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Destiny of m43 mount cameras, how soon production will stop
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  • Panasonic is proud to celebrate ten years since it introduced the world's first Mirrorless Camera.[i] Revolutionising the world of photography, mirrorless cameras combine compactness with ease of use and outstanding performance. The biggest difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is the lack of mirror box and pentaprism, and the inclusion of an electronic rather than optical viewfinder. This enables mirrorless cameras to have smaller, lighter bodies and more compact lenses, as well as providing a real Live-View without a time-lag. This assists you to compose the perfect shot, even before you take it, making it the perfect travel companion for photographers of every level of experience.

    "As an inventor of mirrorless cameras, we have developed unique technologies to achieve high picture quality, high-speed performance, mobility, and professional-level video as core competencies. This also includes optical technology, with the close cooperation of leading technology partners and a long-term collaboration with Leica camera AG, to bring to market the Dual Image Stabilizer, and Digital Processing by Venus Engine to realise high picture quality."*

    Yosuke Yamane, Director of the Imaging Network Business Division at Panasonic

    Panasonic transformed the very idea of photography with LUMIX G, expanding the capabilities of a traditional digital camera to not only be more compact but also include the Micro Four Thirds philosophy of creating a truly and completely digital system. This paved the way to the ultimate hybrid camera in the form of the GH5S, which achieves the highest video performance in LUMIX history and great low light capabilities. The LUMIX DMC-G1 was launched in 2008 and in the years since, Panasonic has continued to commit to being first to market with outstanding technological innovations such as the world's first mirrorless 4K video recording[ii] and 6K PHOTO[iii].

    The last ten years of LUMIX G stand out in the long history of camera development, where Panasonic's technologies have made paradigm changes to the industry. In fact, since 2008 the digital camera technology evolution has been tremendously accelerated with established camera manufacturers following Panasonic's path to true digitalism.

    Already many firsts -- and even more to come

    Panasonic's LUMIX G cameras are known for high-speed performance and LUMIX original DFD (Depth from Defocus) Auto Focus technology for ultrafast focusing. Notably, developments of a mirrorless camera that enables world's first 4K video recording, Dual I.S. (Image Stabilizer) and 6K PHOTO for high-speed burst shooting at 30 fps in 18-megapixel resolution are definitely epoch-making in the industry. These developments were realised by a devotion to technology and to detail. "Crystallising the core competence in our technologies for mirrorless cameras, we have developed cutting-edge digital cameras; the LUMIX G9 that packs uncompromising performance for still photography, and the LUMIX GH5S that has attained the highest-ever sensitivity and video quality in succession to our world-acclaimed flagship, the LUMIX GH5", says Yamane. Panasonic will continue to focus on the development of high-end digital cameras that meet stringent standards of professional photographers and video creators.

    Becoming an innovator, staying an innovator

    Under the vision of "Changing Photography", LUMIX will continue its challenge over the next ten years to maintain its position in the industry as an innovator with continuous effort to introduce new and exciting technologies.

    Yamane comments: "Photography is not just capturing a moment. Photographers can express story, time flow, and life itself through their work. We push ourselves to develop the best tools for photographers so that they can capture their vision of life with every shutter release, anytime and anywhere. We are determined that LUMIX will continue to lead innovation in the camera industry for many more years to come."

  • Panasonic will continue to focus on the development of high-end digital cameras that meet stringent standards of professional photographers and video creators.

    So, in other words, ditch the consumer market.

  • @cantsin

    They also have interesting understanding of professional. Normally it sounds like "rich, preferably old guy who want quite portable, but pro looking camera".

  • Finally, our interview

    image

    During Photokina 2018 Igor Drozdovsky, Personal View EU team member, met with three Panasonic representatives: Mr. Michiharu Uematsu (Adviser for Technical PR, Merchandising Department, Imaging Network Business Division), Ms. Emi Fujiwara (Imaging Section, Communication Department) and Mr. Taku Kariyazaki (Staff Engineer, Innovative Entertainment Development Center, Corporate Engineering Division). The text below is based on the transcription of the audio recording of this meeting during which Panasonic representatives kindly made time to answer a few questions focused on the new L-mount alliance, the destiny of the Micro Four Thirds systems, and the Panasonic research and development.

    PV: Many members of the ‘Personal View’ community are shooting with the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system digital cameras including many of the Panasonic MFT system products. Therefore when during the Leica and then Panasonic press conferences prior to the opening of Photokina 2018 we have learned about new L-mount alliance, many of our community members become concern that MFT system is in danger because of these new series of L-mount cameras.
    Can you give us some insight on the destiny of the Panasonic MFT products?

    Mr. Uematsu: You really should not be concerned about MFT format. L-mount is an addition not replacement of the MFT format. The same situation, for example, in film cameras categories: not only 35mm, but also larger format so called “medium format”. In some special occasions we need large format cameras, especially when large size high quality pictures are required, for instance, for the commercial and industrial photography, fashion or landscape. During the silver halide film era the most popular format was 35mm film, while some others used even larger films for special purpose. The same is with digital imaging. When we introduced the MFT system, at that time its picture quality was comparable with 35mm film, but now, the MFT has much more potential than the 35 millimeter film. If compared with 10 years ago, when we introduced our first MFT camera G1, the current MFT cameras has been improved about 2 f-stops more performance. As you already know, it was possible because of the improvements in sensor technology as well as in image processing algorithms. However, while we have so many improvements in MFT category, some kind of professional photographers want to get more than 40 or 50 megapixels images, especially for making very big prints, when the extra high-quality high-resolution photos are required: commercial, industrial, artistic portraits... It’s not only for the final images, but also during post-processing. For instance, the large pixel images are preferable for photo retouching. The only way to reach that level of image quality without further increasing the pixel density is to go for larger area sensors. For such applications we are introducing the new category, while we also continue development of the MFT. I also believe the MFT has far future. One of the strengths, the advantages of MFT systems is their compact size and low weight. Especially when we talk about the MFT telephoto lenses. For example, a telephoto lens with 800 millimeters focal length for 35mm sensor weights a few kilograms, while for MFT the equivalent lens is less than 1 kg and the MFT cameras are small, so we are looking at a total of about 1.5 kg in weight for the camera plus lens MFT system. I also believe that with progress in sensor technology in very near future many customers will find the advantage of MFT again. However, currently some of the customers also require larger format cameras. In fact large sensor cameras are experiencing the boom.

    PV: Will the new L-mount system affect the Panasonic development of new MFT products, for example will some of the proposed MFT lenses be delayed? Another concern is that the MFT could be refocused primarily towards the basic entry-level of cameras, eliminating the semi-professional MFT category of products. Will the MFT cameras have the same attention from the best Panasonic engineers and designers, or it will suffer from lack of resources?

    Mr. Uematsu: Of course our resources are limited, but I don't think it would strongly affect the current MFT developments. That is also why we have an alliance with Leica and Sigma. From the customer's point of view, it will be good for customers to be able to choose among cameras and lenses from three different companies. It is a matter of internal management to properly redistribute workforces. That being said, our internal management in Panasonic is very good. We certainly will be continuing working on new MFT lenses, even though Panasonic is already offering more than 20 MFT lenses, and together with other lens manufactures there are in total, I think, almost 50 lenses which complement each other. While we already have a normal general purpose lenses, in the future we may focus more on what people call "premium" high-quality fast lenses, like just announced 10-25mm f/1.7 lens. And also we would like to produce more cinema lenses designed for exceptional video quality. Anyway don't worry, we will continue with MFT and some of the new enhancements, vice versa, might be shared between L-mount and MFT systems.

    PV: Talking about new L-mount alliance among Leica, Panasonic and Sigma. There is one company I was expected to see and surprised to not see, Olympus. I know that Olympus and Panasonic, although these are two quite different teams with two different visions, have a long established alliance within the MFT system. Do you think in the future Olympus might come to join the L-mount? The partnership with Olympus may perhaps also benefit the L-mount system as it did with the MFT.

    Mr. Uematsu: About the MFT standard. The standard means that we have fixed about the interface between a lens and camera body, and also the optical image circle and flange back. However, we never make any discussion with Olympus about the products itself. For the MFT we only have an agreement about the lens mount, without discussing specifics of our products. This could possibly lead to competition between our products. Therefore you may find almost the same specs lenses made by Panasonic and Olympus. If we can make any good discussion, we can make very good balance among products of two companies. But it is strictly prohibited by antitrust law. For the L-mount alliance, the licenser is Leica, Panasonic and also Sigma are just licensee.

    Ms. Fujiwara: We have no information which other companies will get the license for L-mount as Leica owns the license. This will be the Leica’s decision to which other companies to offer the license for the L-mount.

    PV: How do you see the future development of the MFT cameras? For example, one of my favorite MFT camera series is a rangefinder-style GX line, such as GX8. I have noticed that in latest GX-series release, the Lumix GX9 camera is more GX7-alike than GX8, similar to GX7 in size and less advanced in some of its features than GX8, such as weather-sealing, OLED viewfinder, fully articulated display, or availability of external microphone port. Can we expect another series of the compact rangefinder style MFT camera with more advanced features, or all future MFT cameras with advanced features will be solely designed in GH5-style of camera bodies? It would be interesting to know what do you think also because you are one of the persons who developed the first Panasonic digital camera that was in rangefinder-like format, Lumix DMC-L1.

    Mr. Uematsu: Actually, some of the customers like GX7 size and style.

    PV: I like the compactness of GX7, but lack of some of the GX8 features that is rather disappointing. The question is rather what kind of new products can we expect for MFT system in the future?

    Mr. Uematsu: About the GX8 or GX9 style cameras. The main distinction of the GX-line is the location of the electronic viewfinder and possibility to tilt it.

    PV: Yes, I find the tiltable viewfinder is very convenient.

    Mr. Uematsu: Of course, we understand the importance of a good viewfinder especially for example when shooting outdoors under bright sun. Regarding the microphone jack. In the small camera bodies sometimes it's very challenging to find an optimal location for various connectors. We do have a lot of discussions in Panasonic on this topic.

    PV: During the IBC I have noticed a lack of any Lumix cameras at the booth of the Panasonic Broadcast & ProAV Team. I am wondering if this is due to considerations that GH5 or GH5s are not suitable there, or due to little communication between divisions? At the same time I've seen a few interesting cameras and solutions which can be interesting for the regular customers, for example, remote camera systems, which probably can be used together with the consumer cameras. Do you share the information between Consumer and ProAV teams? Could we see in the future some of the advanced consumer cameras, to be used, for example, as a part remotely-controlled camera solution?

    Mr. Uematsu: We have to look not only on the motion picture but also on the still picture capabilities. However, every product for broadcast means just for motion picture. In this case the sensor should be much different. If we want to get just 4K, in that case the sensor of 8M- or 10M-pixels is enough, like in GH5S. This allows getting better motion picture quality. However, if we also want to target the camera for still users, 8-10 Mpixels might be not enough, except if the good image quality under low light conditions is required. Hopefully in the future, when we will have 8K products, maybe we should have a stronger collaboration.

    PV: It would be interesting to know in this respect your opinion on the future of sensor technology. As you mentioned there was a large progress in digital image sensors in the last 10 years. How do you see the future in this field? For example, do you think we have reached the limits of the CMOS sensors and we really need something else? For example, I have seen the publications about the collaboration between Panasonic's sensor division and FujiFilm developing organic sensors. I am certain there are other efforts.

    Mr. Uematsu: As you know, since its initial announcement in 2016, there is a continuous cooperation between Panasonic and FujiFilm in development of the organic sensor technology. The recent results are very promising. The mass production of this kind of sensor, however, will take a little bit more time, and today I cannot say when we can use this kind of a sensor.

    PV: Will Panasonic continue with development of sensors?

    Mr. Uematsu: Yes of course. But even with the silicon photodiode, we still have some margin to be improved. The reason is for this is when more than 10 years ago in compact camera category many people said that pixels of a 3 micron in size is near the limits and any smaller sensor pixel would produce images of very bad quality, but nowadays the sensor pixels are 1.5 microns or less and we can get good picture quality, and this means that even with the silicon sensors we still have margins to be improved.

    PV: However, wouldn’t the further decrease of pixel size bring us to the physical limit when the pixel size will be close to the wavelength of visible light? I am aware about the different kind of ideas, but I hope you perhaps could tell us your personal view on the possible future with sensor technology?

    Mr. Uematsu: Of course, we do not want to reduce the sensor pixel size infinitely. However, each sensor pixel consists partially of a photodiode, a substrate and also of a transistor. If we can increase the relative ratio of the photodiode relative to two other parts, this will make sensor more efficient and also result in the better image quality. The reason why an organic photoconductive film makes better efficiency is because this allows to maximize the light reception area and more angle of the incident light. The organic sensor has less deflection. This means that the organic sensor can get more efficiency/sensitivity. This theoretically could make the organic film sensor better.

    PV: Since we're talking still about the future, can you share with members of the Personal View community any other technological developments? Any upcoming projects which you could disclose?

    Mr. Uematsu: Unfortunately, no. We cannot disclose more on what is in development.

    PV: Well, at least it's good to know that after Photokina you will not all go to vacation, but continue development :-)

    Mr. Uematsu: Anyway, we have in Panasonic a nice process for the future development. Regarding the 35-mm L-format. We have a clear strategy. Another manufactures they have already APS-C sensor and "Full-Size" DSLRs. In comparison, a Full-Size SLR and Full-Size mirrorless are not much different in size. Sure, it is easier to handle a motion picture with mirrorless, but picture quality is roughly the same. Also, when compared the cameras with an APS-C sensor and a Full-Frame sensor, the difference in those systems is not so big in picture quality and size, but in our case, M4/3 versus Full Size, the differences between two systems will be more noticeable, more clear.

    PV: In defense of smaller M4/3 sensor - smaller sensor is beneficial in terms of less downsampling, faster read-out times and generating less heat. Looking into the cell-phone cameras, the progress came not from the increasing the sensor size but implementing new smart technologies of dealing with physically small sensors. Some of those unique innovations for mobile/cell phones contain perhaps also technologies that of use in small-sensor cameras. Talking about the cells-phones. Any plans to make an updated version of the next generation Panasonic Lumix CM1?

    Mr. Uematsu: Leider nicht (from German "Unfortunately not"), No. One of the reasons is a lack of resources, and another reason it's difficult to sell. For smart mobile phones, the good relationship with wireless network carriers is very very important, but even we can sell the phone. we need to establish the certain quantity of phones to be selected by telecommunications service provider. However, to make such a single device would require too much effort for Panasonic. And once we quit our mobile phone business in your country we have to re-established this situation again. It makes much difficult. And also so many regulations for telecommunicating devices. It costs a lot and also would require too many efforts just for one type of phone.

    PV: If there is anything you would like to tell?

    Mr. Uematsu: Please don't worry about M4/3. We plan to make much more M4/3 products.

    PV: Thank you very much.

  • PV, thank you for asking the question about the GX8's real successor in the face of the GX7 Mark III that is absurdly also named the GX9. The more people make known their disappointment with the current generation's lack of a professional quality rangefinder-style GX series camera the better IMHO. I got into using Panasonic Lumix cameras because I needed a small, portable pro-quality camera system for documentary photography and video, and coming from a career using rangefinder cameras in all film formats, needed at least one rangefinder-style camera, the GX8, and now rely on it so much that I need an updated pro-quality rangefinder-style successor to use alongside it on documentary projects.

  • @karin_gottschalk

    Panasonic lost their line integrity quite a time ago.

    With pursuit of big profits they forgot about real people.

  • I am sure Panasonic has a 'Voice of the Customer' (VOC) product development team. Here is a comment I've seen not about Panasonic, but perhaps of relevance:

    "...One challenge is getting the VOC team members to keep their biases of what the product must do or be to themselves, and actually listen to what the customer says. Most times, what the product development team member thinks is important and what the customer actually thinks is important (and why) are 180° apart. Then, of course, the biggest risk are business executives, who always have their own biases, may not listen to the VOC and just do what they originally wanted to do anyway...”

  • And also we would like to produce more cinema lenses designed for exceptional video quality.

    Oh!!! That is news. As they're not making any now at the moment.

    Mr. Uematsu: About the MFT standard. The standard means that we have fixed about the interface between a lens and camera body, and also the optical image circle and flange back. However, we never make any discussion with Olympus about the products itself. For the MFT we only have an agreement about the lens mount, without discussing specifics of our products. This could possibly lead to competition between our products. Therefore you may find almost the same specs lenses made by Panasonic and Olympus. If we can make any good discussion, we can make very good balance among products of two companies. But it is strictly prohibited by antitrust law. For the L-mount alliance, the licenser is Leica, Panasonic and also Sigma are just licensee.

    Ms. Fujiwara: We have no information which other companies will get the license for L-mount as Leica owns the license. This will be the Leica’s decision to which other companies to offer the license for the L-mount.

    Interesting. So Leica might still keep strict control over L mount? I seriously hope not!

    Instead opening up the mount to some third party organisation to manage it, like was done with MFT.

    PV: During the IBC I have noticed a lack of any Lumix cameras at the booth of the Panasonic Broadcast & ProAV Team. I am wondering if this is due to considerations that GH5 or GH5s are not suitable there, or due to little communication between divisions? At the same time I've seen a few interesting cameras and solutions which can be interesting for the regular customers, for example, remote camera systems, which probably can be used together with the consumer cameras. Do you share the information between Consumer and ProAV teams? Could we see in the future some of the advanced consumer cameras, to be used, for example, as a part remotely-controlled camera solution?

    Yes, I wish those divisions were on friendly terms. Then we might have seen a Panasonic EVA1 MFT! Sigh :-/

  • @Ironfilms

    I think the alluded to sage advise from VK and Obi Wan with one slight modification is: "These are not the cameras you're looking for.. move along"

    VK's inside info reveals the Company that gave us the GH2,4 and 5 has fundamentally changed to one seeking margin, not volume, in partnering with Leica on those photo cameras.

    Not that they may never release groundbreaking new cams for MFT as a byproduct of FF advances, but it seems research dollars are shifting away from MFT to FF no matter how you cut it.

    The big Hint / Reveal was at Photokina where they don't even pretend they have a new M43 body in the works, and they are the key founding member!

    I think Olympus or BMD may help us and be "our only hope" for serious MFT video, with Sony's permission of course...

  • VK's inside info reveals the Company that gave us the GH2,4 and 5 has fundamentally changed to one seeking margin, not volume, in partnering with Leica on those photo cameras.

    Don't care what they do with L mount, so long as they keep chasing volume with MFT cameras.

  • What are your thoughts on this video?

  • For starters, horrible clickbait title.

  • In contrary to the angry zealots at the m43rumors forum I belive Tony has valid points. I'm a heavy M43 user but in general the writing might be on the wall on this issue. Unfortunately. Mainly because of the small market share that M43 in general has obtained in the past 10 years. The higher prices have not helped much either. Just look at the price increase from GH2->GH3->GH4->GH5. The actuall hardware cost from i.e. GH3 to GH5 is basically not the reason for the hefty premium pricing now long into the FF sector.

  • To some extent, manufacturers are being their own worst enemies on this one. They are making great big megasized m4/3 bodies and lenses. The GH5 is bigger than my A7r Mark III. The Olympus Pro 12-40 and 40-150 lenses are not tiny (even if they are still a big smaller than the full frame counterparts for focal range). On the other hand, the Panasonic 12-35 and 35-100 are very decent small lenses which seem to get the "promise" of Micro 4/3 - good quality small/portable gear.

    I didn't watch the entire Northrup video, but before I got bored of listening to him talking, he was talking a lot about equivalent depth-of-field requiring similar-sized lenses. That's not wrong at all - but it also somewhat misses the point that the lens still has decent light transmission (t-stop) properties.

    Is my Smartphone smaller than a Yi M1 with the Panasonic 14/2.5? Sure. Can I instantly put on a small 70-200 equivalent lens with decent quality? On my Smartphone, I can't. On the Yi, I can.
    Can I get 4k/120 fps on a Smartphone? No. Can I get it on the tiny Z-Cam E2 which has interchangeable lenses? Yes.

    Will Micro 4/3 die without major vendors supporting it? Yup - and it probably will. It still has a number of years left, though.

  • Hmm, I am between two minds with this one. There are serious, real benefits to m43. Same also with FF and MF.

    That said, I do prefer FF for my photography, and m43 for video.

  • @kinvermark I used to think so too, but in fact, many combinations of ff bodies and lenses are actually no larger than mft, and in some instances are even smaller. Practically every one of my Sony lenses can be flown with the a7 III on the original Crane: the 55mm f/1.8, 16-35mm f/2.8, 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 (smaller and lighter than GH5 + Oly 45mm f/1.2 Pro).