Ilse Jurriën : March 3th 2008 - 11:11 CET
Panasonic interview at PMA : Panasonic entered the market with the Lumix digital compact camera line only a couple of years ago. We have seen Panasonic grow and the last generation of digital cameras is without a doubt impressive. Bas de Meijer sat down with Ichiro Kitao, Product Planning Manager Panasonic Optical Group, to ask him several questions. Besides the new compact camera line that was introduced just before the PMA kicked off, there are a few models that stand out, such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 and the Lumix FX35 digital cameras. Last year's introduced L10 DSLR camera is the second DSLR camera in the assortment that was introduced conform Panasonic's planning. Bas de Meijer's interview with Ichiro Kitao;|
Question : The Panasonic Lumix L10 has been in the market for a while now and it is your second camera. You did not expect to sell large amounts of the Panasonic Lumix L1. So what about the entry-level model; are sales numbers as expected?
Answer : The Panasonic Lumix L10 is doing very well. Sales numbers are somewhat below plan. We don't sell many, due to the high price. There is not a great demand for it and the kit lens is rather expensive, but we are almost on plan at this moment.
Question : You just mentioned the kit lens. It is indeed almost the most expensive kit lens you can get. Why did Panasonic decide on this expensive kit lens and not a cheaper model like Sony did?
Answer : The Panasonic DMC-L10 is our second camera and we want to make sure we offer superb quality. That is why we need the Leica lens. We could have chosen to include a cheaper lens but we did not necessarily want to go for a cheap lens. We wanted a high quality lens. Still it might be the right time to make the next step. Maybe we will deliver a cheaper lens with the next camera. We are new in this segment, and you are right to say that Sony is also a new brand, but they have the advantage of having taken over Konica Minolta. We on the contrary are completely new.
Question : The demand for the advanced compact camera, such as the Canon G9, seems to be back. What do you think of this market and what do you have to offer it?
Answer : I think it is a very important segment. We have a camera in the pipeline for that segment; the Panasonic LX2. It is the year of the Photokina show so you can expect a lot from us. I suppose you can compare the Lumix LX2 to Canon's G9 camera. Not only the enhanced amateur is using this camera; we know that there are professionals too that use the Panasonic LX2 as an extra camera and for personal use. The concept of the Lumix LX2 is different than that of the PowerShot G9. We try to aim more at the emotional aspect of a compact camera. However; the possibilities of both cameras are quite alike.
Question : The amount of pixels still seems to increase every day. Why is their number still increasing? Does the user really want a camera with that many pixels and as a consequence larger files? Or is it just a marketing strategy?
Answer : It's hard to say who is asking for more pixels. Marketing certainly plays a role in it and also the consumer who is asking for more and more pixels. Ten Megapixels or more offer the possibility of easily making crops. And of course pixels come in handy when making large prints thus enabling the not so experienced consumer make large prints. I agree with you when you say that not everybody wants or needs that many pixels. For those users we will come up with other solutions.
Question : The sensor of a compact camera is small. A larger sensor will probably lessen the noise with an increasing amount of pixels. Your model already contains a somewhat larger sensor. And Sigma has got a camera with a huge sensor. Do you think that small sensors will be replaced by large ones in the future?
Answer : Larger sensors can be an advantage. The size of the sensors will vary. There will be more large sensors integrated in compact cameras than in the past. But in my opinion the majority of the cameras will still be equipped with a small sensor although it might diverge more than in the past.
Question : You have always promoted 28 mm and now you are going for the 25 mm in the booth. Why putting emphasis on the wide angle and why the 25mm? Don't you think 28mm is a perfect wide angle?
Answer : First of all we find it extremely important to equip a compact camera with a nice wide angle. Wide angle is very useful for photographers and the average consumer alike. We consider the 28 mm as a standard. Our concept is to enable taking a picture that is similar to what your own eyes see. A 180 degrees angle of view is a fisheye which is too much. But 25 mm is approximately what you see in your own memory. And secondly we want to enhance the range. We will certainly keep the 28 mm in our assortment too.
Question : Panasonic is one of few brands to offer this wide angle. What makes it so difficult to equip a compact camera with a good wide angle?
Answer : The problem is the size. It is very difficult to keep the lens compact. The Panasonic Lumix FX33 features an extremely compact lens. Some other brands introduce a 28 mm with a very small aperture. We offer a large maximum aperture and that is extremely complicated to manufacture. We use all the technical knowledge we have to achieve this.
Question : Casio has showed a camera with an enormous fast image speed. What do you think of this development? Are you working on it as well?
Answer : At this moment we are not working on that. We see it as an interesting development although the consumer has limited use for it so far. It will be difficult for the average consumer to find the best picture among the 60 images per second. I think this technique is more useful for professional photographers, hospitals etc. As soon as there are more useful applications available for the average consumer we will certainly consider it!
Question : Panasonic are now working on WiFi in a camera at a time earlier manufacturers stopped offering it. Why are you working on it and how serious can we take it? And what is your opinion on mobile imaging in general for example with HSDPA?
Answer : We are very serious in relation to WiFi. Not only because we want to show what we are capable of and certainly not only as a technical statement. Within a year we will launch a camera with integrated WiFi. It is more than just a connection with a computer. We offer TV screens with built-in WiFi so the user can view pictures on Google on a TV screen. Panasonic are able to offer this kind of technology because we manufacture everything. As far as connectivity is concerned, WiFi is the most realistic one at the moment. If other better techniques come available, we will certainly take them into consideration but for the moment, we mainly work with WiFi.
Question : At this PMA show we see a lot of attention going to GPS, even integrated in a camera. Are you working on that too?
Answer : GPS can be a nice solution for compact cameras but I wonder if GPS will actually be built into a camera. There are a few people using GPS. Still I don't find it a practical application at present. The GPS signal cannot be received indoors. The time is not right yet for it to become a common application I suppose. I also think it will ask a lot from the camera's battery.
Question : Well, there are already solutions that hardly use any energy.
Answer : That is interesting but for the time being I can't imagine large groups of users.
Question : Cameras are gradually capable of doing more; they contain more intelligent software, for example face detection. What is the limit of these kinds of techniques, the hardware or the software?
Answer : That depends very much on the application. In its self, the possibilities are infinite. You always encounter technical issues though. We are the first capable of introducing and applying interesting features. The limits are not in the hardware or software alone, it is a combination.
Question : Now you've mentioned infinite possibilities: printing an album is a real hype currently. Would it be possible and handy to integrate album software in the camera? That way the user would select pictures and a template in the camera and order them through Panasonic software as soon as the camera is connected to a pc.
Answer : Hahaha, a very nice idea. I certainly think this is possible although it won't be easy to carry it out. It means cooperating with an online printing service and there are many of those companies in the country. And which company would you choose? I don't think it is something that Panasonic can realize. I'd say it's more of an idea for a small company.