Panasonic has announced new members to the LUMIX digital cameras family with the introduction of two more point-and-shoot models, the DMC-LZ10 and DMC-LZ8.

In what should set them apart from most of the compact digi-cam market, the new LZ-Series models feature Leica DC VARIO-ELMAR lenses and wide-angle shooting – 30mm on the LZ10 and 32mm on the LZ8.

And for those looking for a little creativity from a compact, the LZ10, with 10.1 megapixels, and the LZ8, with 8.1 megapixels, both boast manual controls.

Other points to note are AA-battery operation, a 5x optical zoom, Intelligent Auto Mode and the Venus Engine IV, the new high-speed, image-processing LSI.

"Not long ago it would have been hard to imagine a user-friendly and affordable digital camera packed with features professional photographers would envy, such as wide-angle Leica lenses, and manual controls", said Alex Fried, national marketing manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company.

"However, Panasonic's commitment to research and innovation, our partnership with Leica, and our dedication to providing our consumers with the technologies they need to take professional-quality images resulted in an extraordinary feat with the 2008 LUMIX LZ-Series."

Both LZ models sport manual control over aperture and shutter speed, as well as Advanced Scene Mode – a feature that gives consumers manual control using some of the frequently-used scene modes: Portrait, Sports, Landscape and Night portrait.

For consumers not quite ready for complete manual control, the LZ-Series also features Panasonic's Intelligent Auto Mode.

Each camera also features a new 230,000-dot high-res 2.5-inch LCD screens that detect the lighting condition and adjust accordingly as well as "High Angle mode" which makes the LCD screen easy to view when held high to shoot over a crowd.

UK pricing is yet TBC, in the US the DMC-LZ10 and the DMC-LZ8 will be available in black and silver models in February for $249.95 and $179.95 respectively.

Additional "highlights", in Panasonic's phrasing, include:

* Newly added speaker lets consumer enjoy a slide show with music, selecting from natural, slow, urban or swing tunes; or add voice to a motion video.
* Title Edit function which allows the consumer to input text to accompany a photo, for instance, the names of children or travel locations
* Ability to record WVGA (848 x 480) motion images at 30 frames per second in a 16:9 aspect ratio, ideal for viewing on High Definition televisions, such as Panasonic VIERA Plasmas and LCDs
* The ability to shoot 1920x1080 pixel High-Definition ready photos, ideal for wide-screen viewing on a 16:9 VIERA Plasma or LCD
* The DMC-LZ10 can shoot up to 160 images and DMC-LZ8 shoots 180 images with the included Alkaline batteries and 460 (LZ10) /470 (LZ8) images with optional Ni-MH rechargeable batteries (2600mAh)
* A record/playback mode switch, which lets the photographer switch between recording and playback modes, while always knowing the current mode