New Panasonic Interview by Personal-View

Personal-View has just interviewed with three Panasonic representatives at Photokina 2018. Below are details of the interview:

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.