Panasonic today launched LUMIX DMC-FZ18, an 8.1-megapixel compact camera with an impressive 18x optical zoom.

In addition to a 28mm wide-angle LEICA DC lens, the DMC-FX18 joins the LUMIX DMC-FX33 and DMC-FX55 as the first Panasonic digital cameras to offer the Intelligent Auto Mode, which include Face Detection, Intelligent Scene Selector and Continuous Auto-focus functions.

The camera offers countermeasures against blurring - the Intelligent Image Stabilization system, which combines MEGA Optical Image Stabilization to compensate for hand-shake and Intelligent ISO Control to detect and adjust for motion blur caused by subject movement.

The LUMIX DMC-FZ18 also is equipped with a 2.5-inch high resolution LCD with 207,000 pixels, a 0.44-inch Electric Viewfinder with 188,000 pixels, f/2.8 brightness and is powered by the Venus Engine III, which boasts shooting at ISO 1600 in normal recording mode.

The DMC-FZ18 has been redesigned to make the camera more stylish and easier to use. The auto focus, auto exposure lock, and Macro buttons are now independent, to allow quick and direct operation, a metal-finished mode dial adds design strength and an enhanced rubber grip makes the camera easier to hold.

The redesigned body also incorporates the joystick made popular by the DMC-FZ8 model, which enables a host of settings, such as manual focusing and exposure, to be done quickly and easily.

Other features of the LUMIX DMC-FZ18 include:

- Custom Setting Mode that memorizes your frequent setting patterns for instance use applied by selecting this function on the mode dial.
- 1920 x 1080 pixel photos ideal for full-screen viewing on a wide-screen HDTV.
- Six auto-focusing methods including: face detection, multi, three-point high-speed, one-point high-speed, one-point normal-speed, and spot.
- Advanced Scene Modes provide users more control over some frequently-used scene modes such as, indoor and outdoor modes when selecting portrait or sports mode and nature or architecture settings when selecting portrait mode.
- Bundled SILKYPIX Developer Studio 2.0SE software application for editing and developing images in the RAW file format.
- 27MB of built-in memory to back up SDHC/SD Memory Card slot
- Extra Optical Zoom feature extends zoom power to 28.7x at 3 megapixels.
- Title Edit Function allows inputting of text and additional picture information.
- Picture Playback by category: Sorts images into categories such as portraits, landscapes, nightscapes, events and motion pictures. Also, allows slideshow playback of images in the same category.
- Optional accessories including a tele-conversion lens, close-up lens, ND filter, MC protector, lens adaptor, AC adaptor, battery pack, soft case and camera Bag.

Available in two colors: silver and black, the LUMIX DMC-FZ18 will be available in the States in September 2007 for $399.95.