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Panasonic Adds HD To Interchangeable-Lens Camera

Panasonic announced its second interchangeable-lens camera at its PMA press conference, promising a reboot of the Lumix camera brand.

“Lumix is not at the level we desire. We have not positioned the brand to our satisfaction” admitted Bob Perry, executive VP. “We are working diligently to improve our market share.”

Perry said Panasonic is conducting a comprehensive review of its camera business with a focus on reaching the “hearts and minds” of consumers and a rededicated effort at retail. “We need to get our value added resellers behind the product,” Perry said.

Panasonic will stake much of its repositioning on its interchangeable lens system based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. The company is targeting what it estimates as a 23 million unit market for “d-SLR intenders” — consumers who want a more sophisticated camera but are turned off by the size of a standard digital SLR.

Based on the Micro Four Thirds system, the DMC-GH1 joins the original G1 on the market, adding HD video recording in the AVCHD format. It will be joined by two new Micro Four Thirds standard lenses, including one designed to support HD video recording, Panasonic said.

Unlike traditional d-SLRs, the Micro Four Third systems shed the reflex mirror box, allowing the camera to be smaller than digital SLRs while offering large image sensors and interchangeable lenses associated with SLRs. Ditching the mirror box also enables a live viewfinder mode for previewing image effects before snapping a photo.

The 12-megapixel GH1 can record HD video at 1,920 by 1,080 resolution/24 fps or at 1280 by 720/60 fps, both in the AVCHD format traditionally used in high-definition camcorders. It offers a dedicated recording button, simultaneous still and video capture, and Dolby Digital audio recording with a wind-cut function to reduce background noise.

Other video features include a creative movie mode that lets consumers set the shutter speed and aperture of the lens during video recording.

The camera features Panasonic’s intelligent auto mode for automatically pairing a scene mode with shooting environment and will incorporate the facial-recognition technology introduced in the TZ1, announced in January. The GH1 will also include a 3-inch LCD with an eye sensor that will automatically dim the LCD when a consumer looks through the viewfinder or dim the viewfinder as the camera is lowered. Both the viewfinder and LCD offer a 100 percent field of view.

The camera’s autofocus system offers a multi-area mode with 23 focus areas, a 1-area AF with selectable focus area, face detection and AF tracking.

Pricing was not available at press time.