Panasonic’s Product Manager for the number one bestselling Lumix G range, Barnaby Sykes, tells BPI News how retailers can make the most of its pole position for Compact System Cameras to boost their own business.
As the first brand to introduce a mirror-less interchangeable lens Compact System Camera in September 2008 with the
Lumix DMC-G1, Panasonic has done well to maintain a number one UK market position for both volume and value. It’s even more remarkable considering the well-reviewed competition from development partner Olympus, plus Sony, Nikon, Samsung, Fuji and Pentax, who have all entered the market for compacts promising DSLR-like quality, yet
“We’ve been number one since the introduction of the G1, and the reason is not only did we invent the market, but we’ve continued to innovate,” Panasonic’s UK Product Manager for Lumix G, Barnaby Sykes tells BPI. “Although it’s only a fouryear legacy it does bestow a certain prestige. The other thing that benefits both Panasonic and its retailers is a diverse product line up. Even within the Lumix G range there’s four product ‘zones’: GH, G, GF and GX. Plus, because we’re trying to target customers with different products, we have a bigger range of compact system cameras than
any other manufacturer at the moment.”
Barney believes that consumers are buying into the Panasonic range because they can see it’s a true system; there are currently 14 Lumix G lenses available for example. Third party manufacturers like Sigma are also now producing compatible product, broadening sales options further. “Retailers can utilise our market position as a sales tool by understanding the characteristics of each product and finding out from the customer what it is they want,” Barney adds. “For example do they need a viewfinder or not?”
If your customers want a camera with classic form factor, a big handgrip and lots of creativity for both movies and stills, then there’s Panasonic’s flagship GH product. Offering a classic DSLR design but automatic shooting, with the option to go into creative modes, next up is the affordable G3. And for those wanting an even more compact style, that’s also automatic, the fashionable GF series fits the brief. “And then if you want to be a lot more creative you’ve got the GX, which offers a huge amount of manual control but in a compact body. It takes over where the GF1 left off,“ explains Barney. “Retailers should pitch it as more of a second camera for enthusiasts, who want to avoid carrying a DSLR and set of lenses around with them every day.”
A complete solution: It’s not just all about hardware though; Panasonic is concentrating its efforts on a strong accessory line up. “We want to develop the system as a whole and not just bring out cameras,” Product Manager Barnaby confirms. A case in point is the 12-35mm f/2.8 Lumix X constant aperture lens announced as BPI went to press, with an end of June availability date. This premium optic is water and dust resistant, features Power OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation),
plus metal barrel construction and focus ring. “It’s not a power zoom; it’s more suited to photos,” adds Barney. “For Lumix G to be able to develop this type of lens in a short period of time adds to the credibility of the system.” There were also rumours swirling about the arrival of a 35- 100mm lens – the development of which was announced around IFA last year – although Panasonic remains tight-lipped about exactly when.
As to how retailers can get the message across to their customers that it’s worth spending a bit more on an ‘X’ lens, Barney notes that “both of the lenses we’ve launched already in the 14-42mm and the 45-175mm have got big wow factors. For the 45-175mm the zoom takes place within the barrel of the lens so it isn’t extending like a traditional telephoto lens would. The 14-42mm is a motorised zoom which shrinks to the size of a pancake lens when not in use. Nobody else can bring that yet. “And there are further benefits an X lens can add when connected to the camera. Via the camera software you can control the speed of the zoom and preset it to a certain focal length, which the camera will remember when it’s turned off and on again. I think it’s really important for the retailer to demonstrate that. The additional functionality these lenses can offer is a real added value message for the retailer.” Also worth retailers taking note of and maximising the promotional potential of via instore displays is the four-week TV and cinema advertising campaign Panasonic is running, commencing May 24th and featuring photographers David Eustace and Will Cooper-Mitchell.
The new ad includes the full lens line up, and demonstrates the 14-42mm ‘Power Zoom’ X lens working in tandem with the Lumix DMC-G3. “The GF5 [available this month]has come along really quickly after the GF3,” Barney acknowledges. “But we were able to make some really strong improvements in picture quality. What we’ve done with this camera is to improve the sensor dramatically, which is a really important message for us, with edge-to-edge sharpness
being one of the key benefits that Micro Four Thirds can offer. The camera’s target audience is
compact users stepping up. I’m sure many people these days use iPhones so they’ll be used to the GF5’s touch screen technology.”
When asked to point out direct competitors to the GF5, Barney mentions the Olympus Pen models, Nikon J1 and Sony NEX-C3. One area of comparison is always sensor size and a very important point that Panasonic
wants retailers to consider is that each manufacturers’ sensor, regardless of size, offers different benefits.
“The size of our sensor and the size of our lenses have a relationship,” he explains. “We started with a system that is digital so both have been designed to work in perfect harmony. Light enters the lens and reaches the
sensor in a straight line; we don’t need a physically bigger lens to try and compensate for a bigger
Talking of innovation, when might we see a more compact Lumix G with a built in viewfinder, to compete with the Olympus OM-D, Sony NEX-7 and Nikon V1? “Well the GX1 has an optional viewfinder,” Barney responds. “A built-in viewfinder is something we’re looking at, but obviously one of the benefits we have with the accessory viewfinder is that
it is tilting, so you increase the opportunities provided with the angle of the shot. We’ll watch very closely.” In terms of which of its noninterchangeable lens Lumix cameras it would recommend to retailers, Barney adds that: “the
TZ30 has done really well for us, and will also be going back on TV with an ad campaign in June.
There’s a cashback offer for the TZ range being promoted from the end of May. Another big success is the SZ7, because it offers a 10x optical zoom in a really slim body. These ‘high zoom’ cameras are still a big chunk of the market and still a priority focus for us.” Multi pronged attack on an industry-wide problem In terms of retailer support and tackling the industry-wide issue of dealer margins not being great on hardware but slightly better on accessories, Panasonic tells BPI it’s launching a multi-pronged attack.