Matsushita to debut digital SLR camera

Company behind Panasonic brand aims to grab a slice of the fast-growing market for high-end digital cameras. Photos: New SLRs and an eBay model

Matsushita Electric Industrial plans to introduce its first digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera later this year, aiming to grab a slice of the fast-growing market.

The world's biggest consumer electronics maker, which makes the Panasonic brand, has been developing technologies and devices for digital SLR cameras jointly with Japanese precision equipment maker Olympus, the companies said Monday.

A Matsushita representative said the company had not decided on a price range for the LUMIX DMC-L1, a prototype of which is being exhibited at this week's Photo Marketing Association International's 2006 trade show in Orlando, Fla. Other major players in the camera industry, including Canon and Nikon, are also using the trade show as a backdrop to unveil new or revamped products. Olympus has already introduced its E-330 digital SLR camera using the jointly developed mirror box unit and sensor.

Digital SLR cameras, which use interchangeable lenses, are generally more expensive and yield higher profit-margins than simple point-and-shoot compact cameras that can be produced by low-cost electronics makers.

The digital SLR camera market has been growing rapidly, and global shipments in this market are expected to increase 48 percent to 5.62 million units by 2008, according to Japan's Camera and Imaging Products Association.

Konica Minolta Holdings and Sony, as well as Pentax and a unit of South Korea's Samsung Electronics, have sought similar digital SLR camera alliances to pool resources and cut costs.

But Konica said last month it would sell a portion of its SLR camera business to Sony, part of its move to withdraw completely from the business of selling cameras and photographic film.

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