Matsushita Electric (Panasonic) has today announced the LUMIX line of digital cameras which make use of Leica Optics. The DMC-LC5 is a 'prosumer' four megapixel digital cameras with a 3x Leica optical zoom lens with full manual control. The DMC-F7 is a compact two megapixel digital camera with a 2x Leica optical zoom lens. Both cameras utilize MMC (SD) storage cards and are powered by proprietary Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries. Both cameras will be available in both black or silver finishes.

Panasonic DMC-LC5

Panasonic DMC-F7

Press release:

Matsushita Electric (Panasonic) Introduces "LUMIX",
a New Line of Digital Still Cameras with Leica Optics

OSAKA, Japan -- Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., best known for its Panasonic brand of consumer electronics and digital communications products, today announced the introduction of "LUMIX", its newest line of digital still cameras (DSCs), which have been developed by integrating the world-renowned optical technology of Leica Camera AG of Solms, Germany with the advanced digital AV (audio video) technology of Panasonic. The DMC-F7 and high-end DMC-LC5 DSCs will be launched in the Japanese market on October 27, 2001. Both cameras will be sold at open prices. The new LUMIX line of cameras will also be on display at the Panasonic booth at World PC Expo 2001, to be held from September 19 to 22 at the Makuhari Messe (Nippon Convention Center) in Chiba, east of Tokyo.

Matsushita and Leica recently announced business collaboration in the field of DSCs and these two models are the first fruits of their collaboration. The high-end model, DMC-LC5, has a built-in 3x zoom lens, effective 3.9 mega-pixels (total 4.0-megapixel CCD), and 2.5-inch TFT liquid crystal display with 200,000-pixels, all enhancing ease of use and visibility. The DMC-LC5 also incorporates both manual exposure and manual focus capability, enabling camera enthusiasts to use it as an authentic DSC to fully utilize their shooting techniques. The other model, DMC-F7, has a built-in 2x zoom lens, effective 2.0 mega-pixels (total 2.1-megapixel CCD) and 1.5-inch TFT liquid crystal display. As light as 150 g (without batteries and SD memory cards) in a stylish aluminum alloy body, the DMC-F7 is still able to incorporate a special editing mode that can print the dates as well as transform captured images into black and white, sepia, or negative colors.

The market for DSCs is growing rapidly, with a forecast of approximately 20 million units sold worldwide this year. Market needs are advancing toward DSCs that offer the high image quality of silver halide film cameras plus the ability to interface with digital-networking appliances.

With this background in mind, the new DSC lineup incorporates the LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON Lens (DMC-LC5) as well as the LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT Lens (DMC-F7). Moreover, Matsushita's digital technology enables very short stand-by times and shutter time lag, making possible rapid burst shooting even for the highest quality images.

The burst shooting function is especially notable. The high-end DMC-LC5 has the ability to shoot a maximum of 8 frames at a rate of 4 frames per second in maximum picture resolution. The DMC-F7 can shoot a maximum of 5 frames at a rate of 4 frames per second in maximum picture resolution. These are high levels in the industry in their class. These functions enable these DSCs to be used in innovative ways that have been difficult to achieve even with analog cameras.

Both models offer greatly expanded networking capabilities as well. In addition to offering a conventional network connection via PCs, they can also be networked with such SD-card capable appliances as PDAs, mobile handsets, digital TV receivers, video printers, and other equipment by using SD Memory Cards.

With these two new DSC models, offering both high image quality and networking ability, Matsushita intends to extensively promote its DSCs in the market.

Click here for detailed pictures on the Japanese PC Watch website

Reuters article:

Matsushita, Leica Unveil Digital Cameras

TOKYO (Reuters) - Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd, the world's biggest consumer electronics maker, on Monday unveiled a new series of digital cameras developed with lens maker Leica Camera AG

Matsushita, known for its Panasonic and National brands and a leading making of video cameras, is a latecomer to the fast-growing digital camera market but has set an ambitious target of capturing a 10 percent global market share by 2003.

The first offerings of Panasonic's Lumix line of digital cameras -- a four-million pixel model expected to sell for about 90,000 yen ($765) and a compact, two-million pixel model at 50,000 yen -- will go on sale in Japan on October 27.

Roll-outs in the U.S. and European markets are scheduled for next spring, said Kazuo Toda, a Matsushita senior managing director.

He acknowledged his company was late in targeting a move into digital cameras, where arch-rival Sony Corp (news - web sites) holds the top global share.

Like Sony, however, Matsushita and other consumer electronics makers are increasingly focused on developing networked products: personal computers, televisions, audio players, cameras and other gadgets that can share data with each other.

"We weren't seeing it as such a big market, but with networks steadily developing, the digital still camera is becoming a major source of information input,'' Toda said after a news conference. "It's no longer negligible.''

The company predicted the world digital camera market would grow to 18.5 million units this year from last year's 11 million, although Toda said the forecast may have to be pared back given recent weakness in the global economy and the likely effects of last week's terror attacks on U.S. targets.

Despite Matsushita's late arrival to the market, which is now dominated by camera and consumer electronics powerhouses such as Sony, Olympus Optical Co Ltd, Fuji Photo Film Co Ltd, and Eastman Kodak Co, Toda was optimistic the 10 percent market share target could be attained.

"If we can put out good products and create a following for them, I think it's achievable,'' he said.

Matsushita's shares ended Monday trade down 5.13 percent at 1,443 yen, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average's 5.04 percent drop as the market nervously awaited the reopening of U.S. share trade later in the day for the first time since last week's attacks.

But Matsushita outperformed a more than eight percent drop in the shares of Sony and other big Japanese manufacturers that are heavily exposed to the U.S. market and the effects of the dollar's recent slide.