Is Panasonic about to unveil a full-frame mirrorless camera?

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If current rumors are to be believed, Panasonic is on the verge of launching its very own full-frame mirrorless system.

Multiple rumor sites state that the Japanese company will be unveiling a new model on 25 September, the day before Photokina officially opens its doors. A prototype of the new camera will apparently also be on display at the event.

Such a move would be a significant departure for the company, the first to introduce a mirrorless camera ten years ago in the Lumix G1. Every mirrorless model the company has released since then has been based around the Micro Four Thirds standard, the last one being the Lumix GX9 that surfaced in February. 

The system’s traditional selling point is the advantage of portability, with the smaller sensor allowing for smaller bodes and more compact lenses. Certain models, such as the Lumix GM1 and GM5 have indeed been compact enough to fit into the palm of the hand and still leave space, but the most recent Lumix G9, GH5 (pictured above) and GH5S models positioned at the top end of the line have not presented as great a size advantage over full-frame rivals such as the Sony A7 III (and the newly announced Nikon Z7).

Should we be surprised? Possibly not

With no leaked images as of yet, it’s difficult to know how seriously to take these rumors, but such a development would make some sense. Up until recently the full-frame mirrorless sector has been dominated by Sony, with just the remaining sliver occupied by Leica’s lovely but decidedly niche – and awkwardly titled – SL (Typ 601) model. Now, with the arrival of Nikon’s Z system, and an expected announcement from Canon with something similar, systems built around smaller sensors may start to lose their shine – particularly if they arrive at similar price points.

Quite how such a camera would work with Panasonic’s existing lens options and accessories, if at all, is unclear, given that the imaging circle these lenses create is only so wide. It’s extremely unlikely that such an announcement would see Panasonic abandon its current G-series system too, the more likely scenario being that the two would sit side by side (just as Nikon has promised with its DSLR line).

Whatever happens, it certainly looks like this year’s Photokina will be one of the most interesting for some time.