Although Panasonic has been previously named as one of the 'Four Thirds System' development partners (along with Olympus, Kodak, Sanyo, Sigma and Fujifilm) today they issued a new press release stating that they have signed a Joint Development Agreement with Olympus to develop 'Interchangeable Lens Type Digital SLR Cameras'. The announcement goes on to detail what the agreement covers (everything from shared technology to lenses and D-SLR's). Maybe we'll see some Panasonic 4/3 mount Optical Stabilized lenses?

Press Release:

Olympus and Panasonic Sign Joint Development Agreement for Interchangeable Lens Type Digital SLR Cameras

Olympus Corporation (Olympus) and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic) today announced the signing of a joint development agreement for interchangeable lens type digital SLR cameras based on the Four Thirds System standard. Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will jointly develop technologies and devices, and promote the development of digital SLR cameras that maximize the extensive user benefits of the Four Thirds System.

The aim of the agreement is to meet the needs of the rapidly growing global market for digital SLR cameras*1 by fusing Olympus's industry-leading SLR camera technology with Panasonic's advanced digital AV technology, and by developing innovative new design concepts for next-generation digital SLR cameras.

The agreement covers the following three main points:

  1. The two firms agree to jointly develop technologies and devices related to SLR camera systems (including camera bodies, interchangeable lenses, and related system peripherals) based on the Four Thirds System standard.
  2. The two firms will individually develop digital SLR system cameras and related system products that incorporate the abovementioned technologies and devices.
  3. With the aim of promoting widespread adoption of the Four Thirds System standard, the two firms will encourage other firms to participate in, and develop products for, the Four Thirds System standard.

The first Four Thirds System products to be introduced to the market were the professional-oriented Olympus E-1 and related E-System lenses, flash units, and other accessories that were launched by Olympus in October 2003. In December 2004, Olympus also introduced the consumer-oriented E-300 digital SLR. Olympus's "100% designed-for-digital" concept and technological advances such as the world's first supersonic dust reduction system have been highly praised by professional and amateur users alike.

With the signing of the agreement with Panasonic, Olympus will work to develop new-concept digital SLR cameras with new features, and will strive to expand its digital SLR camera business and create a new imaging culture.

Ever since it introduced the Lumix DMC-LC5 in October 2001, Panasonic has been developing products that contribute to photographic culture in the digital age. Last year, it introduced the DMC-FX7, a compact digital camera with 3x optical zoom and Mega Optical Image Stabilizer that has been highly praised by consumers.

With the signing of the agreement with Olympus, Panasonic marks its entry to the SLR camera market, and aims to achieve its "Global 10" goals of achieving a larger global market share with a strengthened and expanded product lineup.

In the future, both firms will draw on their technological strengths to develop products in accordance with the terms of the joint development agreement.

*1 Digital SLR Camera Market Size Forecasts (including Olympus and Matsushita Electric projected sales) Units Shipped by all Manufacturers (Fiscal years refer to the 12-month term ending on March 31 of the year indicated.)

FY 2004 1,240,000 units (CIPA statistics based on actual shipments)
FY 2005 2,700,000 units (forecast)
FY 2006 4,500,000 units (forecast)
FY 2007 5,500,000 units (forecast)

About the Four Thirds System Standard

The Four Thirds System standard defines innovative new design and development standards for digital SLR camera systems that fully realize the performance characteristics and potential user benefits of digital cameras. The Four Thirds System uses a Four Thirds-type image sensor, which makes it possible for manufacturers to design extremely compact lenses that combine high mobility and handling ease with the optical characteristics needed to maximize sensor performance. In addition, the Four Thirds System defines an open standard for lens mounts that benefits consumers by assuring compatibility between Four Thirds System bodies and lenses produced by manufacturers that adhere to the standard. The Four Thirds System standard was first announced in September 2002 by Olympus Corporation and Eastman Kodak Company of the United States, and is currently also supported by Fuji Photo Film Co, Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd., Panasonic, and Sigma Corporation.

Corporate Overview

Olympus Corporation
Head Office: Shinjuku Monolith, 2-3-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Established: 1919
Capitalization: 40,832 million yen
President: Tsuyoshi Kikukawa
Annual Sales: 633,622 million yen (consolidated sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004)

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic)
Head Office: 1006, Kadoma, Kadoma City, Osaka
Established: 1935 (Founded: 1918)
Capitalization: 258,740 million yen
President: Kunio Nakamura
Annual Sales: 7,479,700 million yen (consolidated sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004).