A few days ago some comments from Panasonic executive Yosuke Yamane tickled the optimist region of many camera bloggers brains, interpreting remarks on Panasonic’s openness to different autofocus technologies as meaning that they were working on phase detect autofocus.
Panasonic relies on its proprietary DFD autofocus technology, which wiggles the focus back and forth to figure out the right focus distance. The wobbly DFD technology has always been a few steps behind the competence of the technology that other manufacturers employ: phase detect (PD) autofocus.
Among Yamane’s remarks was, “We have been studying all possibilities including PD for a long time.” Indeed, Panasonic has not just been studying PD for a long time, but has always opted for its DFD system instead. Panasonic executives have also been making statements that they have been studying PD for just as long, but these remarks, in retrospect, appear to be efforts to show a lack of bias against PD to back their claims that DFD is the best solution.
The market does not believe DFD is better. There are many reasons to love Panasonic cameras, but there are few who believe the autofocus is superior to any direct competition. This sentiment can mislead camera users to think that Panasonic believes there is a problem. It appears that it does not.
When Panasonic executives indicate that PD is a part of their ongoing research; is being studied; or was considered as an option for a body, what the firm is expressing is that the use of DFD was a deliberate choice, casting shade on PD. When a Panasonic executive refers to an upcoming camera as having a “next generation” AF system, it’s the next generation of DFD. And it might wobble less.