
It has the “Post Focus” function and a 4K Pre-Burst mode that captures frames before and after shutter release. An OLED view finder (around 2.3 megapixels) allows traditional photography while the rear monitor tilts.
Panasonic is clear on its positioning. “This is a camera for the most discerning of photographers, who understand that the FZ2500 offers them the shooting power comparable to a traditional 3-lens DSLR kit in a significantly lighter, smaller and more cost-effective package,” says Doug Campbell, Panasonic’s Senior Product Manager, Imaging.
Speaking of digital SLR cameras, the next model is the DMC-G85, one level short of Panasonic’s premium GH range. As is Panasonic’s practice, this uses the Micro Four Thirds lens mounting system, so it’s also compatible with several Olympus lenses in addition to Panasonic’s own extensive range (and plenty from lens specialists). The Live MOS sensor is good for 16 megapixels and of course you can also capture in RAW. Again, “Post Focus” is available, plus focus bracketing of up to 999 shots, providing enormous flexibility in the creation of photos in post processing multiple exposures.
The camera body has five axis optical stabilisation, complementing the 2 axis optical stabilisation built into many Panasonic lenses. The camera is designed to be weather-sealed, and is splash and dust proof, especially when paired with weather-sealed lenses. There’s an OLED view finder and a rear monitor able to be deployed to a wide range of angles.
There are a number of purchase options. For the camera body only, the RRP is $1399. A standard zoom kit with a 14-42mm lens is $1499. With a weather sealed 12-60mm lens, it’s $1699 and including the 10x zoom 14-140mm lens, it is $1999.
Finally, Panasonic offered a teaser for its forthcoming DMC-GH5, top of the line DSLR. As with the GH4, this is also a Micro Four Thirds camera, but it ups the capabilities, particularly on the video front. It can go to full 50p and 60p in 4K. At 30p in 4K it supports 10 bit, 4:2:2 video, which means high dynamic range, wide colour gamut, for highly professional results.
The “4K Photo” mode introduced with the GH4 – this is where 4K video frames are optimised for still photography, so that quality 8 megapixel images can be extracted – has been enhanced to a “6K Photo” mode, bumping that up to 18 megapixels. With the GH4 you were trading off resolution for some assurance of capturing the precise instant you wanted. With the GH5, you’ve got both.
I do hope that the awkwardly placed “Display” button is moved from its current location on the grip of the GH4, where I accidentally press it several times every photography session.
The camera is slated for release early next year and prices are some way away.