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Panasonic 8x zoom compact gets a little fresh

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 gets AVCHD Lite and a couple image-processing enhancements, but its size and lens stay the same as 2009's ZR1.


Before you get all broken up and angry 'cause you just bought a ZR1, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 is a fairly minor update to that camera. The key ingredient--the 8x f3.3-5.9 25-200mm-equivalent lens--is unchanged from the ZR1, as is the compact body, advanced Power O.I.S. image stabilization, and fast AF system.

What's added is the ability to record video in AVCHD Lite format as well as Motion JPEG HD-quality video and a couple of new image-processing options. One, Intelligent Resolution, is designed to improve the results from using the digital zoom (aka Intelligent Zoom) or high-ISO shots. Another is called Happy Mode (I kid you not) that "optimizes color, saturation, and brightness, to make both photos and videos more vivid and true to the color originally experienced." The sensor resolutions has been bumped up, too, to 14 megapixels.

There are two notable changes to the body: a dedicated movie record button is now on back and a Mini-HDMI port's been added to the side. The ZR3 will also support SDXC cards.

Pricing and availability was not announced, so my guess is it'll cost around $300 and will be out in the spring.