Awaiting the GX7, Recalling the L1

Started Jul 20, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Joel Halbert
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Awaiting the GX7, Recalling the L1
Jul 20, 2013

With the imminent announcement of the Lumix GX-7, there has been an upsurge in posts and comments, here and on the 43rumors site, about the Lumix DMC-L1. The L1 was one of those little-sold, imperfect but very likeable products that are now fondly remembered by past owners. There have also been occasional bursts of nostalgia about the semi-compact non-interchageable-lens EVF predecessor, Lumix LC-1 / Leica Digilux 2.

The L-1 was a premium-priced, very well-constructed camera that was Panasonic’s entry into interchangeable lens systems, and it borrowed much from Olympus EXXX camera internals. The only real downside (other than price) was that the reflex OVF image was relatively small, and of course the camera was large by current M43 or NEX standards. I really enjoyed the little Z-folding pop-up flash, used first on the LC-1, that could be snapped into tilt-bounce position. Of course, one of the L-1's best features was the superb kit zoom lens, but that and the expensive body construction contributed to the high price.

I think that Panasonic's reaction to the L1 was a little schizophrenic. On one hand, I think they knew perfectly well that the camera was just their toe in the water for interchangeable-lens cameras and that they were creating a premium and niche "statement of capability" product. Published interviews and news stories at the time back this up; they knew that the price and the elegant but non-mainstream body design would limit its unit sales in the 2006/7 market. But on the other hand, it seems that the limited sales numbers then led some managers to prohibit future "experimentation" with the corner-VF, rectangular-style design language of the L-1 and the LC-1. The second Lumix 4/3 camera, the L-10, was DSLR-styled, and this continued with the introduction of the world's first mirrorless camera in the mini-DSLR-styled G1. Panasonic clearly stated that the G1 body style was chosen to minimize the non-mainstream aspects of Micro 4/3 and to make customers more comfortable by using a DSLR-like shape.

So even though Panasonic was an early advocate and provider of the corner-VF body style, they have been notably reluctant to introduce any more cameras like that. This is despite pleas from some users and despite the good, though limited, reception of NEX7 / NEX-6 / Fuji X corner-VF cameras. Finally in 2013, we see the little LF1 compact and the pending GX7. Interesting to note that Olympus has also - so far - stayed away from that body style, even though the namesake of the "soulful" PEN cameras did have a corner viewfinder.

So what will happen now? Well, we can expect that the GX7, like the Fuji X and Sony NEX 6/7, will have somewhat limited sales numbers simply based on the price bracket. This is a marketing fact of life that is only rarely broken. If Panasonic makes a mistake, like equipping the GX7 with a less-than-premium sensor, or having a very poor image in the signature viewfinder feature, then the sales will be further crippled - and the harsh partisan factions on DPR and elsewhere won't be likely to cut them any slack. Perhaps in that case, the twice-burned, apparently anti-VF faction within Panasonic will again succeed in shutting off further development - missing the point that you have to get the whole package right... OR you have to have a real bargain price to boost the sales numbers.

Thus, like many others I am hoping for the GX7 to be a real success and a compelling package. We all know it won't be cheap, and I've said that price is secondary as long as the camera is a pleasure to carry and use. However, it should be priced as aggressively as Panasonic can manage, and I hope they can break the delayed-availability cycle that plagues almost all Lumix camera introductions.

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JoelH

 Joel Halbert's gear list:Joel Halbert's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 +5 more
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Alpha NEX-7
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