When Panasonic launched the S1 and S1R a year ago, brief mention was made of a future “more affordable” body. But one thing was clear when we first set hands on the S1/R: These cameras were as hefty and solid as Leica’s pioneering L-Mount offering, the SL. A svelte full-frame alternative seemed a long way off.
With the exception of the Sigma fp, which is something of an outlier, we currently have just four full-frame L-Mount bodies, the three Panasonics, S1, S1R, S1H, and the Leica SL2. All are substantial and hefty.
Now, in an interview with the French website, Phototrend, Panasonic’s Yasuke Yamane has again raised hopes that we will soon see a full-frame body combining “optimal size with high quality and performance”. This, in my book, means smaller, lighter but without sacrificing image quality. I am quite convinced that such a camera body would sell well.
There was great initial interest in Sigma’s fp, largely because of its size and weight, and there have been positive accolades from owners about image quality and build quality. But, crucially, it is the absence of an electronic viewfinder and the overt cine pretensions of the body (including the modular accessory programme) that appear to have discouraged many potential buyers.
The weight and proportions are undoubtedly right; it’s just that lack of viewfinder and the cine-centric control layout that discourages. A similar compact effort from Panasonic, but with all the features we expect from a modern mirrorless camera, would be a game changer.
In the interview, Mr. Yamane went on to reiterate Panasonic’s commitment to the micro four-thirds standard and its decision to avoid APS-C. In this, I think the company has made the right call. The MFT cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, together with the vast range of lenses, offer a compelling alternative to full-frame in terms of size and weight. APS-C is now piggy in the middle, despite strong sales by Fujifilm and Sony.
However, this does beg the question of the future of APS-C in the L-Mount system. With Panasonic sitting this one out, the only player in the market is Leica. Unfortunately, the CL/TL systems are too expensive for the wider market that would be necessary to light the touch-paper.
It would need Panasonic or Sigma to weigh in with a camera and a range of lenses for L-Mount to compete seriously with Fuji. I don’t see this happening (certainly not at Panasonic) and we still have no hint of a new Leica CL or updated lenses from Leica. Perhaps the Alliance is losing a trick by not tackling the APS-C market seriously. What do you think?
I do hope that Panasonic is working seriously on a smaller full-frame camera. If it can combine smaller size and weight with no-compromise image quality, it will succeed. Most enthusiasts would say that “affordability” isn’t the main criterion; rather, it is “luggability” that is in the forefront of their minds.