The way forward for Panasonic Micro Four Thirds ?



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 or any affiliated companies.


Total comments: 5
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Dec 20, 2011)

Ah, the Olympus E-300. What the heck were they thinking?

Charles Lau
By Charles Lau (Dec 19, 2011)

Love your proposal, and this is something Panasonic should have done with the G3 or the GH2 for sure. I just do not understand why they have continously resisted re-packaging their psudo DSLRs into a rangefinder style form factor.
The new GX1 is such a big disappointment and i am sure they are loosing a group of users who desire a high end rangefinder style camera to SONY and the NEX7.
I love my GH2 but do not always want a DSLR look when travelling. If the GX1 comes with a tilt screen and a view finder, just like the GH2, I would have jumped on it. Now it is just another Ho hum body with not much more to offer than the GF1 or the EP3.
You seemed to have posted similar proposals to both Panasonic and Canon, you may want to make the post to Olympus as well.

Of course Sony already has the answer, in the form of the NEX7......

Andreas Soures
By Andreas Soures (Feb 18, 2012)

why don't you use Panasonic LX-5? It's the best choice I made since my first LX-1!

By Bilgy_no1 (Dec 18, 2011)

Are those Smart buttons, or Smarties (TM) buttons?

Either way, good thinking, and thanks for sharing. Goes back to the Panasonic L1/Olympus E-330 for some of the design cues, which makes sense. The problem there was the off-axis mirror construction which gave a very dark view. The EVF solution makes this easier, cheaper and better to accomplish.

Bill Foz
By Bill Foz (Dec 18, 2011)

Nice work, I think you are on the right track. With my G1, and many other digital cameras (m4/3 and non m4/3) that I have held, it seems that the right thumb does nearly all the button work, in manual and semi-automatic modes. Also, on smaller camera bodies (including my G1) the right thumb needs to be crooked or bent sharply downwards at the top knuckle, to reach the main buttons. In my case of hyperactive photo taking, this had led to a painful top knuckle on my right thumb. No doubt this thumb problem has also been made worse by the moderate amount of texting I do on my mobile phone.

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
Total comments: 5