It's only July, but the holiday shopping season for cameras is coming into sharp focus. Panasonic is the latest big-name company to announce its late-2010 camera lineup, and the new offerings hold good news for anyone who's been itching for sequel to the Lumix DMC-LX3.

Primed as a point-and-shoot camera for serious photographers (and a secondary, pocketable camera for DSLR owners), the Lumix DMC-LX5 tacks on significant enhancements to the performance-minded LX3 and is one of five new cameras announced by Panasonic today.

Your DSLR's Bullpen: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

The long-awaited Lumix LX5 offers the same RAW-shooting capabilities, the same manual controls, the same bright f2.0 ultra-wide-angle Leica lens, and the same retro-stylish looks as the LX3, but there are significant changes lurking inside.

The 10-megapixel Lumix LX5 nearly doubles the optical zoom range (3.8x, from 24mm to 91mm) of the LX3, and Panasonic's lightning-fast autofocus system has been added to the mix. It's the first camera in the LX series to offer the Sonic Speed AF focus system, which worked brilliantly in last year's Lumix DMC-ZR1 and this year's Lumix DMC-ZS5 cameras

The LX5's CCD sensor is also the same size as the one found in the LX3 (1/1.63 of an inch, which is large for a point-and-shoot camera), but it has been redesigned for improved low-light shooting. Panasonic says the new, thicker sensor is more efficient at harnessing available light and is capable of low-noise shooting at higher ISO levels; during a demo, a test shot taken at ISO 3200 looked impressively crisp for a high-ISO photo taken with a point-and-shoot camera.

According to Panasonic, the LX5's sensor and brand-new Venus Engine FHD image processor work in tandem to improve color saturation levels, dynamic range, and chromatic noise reduction. The LX5 also boasts improved range-of-motion correction in its optical image-stabilization system and a proprietary hot shoe mount on the top of the camera. The hot shoe accepts the same eye-level electronic viewfinder as Panasonic's GH1 Micro Four Thirds camera, as well as a compatible external flash (the LX5 also offers a built-in pop-up flash).

Another key addition is the ability to shoot 720p high-definition video in AVCHD Lite or motion JPEG formats. The camera's manual settings are enabled in video mode, allowing videographers more-granular control over footage; during AVCHD Lite video capture, you're also able to change the bitrate from 17mbps to 13mbps or 9mbps.

The LX5 also has the same quick-access aspect ratio controls and macro/autofocus/manual focus toggle on the top and sides of its lens, and a new 1:1 aspect-ratio setting has been added to the mix. Panasonic also claims that battery life has improved with the LX5 to a CIPA rating of 400 shots per charge, and the camera has an improved 3-inch LCD screen with anti-reflective coating.

Due to hit stores in August, the LX5 will be available in an all-black body or a white body with gray handgrip.

Two New 24x Megazooms: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 and FZ40

Panasonic is also bulking up its high-zoom stable with two new 24x-optical-zoom offerings. The higher-end Lumix DMC-FZ100 features an optically stabilized 24x-optical-zoom low-dispersion lens (25mm wide to 600mm telephoto, f2.8 to f8.0), which Panasonic says eliminates wide-angle barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, and off-color fringing.

The FZ100 boasts a 14-megapixel CMOS sensor, RAW shooting, the new Venus Engine FHD image processor to combat noise in low-light images, a side-mounted toggle for focus settings, and 1920-by-1080 AVCHD Lite video capture at 60 interlaced fields per second (or 720p video shot at 60 frames per second). Full manual controls, aperture priority, shutter priority, and Intelligent Auto mode are available for still-image capture, although the manual controls for video aren't available as they are in the LX5.

Panasonic is also touting the FZ100's burst mode, which offers high-speed shooting at up to 11 frames per second at full resolution (and up to 220fps for both stills and video at a much lower resolution). Auto-focus tracking of a moving subject is also possible in burst rates of up to 5fps at full resolution.