Panasonic will soon begin selling a compact digital still camera featuring a touchscreen display which allows users to keep a focus lock on objects in the shot by selecting the object with a finger on the 3in screen.

The Lumix DMC-FX500, which was unveiled today at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo, will go on sale in Japan next month and other markets later this year. It's expected to cost around $400 (£200) in the US.

The touchscreen focus lock feature is especially useful when taking shots of subjects that are moving or won't keep still, like kids or pets, and the use of the touchscreen makes it simple for users with even a low level of photographic skill to master. As the object moves about inside the frame the camera keeps track of it and keeps it in focus.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

In a demo at the show the camera managed to track successfully several objects although was sometimes confused when an object moved in front of a background that was the same colour or when two similar objects came close together in the shot.

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A second function tied into the touch panel will put the camera into the most appropriate mode depending on the subject selected. For example, if the user selects a face on the screen the camera recognises it's a person and switches to portrait mode while if a nearby object is selected it automatically jumps to macro mode if needed.

In manual mode adjustments to the aperture and shutter settings by moving sliders on the screen and in playback mode a finger is all that's needed to zoom in or out on an image.

The camera, which becomes the flagship model in Panasonic's Lumix FX range, has a 25mm wide-angle lens, 5x optical zoom and resolution of 10Mp. Other features include a 1,280x720p video mode and a 16:9 still image mode that's intended for pictures viewed on a widescreen TV.

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