Panasonic embraces NFC in compact cameras, we go hands-on with two

Apple may not have acknowledged the existence of the wireless communication technology known as NFC, but that’s not going to stop other companies, with Panasonic becoming one of the first camera manufacturers to integrate the tech into compacts and make it easier to share than ever.

Launched in Australia in the past week, several new compact camera from Panasonic will feature the technology known as “Near-Field Communication,” a wireless format that makes it easy for two devices to have a handshake and send information to and from each other.

Panasonic's Lumix TZ40, equipped with 20x zoom and NFC.

The technology will be appearing on a couple of new cameras, including the new rugged FT5 series compact camera and one of Panasonic’s super-zoom models, the TZ40, and will effectively make it easier to pair up these models with an NFC-equipped phone to share files over an Android app.

Both cameras feature megapixel counts over the 16 mark, with the TZ40 20x super-zoom upping that to 18 megapixel, and can transfer smaller sizes for easier (and faster) social sharing from a phone, or even take on the whole picture on your device to do with what you want.

Not all cameras launched by Panasonic this year will feature NFC.

With the launch in Adelaide this past week, we went hands on with both of these models to see what they were like before Panasonic brings them to market in May.

Both cameras feature some super features, but only one of these is marketed as such, and that’s the one we checked out first, with the TZ40 super-zoom sitting in our hands first.

This model continues Panasonic’s Lumix Travel Zoom line (the “TZ” in the name), and features a 3 inch touchscreen LCD on the back, 18.1 megapixel sensor, five frame per second autofocus shooting, 1080p video, and a high-speed video mode able to record at 100fps.

Hello, dolphin. I can see you! (Shot on the TZ40, 100% crop in the gallery)

The zoom, however, is one of the more important features, with the 20x zoom being roughly equivalent to 24 to 480mm on a 35mm camera, and this allows you to get up close.

Sailing at Glenelg (courtesy of Panasonic for the test), this close zoom allowed us to get up close and personal with the dolphins we were searching for and zoom in on buildings on the landscape.

Some arty modes are included too, such as a miniature mode, a nice monochrome mode, and some cross processing, too.

Be arty with the TZ40. (100% crop in the gallery for checking sharpness)

Our tests with NFC weren’t particularly successful, possibly due to our phone supporting two different Near-Field modes, but you can also link the device up using manual WiFi settings, running Panasonic’s app on either an Android or iOS device and sending over files in batch.

Using the wireless communication, we were able to take photos on the TZ40, send them in a smaller size to our phone, and share them on a social network immediately after, with images transferring in the space of a minute, at roughly 10 per 60 seconds.

Overall, the wireless transfer system works well, removing the need for a WiFi SD card, even if our pre-production camera and brand new smartphone didn’t like each other much in the NFC connection process.

Then there was the tough camera, which is designed to not only survive a heavy handed touch, but things your kids and the water can throw at it.

Wireless transfer on the Lumix FT5, sending the photos to the LG Optimus G.

The latest in a long line of rugged cameras from the company, the Lumix FT5 sports a new design that can take up to 100kg of pressure in water, proofing underwater for 13 metres, shockproof to two metres, and freeze-proof down to -10 Celsius.

This model features a smaller zoom, with only 4.6x available to you, though it will survive when you drown it, something the TZ40 cannot lay claim to.

We spent some time throwing it around and found that while the zoom can be a touch limiting, even in pre-production, this camera was no slouch, firing off the shots at a maximum of five frames per second with autofocus, and giving us some quick results when locking onto a dolphin swimming alongside our boat.

Awww... baby dolphin (100% crop)

Up close, the images aren’t super-sharp, but this could be a pre-production glitch, and we can easily make out what we’re looking at.

These two cameras weren’t the only models introduced, and Panasonic will be bringing out three other Lumix models without NFC including the FT25 tough camera, the WiFi capable SZ9, and the ultra-thin XS1 which packs 16 megapixel and 5x optical zoom into a truly slim body.

The super slim XS1. We wonder if the "XS" means "extra slim"...

Panasonic’s range of 2013 Lumix cameras will be hitting retail in May.

Leigh D. Stark travelled to Glenelg, South Australia as a guest of Panasonic Australia