One of the main issues with megazoom camera lenses (and point-and-shoot zoom lenses in general) is that, to keep size and cost down, the apertures get increasingly smaller as you extend the lens. That's not the case for the Panasonic Lumix FZ200, though.
Smaller apertures mean you're letting in less and less light, which means you need to use high ISO settings to keep shutter speeds fast. While dSLRs and interchangeable lens cameras can turn out good high ISO results, that's rarely the case with point-and-shoots.
The FZ200's lens, however, has a bright f2.8 aperture through its entire zoom range: 25mm to 600mm. That means even if you don't have great lighting, the camera won't immediately need to ramp up ISO sensitivity to get a proper exposure when you start using the zoom.
That doesn't automatically mean it's a better megazoom than anything else right now, but the rest of the camera might put it over the top. Most of the features for the FZ200 are straight from its predecessor, the excellent FZ150, but it does have new features, too.
For starters, it has a new 12-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor and image processor as well as Panasonic's Light Speed AF autofocus system, which proved to be very fast on the Lumix ZS20.
The camera is capable of shooting at up to 5.5 frames per second with AF or 12fps with focus and exposure set with the first shot -- both at full resolution. Panasonic is also promising a startup time of less than a second. The FZ200 can also capture high-speed movies at 120fps and 240fps for slow-motion clips in addition to full HD in AVCHD or MP4 formats.
Returning hardware features include a hot shoe on top that can be used with an add-on flash or an external mic that gets plugged into the camera's audio input jack on the left side. The FZ200 also has the same screen as the FZ150, a vari-angle 3-inch LCD with a 460K-dot resolution. However, the electronic viewfinder's resolution jumps from 201,600 dots to 1,312,000 dots. Similarly, shooting options still go from full automatic to full manual for both photos and video, but the high-speed processor and sensor allow for new modes for HDR and panoramic photos.
And, yes, it still captures raw and raw plus JPEG.
As it does with many of its compact cameras, Panasonic also announced a more affordable version of the same camera. The Lumix FZ60 replaces last year's FZ47. The FZ60 is essentially the same as its predecessor, but with a new 16-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor instead of a 12-megapixel high-speed CCD. It gets a new processor, too. Combined, the two should give the camera better image quality and shooting performance than its predecessor. It does not have the FZ200's lens, but uses a 24x, f2.8-5.2, 25-600mm lens instead.
Lastly, squeezing in below these models, is the Lumix DMC-LZ20. It's a basic full-size megazoom featuring a 21x f3.1-5.8 25-525mm lens and powered by AA batteries. It looks like it's designed to compete with the budget-friendly megazooms like Nikon's Coolpix L810 and Fujifilm's FinePix S4200.
Compared with the features of the FZ60, the LZ20 is extremely pared down with no EVF and a 16-megapixel CCD sensor. It does have a 3-inch 460K-dot LCD, though, and despite being loaded with mostly auto shooting options, it has a full manual mode for control over shutter speed and aperture. It will also capture 720/30p HD video in Motion JPEG format.
Pricing wasn't announced for the new models. The FZ150 started at $499.99, but with the improved lens it will likely be more. The FZ60 will probably hit around $400, and the LZ20 about $300. No availability was announced for any of the models, but going by past models, expect these to show up in August or September.