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News about Panasonic's brand new Lumix DMC-TZ7 and DMC-TZ6 digital cameras just arrived, and, as this writer's favourite line of compacts, there's cause for above-average celebration.

The daddy of the two is the TZ7 -- a 10-megapixel compact that offers 720p high-definition video capture using H.264 image compression at up to 17Mbps. That, dear reader, is wonderfully high quality, and will undoubtedly look terrific on a decent HDTV, which the camera can be connected to via HDMI.

The TZ7 also offers a 12x optical zoom and, like TZ models sat on last year's shelves, can shoot in 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9 resolution. In fact, you can shoot a photo in all three resolutions at once, and pick which one you prefer in review mode on the TZ7's 76mm (3-inch) LCD display. You're also able to continuously shoot ten photos a second, until the SD memory card is filled. Only a certified gimp would say these features are entirely useless.

Another improved feature is called 'Face Recognition', so-called because it's a feature that recognises faces. Astonishing! If you take photos of the same person several times, the camera prompts you to enter their name and even their age. In future photos, the camera can make focusing on this person a priority over a bunch of strangers. We'd love for names and faces assigned on the camera to be transferred to Apple's iPhoto '09, but we'll get back to you on that -- a Panasonic spokesperson couldn't confirm it at the time of publication.

The DMC-TZ6 is a less feature-packed version of the TZ7, offering the same 10-megapixel resolution, aspect ratio options, 12x optical zoom and 76mm LCD display, but lacking the HD video capture and face-recognition feature.

Both models will be available from April this year, at prices tentatively marked at £350 for the TZ7 and £270 for the TZ6, but these are subject to change between now and April. Expect full reviews in the coming weeks. A plethora of photos are waiting for you in the gallery at the top of this page.

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The back of the TZ7. Notice the dedicated video-recording button.
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The top of the TZ7.
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This'll be the TZ6. No points awarded for realising it looks a lot like the TZ7.
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The back of the TZ6 -- a little less feature-filled than its older brother.
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The TZ6 from a bird's eye view.
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