Panasonic Revives 8K Research, New Cameras Slated for 2018

Panasonic has renewed its efforts to develop 8K image sensors for video. The company had stopped R&D in this area in 2011, in response to financial considerations, but as its earnings increased, it revived its work in this sector, now pledging to invest $80.8 million (10 billion yen) into R&D. Production of the sensors is likely to be outsourced, and production models are expected on the market by 2018. The first targeted use for the 8K sensors will be consumer and broadcast cameras.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, the 8K sensors — which provide 16 times the resolution of high definition — will be able to capture “fast-moving objects such as a child or animal in clear still images.” In addition to consumer and broadcast cameras, Panasonic expects the sensors to be used in self-driving cars and surveillance systems as well as smartphone and other applications.

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Digital Photography Review notes that Panasonic has similarly used its 4K video functions for applications other than video, including 4K Photo, which extracts a still from a 30 fps burst, and Post Focus, which lets users change what’s in focus after the picture has been taken.

Stills extracted from clips via these methods are 8-megapixel, but “if that clip were recorded at 8K video (around 7680 x 4320) the stills would be in the region of 33MP, depending on the image proportions chosen,” fulfilling Panasonic’s promise that consumers will be extracting 33MP still images from its cameras by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“It will certainly change the way images are created in quite a dramatic way,” adds DP Review.

Nikkei Asian Review points out that 8K sensors are “a growth area,” with Sony, which controls 40 percent of the global image sensor market, “already developing 8K-compatible sensors, as are Canon and others.”

“Panasonic apparently decided that developing its own key image-processing components is essential to gaining a competitive in edge in digital products. With Panasonic rejoining the fray, development in this area is likely to gain speed, mainly among Japanese manufacturers.”