The launch of the Leica SL has led many to beleive that Panasonic could be about to launch a full frame CSC with 4K video. But is that really a possibility?

The announcement of the Leica SL has led some to speculate that Panasonic will announce a full-frame compact system camera, but is there any evidence that this could happen?

It’s no secret that Panasonic and Leica have a good working relationship. Panasonic designs, manufactures and tests Micro Four Thirds lenses to quality standards that ensure Leica is then happy to wear the iconic red dot badge. And in return, Leica re-badges and tweaks Panasonic compact and bridge cameras as Leica models. Somewhere in between there’s obviously an exchange of ideas and information, but does this mean Panasonic will follow suit and announce it’s own full-frame CSC?

Above: Our first look hands-on video with the Leica SL. Read more here Leica SL Hands-On

The first bit of evidence: Leica’s claim that the new SL has the world’s fastest AF. Now that’s quite a claim, but one that Panasonic has also made in the past. From this, it’s pretty logical to deduce that Panasonic has worked with Leica on the AF system, and that bodes well for a future Lumix GH5 camera. Leica has also adopted lens-based stabilisation, something that it’s probably borrowed from Panasonic. In addition, the Leica SL has Panasonic-esque view modes including shutter speed simulation preview, and its 4K video capture at around 100Mbps also seems rather familiar. Add that to the 10-bit 4:2:2 via HDMI to an external recorder, and once again it would seem that Panasonic has had some influence here – those specs match those of the Lumix GH4. Then there’s the addition of Panasonic’s V log contrast mode.

The leap of faith comes when we talk about the Leica SL using a full-frame Panasonic sensor. There’s no evidence that Panasonic produces a full-frame sensor, although Leica is keen to stress that the sensor used isn’t a stock Sony model.

GH4_H_HS12035_slant_2

In the past Leica has used full-frame Kodak sensors, and the 24-million-pixel full-frame sensor in the Leica M (typ 240) is designed by CMOSIS and manufactured by STMicroelectronics. What happens in reality, is that a company will work on developing a sensor based on the requirements of the camera manufacturer. A third-party manufacturer will then be found who can fabricate the sensors based on the final development design. Often there are only a few such places in the world that can handle such specific requirements. So it isn’t quite as simple as stating that the sensor is made by Panasonic – and it certainly doesn’t mean that Panasonic has a full-frame sensor, or the rights to use such as sensor. We know that the Leica Q and SL sensors are very closely related, with the power of each camera’s Maestro processors probably making the real difference in the output capabilities of the cameras.

Finally, why would Panasonic produce a full-frame camera? Leica has a range of full-frame lenses from its M-series rangefinder cameras. They have this heritage, and a demand from photographers wanting to use these lenses. Panasonic has a history of using Four Thirds sensors, with no legacy lenses to concern themselves with, and no historical user base.

asas

With its excellent colour modes and 4K internal capture, the Sony A7S II has taken some of the shine away from the Panasonic GH4.

 

But keep in mind that Panasonic’s GH series of cameras was once the king of video, although they’ve now been somewhat usurped by the Sony Alpha 7 series – notably the Alpha 7S II. Not to mention the Canon EOS 5D series. No longer are the GH cameras the default camera for videographers who want something smaller and lighter, or those who’d like internal 4K recording. Considering this, it’s logical that Panasonic will hit back hard with its next camera. However, full frame would require a new lens mount, and with such a strong Micro Four Thirds lens line-up, introducing a new mount could be a big risk.

It would be interesting if a full-frame Panasonic model were to adopt the Leica L mount used by the new SL. All of a sudden any camera could become part of a new full-frame CSC system, with Panasonic and Leica offering L mount cameras and lenses, as well as any number of Leica lenses that could be used via an adapter. Then Panasonic could create their own lenses, which would also give Leica SL users a more affordable option[g2]. As Panasonic and Olympus have found with the Micro Four Thirds system, there’s strength in numbers when developing, launching and establishing a new system.

Will it happen? I doubt it.

There’s very little evidence and few logical reasons why Panasonic would introduce a new line at this stage. And the main selling point of the Micro Four Thirds system is its size and weight advantage. Lenses with larger apertures to compensate for the difference in depth of field would be a good step for Panasonic. Or a camera with an 8-million-pixel sensor designed purely for low-light 4K video shooting. Even a sensor that could output slightly higher than 4K resolution to take advantage of better colour, detail and post-production stabilisation. At this stage all of these things make more sense than Panasonic producing a Lumix GH camera with a full-frame sensor. However, if the talk on forums and social media is anything to judge by, then it would certainly be a popular option.

 

  • GHDave

    I don’t think Panasonic will release a full frame GH5. They have invested too much in the MFT format. With that they would have to release a whole new set of lenses. It doesn’t make sense.

    Panasonic and Leica obviously have a working relationship. Leica have shared their lens designs, so why wouldn’t Panasonic share some tech in return.

    Personally I think it could be a beefed up version of 20MP sensor in the GX8 with new processors and maybe 4K RAW recording.

  • Full_Name

    That’s all eh? It really sounds like you want a Full Frame, with specifications nobody is willing/able to accomplish. (I bet you also want the batterylife of the GH4, and their ergonomics, rather than the horrible Sony ergonomics/menus, right?)

    I do agree with 1-7 as good ideas, and possible to implement.
    8 – No. They cannot create sensors that magically match the best Full Frame sensors. That’s just a matter of physics. I don’t want them to have full frame, as it will effectively kill all the lenses I have bought for m43. If Low light is important to you, get a Speedbooster and some good Full Frame glass.
    9 – A big part of the reason for going to m43 is that the body and lenses are smaller.The GH4 is pretty much regular dslr size anyways. No bigger, no thanks. TWO HDMI connectors? If you are that into sending video out, go SDI, and/or get the Add-On that they have for the GH4.
    10 – again, 5 inch is too big for a camera like this. You can rig it with a bigger monitor/recorder if you like anyways. It would be nice if they can go up a bit more though.
    11 – yes
    12 – I thought it was all progressive at this point, but maybe I’m wrong
    13 – ok, I can agree with this. The current attachment is too big and expensive for some purposes. I’d like to see one xlr input w/phantom power on that grip as well.
    14 – yeah, that would be nice
    15 – sounds reasonable..
    16 – agree 100%

    Sorry but it is ridiculous to say that unless it better than the FS5 you will change. That is a completely different camera and price range. By all means, if you want to plop down $5K on that camera, I’m sure it is great, and get new lenses, rig it up with a monitor (it doesn’t have nearly all the things you want..). It’s like asking Audi for the next version of the A4 to make it like a Porsche Cayenne… Both good cars, but different purposes and prices..

    I think if Panasonic want to be smart, they add in 6K video. Nobody else has that, it works well with a 16/20MP sensor with minimal crop, and allows a wide range of possibilities in terms of editing and output.

  • Jeff R.

    All i want for the GH5 is ..

    1. 4:2:2 8bit 4k@30fps and 4k 4:2:0 at 60fps
    2. 4;2:2 10bit 2k & 1080 ( its crazy that 2k is not available out of the box)
    3. 1080p120fps@4:2:0 – 1080p60@4:2:2
    4. in body OIS
    5. servo zoom control for lenses that have it
    6. up to 250mbps
    7. dual xdsd (hot swappable)
    8. If M43 sensors can not create clean lowlight footage at ISO3200 in 2k. Go full sensor PLEASE!!!!
    9 I want a 10 – 30% LARGER BODY with a supper durable hdmi and there should be 2 hdmi connections. I have had to fix the hdmi in the GH3 and the GH4 and that is a $450. fix.
    10. 5-inch LCD with focus peaking
    11. a more direct way of setting custom buttons
    12. all output progressive scan and not interlaced (hdmi and sdi)
    13. SDI & HDMI i/o’s on the grip accessory
    14. REAL TIME wifi monitoring (not the still frame during recording)
    15. finger dimples in the grip.
    16. 14 true stops of Dynamic range. ( this should have been 1st on my list)

    If Panasonic can not match the Sony FS5, the 5d Mark IV then they are gonna be out of the game. I am gonna wait for the GH5 but when it comes out It better be at the FS5 level or i will be buying my 1st non-Panasonic camera since 2003.

    BTW:
    Panasonic if you read this I would say that most of us would be happy to pay a bit more for these features.

  • RRRoger

    The A7sII at 1080P120 has a crop factor smaller than MFT.
    I sent it back and use my A7s for the poor/low I shoot in.
    Except for ISO above 1600, my GH4 is a better camera in every way.

    Two things will click the GH5 buy button for me:
    1. Clean Video at ISO 6400+
    2. Clean 1080P120 Video.

    I think the GH5 is going to need more processing power and a bigger Sensor (either s35 or wider MFT). I still want to use my MFT lens.

  • Aaron Harper

    If the a7sii still has the huge rolling shutter issue and 30 min battery life then the gh4 has not been usurped