After announcing a collaboration with T-Mobile back at CES 2008, Panasonic has finally introduced the first camera to come out of that partnership. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ50 is essentially a Lumix DMC-TZ5 (announced at PMA back in January) plus Wi-Fi capabilities. So what does the Wi-Fi give you? 802.11b/g wireless LAN connectivity, 12-months of free access to T-Mobile hotspot service, and uploading to Google's Picasa Web Albums.
Like the TZ5, the TZ50 is a 9.1 megapixel megazoom, with a 28mm equivalent wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom, and the ability to record HD video at resolutions of up to 1,280x720 at 30 frames per second. Unlike the TZ5, the TZ50 will let you connect to your wireless home router or a T-Mobile hotspot to upload one or more photos directly to Picasa. Unfortunately, Panasonic only lets you register one e-mail account with the TZ50, so after you upload your photos to Picasa, you can have the album's URL sent only to that registered account. This means that unless you have a laptop, smartphone, or other e-mail-enabled device with you at the T-Mobile hotspot, you won't be able to forward your uploaded photos to friends and family on the fly. You can, however, browse your albums and delete uploaded photos directly on the camera.
The DMC-TZ50 will be available in May for $449.95, which means you're paying about $100 over the TZ5 for the Wi-Fi capabilities. If you like the TZ5 and want the flexibility of uploading at T-Mobile hotspots (and can live with the inflexibility of only being able to upload to Picasa), it's a decent deal. Otherwise, you might want to consider spending the $100 on the Eye-Fi wireless-enabled SD card, which will let you use any SD-compatible camera to upload to any of 20 popular photo-sharing, social networking, or blogging sites (including Facebook, TypePad, and more), but doesn't work well at public hotspots.