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Panasonic ZS30 Preview

by Roger Slavens
Posted: 01/07/2013

Boasting a 20x optical zoom, Full HD video recording and advanced WiFi capabilities -- including using your connected smart device as a real-time viewfinder and remote -- the Panasonic LUMIX ZS30 hopes to build a do-everything pocket camera that looks like it's a significant upgrade to its popular predecessor, the Panasonic ZS20.

Panasonic claims the ZS30 is one of the world's slimmest 20x zooms, and it measures just 4.26 x 2.32 x 1.09 inches (108.3 x 58.9 x 27.7 mm) even though it hosts an Ultra Wide Angle LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 24mm to 480mm. Also packed inside is a new, improved 18.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor and a new Venus Engine processor aimed at delivering high-quality images in a wide range of lighting situations. Low-light performance is bolstered by an improved POWER O.I.S. system and 5 Axis correction to reduce tilt and camera shake even at full 20x zoom.

While we liked the previous model (ZS20) in many ways, we weren't too impressed with its images -- excessive noise suppression got in the way. We hope the new sensor and processor do a better job at producing sharp, clear photographs, and we're eager to see how the Panasonic ZS30 performs in our lab.

The new wave of cameras in the new year all seem to tout ultra-fast focus, and the Panasonic ZS30 is no different. Backed by a Light Speed AF system, the ZS30 is reported to achieve focus in just 0.1 seconds, according to the manufacturer. Adding to this speedy performance is a 10 frames per second continuous shooting mode, which lets you choose just the right action shot.

Another feature we're eager to test on the Panasonic ZS30 is its integrated WiFi. Using the LUMIX app on your smartphone or tablet (ostensibly both Apple- or Android-based), Panasonic claims you can not only control the shutter release on the ZS30, but also the zoom. We've yet to be terribly impressed by any pocket camera's WiFi features to date, and we're hoping the ZS30 (or any of the other new digicams launched at CES, for that matter) breaks new ground. The Panasonic ZS30's WiFi set also shares photos across social networks and via email, as you'd expect, without having to a computer or smart device. And the manufacturer says that connectivity is easier than ever, with a new NFC capability that allows the ZS30 to recognize, connect and share with smart devices at a single tap.

Its predecessor, the ZS20 performed Full HD video recording, but the Panasonic ZS30 does so at 60p in AVCHD, with a built-in stereo microphone, and includes a High Speed Video mode that captures your subjects in super slow-motion.

Other ZS30 features include built-in GPS with a compass and level meter, a 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD touchscreen display, High Dynamic Range and Panoramic Shot modes, improved battery life (300 shots), and new Creative Control / Retouch modes.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS30 ships in March 2013 in black and white, but its pricing was not available at press time.