The way forward for Panasonic Micro Four Thirds ?
THE WAY FORWARD FOR PANASONIC MICRO FOUR THIRDS CAMERAS ?
By axlotl December 2011
This article describes the camera I want Panasonic to make.
1. This is not a rumor. I have no idea what Panasonic is planning. However I have some very specific ideas about what I want. In this article I describe these ideas in words and with photographs of a mockup which I made. I am an amateur photographer with no connection to any maker or vendor of photographic products. My personal experience of Panasonic cameras is with the G1 and G3, both of which I have bought, owned and used. I have carefully studied the handling, viewing and operation of these cameras.
2. Panasonic's interchangeable lens cameras are of the micro four thirds (M43) type. Those with EVF
have a faux DSLR shape. As they are not DSLR's they do not need to be this shape at all. My work with mockups has shown that a huge improvement in handling and operating can be achieved by
adopting a different shape.
3. I designed and built from scrap wood the mockup you can see in the photographs. This one is
based on a fixed 75 mm diagonal monitor, M43 lens mount and 20 mm back focus distance. A swing out monitor would add approximately 12 mm width and 6 mm height to the overall dimensions of the camera. The finish on the mockup is a bit rough but all the sizes and spatial relationships are correct. I put considerable work into getting the size and shape of the handle right and
ensuring the optimum location, size and relationships of all the controls.
The mockup has been designed for optimum viewing, handling
and operation. I did not target any particular size. There is currently a
marketing race between manufacturers to produce the tiniest interchangeable
lens camera, as if small size held some intrinsic virtue. But many of these
tiny cams have compromised viewing (no EVF) handling (no handle or just a
vestigial one) and operating (a reduced set of very small controls).
4. Dimensions of the mockup are: Width 122 mm, Height 80 mm,
Depth 58 mm. This gives a box volume (w x h x d) of 566 cc. This is inbetween a
G3 and GH2 in size. The center of the shutter button is 76 mm above the
baseplate. The body covers 50 mm width to the right of the monitor frame. These
two dimensions are critical to the design and layout of the handle and control elements, such as
buttons, dials etc.
5. The relatively large dimension of 50 mm on the right side
allows the inclusion of a fully contoured handle. This is parallel to the body
not projecting from the body like that on the GH cameras. In a small camera
like this, the parallel handle type is greatly preferred as it places the
shutter button where the index finger falls naturally. The lens axis has been moved across to the
left side, as viewed by the user, to make room for the handle.
I can achieve a full five finger grip with my average sized and shaped adult male hands.
Smaller and larger hands can also find a good fit by shifting up or down the handle.
There is a full suite of hard controls. These include a Shooting Mode dial, Drive mode lever just to
the right of the Mode dial, top main control wheel, rear dial, AF start button and jog type controller to instantly move active AF position in capture mode or enlarge and shift the review image. All primary and secondary exposure and focussing controls can be operated by touch, with the user's eye to the EVF, without having to shift grip with either hand.
6. There is a substantial angled thumb rest. This allows the right hand to grip the camera
in a relaxed, stable half closed position. The AF start button is just inside
the thumb rest, readily activated by rolling the thumb 3 mm to the right.
7. The optical center of the EVF is 24 mm from the left edge
of the camera body. This enables the rounded upper left corner of the camera to
be pressed against the nasal and orbital bones for optimum stability.
8. There is a hotshoe and inbuilt popup flash.
9. The mockup lens shown is about the same diameter as and slightly longer than the 14-45 mm zoom.
10. I think this is the camera Panasonic should have built instead of the G1. By adopting a
faux DSLR shape, I believe Panasonic deprived the G1, and subsequent models with the same shape, of the full benefits which can be obtained from the M43 concept. This mockup shows that M43 can deliver big camera handling and operating with small camera size. It has a coherent, attractive style which is not derivative of some other camera type.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.