Yosuke Yamane is the director of Panasonic’s Imaging Network Business Division worldwide. Based in Osaka, Japan, he has been instrumental in the development of the Panasonic LUMIX G Micro Four Thirds camera system as well as the LUMIX S series of full-frame mirrorless cameras.
We had a chance to speak with Yamane about the recent successes of the LUMIX brand, the challenges facing the imaging industry and Panasonic’s road map for the future.
JG: What do you see as the significant changes and milestones in the imaging industry in the past five years? Also, where do you see the market going from here?
YY: LUMIX is the world’s first mirrorless camera series that started the trend to shoot video with an interchangeable-lens camera system. The improved performance of smartphone cameras impacted the industry and led to a significant demand decrease of traditional cameras, especially in the point-and-shoot category. However, the demand for high-end products, particularly mirrorless cameras, is steadily increasing.
For the future, we must consider how to better utilize video content; we believe there is a large business opportunity there. With our lengthy experience and deep knowledge, we will utilize those features to expand our business not only to B2C but also to B2B sectors.
What are the objectives for Panasonic LUMIX in the imaging industry? How do you want the brand to be positioned in the market?
As the innovator of mirrorless cameras, Panasonic will create a new era with still/video content and its usage. Moreover, as the innovator of mirrorless cameras, we will continue studying the ideal form of a camera system and deliver epoch-making products.
The LUMIX brand has a very well-defined niche in the imaging industry. What is your philosophy behind the camera–lens brand, and to what do you attribute its success?
By shifting to a mirrorless system, LUMIX has expanded the possibilities of the camera; for example, both still and video recording, downsizing, drone shooting, etc.
By continuously developing new technologies and implementing those into our products, we are providing new benefits to our customers as well as creating changes. Those new benefits are giving our customers additional possibilities to express their creativity, which I believe is the key success factor of the LUMIX brand.
How has the G series changed photography?
Mirrorless technology has been the biggest game changer in the imaging industry for the last 30 years. As you know, the G series was the first interchangeable-lens camera system based on mirrorless technology, and it established this modern system camera type that is now the state of the art and dominating the imaging industry.
The new S series is clearly a bold step for the future of the LUMIX brand. What was the driving force behind the design of the S1 and S1R cameras?
By preparing a wider range of sensor sizes, we aimed to expand our business opportunities. For our LUMIX S series, we combined all the essential camera technologies that we have, so that they can fulfill the needs and requirements of professional and amateur photographers in various aspects of photography.
Although the target users of S1/S1R/S1H cameras are all different, each product has its unique features as well as performance parameters to satisfy the end users.
Are smartphone cameras friend or foe?
I do not believe they are foes. It is true that smartphone cameras are taking away demand from traditional cameras and are causing an especially sharp demand decrease of compact-type digital cameras.
On the other hand, however, smartphone cameras are creating a new demand for photography and videography in general, especially with the younger generation. And a significant part of that younger generation with a high affinity for the imaging world will sooner or later step up to interchangeable-lens cameras, I believe. Furthermore, we will improve the connective performance between camera and smartphone and grow our business together.
It seems like one of your unique advantages would be the integration of all of your consumer products. Tell me how imaging fits into Panasonic’s broad consumer products line?
Imaging products are creative tools to produce outstanding content for commercial or private usage. So, there should be a possibility to contribute to the entertainment business or solutions business. Of course, the content can be enjoyed by Panasonic audio/video devices or shared on social network websites, which would extend how to enjoy the photo/video.
How important is the photo specialty retail channel to your strategy?
The photo specialty channel is very important to our strategy; that channel provides education, services and support on a high level to various customers with different needs and requirements. For our LUMIX products, that is an essential point to satisfy the customers and have them become LUMIX fans.
How do you think online shopping has affected the imaging industry? In addition, what should photo dealers do to protect their markets?
Society and accordingly market environments are continuously changing, and so does the customer journey in relation to purchasing products. Within those changes, online shopping has increased over the years in general as well as in the imaging industry. However, we believe the value of the service of the photo specialty retail channel and its trustful relationship with customers are very important. So, it is our mission to protect the specialty channel.
What is the objective of the L Mount Alliance? Will this alliance give the three companies an advantage in the market? Is there a co-branding effort planned?
The aim of the L Mount Alliance is to evolve the system with the different, unique strengths of each company. Moreover, the L-mount system is a reliable mount for both photo and video. This reliability is an essential factor when a customer chooses a mount; this is one of the biggest reasons why we decided to introduce L-mount products not alone but in collaboration with the other companies. In the last year, various L-mount products were introduced into the market, and this year they will continue to launch.
In regard to a co-branding effort; at this moment, I cannot talk about any concrete future plans. However, the alliance partners are constantly discussing and considering the further evolution of the L Mount Alliance for the future. We will share that information and start promoting it soon.
There has been a lot of talk about VR and 360º-capable cameras. Will Panasonic be involved in those kinds of products?
Unfortunately, I cannot comment on any concrete product development of VR and 360º cameras for the LUMIX lineup. Of course, we are closely monitoring the market potential of those kinds of products and pursuing the development of numerous products.
Finally, what keeps you up at night?
I am always considering how to survive and thrive in this changing imaging industry. In addition, I always have in mind what the benefits and satisfaction are for our customers. This is our mission!