Versatile Japanese industrial giant
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Though commonly considered a company, Panasonic is actually a brand of Japanese electronics and industrial giant Matsushita. Like many of Japan's major conglomerates, Matsushita began just after the end of World War I when its founder, Konosuke Matsushita, had the bright idea of adding a second socket to the then common light fixture. His employer thought it was a bad idea, so Mr. Matsushita left and started his own company. Over time, Matsushita became an electric products and appliances powerhouse with its Panasonic and National brands, and also with its batteries. Today, Panasonic is very strong in many areas of consumer electronics.
Panasonic, however, does not have the same history in photography as some of its competitors. Its Lumix line of digital cameras is better known in Japan than on the US markets. An alliance with German camera maker Leica adds prestige and know-how, and the company hopes that this will give its innovative Lumix digicams a boost.
Like its major competition, Panasonic offers a full range of 5 to 8 megapixel consumer cameras, including models with massive 12X optical zooms. Several models in the Lumix line come in different colors (black, silver, white, and even pink). Many offer the vaunted MEGA optical image stabilizer and the ability to record in the 16:9 format.
Recently, Panasonic introduced the DMC-LC1 with a Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens, a design with the look, feel and control of a standard 35mm camera.