Matsushita Takes Out 'R' from Digital SLR Camera

Sep 16, 2008
Tomohiro Otsuki, Nikkei Electronics
[Click to enlarge image]
[Click to enlarge image]
Looking into the finder (EFV), I found the image was not as coarse as the images in existing consumer cameras. However, when I quickly moved the prototype laterally while looking into the EVF, some of the scenes looked unnatural, perhaps because of a slight delay in image display or "color breakup," which frequently occurs in field sequential LCD panels. The white dots near the EVF are infrared rays caught by the camera I used and they are not visible to the human eye.
Looking into the finder (EFV), I found the image was not as coarse as the images in existing consumer cameras. However, when I quickly moved the prototype laterally while looking into the EVF, some of the scenes looked unnatural, perhaps because of a slight delay in image display or "color breakup," which frequently occurs in field sequential LCD panels. The white dots near the EVF are infrared rays caught by the camera I used and they are not visible to the human eye.
[Click to enlarge image]
On the left is the "DMC-L10," which is already in the market. The DMC-G1 is on the right.
On the left is the "DMC-L10," which is already in the market. The DMC-G1 is on the right.
[Click to enlarge image]
On the left is the mount for the DMC-L10, while the one on the right is for the DMC-G1.
On the left is the mount for the DMC-L10, while the one on the right is for the DMC-G1.
[Click to enlarge image]
[Click to enlarge image]
[Click to enlarge image]

"This is a real luxury camera in the digital era. We'd like to embark on a new phase of competition."

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd will release a digital camera with an interchangeable lens, the "LUMIX DMC-G1," Oct 31, 2008.

"Many ladies and beginners are intimidated by existing digital single-lens reflex cameras, and few of them fully utilize the camera," the company said. "We are going to change this situation."

To achieve this goal, Matsushita eliminated the mirror box (reflex mirror) and the optical viewfinder, which are crucial components for a single-lens reflex camera. The company, therefore, calls this new product a "digital single-lens camera" rather than a "digital single-lens reflex camera."

The imaging device, which influences the image quality and sensitivity, is dimensioned 4/3-inch and equivalent to the ones used in Matsushita's existing single-lens reflex cameras. The DMC-G1 conforms to the "micro four thirds system," a new standard for digital camera with an interchangeable lens promoted by Matsushita, Olympus and others.

The body weighs 385g and is much lighter than existing digital single-lens reflex cameras in general. This is because the mirror box and the optical finder were eliminated.

When a standard zoom lens is attached, the weight is 635g. The body is dimensioned 124 x 83.6 x 45.2mm, excluding the projections. The smallest digital single-lens reflex camera so far was Olympus "E-420," which is dimensioned 129.5 x 91 x 53mm.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) features a display of 1.44 million dots (800 x 600 = 480,000 pixels, counting RGB as one pixel).

"We have created the world's most beautiful EVF, which was the top priority in our development," Matsushita said.

The EVF adopts a field sequential LCD panel that displays three RGB colors in sequence. The frame speed (switching speed) is 180Hz, which is equivalent to 60Hz in a non-field sequential LCD panel.

The color reproduction is higher than 90% NTSC, according to Matsushita. The LCD panel, developed and manufactured by a company other than Matsushita, was originally intended to be used for finders of broadcast cameras.

When the user's eye approaches the EVF to shoot, the output of the image is automatically switched from the LCD monitor on the back of the camera to the EVF. The user's eye is detected by an infrared "eye-sensor." The LCD panel on the back of the camera is a 3-inch panel with a resolution of 460,000 dots (480 x 320 = approx 150,000 pixels, counting RGB as one pixel). The monitor is movable and swivels 180° horizontally and 270° vertically.

The contrast-detect autofocus system utilizes an image shooting device, but the focus speed is extremely fast. According to Matsushita, while the focusing speed is approximately 0.2 to 0.5 seconds for normal phase-detect autofocus systems used in single-lens reflex cameras, that of the DMC-G1 is about 0.3 seconds, although it employs a contrast-detect system generally believed to be slow in focus speed. The 0.3-second focusing speed was realized when the focus point of a standard zoom lens was switched from infinite to 2m.

The camera is also equipped with a shutter speed preview mode, a function useful for users who have some knowledge of cameras. This function allows the user to search for the most appropriate shutter speed for shooting fast moving subjects, for example. The user can decide whether the still image will look more impressive or the image should be a little blurred, without actually shooting and reproducing the image.

The expected street price is ¥80,000 (approx US$768) for the basic unit and ¥90,000 for the set of a basic unit and a 28-90mm/F3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens based on the 35mm film. If a 90-400mm/F4.0-5.6 interchangeable lens is added to the aforementioned set, the price will be ¥125,000. The interchangeable lens is provided with an optical image correction system.

The announcement also included the following information.
- The DMC-G1 does not have a video shooting function.
- Equipped with an HDMI terminal.
- Equipped the "Omakase iA" function that recognizes shooting conditions and selects a shooting mode automatically, which has been employed in Matsushita's compact cameras since the autumn of 2007. This is the first digital camera with an interchangeable lens equipped with this function.
- Resolution: 12.1 Mpixels
- Employs the "Venus processing engine," which has a high low-frequency noise canceling performance, according to the company.
- Mounted with a system for preventing dust adhesion on the imaging device. The system involves supersonic vibrations of 50,000/sec.
- Monthly production will be 15,000 units (6,000 units with one interchangeable lens, 8,000 units with two lenses and 1,000 basic units)
- The G1 stands for Generation 1.
- "It comes in three colors because the appearance is important to attract buyers," according to Matsushita. The body color comes in black, as well as a shade of red and a shade of blue.
- Kanako Higuchi is the face of the product.