Panasonic is focusing away from the race for megapixels and concentrating on improving movie mode quality in its latest compact cameras.

Despite launching a 14.7-million-pixel camera last year (the DMC-FX150), this year?s spring range will not feature any models exceeding 12.1MP.

Panasonic says camera retailers are ?becoming less worried? about megapixels.

And the company?s ?road map? does not indicate any higher resolution models anytime soon, confirmed Lumix product manager Mark Robinson in a briefing with Amateur Photographer.

Camcorder technology

In a bid to tap into a predicted consumer thirst for better quality movie recording he said Panasonic has equipped two of its latest models with a ?Lite? version of the ?AVCHD’ recording format used in camcorders.

AVCHD stands for Audio and Video Codec High Definition.

Its key advantage, Robinson explained, is that AVCHD enables users to store twice as much data as a card storing the information in MPEG format. A 1GB card, for example, can record 10mins of footage, according to Panasonic.

Billed as the firm?s ?premium tough camera? is the Lumix DMC-FT1, a 12.1million-pixel model, which also features ‘folded optics’.

Its Leica DC Vario Elmar lens delivers the 35mm viewing angle of a 28-252mm lens, claims the firm.

Due out in April, priced around £330, the FT1 is designed to be waterproof down to 3m, as well as ?dustproof? and shockproof (to drops of up to 1.5m).

The new camera will feature AVCHD ?Lite Motion Image Recording to shoot movies with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels. It will also have the option to record movies in MPEG format.

‘Next big thing’

The firm predicts that AVCHD will be the next ?big thing?, adding that its Veira televisions already accept AVCHD cards.

Unlike previous models, the new cameras will also feature one-touch movie recording.

A separate waterproof housing will be available for the FT1, allowing shooting to depths down to 40m.

Also featured is Intelligent Auto, a mode improved to prioritise focus and exposure for faces that it recognises. This is available for both movie and still images.

Also boasting AVCHD is the Lumix DMC-TZ7, which shoots images at 10MP resolution and has a 25-300mm (35mm equivalent) lens with Optical Image Stabilizer. It will cost around £350.

The TZ7 can record images in 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 formats.

New models also include the 10MP TZ6 with a 25-300mm equivalent lens, priced £269; the 12.1MP FX40 (£259); 12.1MP FX550, a touch-screen model (£299); and the FS25 a 12.1MP camera due to cost around £219. The latter boasts a 5x lens (29mm equivalent at the wide end).

? These cameras were subjected to a strict Panasonic embargo of 2pm today, though some information was leaked on other websites earlier

NEWS UPDATE: Cameras hit by European import duty

Picture below: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1

Panasonic DMC-FT1Picture below: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7

Panasonic DMC-TZ7