Bridging the gap between the Consumer Electronics Show and the upcoming PMA 09 with six new point-and-shoot camera announcements, Panasonic on Tuesday announced additions to its Lumix line of digital cameras. Ultrawide-angle lenses, an intriguing new facial detection feature, and HD video recording in the brand-new AVCHD Lite format are the major draws offered by the new members of the 2009 Lumix line.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 and TZ7

At the head of the new Lumix class is the 10-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 (called the ZS3 in the US), which is 1.3-inches deep and offers a 12X optical zoom Leica lens with a 25mm film equivalent on the wide end.

The Lumix DMC-ZS3 also records 1280-x-720 high-definition video in AVCHD Lite format at 17Mbps and 60fps (there's also a high-def motion JPEG mode that records at 30fps).

The Lumix DMC-ZS3 adds a face recognition mode that identifies and tags familiar faces, as well as saving focus and exposure settings assigned to those faces. The face-recognition feature is part of the ZS3's Intelligent Auto mode, which also includes optical image stabilization, exposure optimization, and automatic scene selection.

Other features of the ZS3 are a 3-inch LCD screen; a high-speed burst mode that takes up to 10 pictures per second; and blue, black, red, and silver color options. It will be available beginning in April for $400 (around £280) in the US. UK pricing hasn't been announced for any of these cameras.

In addition to the TZ7, Panasonic also announced the slightly cheaper Lumix DMC-TZ6 (called the ZS1 in the US), which has the same specs but lacks a Face Recognition mode and movie-recording capabilities.

The ZS1 has a smaller, 2.7-inch LCD screen. It also debuts in April. In black or silver, it will cost $300.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580

Another addition to the mix in 2009 will be a 3-inch touch-screen camera with 25mm wide-angle capabilities and a 5X optical zoom, the Lumix DMC-FX580.

The DMC-FX580 will offer the full deck of Panasonic's Intelligent Auto features, including face recognition, motion tracking (which locks into a moving subject in the frame and keeps it in focus), optical image stabilization, exposure and ISO optimization, and automatic scene selection. In addition to a high-speed burst mode that takes 10 shots per second, the FX580 shoots high-definition motion JPEG movies at 1280x-x-720 and 30fps.

The touch-screen DMC-FX580 will hit stores in April for $400 in black or silver.