French website lesnumeriques had a chance to interview with Panasonic Manager Yosuke Yamane, talking about new announced Panasonic Lumix S1 and Lumix S1R full frame mirrorless cameras.
Here are what we got from the interview:
- The Panasonic-Leica-Sigma L-mount alliance was formed in early 2018.
- Olympus don’t have the same vision as Panasonic for the full frame mirrorless system.
- There is a good balance between grip, resistance and size for the Panasonic S1 & S1R.
- For the new L-mount, all brands can use their own know-how to develop products. Thus, Sigma can perfectly use its Foveon sensors.
- Panasonic will use AI Autofocus system to analyze images and know where to focus. (To determine the location of the eyes on a face. And to find the subject more quickly, like a bird in a sky)
Translated from Lesnumeriques:
The announcement of the alliance around Leica’s mount L was a real and beautiful surprise. Can you tell us more about this partnership with Sigma and Leica ?
Personally, I had already considered creating a range 24×36 8 years ago now, but at the time the challenge was really too important, both technically and commercially. It was too complex for Panasonic to invest in this market. Our brand did not yet have the legitimacy to easily take market share. Eight years ago, we left this idea aside, but did not abandon it. Five years ago, Sony unveiled a 24×36 hybrid with the A7. Sony has opened the way and new players can now enter the market. And two years ago, technically, we felt ready to propose a model 24×36, but we are a young company in the world of photography with just 17 years of seniority with Lumix. In addition, when you invest in a new photo segment, you must also present a beautiful optical range to interest the customers. We know that when you invest in a new segment, there are risks and you can not give up when the market is bad, you have to respect the customers. That’s why we looked for an alliance with other companies. At the beginning of 2018, we decided to approach Leica and Sigma. Why did we choose Leica? We have a long history with this brand. Since the launch of the Lumix brand in 2001, we have been working with Leica and since 4 years we have a technical partnership. We were very involved in the development of Leica’s L mount and we logically thought that if we were to enter the 24×36 segment, we had to do it with this mount, and Leica of course. For Sigma, we know that this brand offers quality products and a beautiful range of 24×36 optics. We are also convinced by the speech of Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of Sigma, and we have a common philosophy. It was then normal to offer this alliance to Sigma and we thought Sigma could help us improve our system. The two companies were quickly seduced by this alliance and by the synergy that it was possible to create. It was then normal to offer this alliance to Sigma and we thought Sigma could help us improve our system. The two companies were quickly seduced by this alliance and by the synergy that it was possible to create. It was then normal to offer this alliance to Sigma and we thought Sigma could help us improve our system. The two companies were quickly seduced by this alliance and by the synergy that it was possible to create.
Ten years ago, you also created an alliance around the Micro4 / 3 with Olympus. A synergy that made the success of this format. Why is Olympus missing from this new alliance around the 24×36 format?
Ten years ago, we had the same reflection with Olympus on the future of SLRs. We found them large and heavy and we wanted to create something new and much more accessible with the possibility of having an interchangeable lens system. We really had the same vision on photography. Today with 24×36 boxes, we do not really have the same vision. Our directions are different now, this on format anyway.
Your new S1R package looks a lot like a “classic” SLR, while you usually look for a hybrid because it’s compact and lightweight. Why did you make that choice?
For us, a hybrid box has to answer two important functions, both in video and in photography. And we must be able to move from one domain to another easily; lightness becomes secondary. To be able to answer these two requirements, we must propose a housing not “too” small to reassure the users. A large size reassures people about the strength of products. The cameras in the cinema are very impressive, for example. We need to find a good balance between grip, resistance and size.
The alliance around the mount L concerns only the bayonet and the communication between the housing and the optics or also the autofocus, the treatment of the images or the sensors?
You’re right, this alliance only concerns the mount and its communication system. All brands can use their own know-how to develop products. Thus, Sigma can perfectly use its Foveon sensors.
During the presentation of the new S system, we discovered that you were working on a new generation of your DFD autofocus system with artificial intelligence “pieces” in it. Can you tell us more? Do you use artificial intelligence for other features like image quality?
Currently, we are working on artificial intelligence for photography and video. When it comes to autofocus, there are 3 things to consider: where to focus, how far the subject is from the camera, and the accuracy of the focus. The last two points are covered by our DFD technology. On the other hand, to answer the question “where to focus” is an area where we use artificial intelligence to analyze images and know where to focus. For example, we use it to determine the location of the eyes on a face. We also have a system to find the subject more quickly, like a bird in a sky. For all these analyzes.
The 8K is in sight for 2020, but can you tell us about the photo / video in the coming years and can you imagine the 16K, for example?
You know, it’s not easy to produce 8K images. And we are already studying how 8K images will be used to determine customer needs in this area.
The photo market has been profoundly transformed by the arrival of smartphones. You had tried, with the CM1, to penetrate this market, did you definitively stop this activity? Do you think that smartphones can worry the Micro 4 / 3 market?
Yes, we have abandoned this market, because this is not the direction that Panasonic should take. There will be no follow-up to CM1. Regarding the Micro 4 / 3, it is difficult to predict the future of the market. I do not think it is threatened, but smartphones evolve quickly and some smartphones now include several photo modules and have very powerful algorithms to process images. Panasonic will remain vigilant on trends to protect the market of Micro 4 / 3.
[Unfortunately, we did not receive an answer regarding some key points on S1 / S1R development. Thus, no price range was advanced during our interview. We also asked when the final enclosure specifications will be made public. Again, no clear answer, but it is likely that, as for the GH5, they will be unveiled 3 to 4 months before the final announcement.
However, we were able to take control of a case to manipulate the screen on 3 axes and have its template in hand. The case is imposing and gives the appearance of being very resistant. Ed]
Follow Panasonic S1 & S1R on Facebook: