Panasonic has announced that it is updating its FZ28 model with a new version packing an 18x optical super zoom.

The new camera will be called the DMC-FZ35 in the US and the DMC-FZ38 in the UK and offer a 27mm wide-angle lens with an 18x optical zoom lens equivalent of 27-468mm.

The main focus of the camera will be its ability to shoot HD video, coming with a dedicated button and controls.

The 12.1-megapixel FZ35/FZ38 features the upgraded Power optical image stabilizer (O.I.S.), which allows for double the repression power compared to the conventional image stabilization system, Mega O.I.S., and ultra high-speed auto focus (AF), for capturing action scenes as they happen.

Other goodies in the camera include an intelligent auto (iA) mode, a suite of intuitive technologies including face detection, intelligent scene selector, intelligent exposure and face recognition.

Panasonic says it has improved face recognition, with the FZ35/FZ38 recognising up to three faces simultaneously. Users will be able to set the age of family members and when babies under 3-years-old are registered, the camera will automatically switch to baby mode if the baby appears to be in the frame.

Panasonic has also added new manual controls and creative options including a "Creative Movie Mode" that lets the user set the shutter speed and aperture manually, a "My Colour Mode" and HDR options.

The LUMIX DMC-FZ35 will have a suggested retail price of $399.99 in the US and will be available in September 2009 in black.

The UK variant, which appears to offering identical specs, will be called the DMC-FZ38 and cost £329.99.