Panasonic's Aspherical Lens Puts Big Zoom in a Small Package

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1

For a point-and-shoot, Panasonic's new 12-megapixel Lumix DMC-ZR1's zoom defies its size. Thanks to a first-in-class 0.1-inch aspherical lens, the shooter packs 8X optical zoom (35mm equivalent of 25-200mm) in a svelte, 1.02-inch-thick, 4.8-ounce frame. Aspherical lenses have always bested their perfectly rounded cousins in size, so it's about time day-to-day shooters lost some weight, too.

Until now, the realm of compact cameras with serious zoom didn't scream pocket- and afford-ability. Take Panasonic's own ZS1, for one: Sure, its 12X zoom is impressive, but its 1.3-inch-thick, 7.2-ounce body and $400 price might scare ya off.

Look for the ZR1 in September for $280.

Oh, and another first: Panasonic's DMC-FZ35 is doing its part to blur the line between a superzoom shooter and a dedicated camcorder by adding manual control over shutter speed and aperture in video mode. This one (also out in September) has 18X zoom and will go for $400.