More bang for the buck, Panasonic’s new compact cameras for CES 2015

Zoom too far and you’ll miss one key trend from CES: There’s life in the digital camera market yet.

Overall point-and-shoot camera sales have declined by 50 percent compared to two years ago — consumers are clearly shifting to smartphones for casual photography — but Panasonic says sales are still strong for the rugged, high-zoom, and premium subcategories. And the company says it’s adding more advanced features while offering great value to keep attacking the market.

For its New Year announcements at the 2015 CES, the company showed off the Lumix TS6, TS30, ZS50, ZS45, and SZ10 point-and-shoot models.

Successor to the ZS40, the Wi-Fi-enabled ZS50 is a compact 12.1-megapixel camera with a wide-angle 24mm, 30× Leica optical zoom lens with 5-axis optical image stabilization. The ZS50 actually has far fewer megapixels than the 18.1MP ZS40 (so much for the megapixel wars, when more was marketed as better), but Panasonic says it performs better in low light due to greater pixel density; each pixel is 1.5 times larger than those in the predecessor. There’s also no support for GPS as in the ZS40, but users can geotag photos using their smartphones. The ZS50 has a higher-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) with proximity sensor (auto switching between the LCD and EVF), grip has been improved, and the useful control ring around the lens was retained. The ZS50 shoots RAW photos, and videos at Full HD 1080 at 60p; there’s also a new time-lapse mode. Best news is a lower price: $399.

The 16-megapixel ZS45 is another premium model with a 180-degree, selfie-friendly flip LCD. A follow-up to the ZS35, the ZS45 has an enhanced grip and a higher-resolution 3-inch LCD. The lens is a 20× zoom with optical image stabilization. The list price will be $299.

At $199, the SZ10 is the budget compact model. Like the ZS45, the SZ10 also has a flip-up display, but it’s 2.7 inches and has lower resolution. It has a 12×, 24mm wide-angle optical zoom lens. But it uses a CCD sensor, and it records video up to only 720p. There is Wi-Fi built-in for sharing.

In rugged cameras, Panasonic unveiled the new TS6 ($299) and TS30 ($179). The TS6 is waterproof down to 43 feet, shockproof from almost 7 feet, dustproof, and freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Equipped with GPS, compass, altimeter, and barometer, the TS6 uses a 16.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and can shoot burst images at 10 frames per second. Optical zoom is 28mm, 4.6× Leica lens, and there’s Wi-Fi/NFC. It shoots videos at Full HD 1080 at 60p, has a built-in torch light, and will come in four colors.

The less expensive TS30 lacks Wi-Fi/NFC and the 25mm optical zoom lens is 4×. It also uses a 16.1-megapixel CCD sensor, so movies are only up to 720p. It’s less rugged, too: waterproof down to 26 feet, shockproof from 5 feet, dustproof, and freezeproof. If you can afford it, splurge a bit more for the TS6, but the TS30 has been improved from its predecessor in terms of ruggedness and burst shooting (34 shots).