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Friday, 05 November 2010


I think that Panasonic, viewing the growing EVIL market around them, have gone precisely the wrong way. Unless you're Tinkerbell, the last thing you needed, improvement wise, was something smaller than the GF1. Yet, in order to achieve this non-goal, they've sacrificed the one nose-ahead advantage they enjoyed over the competition - usability, as in dials, switches, etc. The last thing I want from a camera is the opportunity to smear it with my greasy fingertips in order to access basic controls in two or three steps, when previously it was one.

And pocketability? What is that, anyway? Really, who spends several hundred pounds/dollars on a camera to stick it in their fluff- and snotty hanky-filled pocket? In 30 years of owning cameras, I've never felt that particular need.

I could live without the mode dial, since I shoot nearly exclusively in aperture priority, but the buttons they got rid of on the back actually seemed useful. Now the only easy way to autofocus is with the shutter button, as opposed to using the AF-L/AE-L button. The GF1 tempted me, but this actually takes away from the things I most liked about it.

I wonder does the touch screen work with gloves on, for example when skiing. Touch screens can be tricky. I read a comment somewhere that an iPhone user used his nose to trigger the camera when skiing. Seems quite complicated.

Dear Mike,

Mandatory touch-screen controls n my viewscreen are exactly what I DON'T want for outdoor photography. Finger oils mess up the anti-reflection coating on the screen, and all of a sudden the preview that was visible enough in daylight becomes not-so-visible.

I've learned to keep a microfibre cloth in my shirt pocket at all times when I use my EP-1, 'cause keeping that rear screen clean of fingerprints makes a huge difference in the usability of the camera.

pax / Ctein

"But I guess if you're going to get rid of the mirror you might as well get rid of the dials. It's all going in the same general direction."

It's news like that makes me sad since I keep hoping for an affordable manual-focus digital camera. Woe is me, it's never coming. If you say Leica M8 or M9, you lose a testicle. (Apologies to John Hughes and Jennifer Grey). And please don't tell me to get with the times and get an autofocus camera. I like to manual focus just like I enjoy the stick shift in my car. To each his own.

A Zeiss lens on a Canon or Nikon does not count because those cameras do not have viewfinders set up for manual focus. Along those lines, Mike, I remember you saying that the Contax Aria had great focus "snap." Are there any other manual-focus cameras that also have great focusing like that? Trying to search for "focus snap" on Google just doesn't seem to work. Thanks

Unbelievably, I sold my Sony A900 and all of my DSLR gear, and I'm using the NEX-5 exclusively for digital. These little cameras are fun with rangefinder lenses.

I, too, don't think I'll be able to resist the X100, either.

And that, mefriends, is the way Mike is announcing that he is "shopping around" and having a tidal effecto on a specific camera.

Mebets: Pentax K5, or Sony SLT.
Reasons: Viewfinder, viewfinder, viewfinder; lowlight work, and ...

[so Mike back to the Pentax].

I'm a big fan of my GF1, and I'm a bit disappointed with the removal of some of the buttons on the GF2. I will always prefer dials and physical buttons to menu- and screen-based controls.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I want a camera that has some electronics, not an electron gadget that takes pictures.

Mike, I am eagerly awaiting the X100 myself. I had considered the GF1 until the X100 was announced. If it lives up to what it appears to be, what a perfect little camera!(for its purpose of course)

I'm sure you'll get lots of these comments, but the touch screens on phones and other devices these days are outstanding. If the ones on cameras are as good, they are a very good idea in my opinion.

seems to me the gf2 is a step backwards for serious photographers. i have the gf1 and i love it. why did they remove flash compensation in the gf2? i routinely dial it down to -1 or more just to add a little fill. and to remove the command dial and make everything menu driven (albeit touch screen) is absurd. not every camera has to be so small it fits into your pocket. there are plenty of them out there. including those made by panasonic. let's have one camera in the lineup that is gives the photographer more control, less. a real tool for making images. camera makers, please... please keep in mind that not every camera has to de-evolve into an expensive point and shoot.

It's always a relief when the new version of a camera is plainly not as good as the one you already have. Give me my gf1's manual layout any day! I think that the cliche 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' applies here.

The Nex 5 does NOT have a touch dial. Your post implies that it does.

Still shopping for a dSLR? Have you checked out the DxO scores for the Pentax K5? You'll be impressed! 14.1 stops dynamic range is not bad. :-)

Sorry, I don't understand the x100 reference

"I don't understand the x100 reference"



This is a tough one: but I'm actually FOR dropping the dial.

Whilst I think it made for a better LOOKING camera, I spent most of my time in either Aperture Priority or iA mode when I gave the camera to someone else. From a tactile perspective, the GF1's dial (and drive selector -- which could be moved far too easily) was a cheap plastic affair which should never have been on a camera that expensive -- especially when the switch gear only contributes about $5-$10 to the overall cost of the camera.

The new larger buttons on the rear look much more inviting -- and the smaller size: even better. But they have dropped the AE lock button, whilst they had the space for it. Given the GF1's spot metering mode, I loved this feature. I'm assuming (hoping?) it is replaced by a cool spot metering / focus touch screen feature.

I see they have kept the something similar to the old shutter release -- shame. I really wish those engineers at Panasonic would take the shutter release off the high end Nikons, if you were going to make a camera with a selling point around being more tactile, why not go for gold?

Or perhaps this is just all a ruse. What Panasonic have us waiting for is the GF1n, which will be water proof, drops the flash, the iA mode, has two control dials, faster focusing ...


You might want to have a look at the K-5 and 645 sensor ratings at DXO.Might put a smile on your face.Hope you're still getting in some cycling.

I'm still shopping for a DSLR (a.k.a. DSL+reflex) camera these days, so I'm going in the other direction, myself.... the X100 due in March? I'm already saving my money for that.

Looks cool but it's a oddly chosen (over)buttoned design and no word on what Fuji means by "fast contrast AF" -- could be slower than your GF1, could have worse AF too (and a recent post by you said that was a problem for you). Save your money until after a few reviews!

Given your ownership and appreciation for the Minolta-mount design and lenses I'm a little suprised you're not looking at the a55 or upcoming a77. Small, light, fast-shooting, good AF and high ISO, and Sony has a sweet and inexpensive 30/2.8 macro that falls in your focal length sweet spot.

If you are giving up on EVFs for the time being, I understand. I have a G1 and like it a lot and while its EVF is better than the add-on for the GF1 (and is about the same as those in the Sonys) it is still an odd beast to deal with. I never realized how much I used to just look through my Nikon viewfinders, and I feel anxious with the EVFs because I worry about battery levels dropping, and I haven't sprung $45 for a 2nd battery yet.

I am a fickle bastard.

And more of a gearhound than you'd like too, I bet. Many of us are.

Personally, I think cameras are getting to be too small with too many features that detract from easy use.

I like my E-P1 but I sometimes hit the wrong button due to close spacing. My G1 is also a little too small for my hands to comfortably manipulate at times. Looking at photos of the Nex, I find absolutely nothing to recommend it due to size and the same with the GF2.

Instead of making them smaller, how about making the damn things bigger and more user friendly. As in adding useful viewfinders, secondary screens or dials that show your settings and distance/dof scales on lenses.

I also eagerly await the X100 and reports of it in the field in actual photographer's hands

"What Panasonic have us waiting for is the GF1n, which will be water proof, drops the flash, the iA mode, has two control dials, faster focusing..."

...And body-integral IS.


I have a GF1 and 20mm lens. It's a great camera, fun and powerful. I wish it was more quiet. That's all I would change. But cameras always have to change don't they? They can never stay the same.

Thanks for the x100 link!!

If I wanted a camera smaller and slightly less functional than the GF1 I'd buy an LX-3. Oh wait I did.

Actually I lied, I'd really just use an iPhone 4. Oh wait, I did that too.

(Note, the iPhone 4 is going to eat the lunch of the P&S market until the camera people figure out that a software platform is what they actually need. Hint: Having HDR *and* automatic panos in your camera body should be something every single major camera platform ought to be able to do. As it is, I can get more range out of an iPhone JPEG with one button press than I can from most point and shoots using a full up Lightroom workflow. The D700 is different, of course).

"I wonder does the touch screen work with gloves on, for example when skiing."

The iPhone screen (and other multi-touch screens I'd assume) is a type that requires electrical contact - and therefore won't work with gloves (or a stylus, or things in your pocket). Skin, however works properly unless it's very very dry. So yes, gloves won't operate it, but your nose will.

Other devices have pressure sensitive screens that use sound/light waves, or other types of electrical signals and can be triggered with anything.

So it depends on which type is used.

It puzzles me why no one has put a compact camera's controls under a flip-out LCD. This design has worked well for cell phones for decades.

There would be gobs of room under a 3" LCD for all the dials and buttons anyone could wish for, and perhaps even room left over for an SLR-style status display. One or two buttons and/or dials could stay on the top plate for balance or hip shots.

Forget twisting--a sturdy one-axis hinge would still allow a great deal of versatile framing while constraining only orientation.

Given the size of the GF2's flash, it could live on that flip-out lid, too, far enough from the lens to eliminate red-eye at any distance where it could make a difference.

How about it, camera-makers?

I just read this column again and this time, I picked up on the past tense of the sentence: "Large size never seemed to be a problem with my GF1, which always seemed very 'right-sized' to me."

Does this mean Mike has moved on from the GF1? Inquiring minds need to know! ;-)

"And pocketability? What is that, anyway? Really, who spends several hundred pounds/dollars on a camera to stick it in their fluff- and snotty hanky-filled pocket?"

Can I put my hand up here? For me, pocketability is exactly the reason why I stopped using my Nikon D70 in favour of a 99 euro Panasonic P&S (an FS3, a model long disappeared from the shelves) and, having enjoyed picture-taking so much with the camera always in my pocket, I just spent another 379 euros to buy a Canon S95 which is in my pocket right now.

In many situations pocketability is the most important feature of a camera, because it ensures that you have the camera with you at the "decisive moment".

I'm doubtful if the GF2 qualifies as pocketable. Maybe it depends on whether we are talking about normal trouser pockets here.

I hadn't checked the K5 DxO numbers, they are quite impressive. For landscapes, that dynamic range must be sweet. And it looks like the best uber alles at low ISOs in that area. It pretty much equals the Canon 5DII pixel by pixel.
I wish I had money to switch gear more often, but I'm glad to see how good cameras are getting. Amazing.

"And pocketability? What is that, anyway? Really, who spends several hundred pounds/dollars on a camera to stick it in their fluff- and snotty hanky-filled pocket?"

If they could get it down to the size of an Olympus XA, I'd be on board, image stabilization or not.*

Actually, if they could make it even lighter, that would be fantastic. Maybe an optional tiny battery that was good for only, say, thirty-six shots? What do you think, Mike, perhaps the lucky could get a thirty-seventh frame?

*as it is, an E-PL1 is on my purchase horizon.

I have a GF1 and love it, but, ironically, I would be tempted to upgrade only if the GF2 was slightly *larger* and had a built-in EVF.

Um, I think we have a lot of wrong expectations here. Yes, I'm one of the people who'd like a bit bigger camera.

But we are not the target group. I'm not saying that Panasonic is spot on with GF2, but:

the conventional expectations that the garden variety consumer has from a camera like this is: as small as possible and as big the pixel count as possible.

Panasonic goes towards the lowest part of the market. They aim at people who want small cameras. Yes, shirt pocket is probably the ideal size in this case.

BTW, Mike, 'twould be nice if TOP had a way to announce where are the latest comments.

Arrived here unexpectedly by a link so not a typical reader. I have owned and loved many gorgeous cameras since the seventies. Many Nikons, Linhofs, Leicas and an old Rollieflex TLR. They were all instruments of precision, a certain beauty and a physical pleasure to own, handle and to a degree lust after. They all gave excellent service, often for several decades repaying their cost in service profit and joy in handling. So far no affordable digital camera has appeared which is beautiful as an object and a joy to hold and operate and cause me to start planning an acquisition. This is a sad state of affairs.

I've gotten a certain "object quality" vibe from the Sony A900, Olympus E-P1, and it looks like the forthcoming Fuji X100 (search our site to see pics) looks like it will have it in spades.

Of course, there's an essential difference between mechanical objects and electronic devices. I have friends who have an antique camera hanging on their wall. Somehow I can't see someone displaying a cellphone a hundred years from now. Just not the same kind of thing, is it?


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