The rumour mill has been going very strong for a while for Panasonic this past month. They have a countdown timer for Photokina 2018, and it is a really, really long countdown timer. In fact, it is about the same length as Nikon’s countdown timer for their new product line of Z cameras – nearly a month! One would think that if you have such a long timer you would have something really interesting to announce. Indeed, rumours suggest that Panasonic is going to release a new camera line with a mount size larger than micro-four-thirds. Of course, rumours are rumours. But sometimes there is no smoke without fire, and the timer is truly a long one. So let us try to make some intelligent deductions and manage our expectations.
The first question we ask ourselves is whether this pertains to Panasonic’s professional video or consumer camera product line. From the looks of the countdown page and the stage events described, this countdown is definitely related to Panasonic’s consumer Lumix camera product line. So we won’t get a nasty surprise with Panasonic unexpectedly revealing that this is actually an announcement for their professional AV and broadcast equipment.
So… is Panasonic really going to announce a full-frame mirrorless camera as the rumours suggest?
Given how lengthy the countdown timer is, one could accept that it should be a significant announcement. But from a business point of view, a Panasonic full-frame mirrorless camera is surprising. The FF ML market is now turning into a red ocean with the 3 biggest camera brands with a combined 87% market share of consumer cameras immersing themselves into it. It seems very foolhardy for Panasonic with its tiny market share and brand recognition to wade into this bloodbath. I will guess that the possibility of Panasonic bringing another FF ML to the party of Canon, Nikon and Sony is very low. Unless there is something very different about it. For example, Panasonic could position it so it only appeals to a selected group of people so it occupies its own niche among the giants.
Or it may not be a full-frame mirrorless camera at all. 😛
Panasonic is using the tag line “changing photography” on their countdown site. Whatever it is, I hope it is more than just introducing yet another regular FF ML. Especially since I don’t see Panasonic faring very well against the three big players. Even if Panasonic equips it with specifications that are superior to what Canon, Nikon and Sony is offering, it will still fail. The mind share and brand recognition is just too low. It really needs to be offering something different and unexpected to succeed.
At the moment I spy a few possibilities.
Possibility 1: Something highly video-centric that differentiates itself. Although that still runs up against Sony’s A7S series. Creating a whole new product line complete with a new mount and new lenses just for such a small niche also seems very foolish.
Possibility 2: Canon, Nikon and Sony seems to be bringing big, expensive FF lenses. It is possible for a fourth player to come in and say, “let us do lenses that are actually small and accessible.” This will likely result in lenses that are smaller, slower and hopefully less costly. Will the photographic community accept this? Panasonic will need some comprehensive survey results that prove there is a willing market for smaller but slower FF lenses to do something like this.
Possibility 3: It is not a FF camera. Forget that rumour. It’s something else. Perhaps APS-C? APS-C is now a blue ocean with Fujifilm being the only serious player, though Canon and Nikon are busy eating up the entry-level market. Fujifilm also isn’t cheap, and their camera ergonomics and colour-eating X-Trans could do with a little healthy alternative competition. I can see a possibility for someone to say, “let’s do APS-C with Cannon/Nikon style ergonomics and a proper Bayer sensor, and giving users the APS-C lenses that Canon/Nikon refuse to give.”. Could work.
Possibility 4: They really are doing a new, regular FF ML product line. In which case I say they should get ready for massive failure against the existing competition. Unless like the M43 collaboration with Olympus, this is a new collaboration or partnership with another organization that lends it more momentum and credibility.
But hey I am just guessing. Looking forward to 25 September where all will be revealed. Quite exciting actually!