Today I had the chance to get some hands-on time with Panasonic’s newest Lumix point-and-shoots, the Wi-Fi–enabled TZ50 ($449) and the touchscreen-adorned FX500 ($399). We’ll get our very own loaner units soon, but until then, here are some first impressions: DMC-TZ50: As we reported earlier, the TZ50 has built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, integration with Google Picasa, and works at T-Mobile HotSpot locations. (Bonus: It comes with a year of complimentary service.) Much to my hosts’ embarrassment today, it took several attempts to successfully upload the picture, and when we finally did it took a few minutes. To be fair, although we were in a hotel with a T-Mobile HotSpot, we weren’t in the same room as the router. Aside from that, there’s lot to like about Panasonic’s first Wi-Fi–enabled camera:
DMC-FX500 What I like most about Panasonic’s first touchscreen camera is that the company clearly didn’t introduce a touch interface just to be trendy. They seem to have learned from other companies, whose small touch icons leave us jabbing futilely at the screen with our comparatively oversized fingers. In addition to a stylus, the FX500 has a panel of buttons along the right side of the LCD, just like a non-touch camera, so you can always revert to traditional button input if you’re feeling frustrated. (Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-T300 doesn’t give users that option.) But I haven’t even gotten to the best part (having buttons next to a touchscreen, after all, doesn’t make it great). Although it’s not capacitive touch, the FX500′s touchscreen is way more intuitive than other touchscreen cameras, where all you can do is press icons as if they were buttons. Here, you can adjust focus by dragging your finger along an onscreen slide (think unlocking the iPhone). Even better, when you’re in playback mode, you can tap on a picture where you want it to zoom in, and then drag your finger to move the picture around. If only I could swipe through pictures as I can on the iPhone. It’s too early to say I’m impressed, but I know I’m excited to get more hands-on time with these new models. Stay tuned for full reviews.