Panasonic’s 2012 Lumix line-up launched, we go hands-on

Adventure cameras are also getting a boost, with two new models from Panasonic.

At the top end, customers will find the Lumix FT4, a tough camera that’s shockproof to two metres, freeze proof to -10º Celsius, and waterproof to 12 metres. GPS is also thrown in – something that appears to be a staple in the premium cameras Panasonic is offering this year – as is 12.1 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch LCD, 28mm wide angle lens, 4.6x optical zoom (equivalent to 28 – 128mm) and support for capturing 1080p Full HD movies.

Slightly beneath it, you’ll find the FT20, a tough camera designed to handle 1.5 metre drops, freeze proofing to -10º Celsius, and water down to depths of 5 metres. The FT20 also features a 2.7 inch LCD,  16.1 megapixel sensor, 25mm lens with 4x optical zoom (equivalent to 25 – 100mm), and HD recording.

You can go snorkelling with this camera. You'll probably do better than we did.

The two cameras sit at different price points, with the premium offering fetching $449 while the lesser FT20 hits $299.

A model also exists for those not interested in the top-end or drop-proof models.

Two SZ models are being released, packing in the same ultra-fast autofocus as the top-tier TZ models, but ditching the GPS and making the body even slimmer.

We played with the SZ7, the $349 slim model with 10x zoom roughly equivalent to 25 – 250mm, 14.1 megapixels, 1080p Full HD video capture, 3D photo capture, and similar creative and panoramic modes seen on the TZ30, including the miniature effect.

Panoramas are handled inside the camera. Click the image to see the full-size file right out of the camera.

The camera is quite responsive, providing images with strong colour and clarity. The panorama mode works just as well here, providing us with images that reached as much as 1 metre across.

Even the entry-level options have changed, with the Lumix S2 presenting pretty solid value for consumers. At $129, this camera packs in 14 megapixels, fast autofocus, 28mm worth 4x optical zoom, an auto retouch mode, face detection, and 720p HD video capture. Black and pink are the only colours on offer here, but you can find this model – like most of these – in stores in April.

Interestingly, the prices have dropped severely, with these cameras fetching at most $449, values that were unthinkable years ago and now put high-end camera technologies within the reach of virtually anyone.