Panasonic announced a modest bundle of new Lumix point-and-shoots at CES 2011, including the FH25, an update to Digital Camera HQ's favorite cheap camera of 2010.
We loved last year's FH20 because it was the most well-rounded point-and-shoot out there. It was small, it had an 8x zoom, it shot solid pictures and videos, it was quick, and it only cost about $175.
Panasonic isn't messing with success: The FH25 shares most of the FH20's specs but adds a handful of noteworthy features, previously found only on the more expensive ZS series.
The FH25's lens is a real Leica, upgraded from a Lumix-brand lens, though it retains the 28mm, 8x configuration. It can also use optical zoom during 720p HD video recording, and adds Panasonic's Intelligent Zoom feature. Last year's ZR3, ZS5, and ZS7 all had Leica lenses and Intelligent Zoom, so the FH25 feels like it's more of a big-league camera than the FH20 was.
We've wondered exactly what the trick behind Intelligent Zoom is, so Panasonic took the time to explain it to us. It's basically gentle software enhancement that extend the effective zoom range (out to 10x, in the case of the FH25) without noticeable quality loss. Panasonic's rep described the effect, roughly, as vectorizing foreground details (like hair, facial features, textures, and the like) while basically ignoring the background. If you've ever created vectors using a program like Adobe Illustrator, you'll understand.
A few more FH-series models were on display at CES: The FH27, a touchscreen version of the FH25, which replaces the FH22 (no word on whether the FH27 will be available online or in stores only); the FH5, a 4x optical/5x enhanced zoomed which replaces the FH3; and the FH2, a 14 megapixel version of the FH5, and a replacement for the FH1.
Every new Panasonic model at CES runs on the Venus Engine VI, which is sure to make the performance nice and snappy, and all start at a 28mm wide-angle. As usual with Panasonic, there is no pricing or release date info yet; they'll announce that info 30 days before the release date (we're guessing they'll be out in mid to late February).
And while there was no official word on any new ZR or ZS series cameras, we're pretty confident that we'll be hearing about some new Panasonic compact zooms sometime in mid-February, around PMA.