Panasonic Cameras Go High-Def

Panasonic has made it easier to leave the camcorder at home with two of its newest Lumix cameras announced this week before the Photo Marketing Association show in Las Vegas. The FX35 and TZ5 (both due out this spring at $349) shoot high-def video at 1280 x 720p resolution.

Return from vacation, drop the SD card into the slot on your Panasonic plasma and you have an instant HD movie (at least that's what Panasonic hopes you'll do).

Purists and outdoor enthusiasts will still want to stuff a camcorder into carry-on, though. As part of the launch event near Nellis Air Force Base, we were hard-pressed to keep up with F-16s streaking across the sky having only an LCD viewfinder to work with in bright sunlight (a generous one, though, at 3 inches). Still, HD 30fps video is a nice add along with automated scene selector mode, a 25mm wide angle lens (FX35) and 10x optical zoom (TZ5).

Stock up on SD cards, though. The HD setting gobbles up memory at a rate of 7 minutes of Motion JPEG video on a 2GB card. Help is on the way in the form of Panasonic's 32GB card that's due to hit stores in May. Save your pennies. That little vault will sell for at least double the price of the $299 16-gig SD card currently on the market.--Rebecca Day