Panasonic has announced the launch of the DMC-FX550, a touchscreen camera that it says has "a whole host of features designed to offer superior image quality and the ultimate in user convenience".

The 12.1-megapixel camera offers Panasonic's Venus Engine HD, a Leica DC VARIO-ELMARIT 25mm ultra-wide angle lens with 5x optical zoom (that can be extended to 9.8x for 3MP pics) and touchscreen operation on its 3-inch LCD display.

The FX550 offers Panasonic's "Intelligent Auto" mode that includes such features as AF tracking, intelligent scene selector, ISO control and exposure as well as an optical image stabiliser.

Likely aimed at the female market, the FX-550 has two features in particular that will no doubt appeal to such an audience.

The first is an extension of the camera's face detection functionality that, when a face has been snapped a few times, prompts the user to register the face.

When registered, users can add an icon - such as a love heart - to that face and the camera will prioritise focus and exposure to that face when it appears in group shots so that the user's loved one always comes out well.

The second extension of this is the ability to specify the age of the face, so both the face and the age will appear stamped on pics, ideal for capturing a baby's development.

When faces aged under three are registered the camera will automatically switch to "Baby Mode" when that registered face appears in the frame.

Proud parents can then create slideshows on the camera's display showing only pics that have the baby in them.

Other features of note include the ability to shoot 10 shots per second in a certain mode, 350 shots per single charge of the battery, Panorama assist mode for easy stitching of pics, and video capture at up to 1280 x 720p resolution at 30 fps.

Said to be "dressed in aluminum panels with a stylish hairline curve on the front", the FX550 will go on sale from March in a choice of black or silver complete with PHOTOfunSTUDIO 3.0 software.