Panasonic's gone mad with its 'intelligent' automation features in the 14.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-ZX3, which also has no fewer than four different types of zoom. The 25-200mm 8x zoom is the high point, but you'll pay around £250 to get your hands on this camera.
Tiny, long zoomer
Panasonic has squeezed a surprisingly long zoom range into the DMC-ZX3's extremely compact body. You get an 8x zoom lens, rather than the 12x zoom in the new , but you also get a smaller, more pocketable camera. Besides, the DMC-ZX3's 25-200mm focal range is more than enough for most needs.
The camera also offers a 720p, high-definition movie mode; Panasonic's latest Power Optical Image Stabilizer, which is apparently twice as effective as the regular Mega Optical Image Stabilizer; and the excellent design and build quality we've now come to expect from the Lumix models.
Panasonic is keen to big up its new 'intelligent resolution' technology. Intelligent resolution is a new approach to image processing, whereby the image is divided into 'contour areas, texture areas and smooth areas' and the optimum image processing is then applied to each. It sounds as if Panasonic may have developed a clever solution to the noise-versus-smudging dilemma faced by all makers of small-format, high-resolution sensors.
Indeed, Panasonic's so confident in this technology that it uses it to optionally extend the optical zoom range 'digitally', from 8x to 10x when the intelligent-resolution feature is activated. The increased zoom range is branded 'intelligent zoom'.
Mush like a husky
Well, the old-fashioned word for this is 'interpolation'. It's not much interpolation (from 8x to 10x), but then it's hardly a massive zoom increase. This intelligent-resolution mode can enhance clearly defined detail, but, in some of our test shots, it turned lower-contrast areas into mush. It all depends on what kind of detail the processor thinks it's looking at, presumably.