*Warning* Do not install software included in Panasonic products!

Background
A while back I purchased a Panasonic camera that can not only take pictures, but also record video. I chose the camera because of this combination, in combination with it’s optical zoom. Now, the camera works great and importing photos into iPhoto has always been a snap.

Unfortunately, only recently did I first try recording a movie and importing it. I say unfortunately because while the video recorded fine, when it came to importing I found that not only am I not able to import video despite the Panasonic advertising this capability for Mac OS X, but also the software included on Panasonic CD’s installs extremely invasive “pop-up” programs that behave just like trojan/virus software!

I really wish I had tried the video capabilities before the store’s return policy expired, as I would have immediately returned the damn thing.

The gory path to finding out I’ve been taken
After recording my first movie on the camera I attempted to import the movie into iMovie. Unlike all other cameras I’ve had (including several Nokia phones) iMovie would not import the movies when I connected the camera. In fact, it said there was no media available for import. Huh? iPhoto handles the pictures fine, what’s up with the movies?

OK, so maybe Panasonic is using a proprietary format I thought. Not what I was expecting, but if so there should be software on the CD that came with the camera that would allow me to import my movies. After searching for a few days (off and on of course, I didn’t search for several days straight!) the CD packaged with the camera was finally located and I proceeded to install the software that came on the CD on my Mac OS X system.

Now the astute among you have probably already picked up on the second warning sign. (The first, by the way, was that Panasonic did not provide a way for iMovie to import movies). For the rest of you, here it is:

  • Mac OS X Applications do NOT use installers!

Having used software for other cameras, this was the first that required an installer to put the application on my Mac and I was fairly annoyed about the requirement. Annoyance became outrage / disgust when I discovered the installed software:

  • a) is useless, in comparison to iPhoto a complete joke. Supposedly “native”, but looks, response and general feel were as good as a very (very) poor java application. If this is the best that Panasonic can deliver their company programmers need to be fired!
  • b) has no ability to import video from the camera. Yes, that’s right—a camera that advertised right on the box that it is “fully compatible with Mac OS X” has absolutely no way to import movies from the camera under Mac OS X. Hell, for all I know Panasonic doesn’t allow importing movies under Windows either!
  • c) is intrusive, acting like a trojan or virus, and can NOT be uninstalled! WTF?!?!?! Yes, that’s right … the software puts in all kinds of crap into your system, like this little gem: a system extension (I’m assuming since I can’t find the app in the Applications folder or in the process list) that puts a banner add on the top of ALL of your other windows! No closing it either, in fact since it’s a system extension you can’t even quit it! Panasonic: this is not how applications operate … this is how viri operate!

Item b is upsetting because I expected to be able to use this camera for taking photos and movies; but being unable import movies them makes the movie taking feature useless. It means I spent hundreds of dollars on a camera that I can’t use as expected.

Item c is unacceptable; installing virus-like software simply should not done, ever! I’m literally at a loss for words here … how the fu*k did Panasonic’s management OK this???

More Software Details
Panasonic’s software package is distributed under the label “ArcSoft”. Maybe this is a Panasonic label to distance the parent company from such crappy software (and that’s ignoring the whole virus install, and taking efforts to make the software uninstallable!) or maybe it’s a 3rd party software package they’ve licensed, but it doesn’t matter because the responsibility for Panasonic’s end-user experience is 100% the responsibility of Panasonic.

There were two programs: MediaImpression and Panorama Maker. Both programs are delivered as installers instead of Mac OS X standard applications. However, as far as I can tell there is no need for this because the applications themselves, while poor examples of commercial software, are completely self-contained and I could simply copy the application bundles to other computers where they would run just fine.

So, what’s the purpose of the installers then? Obviously, the only purpose is to install the virus-like software! Way to go Panasonic, your company is obviously run by stand-up guys who are truly concerned about their customers..NOT!

Since I have not been able to locate a means for getting rid of Panasonic’s virus/trojan software, I would be very appreciative if anyone can give me any help on removing this trash!

Again, it doesn’t matter whether or not Panasonic wrote this software or licensed it, they put it on their CD under their name, and their printed instructions direct you to install the software in order to use the camera, so the end result is that Panasonic put this crap on my machine.

My Options?
So far the only way to import movies from this camera involves purchasing a 3rd party software solution. Unfortunately, the only program I can find seems extremely suspect! It’s “website” is suspiciously similar to the ArcSoft site, and it has multiple products which appear to be there only for the purpose of bogus search results, because only the titles change … the product descriptions and screen images do not! In fact, they look a lot like the ArcSoft software screens. Furthermore, there a several bogus “articles” about how to get video from Panasonic cameras into Mac OS X, all of which recommend this software. And all those articles are on websites which have a nearly identical look to the website which sells the software the article recommends … and those websites also have no other content, except for lists of free software that do not compete with anything the “recommended” software’s site sells.

All this goes to my pretty much being guaranteed not to purchase; not only am I reluctant to be forced into purchasing software to perform functionality that was advertised as being included in the product I originally purchased, but even under ideal conditions a website setup like that screams “virus infection, credit card information stolen, sell and/or spam my email”, or some other undesirable result if you initiate a purchase and/or contact of any kind. After Panasonic has already installed trojan / virus software on my computer, I think it goes without saying that this site rates at least 99 out of 100 on a scale of likely to end up not being in my best interests!

So, any one have a way to import video from a recent model Panasonic camera? (My specific model is a Lumix DMC-ZS3)

Summary
The software included on Panasonic CD’s installs extremely invasive “pop-up” programs that are installed in a manner designed to make them as difficult to remove (uninstall) as possible. That’s virus behavior, not application behavior, shame on you Panasonic!

Concusion
Unfortunately, I must advise, in the strongest possible terms, to avoid purchasing any Panasonic cameras until they remove the trojan / virus installation(s) and provide software that is truly usable in performing the actions Panasonic advertises as being included with their cameras. This is really too bad, because the camera itself is great; movies shot in a moving car at high speed on very rough terrain came out great, it even handled 1.2+ G braking/turning. And the digital zoom is great, especially because it’s combined with a very nice wide angle lens. A great combination of hardware that gets trashed by the software side.

Say, Panasonic hardware people, you really need to talk to the guys on the software side, as well as upper management, because those software people (replace people with your favorite cuss word, I did) are ruining your excellent work!

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About Lane Roathe

I make my living designing, producing, and programming computer software. I have done work on numerous platforms, including MacOS, Win95/NT, Apple //, Super Nintendo, Sega, and others; writing mainly games but also operating systems, applications, utilities, etc. I have started and run several companies, currently operating Ideas From the Deep.
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