Panasonic marketing man: “GH2 is a niche”

Another great interview at Imaging Resource

Panasonic’s marketing boss in the US has been speaking out at CES about where he sees the GH2 fitting into the market.

Panasonic: “Taking the GH2 for example, it’s really serving as a hybrid compact system camera. It’s a very different animal in itself, in that its unique characteristics in video, and its high-speed capabilities in terms of just focusing, and that massive processor that’s onboard that camera gives it a lot of abilities to do different and uniquely neat things. That’s almost a niche market. That’s probably 10-15% of the overall business, in terms of compact system cameras, within that category. So, it will probably remain that. Whether we can continually build-out from that is the question; it sort of butts up against the professional video camera business and even some of the semi-professional video camera business, or to an even smaller extent, the consumer video camera business. But it holds its own with its unique characteristics. For example, you can shoot high action photography, because you can move the camera around easily – it’s lighter, it’s smaller, it’s more compact. You’re not worrying about a big system, and you’re not worrying about rigging it up. It becomes a very unique and different product. Yes, it does have its place, but it’s not going to define the category. It will probably be on its own as an entity within the compact system camera business overall. The biggest portion of it is really what I would call the rangefinder-style cameras. The old Leica-like looking product for example. We’ve seen that from other manufacturers as well. They’ve been highly successful. That style we anticipate being at least 75% of the market over time.”

75% of the market to be rangefinders? Whether he is referring to the successful GF1 as ‘rangefinder style’ or whether Panasonic are actually going to produce a Fuji X100 or Leica style digital rangefinder remains to be seen but his thoughts on the GH2 are quite clear. They are filling a small niche and they can’t see it growing.

I beg to differ.

The GH2 is Panasonic’s flagship system camera, the most advanced of the whole G range. Do Canon see their 5D Mark II or 1DS series as a ‘niche’ as well?

It’s clear that Panasonic’s marketing department sees the Lumix G system as basically a consumer compact camera step-up but this is short-selling it.

The advanced made toward a true hybrid device with the GH2, the new concept of abandoning the mirror-box, all point to the future and that they are there with it before anyone else.

But marketing currently only sees it as reaching out to an audience of dissatisfied compact camera owners.

Panasonic: “What’s really happening is we’ve identified about 23 million users that would love to be in an SLR, but there’s a barrier to purchase because of the size, the weight and the complexity of an SLR. So, what we’re discovering is they’re really point & shoot users that want to step-up, still want the simplicity of a compact camera, and the size and weight issues are resolved with the compact system camera. But simplicity is really a key component there.”

That simplicity says Panasonic – is driving the product development of the Lumix G range – which does not bode well for a professional body, or the GH3. The GH2 like the GH1 before it was an admirably un-dumbed-down camera considering it’s target audience and the objectives of marketing.

Come on Panasonic, let’s see you grow new markets rather than only chasing those 23 million casual compact users… There is a huge hole in the market for an affordable cinema camera. The GH2 is that camera, but only by accident.

There is a huge market for a small interchangeable lens video camera like the EPIC which is affordable and accessible to all. This is what the GH2 gives us and we want more of it not less.

Interest in video is growing all the time. It used to be a rare thing, but now pretty much every kid on the street has shot video and shared it on YouTube. This will drive huge interest in filmmaking and there is a growing cross over of people from the stills world too – not just professionals but consumers who are as interested in producing video art as they are in documenting memories.

The GH2 was not designed by Panasonic to suit filmmakers, it was for families to document memories, video their kids growing up, film scenic views on holiday.

If the GH2 is indeed a niche, then they are only providing for half of it right now and I’d like to see marketing push the GH2 as a filmmaking device as well as just for casual use.

Be sure to read the whole interview, Panasonic’s guy comes up with some interesting stuff.

It looks like they are on a mission to educate US customers about ‘smaller-is-better’. In Europe we’ve always known that! Why else would the UK produce a car like the Mini?

Mirrorless sales are down in at roughly 5-9% in the US but up to 30-40% in Europe and Japan.