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Panasonic aims for top-tier camera status

The Japanese consumer electronics giant has aspirations to become a major player in the digital camera market. That'll likely mean taking share from Canon or Sony.

Panasonic's DMC-TZ5, with a 10X zoom lens in a compact body, is among a bunch of compact cameras introduced Tuesday at PMA, the Photo Marketing Association trade show. Panasonic

LAS VEGAS--Panasonic is a relative newcomer to the camera business, but the electronics giant outlined strong ambitions for the business Monday.

"We will try our best to achieve 15 percent market share by 2009," Tokihazu Matsumoto, director of the company's digital still camera business unit, said at a news conference at the Photo Marketing Association trade show here. "We aim to become one of the top camera brands in the industry."

The company also is hoping to reach 15 million units globally during the fiscal year, which for Panasonic runs through March 2010.

That's a big step up from the 10 percent share the company said it had for fiscal 2007. To reach its goal, Panasonic said, it hopes for 13 percent share in 2008, Matsumoto said.

Panasonic's goal is "aggressive," given that the digital camera market isn't growing much and most sales are to repeat buyers, said InfoTrends analyst Ed Lee.

"To get to 15 percent means they're going to have to climb over a few manufacturers to get there," Lee said. Specifically, that means Sony, with a market share percentage already in the high teens, and Canon, with market share exceeding 20 percent.

Panasonic is investing to try to realize its ambition, though, he added. "They are putting money behind cameras and imaging as a corporation."

At PMA, Panasonic unveiled several new compact models that put a major emphasis on automation. For example, a feature called Intelligent Exposure divides a scene into 3,000 regions as it's shot and analyzes which are likely to be underexposed. Panasonic's new Venus Engine IV image processor then increases the exposure level in dark regions, Matsumoto said in an interview.

The exposure boost takes place gradually so there aren't edges or visible artifacts, Matsumoto said.

The company also hopes to stand out from the crowd by use of wider-angle lenses to better capture crowd shots. Several new models announced Tuesday sport a 25mm wide-angle lens.