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Review: Panasonic unveils full product line up

by Bob Crabtree on 15 March 2006, 21:41

Tags: Panasonic (TYO:6752)

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Panasonic logo

This week, Panasonic is showing UK retailers its line-up for the coming season, with new and recent products ranging from ice-cream-makers to in-car entertainment.

In between are digital still cameras, Dect phones, MiniDV and DVD camcorders, large-screen flatpanel TV sets (LCD and plasma), complete home-cinema systems and a whole lot more besides.

One product retailers might have expected to see - Panasonic's first digital SLR camera, the Lumix DMC-L1 - was conspicuous by its absence. Currently, seemingly, there are only two protypes in existence. However, according to group marketing manager Andrew Denham, a firm launch date might be announced within the next week or two, with the clever money currently pointing towards an August intro in the UK, and review samples a month before that.

Lumix DMC-L1
DMC-L1 removable-lens D-SLR
camera, conspicuous by its absence...

Lumix FZ7...and not to be confused with the
fixed-lens/x12 zoom-range DMC-FZ7

Talking about the year gone by, Denham said that Panasonic had scored some remarkable coups. The company, he reckons, established itself in the UK as No.1 in Superzoom digital-still cameras with a 24 per cent market share and had taken the No.1 slot for digi-cams in Japan - the toughest market of all - with an 18 per cent share of overall digital-stills sales.

A digital SLR might be on the horizon but Panasonic, he says, expects to continue doing well in the fixed-lens sector by emphasising quality and by offering features that consumers really do hanker after - such as optical image stabilisers; true wide-screen image ratios; well-positioned, pro-feel manual controls; and long optical (rather than electronic) zoom ranges. Also important, he says, is boosting brand awareness and this will continue with "impactful" spring advertising campaigns on TV, in the press and on online sites - for still cameras, TV sets and DVD recorders.

In the even more lucrative area of large-screen TV sets, Panasonic became the UK's No.1 brand for the first time back in June 2005, according to Denham, with its Viera sub-brand of flat-panel models. And, he reckons, the company managed to maintain that position by continuing to invest heavily in the development and promotion of plasma sets; it designs all elements of the sets - the processor, the driver and the panel.

Panasonic favours plasma over LCD for screen sizes larger than 32in and is, Denham says, currently taking 30 per cent of all UK plasma sales compared with 10 per cent for its nearest rival. Even so, it's also said to be No.1 in the UK large-screen (20in-32in) LCD TV sector.

This year's models will emphasise high-definition - only one newcomer is standard def - and are reckoned to be improved virtually across the board. A pair of HDMI sockets is standard on the high-def sets along with RGB inputs that let them be used as computer monitors for gaming and for serious stuff.

THPX600 plasma TV setTHPX600 plasma TV set - available
from May in 37in, 42in and 50in versions

Denham claims that Panasonic also took No.1 position in the UK for DVD recorders, with its Diga sub-brand enjoying a share of 30 per cent by value and 25 per cent by volume - putting it streets ahead of its nearest rival, Sony. The company will, he reckons, do better still in the coming months, thanks to the introduction of new products with in-demand features.

Among these key selling points will be multi-format read/write disc support (RAM and dual-layer included); playback of MP3 music and JPEG stills from CD and from DVD-R; the fitting of Freeview TV tuners as well as analogue to all but one model; and the inclusion on each Freeview-equipped model of an HDMI socket along with the associated ability to upscale output of standard-definition footage to high definition as 720p or 1080i.

Range-leader - and likely to go out at a hefty Ā£699 - will be the DMR-EX95V, a 250GB hard-disk model combining the recording and playback of DVD and VHS and transfer to and from SD memory card.

Panasonic DMR-EX95VAll singing/dancing DMR-EX95V - perhaps
the most desirable DVD recorder on the planet

Watch out in the coming days for further coverage of Panasonic's latest range line-up.