Panasonic's touch screen camera simplifies photo taking

Panasonic's new FX500 Lumix camera makes photo taking a breeze thanks to a new touch screen.

Panasonic will soon begin selling a compact digital still camera that makes easy work of sometimes complicated features thanks to a touch-screen display.

The Lumix DMC-FX500, which was unveiled Wednesday at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo, allows users to keep a focus lock on objects in the shot by just selecting the object with a finger on the 3-inch screen. As the object moves about inside the frame the camera keeps track of it and keeps it in focus.

The feature is especially useful when taking shots of subjects that are moving or won't keep still, like kids or pets, and the use of the touch-screen makes it simple for users with even a low level of photographic skill to master.

In a demo here at the show the camera managed to track successfully several objects although was sometimes confused when an object moved in front of a background that was the same color or when two similar objects came close together in the shot.

A second function tied into the touch panel will put the camera into the most appropriate mode depending on the subject selected. For example, if the user selects a face on the screen the camera recognizes it's a person and switches to portrait mode while if a nearby object is selected it automatically jumps to macro mode if needed.

In manual mode adjustments to the aperture and shutter settings by moving sliders on the screen and in playback mode a finger is all that's needed to zoom in or out on an image.

The camera, which becomes the flagship model in Panasonic's Lumix FX range, has a 25mm wide-angle lens, 5X optical zoom and resolution of 10 megapixels. Other features include a 1280 x 720p video mode and a 16:9 still image mode that's intended for pictures viewed on a widescreen TV.

It will go on sale first in Japan, where it will debut on April 12. It will hit the U.S. market in May and cost about US$400.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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