IR sits down with Panasonic to discuss the camera market, answer reader questions


posted Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:58 PM EDT

One of the perks of our job is getting to talk with the top people at camera companies. Yesterday, Panasonic representatives from the US and Japan visited IR HQ. Among other things, we discussed the state of the mirrorless market and got answers to some of our readers’ burning questions about the GH2 and the recently announced GX1 that we collected in our Live Q&A.

We shared with Panasonic the huge demand for panorama and focus-peaking features a la NEX and GXR. They definitely understand the appeal of the former and said they would explore the latter. While they do not plan to implement these features via firmware updates to existing models, the features are definitely on their radar.

Another common refrain in our Live Q&A was the desire for a tilting display. The answer here is the same as in the Mobile01 Q&A: camera size. Take it for what you will, but it looks like Panasonic fans will need to go with Olympus or Sony if they want this itch scratched.

We found the explanation of the model-lines with and without AVCHD2 interesting. Basically, it is not just a matter of swapping in a faster processor. To achieve AVCHD2-level throughput, they have to integrate the analog-to-digital circuitry with the sensor. Not surprisingly, integrating these components increases the chip fabrication difficulty and cost significantly. So there you have it, the GH2’s integrated A/D gives it AVCHD2 capability, while the GX1’s external A/D circuitry cannot handle AVCHD2 throughput. 

A reader asked about live audio monitoring in the GH2's eventual successor. All they would say was to stay tuned (which sounded pretty encouraging to us).

When asked about possible improvements to EVF quality, they answered that it is a key feature for mirrorless cameras but could not comment on future plans.

From there, our conversation turned to the direction of the industry. We pointed out that there is a viable market for a high-end enthusiast rangefinder (style) camera at a higher price-point, citing the Sony NEX-7 and the Fuji X100. Crucially, this segment would appreciate one of Panasonic’s strengths relative to the mirrorless competition: the stellar Panasonic glass. 

Turning our attention to video, we felt that a case could be made for a split strategy: Reserve high-megapixel sensors for the G, GF and GX, but make an all-out bid for video quality with the GH, since that is the line's strength to begin with. Go with a 10-megapixel sensor for future GH models; the print quality would hold up fine at reasonable print sizes and the larger pixels would give it killer low-light video performance and ultra-clean video at higher light-levels.

The other major topic of conversation was megapixels. We cast our vote in favor of avoiding the quest for pixel count if it compromises low-light performance and requires overly-aggressive noise suppression. Sony’s 24 megapixels in the NEX-7 is impressive, but chasing APS-C pixel-counts in m43-sized sensors is a losing proposition. We also mentioned that Nikon was probably well-served by going with 10 megapixels in the Nikon J1 and Nikon V1.

That was about it for our conversation. Stay tuned for more manufacturer discussions, interviews and Live Q&A in the run-up to CES/PMA!