Panasonic has posted a two teaser videos on Instagram and YouTube which rumors suggest are hinting at the release of a new Lumix camera scheduled to launch tomorrow, January 4, at 10am EST (UTC-5).
In both the teasers, Panasonic uses the tagline ‘New Year, New Phase.’ The ‘New Phase’ tagline suggests the new camera will finally offer phase-detect autofocus (PDAF), breaking with the company’s history of using its Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) autofocus technology.
DFD autofocus, in Panasonic’s own words, is an autofocus technology that ‘calculates the direction and the amount to move the focus lens at a single movement by predicting it with 2 images that have different depth of field.’ In other words, it was a proprietary autofocus technology built upon contrast-detect autofocus (CDAF). Panasonic has used it for over a decade in its line of Micro Four Thirds and full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless camera systems.
While CDAF has gotten a bad reputation compared to PDAF over the years, it isn’t inherently worse – it’s just more computationally intensive. In fact, back in 2020, we even suggested Panasonic’s gamble on CDAF, which the company refers to as Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) in its cameras, could pay off in the long term as cameras continue to get more powerful.
In addition to explaining the fundamental differences between CDAF and PDAF, we explained where Panasonic had improved its DFD technology with its then-recently-announced S5 and what could be done to further bring CDAF technology more in line with the performance we have become accustomed to with PDAF systems. Below is a quote from the linked article:
‘During the development of the S5, Panasonic’s engineers discovered they didn’t have to lean on the machine-learning trained algorithms for both subject recognition and movement tracking: they could combine the machine-learned recognition with their existing, faster, distance and movement algorithms, which freed-up processing power to run the process much more frequently.’
There’s also the irony that a company whose cameras have become most synonymous with video capture is using an AF technology that struggles most with shooting video.
At the end of the article we came to the conclusion the shortcomings of CDAF technology don’t appear to be inherent problems with the focusing technique itself, but limited due to the sensor readout speeds and processing power of the cameras – both things that will inevitably improve with each new generation of camera as sensors and processors continue to improve.
As for why Panasonic may make the switch, we can only speculate for now. Is it that Panasonic felt as though it could no longer for the sensor and processing power to improve? Or is it possible it felt its DFD technology had become too tainted by a bad reputation over the years?
Whatever the case is, it appears Panasonic is finally jumping on the PDAF bandwagon. We’ll have to wait and see how it holds up, should the teased transition come to fruition less than 24 hours from now.