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The independent source for study and review of camera ergonomics.

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    G7


    Like other recent Panasonic   Micro Four Thirds MILCs, the G7 is a very sophisticated piece of equipment with a multitude of features and capabilities. In addition the function of many of the external controls can be user selected from a long list of options.


    This makes the G7 very configurable. Each user can virtually design their own camera and decide what it will do and how it will work.


    This is a wonderful thing but it requires many decisions to be made by the user. Experts who are  familiar with  Panasonic menus and way of doing things can breeze through all this in a few minutes. 

    But newcomers to the brand may face a steep learning curve.


    This little series on setting up the G7 is designed to help those people.


    I will refer frequently to the  G7 Owners Manual (PDF) for advanced features which should be downloaded from a Panasonic website and open on screen.  Fortunately Panasonic’s PDFs are easier to navigate than some with “jump to” and “jump back” capability and a decent layout.


    The Owners Manual tells you a lot about what you can do but almost nothing at all about why you would select one of the many options in preference to any other.


    I will try to offer some assistance with this. I will explain my understanding of the options available and my selection with reasons. Your requirements will be different from mine and therefore likely to lead to  different selections.


    I do not use video capture so anyone who wants to use the G7 primarily for video would best seek elsewhere for advice. This series of setup posts is aimed primarily at still photo users.


    User groups and basic Mode Dial Settings


    The G7 is suitable for the full range of users from complete novices up to professionals.


    Novices should set the Mode Dial on the [iA] icon, leave all menu items at default and enjoy the camera’s automatic, point and shoot  operation which works very well.


    The [Creative Control] (Artists palette) icon on the Mode Dial  lets you play about with various in camera JPG effects, just for fun.


    The [Scn] Mode is similar with imaging presets like “Appetizing Food” and “Cute Dessert”. I never use or recommend any of these as they give control of imaging parameters to the camera. One of the options is “Clear Sports Shot” but I would never use that for sport/action photos because that is one type of subject where you must have full control of the camera to get good photos.


    Those wanting to take a bit more control can try [iA+] but I find iA+ more confusing than helpful.


    Users wanting to properly take control of camera operation need to use the P,A,S,M Modes.


    Basic ergonomic concepts


    The G7 like all recent Panasonic M43 cameras allows you to assign many menu based items to Function buttons and/or the Q Menu button. You can also decide which button is used for the Q Menu. The list of assignable functions is so long as to bewilder the newcomer. So you need a conceptual framework to guide the process.


    The framework which I use and recommend is to understand the use of a camera in four phases: 

    Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.


    Setup Phase decisions are made at home with the Owners Manual to hand. Items which do not need to be adjusted when out and about with the camera can remain in the main menu system, accessed via the Menu/Set button.


    Prepare Phase decisions are made in the minutes before taking photos.  This might involve, for instance switching from “tripod/landscape” settings to “hand held sport/action” settings.

    Some adjustments in this Phase are made with Set-and-seemodules with functions set by the manufacturer. These are the Main Mode Dial to the right of the EVF hump, the Drive Mode Dial to the left of the hump and the Focus Mode Lever below and behind the Mode Dial.  These control modules access the adjustments most commonly required in Prepare Phase. On this camera Panasonic has put the Set-and-seemodules to efficient use.


    Other adjustments in Prepare Phase can be allocated to the Q Menu and the Q Menu function itself can be allocated to a Fn button.  I leave it at the default location which is Fn2.


    In Capture Phase you want to quickly adjust primary and secondary exposure and focus parameters without disrupting the picture taking flow. These include  Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Exposure Compensation, AF on, Change position and size of AF box.


    The best control modules for this phase are the front and rear dials, the programmable Function Buttons and the 4way pad (called Cursor Buttons in Panasonic speak).


    Review Phase is accessed via the [Playback] button the function of which cannot be reassigned.


    Also the function of the [Motion Picture] button cannot be reassigned although it can be switched off (Manual P 243) to prevent accidental activation.


    Touch Screen Operation


    The G7 offers many sophisticated touch screen functions and operations (Custom Menu, Manual Page 60)


    Someone coming from a smartphone background might think the touch screen would be the obvious way to operate the camera. However the screen on a camera is much smaller than that on a smartphone making all the touch icons smaller and more fiddly to use. In addition the camera is designed to be used with the EVF which makes touch operations very difficult to put it mildly.


    I note that cameras designed for professional use generally do not offer touch operation.


    The touch options in the Custom Menu are:


    1. On/Off


    2. Touch Tab. When [On] a line of flyout tabs appears at the right side of the screen like those unloved Charms in Windows 8.   You get an extra 5 little Fn button pads and several other functions.

    By all means give this a try but I find the tabs too small, too fiddly and the whole process a distraction from the capture flow.

    To operate a smartphone you look AT the screen. To operate a camera you look AT the subject THROUGHthe screen or EVF. I find that if I have to look AT the screen to operate the camera it distracts my attention away from the subject.


    3. Touch AF. This can be set to activate AF, AE or both at any part of the screen which is touched.


    4. Touch Pad AF. The idea here is to allow you to move the AF Area using touch on the monitor, while looking through the EVF. Some people say they really like this feature, others of whom I am one find it easier to move AF Area with the cursor buttons.


    Try it. You will get finger prints and nose grease all over the monitor.  The good news is you can switch it off.


    My conclusion after several years is that the touch functions are probably most useful for video work on a tripod when you are viewing on the monitor and do not have to hold the camera.


    I don’t do video and infrequently use a tripod so I switch all the touch functions off.


    Direct focus Area


    The next thing which I like to decide is whether or not to use Direct Focus Area (Custom Menu, Manual Page 157) as this influences what functions need to be allocated to the Q menu and Fn buttons.


    Novices will be accustomed to the AF system which works in [iA] Mode. The camera uses 49 Area AF Mode and decides where to place the focus using algorithms in the firmware. This often produces multiple small green boxes when the shutter is half pressed.


    Users coming from a DSLR background may be familiar with the “focus (in the center) and recompose” procedure, which you can also use with the G7.


    But there is a better way, faster and more precise than either of the methods above.


    The G7 is a mirrorless camera which allows the user to change position and size of the active AF area at will. This is achieved with the Cursor Buttons. With default settings the direct functions of the 
    Cursor Buttons are ISO, White Balance, Fn3 and Autofocus Mode.


    Note that Autofocus (AF) Mode is different from Focus Mode (AFC/AFF/AFC/MF) which is changed with the Focus Mode Lever.


    In order to change position and size of the AF area you first press the left Cursor Button to enter AF Mode, then the down Cursor Button to activate the AF area Setting screen. This is indicated by a yellow bounding box around the AF area with up/down/left/right yellow arrows. 


    Now pressing a Cursor Button will move the box.


    You can put it anywhere. Change the size of the box in 8 big jumps with the rear dial or  68 small increments with the front dial.


    Press the Disp Button with the AF box yellow and arrows visible to return the box to center, press twice to restore the box to default size.


    Half press the shutter button to restore the AF box to white, indicating readiness for focus operation.


    Some users are happy to leave the camera like this and in fact it works fine. But you  have to press the left then the down cursor buttons to enter the AF Area Setting Screen.


    If you set [Direct Focus Area] in the Custom Menu then pressing any of the cursor buttons causes the camera to enter the AF Area Setting screen immediately and also moves the AF box immediately.


    This is faster but you have to find a place to access ISO, WB (if desired) and Autofocus Mode. As it happens this is easy enough.


    My practice and recommendation is to set [Direct Focus Area].


    I put ISO on Fn1 and Autofocus (AF) Mode on the Q Menu on Fn2. Although Panasonic provides a plethora of AF Mode options I find that [1 Area] gives the most reliable focus in most situations with static and moving subjects. It also gives me the most control.


    I don’t bother adjusting White Balance (WB) before capture as I run all my photos including JPGs through Photoshop where I find it much easier to achieve satisfactory white balance. If you shoot RAW then setting WB doesn’t matter.


    If you want to shoot JPG and use photos straight out of the camera it may be necessary to adjust WB pre capture. In that case you can allocate WB to a Fn button or the Q Menu.


    Dial Operation


    The G7 is a full twin dial camera like a professional DSLR  but with better dial ergonomics than most of them, enabling the camera to be driven like a sports car. Which is wonderful but like a sports car the driver needs to have  sufficient  knowledge and skill.


    I would advise someone who has never used a twin dial camera to leave Dial Operation  at default settings initially  then explore what’s available a little later when you are more familiar with the camera. But I put the explanations here because dial settings greatly affect the user experience.


    Dial options are found under the [Dial Set] tab in the Custom Menu, Manual Page 49.


    1. F=Aperture, SS=Shutter Speed. In Manual Exposure Mode this sets which dial changes Aperture and which changes Shutter Speed. Both dials are easy to use so the choice is by personal preference.


    2. Rotation. Ask your self which way you expect to move a control for [value up], in other words higher f number or faster shutter speed . At the default setting rotating the front of the front dial >right (finger moves right) gives value up and rotating the back of the rear dial >right (finger moves right) also gives value up. My brain is wired to expect this so I leave the setting at default.  If your brain is wired up differently you can try setting the reverse.


    3. Exposure Compensation (EC). You can set up either (or neither) dial to give Exposure Compensation directly. The other dial will adjust aperture in A Mode and Shutter Speed in S Mode.


    This is a very fast way to apply EC and it works well. When I set up my GH3/4 for direct EC on the rear dial it got bumped all the time so I had to switch it off. But that has not been a problem with the G7. I prefer to adjust aperture/shutter speed with the front dial and EC with the rear dial. But you can have it the other way around if preferred.


    4. Dial Operation Switch Settings.  This is a new feature for Panasonic M43 cameras. The idea is to use one of the Fn buttons like an [Alt] key on a Windows computer, to temporarily reassign function of the dials.


    By default the Dial Operation Switch button is Fn11 in the middle of the rear dial and the alternative functions are adjustment of WB (front dial) and ISO (rear dial).


    Now things get complicated. This is my analysis:


    1. Fn11 button is an inappropriate place for adjustments required in Capture Phase because the button can only be reached if grip on the camera with the right hand is completely released.


    2. So I mapped [Stabiliser], a Prepare Phase adjustment, to Fn11.


    3. There are 14 screens of options for each Fn button………feel faint…dizzy….sit down….have a cup of tea…..back to it…..

    You could use one of the Fn buttons for the Dial Operation Switch function. But the opportunity cost of doing that is you cannot use that button for anything else.


    4. There are three pages of options for each dial under the [Dial Operation Switch] tab……..feel faint again…………….noisy grumbles……….what genius thought up this lot……...back to it…….


    5. I think Panasonic has taken a step too far with the Dial Operation Switch function. It’s all too convoluted both at setup  and in  operation.


    I find that when using a camera that I need to train my nerve/muscle pathways to automatically perform  certain movements when I wish to complete specific tasks. Neurologically this process actually involves certain nerve pathways firing preferentially when performing those tasks.


    If the camera changes configuration in mid process I will have all the wrong nerves firing. That means I have to stop what I am doing and concentrate on the camera when I should be concentrating on the subject and the picture taking flow.


    6. The options numbers don’t add up. There is a finite number of hard Fn buttons. If Dial Operation Switch is allocated to one of them the opportunity cost is that nothing else can be allocated to the same  button.  So one option is lost and two are created but at the further cost of considerably increased ergonomic complexity. One of those functions temporarily (i.e. for a few minutes or similar) allocated to a dial could be permanently allocated to, say the Q menu where I would at least be able to remember where to find it.


    7. My solution to this is to leave Dial Operation Switch function well alone.


    Function (Fn) Button Actions   Custom Menu, Manual page 70.


    Each of the Fn Buttons can be allocated one of 56 possible functions. On first sight the list looks impossibly long and the selection process daunting. But some principles can be usefully applied.


    * The Q Menu must be allocated to one button and the default Fn2 is as good as any.


    * If Direct Focus Area is set for the Cursor Buttons that leaves just 4 more Fn buttons.


    * Fn1 is close behind the front dial/shutter so can be used for a Capture Phase adjustment. I put ISO there. This is actually a better location for ISO than the default Cursor Button as it can be reached with the right index finger without disrupting grip with the right hand.


    * Fn 5 is over to the left of the EVF so a Prepare Phase item should find a home there. I chose Quality (RAW/JPG).


    * Fn11 in the middle of the rear dial is the most difficult to reach so I put another Prepare Phase item there, Stabiliser.


    * I like knowing when my camera is horizontal but I also like having an uncluttered screen/EVF most of the time so I put the Level Gauge on the Fn4 button.


    So that is what I do with my reasons. But you will have different ideas about priorities so go through the list and try to work through which functions you want to bring out of the main menu system and onto Fn buttons for ready access.


    The best part of this is that you can change your mind at any time. But at some stage you need to settle on a group of settings so you can train your neuro muscular system to function reliably and without having to think about it in the service of making adjustments quickly and smoothly.


    AF/AE Lock button Custom Menu, Manual Page 172


    This is the button in the middle of the Focus Mode Lever.


    You may have read about “back button focus” on some enthusiast and high level cameras. Well this is where you can set up back button focus on the G7. Or not as the case may be. You can choose.


    Options for the button are Auto Exposure Lock, Autofocus Lock, Both, and AF-ON.

    If AFL is selected the camera will focus and lock focus.


    If the next tab down,[AF/AE Lock Hold] is set to ON, focus will stay locked when you release the button.


    If AF-ON is set the camera will focus continuously if AFC is set on the Focus Mode lever. This is useful for sport/action where you might want to get the AF system up to speed before initiating a capture sequence with the shutter button.


    I find the most useful combination for the way I use the G7 is AFL and AF/AELock Hold ON.


    There are plenty of options with which to experiment.


    Q Menu   Custom Menu,  Manual Page 67, 68, 69.


    This is the ideal access portal for items which you want to adjust in Prepare Phase of use, in the few minutes before capture. By default there is a preset list of items allocated to the Q Menu but I recommend you make a Custom list, selecting items from the 37 available.


    The process for listing items in the Q Menu is reasonably well described on Page 68 of the Manual. I do this with the Cursor Buttons. Sometimes I have a problem persuading the items to line up where I want them and have to experiment a bit with the procedure for moving items from the source lists to the active line.


    The active items line can contain 15 items but only 5 are displayed at any time without scrolling across. Therefore I recommend and practice using a maximum of 5 items in the Custom Q menu.


    I allocate AF Mode, Stabiliser, E-Shutter, Burst rate and Photo Style to the Q Menu.


    I suggest you trawl through the list on Pages 68-69 of the Manual.  Decide which items you would be happy to leave in the main menu system and which you want available for ready access on the Q Menu but do not require a dedicated Fn button.


    Expect to revise these decisions with experience.  Fortunately the camera allows you to change your mind any number of times.


    Got in a muddle ?


    If you feel you have made a mess of things so far and gotten your settings in a muddle fear not. Go to the Setup Menu>Reset and start over.


     Next in this series I will go through themenus item by item.
















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    FZ1000  This picture of Djupivogur, Iceland got in because I like it,
    although it was not taken with a G7. 

    Setup Menu


    Setup Menu is the one to work through first even though Panasonic put it second last on the list, go figure.


    Most of the Setup Menu items are well described in the Owners Manual and require little help from me.


    I mention some which might benefit from a little extra explanation.


    Live View Mode (Page 75) is a bit confusing. There appears to be little observable difference between 30fps and 60fps. I set 60.


    Monitor Display  Both the monitor and EFV (LVF in Panasonic speak) are adjustable for Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Green/Red balance and Yellow/Blue balance.


    NOTE:  To adjust the EVF select [Monitor Display] then look in the viewfinder. Now the adjustments apply to the EVF.  The Manual does say this on Page 76 but plenty of owners and reviewers miss that and assume the EVF is not adjustable, when it is.


    I find the monitor looks fine with all settings at default but the EVF is way too contrasty for the typically high subject brightness range found in Sydney so I use for the EVF: Brightness +2, Contrast -6, Saturation 0, Red tint -3, Blue tint -2.


    Monitor Luminance  I leave this at Auto which works fine.


    Economy  Time to Sleep Mode and time to Auto LVF/Monitor Off is adjustable. I just leave both at the 5 minute default.


    Menu Resume  There is no [My Menu] so Menu Resume ON  is handy. When the [Menu/Set] button is pressed  after the camera is switched on it will return to the last used menu and tab. When you switch to a different menu the last used tab will be highlighted.


    Menu Background  You can play around with this.  As with most things on this camera there are  plenty of options.


    Version Disp  tells you which firmware version is loaded on the body and lens.

    Exposure Comp Reset  This is very useful. When ON any Exposure Compensation setting will be cancelled if you switch the camera off or change Mode. This saves inadvertent exposure compensation.


    Sensor Cleaning  The Owners Manual says this is to “blow off’ debris on the sensor. I suspect a problem with translation to the English language here. I believe the cover filter in front of the sensor is actually vibrated.


    FormatAlways format a card in the camera before using it especially if the card was previously used in another camera.


    Recording Menu


    Photo Style  This is a very important setting for JPG shooters. By default you get a series of presets, Standard, Vivid, Natural etc.  That’s fine but I recommend you figure out a Custom Photo Style which can be applied to any of the presets by pressing the down Cursor Key then adjusting Contrast, Sharpness, Noise Reduction and Color Saturation.


    Best settings will depend on personal preference and also environment. I photograph mostly in Sydney where clear skies and high subject brightness range are common.


    My Custom settings are Contrast -3, Sharpness +1, Noise Reduction -5, Saturation 0.

    Some recent Panasonic cameras including the G7 apply considerable NR by default, presumably for smooth results at high ISO. I find this gives a highly un-natural “waxworks” appearance to faces.


    You can change the settings any time.


    Filter Settings  You can apply the Creative Control filters in PASM modes and Panorama, JPG only.

    You can also take one shot with and another without the filter, again JPG only.


    Aspect Ratio    The camera actually captures only one native aspect ratio which is 4:3.  It does not have a multi aspect ratio sensor. Ratios other than 4:3 are achieved by simple crop.


    Picture Size    Why would you buy a 16 Mp camera then only use half or a quarter of the pixels ?

    For some people it might be to squeeze more shots onto  a memory card I guess, but the reason which make a bit more sense to me is to access the [Ex Tele Conv] feature mysteriously found on screen 7 of the Rec Menu instead of adjacent to the Picture Size tab where it might more logically be located.

    This provides a type of digital tele extender which could be useful in some circumstances.


    Quality  You get RAW, JPG at two levels or RAW+JPG.  If RAW+JPG is selected the JPG only functions are inoperative.  If you assign [Quality] to a Fn button or the Q menu then changing the setting in one place (say, the Fn button) will be reflected in the menu.


    AFS/AFF  This determines which option is applied when the Focus Mode lever is set to the AFS/AFF position. AFS (AF Single) is reasonably self explanatory, AFF is a bit more complicated.


    Thus its operation is similar to AFS with a static subject. It is not quite the same however. With the kit zoom on the G7 I found AFS achieves focus more quickly with less back and forth focus movement than AFF.


    But if the camera detects subject movement it switches to AF Continuous until the subject movement ceases.

    AFF is not the same as AFC in which the camera continuously exercises  AF movement even if the subject is static.


    My tests show AFS is faster and more positive with still subjects and AFC is more responsive with moving subjects.


    Metering Mode  You can have Multi (which is the default), Center Weighted or Spot.


    If you want to get yourself into a whole heap of bother with metering by all means try Spot.


    Ceterweighted is there I suppose for traditionalists who grew up with this on their SLR many years ago. It works OK.


    Multi is like Centerweighted with algorithms to recognise various different scene types. For all general photography this is the most reliable.


    Burst Rate  See the table in the Manual  Page 182


    The camera will shoot up to 40 still photo frames per second in Super High with the E-Shutter ON. This could be useful for analysing a golf swing for instance, where the subject is not moving in relation to the camera.


    In the more usual case where you want to photograph a subject moving towards or away from the camera you should set Burst Rate M which provides live view and AF on each frame at 6 fps. The G7 has DFD focus which with a suitable lens enables a high percentage of in focus shots of moving subjects at 6 FPS.  This capability is similar to that of a semi pro DSLR.


    4K Photo  Manual Pages 185-191     The G7 has the facility to capture still photos of about 8 Mpx each  at very high speed using 4K Photo Mode. I have not yet gained experience with this but users on forums are reporting some hitherto unavailable capabilities.


    The procedure is very fully described in the Manual.


    Note there is a new to M43 cameras dedicated 4K Photo position on the Drive Mode Dial.


    Auto Bracket  Manual Page 199-200    The Manual describes the options and setting method pretty well. You should set Burst, in the [Single/Burst Settings] tab unless there is a specific reason for wanting to press the shutter button for each exposure of the set.


    Unfortunately neither the G7 nor other Panasonic cameras allow Timer Delay to be used with Auto Bracketing. So on tripod, you either have to hold the camera while it is on the tripod, which is sometimes quite feasible, or trigger the shutter with a smartphone or (electronic) cable release.


    Self Timer    This for times when you have the camera on a tripod. There are three options:   10 sec to get in the group photo, 10 sec then three shots hoping that in one of them everybody’s eyes will be open or 2 sec to prevent camera shake.  This is a good one to bring up to the Q menu.


    Time Lapse Animation   Manual Pages 203-208.  I have to confess I have yet to figure out how to get Time Lapse working. There is extensive description of it in the manual however.


    Highlight/Shadow  Manual, Page 135. I first saw this feature in Olympus M43 cameras, now Panasonic has it. It works for RAW and  JPG capture. The problem is that it bakes in a tone curve  which you might later decide does not suit the subject.


    Now we come to a group of picture settings which only work on JPG files.


    i-Dynamic  Page 143   The main purpose of this function is to prevent blown out highlights in JPG photos when there is high subject brightness range. Basically the camera underexposes the photo then lifts the dark tones to make a normal looking output.


    I find it very useful. The options are High, Standard, Low, Auto and Off.

    I set Auto and leave it there permanently. The camera detects high subject brightness range and applies the correction automatically.


    i-Resolution    Page 143  My understanding of this is that thecamera seeks to apply sharpening to places where it is required such as foliage but not where it is not needed such as in clouds and sky.

    The effect is subtle. You might want to try it.

    I leave it Off as I have not yet been convinced of its value.


    i-Handheld Night Shot  Page 86: Works with iA and iA+ only.  I think the description on Page 86  is adequate.


    i-HDR  Page 87: Works with iA and iA+ only.

    These two features are fully automatic, relying on the camera to detect and respond to the current conditions. 


    HDR   Page 144.   This works in the PASM Modes. The camera takes three shots in quick succession when the shutter button is pressed once and combines the three into a single JPG file with better highlight and shadow detail than could be achieved with one shot.

    It does work but only for JPG capture and output.

    Under the [Set] tab you can select auto, +-1, +-2 or +-3 EV or Auto bracketing. I find Auto works well enough.

    It will work with careful hand held use as long as Auto Align is ON.


    Multi Exp(osure)  Page 210-211    This is another Panasonic feature which appears in successive cameras and which I still fail to comprehend.  I have played around with it and never figured out how it works or is supposed to work. There is an explanation in the Manual which others may understand better than me.


    Panorama Settings  Page 103-104    Panorama has its own position on the Main Mode Dial.

    Turn the Mode Dial to the Panorama icon then the Panorama settings tab in the Rec Menu becomes active.


    The function works at any zoom position but as the lens is zoomed out sweep angle decreases.

    I find Picture size Standard works best. Wide is really too wide for most purposes.

    The Direction indications are correct but a bit confusing. You can sweep horizontally (Left > Right) in landscape or portrait orientation and you can sweep vertically in landscape or portrait orientation.


    I find the most useful setting is the bottom one of the four available which allows sweeping horizontally with portrait orientation.

    Success with Panorama requires careful subject selection and some practice.


    Electronic Shutter   Page 179.  I recommend allocating this to a Fn button or the Q Menu. It is required to prevent blur due to shutter shock with some lenses at some focal lengths and shutter speeds. I use it most of the time for general photography. See the list of imaging and capture limitations with E-Shutter listed on Page 179. I have several posts about it on this blog.


    Shutter Delay   Page 180.  This works with the mechanical shutter and is useful for tripod work when the exposure time is longer than 1 second.

    The M-Shutter on a mirrorless camera has a 4 action cycle: Close>open>exposure>close>open.

    The first close action can shake the camera causing blur. Shutter delay introduces a delay of the set time between the first (close) action and the second (open) action. My tests show this is enough to prevent blur. I use 2 seconds which also allows camera shake to dissipate.

    I put Shutter Delay with some other settings on a Custom Mode for long exposure tripod work.


    Flash   Page 234-241.  I think the explanations in the Owners manual are quite adequate. The G7 has some very sophisticated flash capabilities including off camera studio setups. I hardly ever use flash so I know very little about it.

    The [Flash] tab will be greyed out if E-Shutter is ON.


    Red Eye Removal   Page 234    The red eye removal function is described on Page 234 of the Manual.


    ISO Limit Set  This is the highest speed which Auto ISO will set. If you assign ISO to a Fn button then pressing the button brings up a dual dial display with ISO limit assigned to the front dial and ISO setting assigned to the rear dial.

    This provides a fast way to control ISO setting.


    ISO Increments  It might be tempting to set 1/3 step increments but 1 step is faster. You get 1/3 step exposure increments anyway as both the aperture and shutter speed use 1/3 step increments.


    Extended ISO  The “native” base ISO setting of the sensor is 200. With [Extended ISO] ON you can set ISO 100. Beware of this. When overexposed highlights are recovered in Adobe Camera Raw they take on a bright pink hue. For all general photography I suggest avoiding ISO 100.

    Fortunately Auto ISO will not use to 100 setting.


    Long Shtr NR     When active the camera makes the exposure then applies noise reduction taking the same time as the exposure. I generally recommend this be turned ON although that could be inconvenient with very long exposures.

    The tab will be greyed out if E-Shutter is ON because long exposures are not available with E-Shutter.


    Shading Comp  Page 145   This applies a post capture software correction for darkening at the periphery of the frame which can occur with some lenses.


    Diffraction Comp  Page 146   This seeks to correct presumably by applying sharpening for loss of sharpness which can occur when the lens aperture is stoped down to smaller (larger f number) than f8.

    These two corrections may be useful for JPG shooters who want to use pictures straight out of camera.

    They both add to the processing load of each image and may slow Burst Mode speeds.


    Ex Tele Conv   Pages 225-227    As previously mentioned this provides a form of digital zoom. It only works if Image Size is set to M (8Mpx) or S (4Mpx).


    There are two options:


    Zoom: you can read all about this in the Manual. Panasonic claims the feature can be used “without deteriorating image quality” which seems quite disingenuous to me. Presumably they mean no deterioration beyond that which would be found with 8 Mpx or 4 Mpx anyway. This feature involves assigning a Fn button, which means using a  high priority control module for a  low priority function.  

    Tele Conv: This selection makes the angle of view behave as if an optical  teleconverter were fitted to the lens, thereby reducing the angle of view at all positions of the zoom ring.


    Digital Zoom   Page 227   This is another digital zoom option.


    I have done many trials with digital zoom options on the FZ1000 camera and found that cropping a RAW file gives a better result. I presume that will be the case for the M43 format as well.

    However JPG shooters might want to explore Ex Tele Conv or Digital zoom to extend the effective reach of any lens.


    Color Space  This can be set to Adobe RGB or sRGB. I set it to Adobe RGB which is optimal for RAW capture. JPGs will use sRGB anyway.


    Stabiliser  Some lenses have a OIS ON/OFF switch on the lens barrel, some do not. Stabiliser control is a good one to assign to a Fn button or the Q Menu as you are likely to want to access it quickly.  Panasonic recommends it be switched OFF when the camera is on tripod.  I put it on Fn11.


    Face Recog    Pages 213-217    Note this is not Face Detection AF.  Face Recog  involves programming the camera to recognise a specific face and focus on that.  No doubt this is a bit of clever technology which of course DSLRs can’t do with OVF viewing and maybe that is why we see it on current Panasonic cameras.  But the person using the camera is perfectly capable of deciding which subject should be in focus so the practical purpose of Face Recog has always somewhat eluded me.


    Profile Setup   Page 218   This allows you to “record profiles of babies and pets on images”

    Presumably someone, somewhere, finds this useful.



    That’s it for Rec Menu, Custom Menu is the next post in this series.


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    G7

    The Custom Menu  (Manual Page 381) is the repository for a miscellaneous collection of items. I will mention here those which I  think are not well explained in the Owners Manual.


    Cust Set Mem  (Page 128) The G7 allows up to 3 Custom Modes to be set.  This is a useful capability. The procedure for setting or changing a Custom Mode is well described on Page 128-129 of the Manual and is straightforward.


    A Custom Mode registers all settings in the main menus (except Setup), Q Menu, Fn buttons and the Mode Dial. Other exceptions are listed on Page 126.


    Settings for the Drive Mode and Focus Mode cannot be registered to a Custom Mode as they are controlled by set-and-see modules.


    Individual preference will determine how the Custom Mode system can best be used.  My practice is to have settings for general hand held photography as my personal default for PASM shooting. I have a custom Mode for tripod work with slow shutter speeds and another Custom Mode for hand held sport/action work. Other possibilities might include macro/closeup and studio/flash.


    Custom Modes can be edited at any time.


    Silent Mode   Page 212.  This is useful for those occasions when silence and discretion are required. The E-Shutter is engaged, beeps, flash and AF assist lamp are switched off.


    AF/AE Lock and AF/AE Lock Hold   I covered these in Part 1 of this 3 part series.

    Now follow four AF featuresthe first three on Page 162:  


    Shutter AF   When ON, this sets the operation of the shutter button with which most people are familiar. Half press activates AF and AE, full press fires the shutter. I set this ON.


    Half Press Release  This one is a bit un-nerving.  The camera evaluates AE, achieves AF and fires the shutter when the button is half pressed. If nothing else this feature shows off the camera’s operating speed.


    Quick AF    When ON the camera tries to focus all the time, even without pressing the shutter or any other button.  I don’t find this useful and it eats up batteries.


    Eye Sensor AF  Page 58    When ON the camera will attempt to focus when you look in the EVF. Again I don’t find this useful as it has the AF system working when it probably does not need to.


    Pinpoint AF Time    Page 159   Panasonic cameras have a Pinpoint AF feature, selectable from the Autofocus Mode. This can be useful for  precise selection of AF target, for instance picking out a bird in a tree. AF in this mode is bit slower than the regular 1-Area variety and the AF process is accompanied by enlargement of the focus target area. This setting controls the amount of time for which the enlarged target area appears automatically.

    I set Mid which is about 1 second.


    Pinpoint AF Display  This allows you to choose whether the enlarged display is Picture In Picture or Full Screen. Personal preference will decide.


    AF Assist Lamp  I don’t know why Panasonic continues to bother with this. AF in low light is so good the assist lamp is never needed and is anyway intrusive to subjects. I switch it OFF.


    Direct Focus Area  I discussed this in Part 1 of this setup series.


    Focus/Release priority  Page 164     I see no point in firing the shutter with the picture out of focus so I always set this to FOCUS.


    AF+MF    This is a handy feature of mirrorless cameras including the G7. Set AF+MF to ON. When AF is obtained and locked with AFS, (half press the shutter button or press the AF/AEL button if configured for AFL). While holding the shutter button half pressed turn the focus ring on the lens.  The camera switches to Manual Focus with peaking and PIP display for fine tuning of the focus position. When you are happy with the focus depress the shutter button fully.


    MF Assist   Page 169   This can be set to activate by turning the focus ring on the lens or by pressing the AF Mode button, which by default is the left cursor button. I always set this to the focus ring on the lens as that seems the most natural thing, however some lenses lack a focus ring.


    MF Assist Display  This can be PIP or Full. PIP is OK, but as always with Panasonic you get a lot of choices whether you really need them or not. By the way you can change the degree of magnification of the enlarged display by turning the rear dial while the display is active (with arrows on 4 sides) Also you can change the position of the MF box at this time. These little niceties might be useful for someone doing a lot of manual focus work as for instance with closeups.


    MF Guide  This is an analogue display which unfortunately does not indicate actual distance but does prompt the correct way to turn the focus ring.


    Peaking   Page 170   This is a very useful feature which improves speed and accuracy of manual focus. It is well implemented on the G7.  As ever with Panasonic you get lots of options. After experimenting with these I have settled on a Detect Level of HIGH and Display Color of  LIGHT BLUE.  I leave Peaking ON so it is ready to function when required.


    Histogram     Some people just love their histograms and Panasonic caters for these folk. To activate the histogram set [Histogram] to ON in the Menu. This will bring up the histogram with a yellow bounding box and 4 arrows. Now you can position the histogram with the Cursor Keys. Half press the shutter button to return to shooting status. Repeatedly press the Disp button to scroll between various live view screens some with and some without the histogram.


    That is all fine but the G7 has Zebras for still photo as well as video. I find the Zebras a much more useful way to determine if highlight overexposure is imminent as they can be set to a predetermined level and indicate which part of the subject is affected.

    I find the histogram clutters up the live view screen and is more difficult to read than Zebras, so I leave histogram OFF.


    Guide Line    As usual you get plenty of choice. The options are “rule of thirds”, “union jack”  and “single horizontal/vertical”. The latter can be positioned anywhere with the Cursor Keys while the lines are yellow. Press the Disp button to center both.


    Take your pick. I use the “single horizontal/vertical” lines positioned to intersect in the center of the frame. This is handy for determining if vertical subject elements in the center of the frame will be vertical in the photo.


    Center Marker  I leave this ON as it helps me identify the frame center quickly.


    Highlight  I don’t quite understand why this is in the Custom Menu as it is a Playback feature. When ON, overexposed highlights will flash with the “blinkies” in image playback. I set this to ON but the feature has largely been superseded by……


    Zebra Pattern    (Page 220)  which tells you before exposure about imminent highlight overexposure allowing you to apply Exposure Compensation to prevent highlight blowout.


    There are two Zebra settings. This allows you if desired to set one for highlights (trial around 95-105%) and the other for, say, Caucasian faces (trial around 70%).

    I just use Zebra 1 set at 105% to prevent highlight blowout with RAW capture. If you regularly use JPG capture,  trial a lower setting in the 90-95% range.


    You will need to conduct your own experiments to discover which setting works best for the typical subject brightness range where you shoot,  the amount of tolerance you have for highlights at or near clipping levels, whether you shoot RAW or JPG, which Raw converter you use and which Photo Style you prefer.


    I realise that all sounds a bit complicated but once set up to your preference Zebras are very useful.


    Monochrome Live View  This allows you to preview what a subject might look like in monochrome. The picture is still captured in color.


    Constant Preview  This is one of those Panasonic menu items which produces enquiries in user forums.

    Constant Preview only works in Manual Exposure Mode, M on the Mode Dial. It gives a live preview of the approximate effect of changing  aperture or shutter speed or ISO sensitivity. See also the +/- EC analogue readout beneath the live view image with bars to the left or right of center indicating under or over exposure.

    Auto ISO is available in M Mode.

    Turn constant Preview ON for general available light photography, OFF for studio flash photography.


    Expo Meter  I think Panasonic should delete this. It is a large intrusive display of aperture/shutter speed exposure equivalents which camps all over the lower half of the image preview. If you set it to ON but don’t see it, press the Disp button a few times. I set it OFF.


    LVF Disp Style and Monitor Disp Style   One of the advantages of mirrorless cameras is the ability to configure the EVF (called LVF by Panasonic) and monitor to look exactly the same, facilitating a seamless segue between them.  For both you can have either “Monitor” style or “Viewfinder” style.

    Monitor style gives a larger preview image but camera data is displayed over the lower part of the frame interfering with view of that part of the subject and making the data difficult to read depending on the type of subject which lies behind it.


    Viewfinder style provides a smaller preview image but camera data is displayed on a black bar below making it easier to read in all conditions.

    For me this is a no contest, I always set Viewfinder style because I habitually monitor aperture, shutter speed, +/- and ISO when making photos.


    Monitor Info Disp  If you set this ON and press the Disp button repeatedly, a full screen info display will come up with 17 types of data. This could be useful to see what settings are current for a variety of parameters. It is not the same as the Olympus Super Control Panel however. You cannot use this screen to change the values.


    Rec Area   This displays either the still photo or video angle of view and aspect ratio.


    Remaining Disp   Displays either number of shots for still photo or time for video remaining on the memory card.


    Auto Review   Page 45    This determines whether or not you want the camera to display an immediate review of each shot taken and if so, for how long. I always switch this OFF.


    Fn Button Set, Q Menu and Dial Set were discussed in Part 1 of this series.


    Video Button  Those who do video will obviously set this ON.  Users who never do video can set it OFF to prevent inadvertent activation. Unfortunately the button cannot be reprogrammed.


    Power Zoom Lens  Pages 228-229  I think the Manual is clear enough on this.


    Eye Sensor  Page 58   As is sometimes the case with Panasonic menus, the number of options available leads to a complicated decision making process.

    Switching between the LVF and monitor can be made in several different ways.

    One is to use the Fn5 button, the default function of which is LVF switch. But to my mind that is a waste of that button as there are other ways to switch. So I recommend using the Fn5 button for something else.


    In the Menu under the [Eye Sensor] tab you get [Sensitivity] and [LVF/Monitor Switch].  I recommend setting the Sensitivity to LOW.  If set to HIGH it is excessively sensitive of anything which comes near the LVF.


    Under the [LVF/Monitor Switch] tab you have [LVF/Mon Auto], [LVF] and [MON].

    I think most users probably set [LVF/Mon Auto]. This way you can have the monitor facing outwards. Signal goes to the monitor until you bring your eye up to the LVF when signal switches to the LVF and the monitor switches off. Having both on simultaneously would pull excessive power.

    That works fine.


    However I set [MON]  This way the Monitor is active when turned outwards. But when I turn the monitor inwards the LVF automatically switches on. That is how I use the camera. I mostly view on the LVF and prefer to turn the monitor inwards for protection, when the camera is in use and when it is in the carry bag.

    Take your pick.


    Touch Settings I discussed these in part 1 of the Setup series.


    Menu Guide   Page 106  This determines which screen will be presented when setting the [Scn] or [Creative Control] Modes.


    Shoot W/O Lens  Set this ON. It can sometimes be useful to fire the shutter without a lens fitted.


    That is the End of this 3 part series on setting up the G7 camera.









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    G7 in hand. The best Panasonic G cam to date.



    The original G1 model of 2008 was a trailblazer in the photographic world.


    It was the first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.  With no predecessor the designers had to go boldly  where none had gone before.


    They co-designed with Olympus and others a completely new sensor size, lens mount and internal workings.  They got an entirely new camera system up and running from a standing start.


    That was quite an achievement.


    But with so much emphasis on the complex technology inside the camera it seemed there was not much  R&D energy left for the all important  Human Machine Interface (HMI).


    When the G1 appeared I immediately saw that it was the first model of a type of camera which would one day displace the DSLR as the dominant type of interchangeable lens camera (ILC).


    There have been some considerable technological barriers to surmount. The main ones  are  predictive/continuous AF on moving subjects, EVF refresh rate/blackout and shutter shock. The MILC makers are still working on these and I believe are close to achieving resolution of the main issues.


    The other impediment to market acceptance was the poor ergonomics of the early models. I am pleased to report that this too, is improving although there is still work to be done.


    I came to the G1 from  Canon SLRs and DSLRs. I got fed up with these because they refused to focus reliably and were anyway too bulky and heavy for my liking.


    My last Canon DSLRs were the EOS 40D, 450D and 60D. 


    The 450D had a cramped, uncomfortable handle and poorly implemented rear button haptics.


    The 40D had a row of buttons below the monitor which is a most unsatisfactory place for them.


    The 60D had decent ergonomics with a comfortable handle, shutter button and control dial in basically the right places, fully articulated monitor, big rear dial and mostly decent buttons. But I could see the 60D could easily be improved especially in way of the control dial and the row of buttons behind the dial. 
    I posted my ideas about the 60D on this bloghere. Canon continues to make DSLRs with the same layout as the 60D showing they are not advancing in the ergonomic aspect of design.


    Moving to the G1 was a bit of a shock. Sure it was smaller but the problem was the poorly designed HMI. The camera was very awkward to use.


    So, what do I believe Panasonic got right and wrong with the G1 ?


    All my work on ergonomics to date indicates they got the basic concept right.


    That is, small DSLR shaped camera with a handle, shutter button forward on the handle, Mode Dial and Control Dial,  fully articulated monitor, EVF on the lens axis and plenty of controls for the expert use but an Auto [iA] Mode for the novice.


    But they got the user interface wrong in several different ways as described below.


    The G1 appears to be a scaled down L10 which was a  DSLR using the 4/3 system,  abandoned by Panasonic after a short time.


    The problem is that cameras do not scale up and down for the simple reason that the hands which use them do not change size.


    Simon Joinson’s 2007 Digital Photography Review of 2007 described the L10 as having “excellent handling and ergonomics”. I have never held an L10 in my hands but knowing what I now do about the elements of camera ergonomics I am a bit sceptical of that assessment, given the placement and detailing of some of the controls.


    Anyway whether the L10 is excellent or not the scaled down G1 is decidedly not.


    Mockup of the thin projecting handle used on early model Panasonic G cameras. If the pad of the distal phalanx of the index finger is on the shutter button the palm of the hand is forced away from the right side of the handle, leading to a weak grip and suboptimal stability.


    The first problem is the handle. This is of the “thin projecting” type with shutter button perched on the top/front.  A larger camera can get away with this as the deeper handle opens up the fingers of the right hand.


    Same mockup as above. If I hold it in the strongest and most comfortable position as shown here the index finger is nowhere near the shutter button.


    But a smaller camera exposes the weakness of the handle type. It is not shaped to conform to the anatomy of the hand and fingers. If the user’s index finger is to get onto the shutter button, as it must, the palm of the right hand is forced away from the right side of the camera leading to a weak and uncomfortable grip.


    If the user holds the camera in something approximating a “best fit” grip, the index finger falls nowhere near the shutter button.


    The middle finger of the right hand lays directly over the front control dial. In order to operate the dial the right hand must be released,  camera support transferred to the left hand, the dial operated  then the right hand returned to holding position.


    The 4Way controller (cursor buttons in Panasonic speak) is difficult to use as the buttons are low and flat on top, almost impossible to feel with the thumb.


    After the G1 I took an excursion into Samsung land with the NX10 which is almost exactly the same size as the G1 but much nicer to hold and operate. I learned a lot from comparing the two and discovered that the details of the HMI can make a very big difference to the user experience.


    I missed the G2 which is basically a G1 with the control dial moved to the back, in much the same position as the GH2 which I had for a while.


    Then came the G3 which I rate the worst Panasonic G cam ever. It hardly seems possible but they replaced the poorly designed handle of the previous models with an even worse one, this time not even a proper handle but a little protrusion such as you might find on a compact camera.


    This model seems to have been an attempt by Panasonic to explore the “smallness” concept even further than before.


    It is an ergonomic failure.


    The shutter button is in the ergonomically suboptimal top/rear position on the body.


    The rear dial of the G3 is so buried in the back of the camera the only way to turn it is to push the very tip of the thumb, just beneath the nail, into the dial. This is very awkward and uncomfortable, requiring a big change in the position of the right hand. Worse, the dial is the push/click type and I usually pushed it in too far when I tried to turn it.


    The Cursor buttons are still the same old…same old…flat tops….not good.


    My copy had a gap between misaligned body panels at the right lower rear corner so every time I tried to use the camera  the sharp edge of one of the panels cut into my hand.


    Picture quality is quite good. Pity about the hideous ergonomics.


    There was no G4 presumably for superstitious reasons. But then along came the GH4. Go figure.


    The G5 goes some way to getting the G line back on track with the original and I believe optimal concept. 


    It has a larger, more curved, more anatomical handle.  It is more comfortable to hold. The shutter button has moved closer to the optimal position. The thumb support is well shaped and angled. The cursor buttons are of rocking type, unfortunately not the same as that on current FZ cameras and unfortunately with a smooth chrome style finish when the module really should have a highly textured rough finish so it is easy to locate by feel.


    The rear dial has moved into the thumb support which would be the optimal position if the thumb support was large enough, which it is not. So the dial has to move right around to the right side of the rear of the camera. In addition it has the rounded, soft lands which make it difficult to operate smoothly.


    So the G5 is a modest step forward ergonomically.


    The G6 is a mild upgrade of the G5 with minor styling changes. Ergonomically they are almost identical. Both have sufficient space for a front dial just behind or around the shutter button but both have instead a toggle type lever with limited functionality.


    G7  A compact, well designed very functional ILC that is a pleasure to use. This camera packs a lot of capability into a small package.


    Now we come to the G7. This is the current model and represents a big ergonomic upgrade for the G series, making it easily the best ergonomic G cam thus far. It returns to the original concept of a small DSLR style camera. It is only 1mm wider and 2mm taller than the G1 but better designed all round.


    Handle shape and shutter button position are significantly improved. The handle is fatter, deeper, more rounded and better shaped to fit the hand than previously. The shutter button has moved further inboard (to the left as viewed by the user) to allow a more natural position for the right index finger on the shutter button with the hand wrapped comfortably around the handle.


    A full twin dial design is now provided for the first time in the G line. The dials are very well designed, shaped and positioned for easy operation by the right index finger and thumb. Dial haptics have improved markedly. It appears Panasonic is finally getting the message that dials should have sharp serrations with sufficient projection for smooth reliable operation. The front dial is concentric with the shutter button for easy access and operation by the index finger. One click gives 1/3 EV step value change. Nice. I would have continued the serrations up onto the top of the dial a bit further but I quibble.


    Rear dial position and implementation is quite clever. There is not enough width in the thumb support to embed the dial GH3/4 style, so the designers have put it just above a thumb support with cutaway top to enable the thumb to rotate the dial without having to shift grip with the hand. Dial haptics are good. The dial is easy to rotate but doesn’t get bumped inadvertently. Serrations and resistance are just right for smooth operation.


    There is a little ridge down the right side of the control panel (to the right of the 4Way controller) to prevent inadvertent pressing of the Disp and WB buttons. Nice. It works too.


    The G7 also acquires Panasonic’s Focus Mode lever seen on several cameras from the L10 onwards, and a proper Drive Mode dial to the left of the EVF hump. These features permit efficient operation in Prepare and Capture phases of use.


    Altogether I rate the G7 as almost perfect. But not quite…………….


    The Cursor buttons have reverted to the old flat type which are not so easy to locate by feel. They are usable but I switch between the G7 and the FZ1000 often and I can say the “rocking saucer” type cursor button module on the FZ1000 is much easier to locate and operate by feel.


    The same comment applies to the Disp button which is required in Capture Phase of use to re-center the AF box. It needs to be elevated slightly more. Maybe 0.5mm would do the trick.


    Panasonic could fix these problems in production.  They would make many friend in the process.


    So there you have it.


    Evolution of the G line has been a bumpy ride with many hitches, glitches, backward moves and ergonomic mistakes along the way.


    But the G7 is almost there. With some minor  haptic modifications  it could become one of the top ergonomic performers on the ILC market and I include all  ILCs of all sizes and types in that group.













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    G7 ISO 6400 Mechanical Shutter (crop)

    In their DPR review of the G7, Richard Butler and Samuel Spencer point out that use of the mechanical shutter may be associated with loss of sharpness due to shutter vibrations. This is rectified by use of the Electronic Shutter as demonstrated in the DPR studio test scene.  


    My own experience confirms this.


    The authors say that ….images made with the E-Shutter….”come at some cost to  dynamic range and a slight increase in noise at the highest ISO settings”. 


    Panasonic M43 cameras including the G7 record images using the M-Shutter at 12 bits per pixel.


    But when using the  E-Shutter  some models record at 10 bits per pixel, presumably in order to speed up the E-Shutter scanning process. When it first appeared on M43 cameras, E-Shutter scanned the frame at about 1/10 second. The G7 scans at about 1/25 second but the penalty for the increased speed is reduced bit depth.


    By the way I have seen early reports that the GX8  E-Shutter also scans at about 1/25 second but with no adverse effect on dark tone noise, suggesting full 12 bit recording even with the E-Shutter. I have not seen this confirmed as yet.


    Back to the G7, I wanted to know what effect the 10 bit E-Shutter capture would have on my photographs.


    So I ran some tests with my copy of the G7.


    G7 ISO 6400 Electronic shutter (crop)


    The first test was to photograph a still life at ISO 6400, 12800 and 25600 using first the M-Shutter then the E-Shutter.


    I then ran the images through Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 9.1.1 at default settings and viewed the files at 100% on screen.


    I could see no difference between the M-Shutter and E-Shutter versions at ISO 6400 and 12800.


    At ISO 25600 the E-Shutter version showed a just barely detectable increase in grain and just barely detectable decrease in dark tone detail, but I had to pixel peep at 100% with the images side by side to see any difference at all.


    The photos show a crop of the original full frame.


    G7 Electronic Shutter ISO 200 Underexposed 5 stops, exposure increased 5 stops in Camera Raw

    G7 Mechanical shutter ISO 200 underexposed 5 stops, exposure increased 5 stops in Camera Raw




    Next I did a RAW torture test. This involved underexposing the same still life 5 stops at ISO 200 then in ACR pulling the [Exposure] slider 5 stops to the right.  This gave the same exposure in terms of aperture and shutter speed as an ISO setting of 6400.


    When the M-Shutter was used this produced a normal looking photographic result, but a bit noisy and with some evident green color cast in the dark tones.


    The test did show that setting ISO 6400 gives a better result with less noise and more accurate color than ISO 200 underexposed 5 stops then pulled up 5 stops in ACR.


    When the E-Shutter was used there was more luminance noise and much more prominent chroma noise with a strong green cast in mid and dark tones. I could not find a way to correct this in ACR.


    So, what is the point of this apparently stupid exercise ?


    Nobody deliberately underexposes a photo 5 stops just to increase the [Exposure] 5 stops in Camera Raw.


    The point is that it warns us what is likely to happen when we are working with a file in Camera Raw and we start to pull up the dark tones with the [Exposure] and [Shadows] sliders.


    A photo made with the E-Shutter will show green blotchy noise sooner and to a greater degree than one made with the M-Shutter.


    Does this matter ?


    For the great majority of photos probably not.


    But if you have a photo which requires the dark tones to be pulled up a lot in Camera Raw then yes, it could make a visible difference to the final result.




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    G7 Kit lens

    Panasonic recently released two new micro four thirds cameras, The G7 and GX8.


    I bought a G7 and have been reviewing it on this blog.


    No doubt the two cameras offer potential buyers a choice, but the different specification sets seem a bit puzzling to me and also a bit frustrating.


    I will post separately why I bought the G7 in preference to the GX8 but suffice for now to say it has largely to do with ergonomics which seem to me better implemented on the G7.


    The GX8 offers several key upgrades to Panasonic’s M43 lineup. These include the new (Sony IMX 269 ???) 20 Mpx sensor and In Body Image Stabiliser (IBIS) with the ability to use both OIS and IBIS together with some lenses.


    But if you want that package of features it comes with the GX8’s rangefinder/flat top styling, large-ish body and some ergonomic issues.


    G7 in hand. Mostly good ergonomics


    Flat top vs Hump top  There are basically two popular camera shapes.  One is the hump top/SLR, the other is the flat top/rangefinder.


    The flat top can be used to achieve a low, slim line body which might be preferred by some users for its aesthetic appeal or because it can be slightly smaller than the hump top.


    The hump top style is associated with DSLRs and is generally a taller, larger camera with a larger handle. Cameras of this type have more space on top for a built in EVF, Flash and hotshoe, dials and other controls.


    But Panasonic is changing the script.


    I am not sure I understand where Panasonic is going with the G and GX lines.


    The GX1 was a flat top without EVF.


    Then we jumped to the GX7 which was another flat top, this time with EVF but still with the typical slim “rangefinder” look. The GX7 had IBIS for the first time in the Panasonic M43 lineup.


    Maybe that is why the upgraded 4 axis IBIS went into the GX8 rather than one of the hump top models.


    But that is not the way I hoped Panasonic would go.


    The problem is that the IBIS mechanism is bulky. So any camera in which it resides will  perforce be larger than one without IBIS.


    The GX8 is 36% larger by box volume than the GX7 and 36% heavier.


    It seems to me the best camera for IBIS would be a hump top which already has a more bulky appearance anyway.  

    On that basis the upgraded IBIS and new sensor would have gone into a slightly larger G7 at a higher price point with the GX line remaining slim and stylish at a lower price point.


    Or is that the market niche which the GM series is supposed to fill ?


    Presumably the GH5 will come in with all the latest techno features at a price point above the GX8.


    The M43 camera which I would prefer is more like a slightly larger G7 than the GX8.






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    Samsung NX10  Beijing  You can make good photos with almost any modern camera.
    In practice the main difference between them is the user experience, which is greatly affected by ergonomic factors in design and implementation of the control interface. 


    One of the  more rewarding aspects of writing this blog is the feedback which I receive from readers. 
    This can be challenging. Some time ago a reader suggested I summarise in “two paragraphs” my ideas about camera ergonomics. At that time I had accumulated enough material for a substantial textbook and found this request daunting.


    But then I realised that if I have something useful and meaningful to say about camera design and operation I should be able to summarise the essence of it in a few words.


    So here they are:


    In one sentence


    Of two cameras, the one which can be operated with the fewest, least complex actions has the better ergonomics.


    In a short summary


    Ergonomics IS about actions


    Camera operation requires completion of Tasks.


    Each task requires Actions of the hands and fingers.


    The number of actions can be observed (by anybody, it’s not quantum mechanics) and counted.


    The complexity of those actions can be observed (by anybody) and recorded. 


    These observations can be summarised as a score.


    I call this finger logic


    Ergonomics IS NOT  about subjective experience, likes,  preferences, speed or head logic.


    The Subjective Experience of owning and using a camera is separate from but complementary to the ergonomic analysis.


    Each individual’s Likes and Preferences are also separate from yet complementary to the ergonomic analysis


    Ergonomics is not directly about speed of operation     Speed to complete the various tasks is not measured in the ergonomic score which I have developed. However the camera which requires the fewest, least complex actions is likely to be the fastest to operate.


    Ergonomics is about finger logic not head logic   You might think at an intellectual or logical level that one type of camera control design might be best only to find that when the actions of working the camera are actually counted that a different control design is more efficient.


    No Definitional Agreement


    Of course there is no general consensus among camera users or the industry about my definition or any other definition of ergonomics. 


    I believe this is a serious impediment to effective camera design.


    Without a broad, industry wide agreement about the essential nature of ergonomics, camera design is subject to fashions and whimsical variations without reference to the user experience.


    The purpose of this blog is to stimulate discussion about these issues with the goal of encouraging consumers to tell manufacturers what design features are required for a good user experience.


    In order to do that consumers need a set of concepts and language with which to investigate and communicate about ergonomics.


    Compare and Contrast: Image Quality


    As with ergonomics, there are subjective and objective aspects to our appreciation of image quality.


    I often read on user forums comments such as: “I really like (…insert your favourite brand…) because I like their colors”  or


    “I really like (..insert your favourite brand….) because of the luminous, almost three dimensional quality of the pictures”,


    And so forth…..


    These are subjective responses by users to some aspect of pictures which they have seen from various cameras on the basis of which a decision may be made to buy Brand X in preference to Brand Y.


    But then along came some technical people who realised that most of the innate  imaging capability of a camera system is determined by the amount of luminance and chroma noise in RAW files.   


    One organisation, DXO, has even come up with a system for scoring RAW image quality.


    You can argue about the validity of this, and plenty of commentators, expert or otherwise, do so frequently.  But you cannot deny that DXO has done what some might have thought impossible, namely to put a score on something which might seem to be arcane and subjective.


    That is not to dismiss people’s subjective impressions about image quality but to accept that the objective measurements and subjective impressions are complimentary, not mutually exclusive.


    Compare and Contrast: Performance


    Some time ago I posted a review about a camera which had some quite good qualities but which had  a RAW shot to shot time of 4 seconds.  That was an objective observation.  My subjective response was that the camera was so slow I could not recommend it. But I was taken to task by some owners of this camera who said they had no problem with the slow shot to shot times.


    So even with performance which is easily measured there are objective and subjective aspects to the user experience.


    The way forward


    We now have systematic, objective  ways to evaluate a camera’s image quality and performance.


    As yet users and reviewers are still using ad hoc, idiosyncratic, personal, undefined and unstated criteria for evaluating ergonomics.  This is confusing for designers, reviewers and users of cameras.


    With this blog I am attempting to rectify that situation. I have developed a systematic way to understand, describe and score ergonomics based on observations which any camera user could make.





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    The FZ1000 has been my main camera for the last 18 months and earned the Camera Ergonomics camera of the year award for 2014. It is the most versatile camera I have ever owned.


    It is not perfect however.

    There are two unappealing behaviours which could be improved by a firmware update.


    1. Auto ISO/minimum shutter speed responsive to lens focal length


    In P or A Modes the camera sets an ISO which produces a shutter speed unresponsive to the focal length in use. This can result in unsharp pictures at the long end of the zoom due to the shutter speed being too slow for the focal length.


    This should be easy enough for the clever software engineers to fix. The camera always knows what focal length is set. It also knows what shutter speed is generally required to prevent unsharpness due to camera shake.


    I would like to see three versions of the auto ISO algorithm, slow, medium and fast, with the setting able to be allocated to the Q menu or a Fn button.


    The suggested minimum shutter speed in each condition would be as shown in the chart below:


    Lens setting

    Slow

    Medium

    Fast

    Wide, Focal length E25mm

    1/20

    1/25

    1/30

    Long, Focal Length

    E400mm

    1/200

    1/400

    1/800


    Thus for still subjects when the camera can be held steady, the Slow setting might be best to keep ISO as low as possible.


    For BIF, sport and similar the Fast setting would deliver a higher percentage of keepers.


    2. Lens Retractafter playback


    This irritates FZ1000 users all the time. There are many posts about it on user forums.  Surely this could be deleted in software or at least made optional.


    Setting Zoom Resume is a partial fix with the present firmware.




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    Full width frame


    Panasonic has been  very busy rolling out many interesting new cameras over the last few months. I have been testing several of them.


    This post is a quick image quality comparison between the following five units:


    * GX8 with Lumix 12-35mm f2.8




    * G7 with Lumix 12-35mm f2.8




    * FZ1000




    * LX100




    * FZ300




    For this test I selected an outdoor scene with high brightness range and large amounts of fine detail.


    I used a tripod and 2 second timer, set the focal length to (equivalent) 70mm and used 3:2 aspect ratio on the LX100, the only one of the group with variable aspect ratio. I used a lens aperture previously determined to be best for that camera/lens and the lowest standard ISO setting for each camera. 

    Lighting was overcast/sunny/bright, with some variation between frames due to the changing cloud 
    cover.


    The top photo shows the full frame, cropped top and bottom for presentation.


    The remainder of the photos are of a substantial crop from the full frame.


    I had some pictures in 4:3 aspect ratio and some in 3:2 ratio, with pixel counts from 12-20 Mpx.


    In order to evaluate the results on screen I output each file to the same horizontal dimension as the G7. This meant increasing the LX100 and FZ300 and decreasing the GX8 and FZ1000 in Photoshop.


    I processed each RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw 9.1.1 to “best result” as determined by me.

    The results are basically as expected from the specifications of the equipment used for each photo.


    Lenses  This proved an easy win for the 12-35mm as expected. This is one of the best zooms available for M43 cameras and I got a very good copy on this occasion.  I have in the past had not-so-good copies. Panasonic announced some time ago that they had improved their lens manufacturing quality and maybe it is true.


    The FZ1000 lens is excellent considering it has a 16x zoom range but is not quite in the same class as the 12-35.


    The LX100 lens is very good in the center but softens towards the edges especially at the long end and 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratio.


    The FZ300 comes in last. No surprises there but considering this is a 24x zoom it delivers very good results. My copy also stays decently sharp right to (focal length equivalent) 600mm at which point it delivers resolution the same as the FZ1000 cropped to the same angle of view.


    Overall appearance  At small output sizes you would be hard pressed to pick which picture came from which camera. The colors (after some adjustment in CR) and the overall appearance are very similar.


    Highlight and shadow detail    A few years ago I would have expected the camera with the smallest sensor to blow out highlights. But on this and several other tests I found each camera’s ability to render highlight and shadow detail very similar even with high subject brightness range. That is a commendable performance for the FZ300 which has a very small sensor.


    Color rendition  The M43 cameras with the largest sensor had the most saturated colors, followed by the FZ1000 then the FZ300. In this case, bigger is better.


    Grain  Again this went with sensor size. The larger sensors had the least grain. The difference was apparent at 100% on screen even at base ISO.


    Resolution/detail  Best was the GX8 which very slightly beat the G7. I had to look very closely at 100% or 200% on screen to pick this however. On many photos the difference will not be detectable.


    Next came the FZ1000 which is very good but not quite able to match the M43 cameras with the excellent 12-35mm lens.


    The LX100 delivers very good resolution in a broad central area of the frame although not as much as the FZ1000 and M43 cameras and it fades a bit at the edges due to the lens characteristics.


    Last as expected is the FZ300.  This does a good job for a 24x superzoom and is better than the 
    Canon SX60 and Nikon P900 which I tested earlier this year. But it can’t keep up with the other cameras tested here.


    Summary


    Image quality from the GX8 is marginally better than the G7.

    Both these M43 cameras beat the FZ1000 but I suspect the 12-35mm lens has a large part to play in that. I did not have a 14-140mm lumix lens for testing but I have used this lens before and while it is a very good general purpose lens it is not in the same class as the 12-35mm.


    The LX100 is outclassed outdoors by the M43 cameras and the FZ1000 but indoors in low light the tables are turned. Then the LX100 can use f1.7 to enable lower ISO settings for a better overall result.


    The FZ300 is a good camera for the holiday/travel purpose for which it was designed.

    For overall versatility, combining imaging ability, performance and freedom from having to change lenses the FZ1000 is an easy winner.


    It has 5.3 times the zoom range of the 12-35mm and travels in the same sized carry bag as the GX8 with 12-35mm mounted.


    The value for money equation also heavily favours the FZ1000. It can be had for half the price of a GX8 +12-35mm and is only 23% more expensive than the FZ300 which it comprehensively outperforms in every respect.


    The last word 


    There is much excitement on camera review sites and user forums at the moment about new release full frame cameras with amazing pixel counts of 36, 42 and even 50 Mpx.


    When I look at photos made with 20 or even 16 Mpx M43 and “one inch” sensor cameras like the FZ1000,  I see an amazing amount of detail.


    I see details most people could not have seen in the original scene. I wonder why the great majority of enthusiast photographers might want more resolution.








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    A contrast in Panasonic camera design styles. From the left, G7, GX8, FZ1000

    I made a new year’s resolution at the beginning of 2015 to refrain from buying any interchangeable lens cameras this year.  The plan was to stay with my FZ1000 and LX100 until those models were upgraded.


    But I wanted to evaluate the ergonomics of the G7 so I got one.


    Then I wanted to find out if all the hype about the GX8 is justified, so I got one of those with the Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 lens. I have been testing it together with the G7 and comparing both to the FZ1000 and LX100.


    Target user group   The GX8 and G7 occupy the enthusiast level of the Lumix M43 ILC range.


    Panasonic has created two tiers within that level.


    For enthusiasts on a budget, the G7 packs an amazing amount of technology and performance into its modestly priced frame.


    For those with more to spend and who also want a flat top design the GX8  offers some features not available in the G7.


    The 12-35mm lens is good for close ups.


    Features and specifications 


    The G7 uses an older 16 Mpx sensor, lacks IBIS, is decently made but to a lower standard than the GX8, is not weather sealed and has a hump top shape.


    The GX8 uses the latest (Sony??) 20Mpx sensor, has IBIS, weather sealing, is heavier (470 vs 410 grams) and appears to be made to a higher standard than the G7. It has the flat top style with swing up EVF which some users may find useful and a hotshoe but no flash.


    Tough luck if you want the new sensor and IBIS in a hump top style.


    Maybe that comes with the GH5 whenever that may be.


    Otherwise both cameras come loaded with all the usual goodies in a current model Panasonic ILC  including 4K video, Wi-Fi, DFD AF, Zebras, twin dial operation and much more. These cameras have many sophisticated features and are highly specified.


    The feature both cameras notably lack is EFCS  (Electronic First Curtain Shutter) so you must use the E-Shutter with several lenses (such as the 14-140mm with which the GX8 is often bundled) to avoid shutter shock.


    GX8 with 12-35mm. Hand held night shot, f2.8 ISO 4000, fluorescent lights. 


    Image Quality  The GX8 can make pictures of excellent quality in almost any circumstance, especially with one of the better M43 lenses. I tested the GX8 with the excellent  Lumix 12-35mm f2.8.


    The new 20Mpx sensor offers 12% more linear resolution than the older 16 Mpx versions.


    The difference is not great but can be seen in subjects with a lot of detail.


    High ISO noise levels are slightly greater than the G7 but when output size of the GX8 files is reduced to match that of the 16Mpx G7 then noise levels are the same. 


    Perhaps more relevant is that the GX8 does not suffer image degradation when using the E-Shutter.


    A popular way to test this is to underexpose a still life subject 5 stops then in Adobe Camera Raw push the Exposure slider 5 stops to the right.  With the GX8 the resulting picture shows magenta color shift but it looks the same whether the E-Shutter or M-Shutter was used.


    This suggests the sensor is recording at the same bit rate (12 bit) with M-Shutter and E-Shutter.

    The next test is to photograph a blank white wall under fluorescent light using a fast shutter speed of about 1/500 sec. In Australia  AC power is at 50hz. With the GX8 this produces 5 bands indicating a sensor scan time of 1/20 second.  Scan time is number of bands divided by hz x 2.


    The hot topic for interchangeable lens cameras ( MILCs and high Mpx DSLRs) at the moment is shutter shock. 

    My tests show that pictures with the Lumix 12-35mm lens are slightly but detectably sharper with E-Shutter than M-Shutter, hand held or on tripod.  So if you want all the considerable resolution of which the GX8 is capable, I recommend using the E-Shutter routinely, unless flash or  long exposure time is required when the M-Shutter must be used.


    Crop from the previous picture. Good detail, good highlight and shadow detail, low noise levels, good color. Who needs full frame ?


    Performance  This is in line with recent Panasonic ILCs and is excellent. AFS is super fast and accurate. AFC at 6 FPS, with live view and  predictive AF is very good with suitable lenses. The camera responds very quickly to all user inputs.


    Ergonomics  The camera is decently usable but the HMI (human machine interface) presents several issues which I will detail in a later post. These relate to the handle shape, size and configuration, top plate layout,   Exposure Compensation dial,  Fn7 and Disp buttons and the rear dial. 


    In some respects it is less user friendly than the G7 making for an interesting ergonomic comparison with some lessons on how to get it right and how to get it not-quite-right.


    Quick Summary


    The good


    * Slightly but visibly more resolution than cameras with the 16 Mpx sensor and no noise penalty at the same output size.

    * Full 12 bit capture with E-Shutter and no image degradation.

    * IBIS which works with lens OIS for more effective image stabilisation.

    * Weather sealing, which I have not tested for effectiveness.


    The not-so-good


    * Several ergonomic issues, which I will detail in a later post.

    * No EFCS.


    Do I recommend the GX8 ?  Yes but with reservations about the ergonomics.


    I suggest prospective buyers spend if possible several hours with the camera before deciding to buy.


    Some users have reported they are very happy with the GX8 and enjoy using it.


    Others have complained about various handling and ergonomic issues.


    I would not be surprised if the GX8 comes to find itself in a position similar to the Olympus EM-5 which polarised users into  ‘love’ and  ‘hate’ camps.


    We shall see. But do try before you buy.










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    FZ300 Front


    The product development people at Panasonic have been very busy this year, rolling out several interesting cameras across the range of types from a high spec cam/phone, through micro four thirds, superzooms and compacts. It is even rumoured that Panasonic may be making a full frame ILC for Leica.


    Panasonic hasa substantial history of making fixed zoom lens cameras in the superzoom/bridge/travel zoom category. 

    The previous top of the range in this category was the FZ200 which was announced in July 2012.


    Target user group   There are still people in a smartphone world who want a proper camera, preferably with a big zoom range,  good handling, good picture quality, good performance and good ergonomics.


    A camera for holidays, trips away, family events, sporting events and pretty much anything else.


    These people want more versatility in a ‘one box’ package than can be had from any smart phone or compact camera or indeed any interchangeable lens camera.


    FZ300  Decent highlight and shadow detail even with high subject brightness range as here.


    Specifications and features


    On the spec sheet the FZ300 looks to be a mild refresh of the FZ200 given that it uses the same E25-600mm constant f2.8 lens and the same or very similar 12Mpx 4.5x6.2mm sensor.


    But there are plenty of upgrades worth noting. These include a new image processor, better EVF and monitor, faster AF, much better continuous AF, better all round performance, weather sealing and (mostly) improved ergonomics.


    But there appear to be improvements not apparent from the spec sheet. Our family had a FZ200 last year. We were not impressed with the picture quality or the lens. Although the sensor and lens of the FZ300 are stated to be the same, our copy of the FZ300 has a much sharper lens then the FZ200 and substantially better picture quality.


    It is possible that lens assembly quality control has improved and it would appear that the new processor is delivering benefits to picture quality.


    The FZ300 is fully loaded with all Panasonic’s latest goodies including Wi-Fi, touch screen, 4K video, zebras, full display options, multiple drive and focus mode option and much more. It has all the features of the latest micro four thirds cameras and it makes the competition from other makers look distinctly under specified.


    The unique selling point of the FZ300 is the 24x zoom with constant f2.8 aperture. The FZ200 and 300 are the only cameras on the market with this feature.  There are plenty of superzoom and ultrazoom cameras with a longer reach but these have an aperture of f5.6 or 6.3 at the long end requiring a higher ISO setting or slower shutter speed or both to the detriment of picture quality.


    My experience of ultrazoom cameras with focal lengths in the 1200-2000mm range is that they are quite difficult to use effectively at the long end of the zoom and good results are hard to achieve.


    By comparison the FZ300 is much easier to use at 600mm and good results can be more consistently achieved.


    The FZ300 can easily hold focus on a slow moving subject like the hang glider but it can also hold focus on  cars driving towards or away from the camera at 6 FPS, with 80%  of frames sharp.

    Image Quality


    I have this year tested the Nikon P900 and Canon SX60 both using the same very small sensor size as the FZ300. I rate the FZ300 as having better picture quality than those two cameras right across the FZ300’s focal length range.


    The FZ300 enables RAW capture, has effective OIS and fast accurate AF for consistently good results.


    During my tests I did notice that the FZ300 has good highlight and shadow detail, even when subject brightness range is high.  Pictures are also substantially free from color fringing, blown out highlights or sharpening artefacts.


    However to put this into perspective the FZ1000 can produce better picture quality in all circumstances at all equivalent focal lengths of which the FZ300 is capable.


    Performance


    The FZ300 operates much faster than the FZ200 and much faster than other small sensor superzooms and ultrazooms.  Single shot AF is fast and accurate. AF Continuous with burst mode can hold focus on a moving subject at 6 frames per second with live view in the EVF on every frame. The camera responds quickly all user inputs.


    The FZ300 is suitable for sport/action work which I could not say for the other small sensor ultrazooms which I have tested.


    FZ300


    Ergonomics


    Setup involves the standard  Panasonic enthusiast level menu system which is very comprehensive albeit a bit challenging for a Panasonic novice.


    Prepare Phase of use is well catered for with a well positioned Focus Mode lever, Shooting Mode Dial and multiple Fn buttons with user assignable function.


    The FZ300 has a substantial, well shaped handle and thumb rest making it comfortable and secure to hold.


    The EVF is excellent. It is the only EVF I have ever encountered which required no adjustment (other than the dioptre) to provide a clear subject view with substantially accurate colors and moderate contrast. Other EVFs may have more resolution but can be more difficult to adjust to a natural looking appearance.


    The monitor is of the desirable fully articulated type and is excellent.


    Operating the camera is straightforward. The novice can set the Mode Dial to [iA] then just point and shoot for consistently good results.


    The enthusiast/expert can take full control of the camera for a more engaging experience which is also smooth and efficient. 


    The rear dial is easy to operate without having to shift grip.


    The 4 Way controller (Cursor Buttons) are easy to locate by feel and operate. 


    The only negative for ergonomics is the cluster of three controls on the left side of the lens barrel.


    These are used for zoom, manual focus, exposure compensation and side dial function switch all of which are Capture Phase tasks.


    Using these modules with the left hand is a bit awkward in landscape orientation using ‘left hand under’ or ‘left hand over’ position but nigh on impossible in portrait orientation.


    Fortunately the zoom lever around the shutter button also controls zoom and is easier to use than the lens lever.


    Also fortunately exposure compensation is not often required due to the good highlight/shadow detail characteristics of the sensor. But it’s there if you need it.


    Summary


    The FZ300 is a more comprehensive update of the FZ200 than a first look at the specification sheet might suggest.


    It is a very good camera with good specification, abundant  high level features, good picture quality, very good performance and mostly very good ergonomics. There are hardly any faults or failings.


    So, it is an easy camera to recommend.


    However  Consider the FZ1000. This camera is well into its product cycle so the price has come down to a level just 23% greater than the FZ300 (at Sydney retail prices) which is still at release level prices.


    The FZ1000 is 23% heavier and 22% larger by box volume (L x W x H).


    The FZ1000 sensor has 1.6 times as many pixels, twice the linear dimensions and four times the area of the sensor in the FZ300.


    The FZ1000 lens can resolve more detail than that in the FZ300.


    This means the FZ1000 can deliver consistently better picture quality in every circumstance which I have encountered in testing.


    It also offers the enthusiast/expert photographer a more engaging user interface with better ergonomics.

    Before buying the FZ300, I suggest careful consideration of the FZ1000.




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    FZ300  Cockatoo at full zoom. Easy when the bird is posing.


    There is a clear family resemblance between the FZ300 and the slightly larger FZ1000.  Both cameras feature good ergonomics with the FZ1000 scoring higher for operation.


    This evaluation and score follows my usual schedule.


    Setup    The FZ300 has Panasonic’s standard enthusiast model menu system. It is comprehensive with a nice clear graphical user interface. Panasonic novices may be daunted by the sheer number of options but careful reading of the Owners Manual will usually sort out any problems.


    Setup score 10/15


    Prepare   There is a Mode Dial with multiple options including Custom Modes, sweep panorama and video.  Any of the Fn buttons can be tasked with Q Menu functions. There are four hard (physical) Fn buttons.


    These options allow Prepare Phase tasks to be carried out with efficiency.


    There is space enough to the left of the hump for a Drive Mode dial but none is to be found.


    Prepare score   12/15


    Holding  The FZ300 handle is very similar to that of the FZ1000. It is substantial with a reasonably anatomical shape and a deep indent for the right middle finger. The thumb support is substantial.


    The rear dial can be operated when the camera is brought up to the eye without having to shift grip with the right hand.


    The only negative is that the right thumb rests on the Focus Mode lever.


    Holding score 18/20


    Viewing  The EVF provides a clear, sharp, natural looking view of the subject. The eyepiece is decently large and the rubber eyecup is large. The fully articulated monitor is sharp and clear.

    EVF and monitor can be set to ‘viewfinder’ or ‘monitor’ mode. Both are adjustable for individual preference.


    Many displays and overlays can be enabled or not as the user wishes.


    Viewing score 18/20


    FZ300 on the left, FZ1000 on the right. This photo shows some of the UIMs referred to in the text.


    Operating In general the FZ300 can be operated smoothly and efficiently by a practiced user. 

    However it is a step down from the FZ1000 in several ways.


    There are fewer buttons on the control panel and each is smaller (6mm vs 7mm) than those on the FZ1000 and each is more recessed. They are usable but there is plenty of space for larger/more prominent buttons on the FZ300.


    There is no Drive Mode Dial.


    The rear dial is not quite as easy to access and turn as that on the FZ1000 with the camera at eye level. It’s OK, but the FZ1000 is better.


    The FZ300 has a very different and less ergonomically effective arrangement of UIMs (user interface modules) on the left side of the lens housing (as viewed by the user).


    The FZ1000 has a circumferential ring for zoom which is optimal for a Capture Phase operation. The two levers, Zoom/focus and OIS On/Off are Set-and-see modules for Prepare Phase adjustments. This is the optimal allocation of module types to usage phases.


    The FZ300 lacks a zoom ring although there appears to be room for one. Instead the zoom lever around the shutter button is duplicated by a push-up-push-down slider on the lens housing.


    The AF/focus button toggles between functions of the roller type dial above it. This dial which has no click stops works either manual focus or exposure compensation (EC).


    It is not optimal for EC as there are no click stops.

    Zoom, EC and manual focus are Capture Phase operations.


    It is not optimal for any Capture Phase operation to be mediated by UIMs with fixed position on the side of a lens housing. They are not all that easily located and operated with the left thumb or other finger with the left hand in ‘hand over’ or hand under’ position in landscape orientation and are almost impossible to use in portrait orientation.


    All Panasonic needed to do was to duplicate the control  module layout of the FZ1000.  There is plenty of space there.


    Operating score 16/25


    Review  The FZ300 does all the things expected by the review protocol. No problems there.


    Review score 5/5


    Total score 79/100


    Comment   Panasonic almost got this one right. The frustrating thing for me as a camera user is that they did get it almost entirely right with the FZ1000 then on the FZ300 changed some UIMs back to a less user friendly, less efficient configuration.

     





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    GX8 showing handle and rear dial, Mode Dial and EC dial beneath. The vertical front of the handle has ergonomic consequences.


    This evaluation and score follows my standard format and protocolwhich you can read about here.


    Introduction  The GX8 is a flat top ILC with the EVF at the top left corner as viewed by the user.


    I have no idea why Panasonic’s product development team decided on a flat top for this camera but a hump top for most other Lumix G series cameras.  I would guess the reasons are about style because the flat top has no functional or operational advantage over the hump top.


    Whatever the reason, a flat top does restrict the designer’s UIM (user interface module) options for the top plate.  A consequence of this is the absence of an inbuilt flash on the GX8.


    On a hump top the EVF, hot shoe and built in flash all occupy the same horizontal space, freeing up space on either side for other UIMs.


    When my wife first looked at the GX8 she immediately exclaimed just one word  “Retrograde”. 


    With regard to the ergonomics, I think she got that right. 

    However some users have reported they are very happy with the GX8 user experience.


    GX8 from below. The cursor buttons on the control panel have raised outer edges which works well. But the Disp button is prone to accidental bumping. The handle shape is unusual and in my view ergonomically suboptimal. Other Panasonic cameras in the same size range have very different and in my view much more user friendly handles.


    Setup Phase   GX8 menus, Q Menu and Fn button task allocations are largely identical to other current model enthusiast level ILCs and FLCs.


    As such they are complex but quite functional and easy enough to use after a learning curve for Panasonic novices.


    However I think it is time Panasonic reviewed its top tier menu system to create more coherent grouping of like items several of which are scattered about at present. For instance all the items relating to flash, focus, metering, display etc, etc.. could be better grouped for a more user friendly interface.


    Setup Phase Score   10/15




    Prepare Phase   This is very similar to other current model Panasonic enthusiast level cameras. 

    There is a Mode Dial, Q Menu which can be allocated to any button, and Fn buttons aplenty.


    I deducted a point because there is no Drive Mode dial, which lost out to the Exposure Compensation dial in the contest for top plate real estate.  


    The principle here is that set and see dials are optimal for Prepare Phase tasks because you can see and change the values while looking at the top of the camera.


    But Set and see  dials are inappropriate for  Capture Phase tasks because they are invisible when looking through the viewfinder.


    However some users say they really like having the Exposure Compensation dial on the top plate.


    Prepare Phase Score  12/15


    In this photo I have rotated my right wrist forward. This has enabled the thumb to bear onto the dials. But the wrist is  uncomfortable. Younger, more flexible beings may wonder what I am talking about.


    Capture Phase:


    Holding   The lens axis is 53mm from the left side. The G7 lens axis is 45mm from the left side. The GX8 is 8mm wider than the G7 but has only 1mm more space on the right side of the lens mount. If the lens axis had been further to the left, like you see on a Sony A6000 there would have been more space for a larger, more secure handle.


    The GX8 handle is of suboptimal size and shape.


    It is not wide enough for a fully realised parallel type and not deep enough to be a fully functional projecting type.


    There is no indent for the third finger on the front. There should be such an indent to prevent the third finger riding up too close to the index finger and obstructing operation of the front dial. In addition the indent allows the mass of the right side of the camera to rest on the strong third finger for stability and support.

    The lower right corner at the rear is insufficiently rounded for comfort. There is no hint of inverted L shape so the shutter button is forced further to the right (as viewed by the user) than is optimal. This in turn forces the palm of the hand away from the camera body, weakening the grip.


    I am intrigued that the same corporation which produced the G7’s well shaped handle could  simultaneously conceive the very different and suboptimal handle of the GX8. 


    I can only assume that the difference is due to styling considerations.


    Flat tops often have a flat front as well. Fuji proclaims this as a desirable feature of their X-Pro/XT designs. I have no idea what is desirable about it.  There is a brisk trade in accessory handles suggesting the “flat front” style is an antiquarian affectation, found wanting when people actually decide to use their camera..


    Maybe the designers of the GX8 wanted to retain something of  the flat front style without  going as far as Fuji or Olympus in this endeavour.


    The thumb support is  adequate but not reassuring.


    I should say that notwithstanding my critical analysis, some users report they are quite happy with the GX8 handle and related controls.


    Holding Score  12/20


    In this photo I have rotated my right wrist back for comfort. But my thumb cannot work the dials (A) and my middle finger has ridden up the handle (B) obstructing the index finger from working the front dial.


    Viewing   Viewing arrangements on the GX8 are excellent, similar to other recent enthusiast level Panasonic cameras. Some reviewers have made much of the high magnification level of the EVF. Indeed the GX8 EVF is large, sharp and clear, but the default contrast is very high.


    I had to set brightness +5 and Contrast -6 to achieve an image preview which looked reasonably natural to me.


    I usually find top left viewfinders allow excessive backlight into my viewing eye, however the GX8 has a substantial (albeit sharp edged)  eyecup which keeps most of the stray light out.


    The monitor is of the optimal fully articulated type and is excellent. It also largely makes the swing up EVF redundant for those times when low level shooting is required.  I guess it could be useful in full sun when the monitor is hard to see.


    The EVF and monitor have all the goodies expected in an advanced MILC, like zebras, frame lines and almost anything else you might like up there. Both can be configured to viewfinder style or monitor style.


    Viewing Score 18/20


    Operating    The GX8 can be operated by a novice easily enough on the iA setting but also has a full suite of controls for the enthusiast/expert user who would be the most likely customer for this camera.


    All the elements for good control are present but several of them do not function as well as they should and could and do on other cameras.


    Let’s start with the Exposure Compensation dial.


    I have written before on this blog that EC dials on modern digital cameras are an inappropriate use of valuable camera real estate and this one is no different.


    Some users disagree with me about that.  My position is based on ergonomic analysis as below:


    Exposure compensation is a secondary exposure parameter which is set in Capture Phase of use. On the GX8 the most effective way to preview the amount of EC required is to use the Zebras.


    This is done while looking through the EVF at which time the dedicated EC dial is invisible.


    Therefore the dedicated, Set-and-see EC dial is redundant. It is not required. The G7 and other cameras use the front or rear dial or a front lever for EC which is a more efficient use of scarce UIM resources. The GX8 has three dials for Capture Phase adjustments when two is enough and is more efficient.  The front and rear dials have the same functions in P,A,S Modes.


    The place taken by the EC dial could have been more usefully allocated to a dial for Prepare Phase adjustments. The Drive Mode dial found on other Panasonic cameras would be the front running candidate. 


    This is not a matter of personal preference. It is about ergonomic efficiency.


    Setting Drive Mode in Prepare Phase is most efficiently performed with a Set-and-seedial. On the GX8 you have to press a Fn button or the Q Menu button and enter a Drive Mode menu.


    Adjusting EC in Capture Phase would be most efficiently performed with (in the case of the GX8)  the front or rear dial, either of which is easier to reach and turn while operating the camera.


    To reach and turn the EC dial the user has to push against the rather stiff resistance of the EC dial which is required to prevent it being moved accidentally while turning the Mode Dial. Despite this I several times did accidentally move the Mode Dial while turning the EC dial.


    Notice there is a space clear of any UIMs below and behind the EC dial. That, I suppose, is because any button there would be accidentally pressed every time the EC dial is operated with the thumb. 

    Get a GX8 in hand and you will immediately see what I mean.


    So we have a piece of high value camera real estate wasted, all because of that EC dial.


    In addition the Focus Mode lever is pushed off to the left, where it is more difficult to reach than the same lever on the FZ1000, FZ300 or G7, each of which is closer to the right thumb.


    The AF/AE-L button is in the Focus mode lever on most Panasonic cameras, this being the logical place for it. But that button has to move elsewhere on the GX8 and you find it on the upper rear surface of the thumb support.


    While I am on the subject of buttons I estimate that I accidentally bump the Disp buttonabout 50% of times I pick up and/or carry the powered on camera.  The ease with which this button can be accidentally pressed is due to its position close to the right side of the control panel. Panasonic had this problem with the G5/6 and several other cameras.


    But they figured out how to fix that particular problem by creating a little vertical ridge at the right edge of the control panel, as seen on the G7. This prevents the right side buttons from being accidentally pressed but still allows them to be operated as required.  A more prominent version of the same thing can be seen on the FZ300 and FZ1000. I can hold, carry and operate those cameras all day and never press a button inadvertently but the controls are easy to use when required.


    Part of the problem on the GX8 is the monitor which covers 96mm measured from the left side of the body. That is 5mm more than the FZ1000 monitor which covers 91mm. I have no idea why the GX8 monitor assembly is wider than that of the FZ1000 but whatever the reason the effect is to steal 5mm from the control panel on the right side of the camera. With an extra 5mm a more user friendly control panel could have been designed to prevent button bumping.


    Before I leave the subject of buttons I must deal with the Fn 7  button.  That’s the secret one which lives on the front of the body between the lens mount and the handle.


    There are two very basic rules of buttons:


    1. Make sure the button is easy to locate and operate by feel, especially if it is invisible while the user is working the camera or if it performs Capture Phase functions.


    2. Make sure the button will not be bumped inadvertently.


    Fn 7 fails on both counts.


    It sits flush with the surface of the body so is almost impossible to locate by feel.


    Yet it is located in a position where it gets bumped accidentally by the third finger of the right hand with great frequency. This has been reported on user forums.


    It is therefore a useless button. The only thing to do is assign to it an equally useless function which will not alter useful camera settings. I assigned [Flash mode] to Fn 7 which does nothing since the camera lacks a built in flash.


    Moving right along we come to the Rear Dial.  This is serviceable but could have been better designed.  The curious thing is that I have on my desk right now four current model cameras from Panasonic, each with a different design of rear dial but each presumably intended for operation by the same humans with the same hands.


    My rating of these cameras for ease of rear dial use is FZ1000 (best) followed by FZ300, G7 then GX8 last.


    Explanation:


    From the basic “hold” position the right thumb can most easily move from side to side by articulation at the carpo-metacarpal joint. Some flexion at the interphalangeal joint is also possible without disrupting grip on the camera.


    When the camera is brought from chest level up to the eye, the right wrist can be either tilted forward to maintain grip on the handle or allowed to rotate back for more comfort.


    This has the effect of pulling the thumb down the rear of the camera and away from a high set rear dial. People with very flexible joints might wonder what I am talking about but for the rest of us this is a significant ergonomic issue.


    With reference to the photos you can see that of the cameras in my list above, the one with the lowest (meaning least vertical height above the base of the camera) rear dial has the best rating.


    The rear dial of the FZ1000 is optimally placed embedded in the upper part of the thumb support. 

    Even when the thumb is pulled down when the camera is raised to the eye the thumb can easily move to the right and operate the dial.


    The rear dial of the GX8 is further up the camera and also further forward in relation to the thumb basic hold position. The consequence of this is that while the rear dial can be operated easily by the right thumb with the camera at about chest level, when the camera is raised to the eye the user has a choice, either:


    a) Rotate the right hand backward on the camera to achieve a comfortable wrist position and allow the right elbow to tuck in to the side of the chest for stability. In this case the thumb is pulled down relative to the rear dial (and the EC dial) and cannot operate either dial directly. In order to operate either dial the right hand must do a little hitch up of about 15-20mm (depending on the original position) in order to operate the dials. This is not the end of the world but is ergonomically suboptimal and entirely avoidable with a better design.


    b) Users with a very flexible wrist joint may be able to maintain a “thumb high” grip and stay in contact with the top dials. But even for these lucky people the lower, more rearward rear dial position will be more comfortable and efficient.


    The odd thing is that the rear dial on the GX8 has the same function as the front dial in P, A and S Modes so you don’t need to use it most of the time at all. So it is a partly redundant dial.


    The FZ1000 is only 3mm wider than the GX8 and the top plate of the camera is the same height (measured at the base of the FZ1000 Mode Dial) but the FZ1000 has a more efficient user interface.


    The 4 way controller or Cursor buttons in Panasonic language, works well. At a glance the module looks just like that on the G7 but the detail design on the GX8 is better. Each of the crescent shaped buttons is raised at the outer edge for easier location and operation by feel.  The “rocking saucer” module on the FZ1000 is better again, easier to locate by feel.


    I really don’t understand why Panasonic does not standardise on the FZ1000 cursor button design but 
    I suspect it is some kind of styling or heritage issue.


    Operating Score  14/25


    Review Phase

    There are no problems in Review Phase. Captured images can be viewed quickly. Zoom in is efficient. The user can easily scroll from one image to the next at the same position on the frame and same zoom level.


    Review Phase Score 5/5


    Total Score 71/100


    Comment:  I have read several positive reports and reviews about the GX8 user interface and ease of operation. I am less enthusiastic for reasons detailed above.


    My suggestion: try before you buy.



     









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    FZ300 at E600mm f4 full area


    This question comes up  fairly often on user forums.


    The FZ300  zooms out to (full frame equivalent) 600mm on a 12 Mpx sensor in 4:3 aspect ratio.


    The FZ1000 zooms out to E400mm on a 20 Mpx sensor in 3:2 aspect ratio. 


    When cropped to the same effective angle of view as the FZ300 an image from the FZ1000 will have about 8.6 Mpx. It is a bit difficult getting them exactly the same because of the different aspect ratios.


    So on the numbers and assuming the lenses are of equal quality the FZ300 should come out slightly ahead at E600mm.


    I photographed a scene at about 750 meters from the camera, hand held with OIS on, with the FZ1000 at E400mm, f4  and the FZ300 at E600mm, f4.


    The sun had moved between the sets of photos which accounts for most of the difference in the appearance of the resulting photos.


    In terms of resolution/sharpness I could not separate them.


    FZ300 crop from the top photo to show detail.  We tend to get a bit blase about camera/lens capabilities these days.  This is actually an amazingly good result for a consumer superzoom camera hand held at very long equivalent focal length.


    FZ1000 at E400mm full area


    FZ1000 cropped to approximately the same angle of view as the FZ300 picture


    Conclusion


    The FZ1000 is as good as the FZ300 at E600mm and better at all shorter focal lengths.


    The FZ1000 is easier to use for sport/action/BIF and similar because you can shoot a wider angle which makes keeping the subject in frame easier,  crop later and still get a usable result.


    Both cameras are decently capable of holding focus on moving subjects.



    The FZ300 might be preferred over the FZ1000 for weather sealing, lower cost, lower mass,  smaller size and availability of f2.8 aperture at all focal lengths.


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    This mockup is the same size as a Panasonic G7 Micro Four Thirds camera. Like the G7 the mockup has twin dials but they are located in different places and could easily be used for Push-Click  operation as described in this post. The wrist is almost straight for a secure comfortable hold.


    I woke this morning and a bright idea popped into my train of thought.


    A twin dial camera could use either the front or rear dial to change Main Exposure/Capture Mode settings. These are the settings which you find on the Mode Dial which lives on the top of many cameras and include things like [iA], P, A, S, M, Custom, Scn, Pano, Movie and others depending on the brand and model.  


    Why?   Some users prefer cameras with the ‘Modern’ system using Mode Dial + Control Dial(s), others prefer the ‘Traditional’ system with aperture ring, shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial.


    Once you have set a Mode the Modern system is faster and easier to use than the Traditional system.


    But changing Modes involves turning the Mode Dial which slows down the capture flow a bit.


    It occurs to me that there is a way for camera users  to have the best of both systems, by fully utilising the potential of a Mode Dial + twin dial camera.


    In P, A and S Modes the usual configuration is for one dial to be allocated the task of changing Program Shift, Aperture or Shutter Speed depending on the Mode set.  The other dial does nothing or it might be tasked to Exposure Compensation (EC).


    In M  Mode one dial changes Aperture the other changes Shutter Speed.


    The rear dial on this Panasonic FZ1000  is optimally located and has positive, reliable Push-Click function.




    Dials can be ‘push-click’ configured  for multi tasking.  The dial has a ‘primary’ function which changes to a ‘secondary’ function when it is pushed inwards until it clicks. This technology has been available on many cameras for years. If correctly implemented it is effective and reliable.


    Dial functions can be allocated in software.  This capability is also commonplace in modern cameras.


    So the hardware and software capability is already in place. No new technology needs to be invented.


    My proposal is just to utilise existing technology more productively. In particular it utilises spare functional capacity in the twin dial system.


    For this to work the handle, thumb support, dial position, dial design, haptics and configuration must be very carefully implemented.  I doubt any existing twin dial camera could be adapted simply by firmware update.


    Mockup front view showing the inverted L handle and top quad control set.




    However the Sony A77/99 and  Panasonic GH3/4 are getting close to the type of hardware arrangements which would be required.


    The rear dial of the Panasonic FZ1000 has an ideal position, design, haptics and configuration although that camera lacks a front dial.


    The optimal handle is an ‘inverted L’ type as seen on the mockup photo in this post.




    The optimal front dial is located about 13mm in front of or behind the center of the shutter button.


    This is closer to the shutter button than is usually found on cameras.


    The dial must be at the same height, relative to the natural side to side movement of the right index finger, as the shutter button.


    It must have well protruding sharpish serrations so it is easily turned by the index finger and readily pushed down to click to the secondary function but will not be pushed down inadvertently.


    I am unaware of any existing camera with a fully optimal front dial. Each has some kind of problem with location or haptics.


    Although the mockup is the same size as the G7 there is much more space on the control panel, the buttons are larger and a JOG lever is included. Monitor width  had to be reduced to compensate.




    The rear dial must be embedded in and protruding just the right amount back from the upper section of the thumb support. The rear dial of the Panasonic FZ1000 is an exemplar.


    How it would work 


    In Setup Phase there would be default settings for dial functions and preferences which could be altered  by the user.


    Let us assume the front dial is allocated to change Program Shift, Aperture or Shutter Speed, in P, A, S settings and Aperture or Shutter Speed in M mode setting.


    After push-click the front dial can adjust exposure compensation.

    (Or EC can be effected by the dial without push-click after pressing one of the buttons adjacent to the shutter button in the quad control set. See the mockup photo for explanation).


    Then the rear dial can be tasked with the primary function of changing Mode setting directly provided the Mode Dial is turned to a [D] setting which allows the rear dial to emulate functions of the Mode dial.


    In M Mode the rear dial will, after  push-click,  change shutter Speed or Aperture (as selected in Setup).


    Front/rear dial functions could be reversed in Setup.


    Mockup right side showing the handle canted back 10 degrees. This makes the camera very secure and comfortable for monitor view or eye level view.


    It sounds a bit complicated to read about and I imagine some traditionalists will object.


    However, if this system were to be properly implemented  using finger logic not head logic, it would allow the user to change Shooting Mode and all primary and secondary exposure and focus parameters without shifting grip with either hand and without taking the eye from the viewfinder.


    Once the fingers learn where to go, camera operation can be smooth and efficient.



    That comes pretty close to ergonomic nirvana.


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    Street scene, Thamel, Kathmandu, 2003. Shot on 35mm film with Canon SLR and 100mm lens. For many years I used SLRs from Pentax then Canon. I could probably go back to the 24x36mm format with a compact, sharp 24-70mm lens for general photography. A full frame camera with built in 24-90mm lens could be about the same size and shape as a Panasonic FZ1000. If such a camera appeared I would give it very serious consideration.

    Smart phones make pretty good pictures these days. The smart phone has replaced the compact camera as the universal device for opportunistic photo recording of people, places and events.


    Why would anyone want a camera: that is, a stand alone device exclusively tasked to taking photos ?


    I propose that  cameras can have (but in practice often do not have)  two feature sets which might make them more appealing than  smartphones for some users and purposes.


    These are


    1. Capabilities unlikely to be found in smartphones, including a long zoom lens and ability to follow focus on moving subjects.


    2. An engaging user experience, determined largely by ergonomic factors.


    Notice that I do not include ‘image quality’ here as for many uses, even professional reproduction, some smartphones are already good enough. I also regard sensor size as being of relatively minor importance for all but a very few professional or otherwise highly discerning users.


    If I am right, this analysis should indicate the direction in which camera design might most usefully go.


    Design direction   Put together the two feature sets above and what do you get ?


    Answer:  A fully featured long zoom (a.k.a. ‘bridge’, but I wish people would stop using that now- irrelevant term) camera with very high performance and all the features which I have identified as satisfying my requirements for a ‘proper camera’.


    These are an anatomical handle and thumb support, Integrated EVF above the lens axis, fully articulated monitor, hotshoe, integral flash and an ergonomic set of controls suitable for the expert user.


    That’s it really. 


    There will be a place for professional and ambitious expert/enthusiast amateur users who demand the highest possible picture quality. These  people will use the so-called ‘full frame’ (approximately 24x36mm) sensor cameras, tolerating the extra bulk and mass of the lenses in anticipation of better pictures. Whether they will actually get better pictures or not is contestable.


    My point is that there will always be a small market for gear which is perceived,  promoted and marketed as being ‘the best’.


    By the way in my view there is really only one thing which large sensor cameras can more easily provide than those with small sensors. That is blurred backgrounds. This could be an advantage if that is what you want, but a disadvantage if you want the ‘everything sharp’ look as with many landscape or documentary style photos.


    Following the logic leads me to suggest that camera designs will trend towards two types,  both fulfilling my requirements for the ‘Proper Camera’.


    * The first type is a superzoom with integrated lens.


    * The second is a ‘full frame’ (sensor 24x36mm) type ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera).


    There may be a niche in the market for the Micro Four Thirds ILC which can provide high performance long lenses for sport/action/wildlife/birds and so forth at a fraction the mass, size and cost of equivalent lenses for full frame.  M43 doesn’t actually have such a lens at the moment but the Panasonic Lumix 100-400mm promised for sometime next year should fill the bill.


    What have we got ?   It appears to me that camera makers are casting about with a variety of design directions, presumably seeking the magic formula which they hope will lead to increased sales and commercial success.


    My personal view is that most cameras on the market today are doomed to fail for a variety of reasons.


    * Many are half baked. They lack something essential to the proper camera. Many lack a built in EVF, fully articulated monitor, anatomical handle or a well designed set of controls.


    Some have a pathetic little battery which couldn’t drive  Thomas the little blue tank engine.


    Some have an equally pathetic image processor leading to tediously slow operation and frustratingly long shot to shot times. Some of these camera cost a thousand dollars. The makers of these cameras are taking their customers for fools which they most certainly are not.


    * Many are actually less capable than a half decent smart phone.  For instance many cannot  do  auto panoramas in camera. Most offer a level of connectivity far behind that of smartphones.


    * Most current ILCs have either or both a flipping mirror and a mechanical focal plane shutter. Both these mechanical devices create vibration in the camera immediately prior to exposure, creating the risk and often the occurrence of image deterioration.


    I think it is imperative that cameras divest themselves of both these mechanical items tout suite.  At present the industry is using workarounds like Electronic Shutter (ES) and Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFCS) each of which has its own problems.


    Is any maker getting it right ?    Yes, I think some of them are heading in the direction which I predict to be the ‘right’ one.


    Without attempting to cover all models I will just mention some which I have used, tested or which have caught my attention over the last year or so. In alphabetical order:


    * Canonappears to have lost the plot almost completely.


    Their DSLRs are just re-iterating the established theme with both flipping mirror and mechanical shutter. The EOS M series has yet to acquire a built in EVF and in any event uses the APS-C sensor size which lacks both the imaging capability of full frame and the compactness of M43.


    Canon’s Powershots are also locked in a cycle of re-iteration of old themes. The G5X has at last acquired a built in EVF but we are told uses the sensor, lens and (very slow) processor from the G7X.


    * Fujifilmis doing very well with it’s Instax  line of instant print film cameras which might prove that film ain’t dead yet but I suspect more likely represents some consumers’ desire for an instant result in print.


    But the digital division appears to be holding firm to the X- line of ILCs which has three characteristics which I think are burdens: The APS-C sensor size which I doubt has much of a future, the ‘traditional’ user interface which is clumsy and inefficient and the X-Trans filter array over the sensor, which may offer some benefits but at a cost to integration with image editing programmes which I doubt is worthwhile.


    * Leicaappears not to have the slightest clue about what camera they should design or how to go about it, as evidenced by several recent products including the brave but ill conceived T (Typ701) and the just released SL (Typ 601), with a huge standard zoom lens and (I think) a mechanical shutter but no mention of an E-Shutter or EFCS and a dreadful control layout.


    * Nikon is at least making cameras which people can use but like Canon is stuck in a rut with the DSLR line.  I think they made a basic mistake with the “1” series which uses the 15.9mm sensor which is proving itself much better suited to fixed zoom lens cameras than  ILCs.


    Nikon had a huge response to the P900, tending to confirm my thesis about cameras with a fixed long zoom lens. I believe Nikon would do well to build on the success of this camera with a model offering RAW capture, better controls, a much faster processor and a shorter lens with wider aperture. I found when testing the P900 that hand holding anything over 1000mm (equivalent) was really very difficult even with Nikon’s very good VR.


    * Olympus If I am right then Olympus is in trouble, with very little in the way of long zoom cameras and no full frame model. They will need to make some very capable M43 cameras building on the theme set by the E-M1.


    * Panasonic  has been making long zoom cameras for years and is well placed to gain from this section of the market with many capable models on offer. My main camera is an FZ1000 which is an excellent all rounder.


    They need to get a global shutter or failing that a very fast E-Shutter or failing that EFCS on their M43 cameras and do it by yesterday.  Shutter shock is a big problem for this maker’s M43 cameras and a serious drag on Panasonic’s reputation right now.


    Panasonic may  (I have nothing to go on but rumor), have a piece of the full frame Mirrorless ILC action through it’s relationship with Leica. So maybe if they feel the need to move up to a full frame MILC the pathway might not be totally untrodden.


    Pentax/Ricoh    Somehow this little duo is still in business despite a series of disastrous product releases including the Pentax K-01, Pentax Q and Ricoh GXR. Now I hear they are coming out with a full frame DSLR.   OOPS !  Full frame yes. DSLR no.


    Samsung  This giant mega corporation is, or is not, depending on your rumor source, about to exit the camera business. None of their current model cameras is likely to succeed if my thesis is right.


    Sony   This corporation has a long standing reputation for innovation in all sectors which it enters including the camera division. Unfortunately it also has a reputation for releasing products to the market before they have been properly road tested.


    The big buzz at the moment is around Sony’s A7 full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. (MILC)


    If my thesis is correct they are moving in the right direction. I have not yet bought or tried one of the A7 cameras. All my reading suggests that none of the bodies and only a few of the FE lenses is actually fit and ready for the market just yet. The bodies have had a multitude of problems and issues including inadequately designed lens mounts and poor battery life. Many reviewers have commented on poor quality control affecting many of the lenses with unacceptable sample variation and frequent decentering.


    Presumably Sony is in a rush to grab the full frame MILC market ahead of  Canon and Nikon’s (inevitable ??) move in that direction.

    We shall see.


      









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    On the left, GM5 with Panasonic accessory handle fitted and the excellent PanaLeica 15mm f1.7 lens with hood in place. On the right Panasonic LX100.


    The GM5  was announced in September 2014 as a follow up to the GM1 which was the first of the incredibly tiny GM line of Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras.


    What happened to number 2 ?  As is often the case Panasonic’s naming sequence appears inscrutable here.


    Anyway GM5 it is and according to rumor the next in line will be called GM7, due sometime early in 2016 perhaps.


    It is currently the smallest interchangeable lens camera with a built in EVF. 


    With the good quality kit 12-32mm lens attached it is only slightly larger than a Sony RX100 compact camera and smaller than a Panasonic LX100. You really have to hold one of these to appreciate just how small it is.


    The GM5 appears to be one manifestation of a drive by camera makers to fit the biggest sensor into the smallestpossible body. Which begs the question …why ?


    I really don’t know but I am guessing the reasons might be


    1. To satisfy users calling for a ‘pocketable’ camera capable of better image quality than they can get from a smart phone.


    2. There is a contest between manufacturers for the teensy, tiny prize, presumably to win sales in a  market niche.


    3. Because they can and the engineers want to showcase the products of their enterprise.


    The GM5 is just about the smallest camera which (apart from the missing built in flash ) qualifies for my 'proper camera' criteria. 


    I bought a GM5 for three reasons.


    1. Because Panasonic Australia was offering a free 25mm f1.7 lens as an inducement to purchase.


    2. The GM5 has electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS) and is at the time of writing (November 2015) the only Panasonic Micro Four Thirds camera to do so.


    3. I wanted to discover whether I could put together a compact, carry-everywhere-all-day kit based on the GM5 which would be more appealing to me than my LX100, which I have been using for the last year or so. There is nothing wrong with the LX100 by the way. It’s just that I am always looking for the next best thing.


    From an ergonomic perspective my most favoured current model Panasonic M43 ILC is the G7 which I found to be very nice to use apart from the flat cursor button module which is hard to locate and operate by feel. However this camera, like most M43 models can produce image degradation due to shutter shock with the mechanical shutter with some lenses, focal lengths and shutter speeds. 


    Panasonic’s solution for the G7 is E-Shutter which causes a different set of problems including image capture reduced to 10 bit with adverse effect on dark tones, rolling shutter, no flash and no shutter speeds longer than 1 second.  I found the need to switch back and forth from M-Shutter to E-Shutter, sometimes with [Shutter Delay] to be irritating and frustrating so I regretfully parted company with the G7.


    But then I discovered the GM1 and GM5 have a shutter which is completely different from that found in other M43 cameras.


    The mechanism is much smaller, using a stepping motor to drive the shutter blades and it does offer EFCS which allows the full 12 bit capture at all times.


    The benefits of this are a complete absence of shutter shock issues and very quiet operation. In fact the GM5 has the quietest focal plane shutter I have ever heard. Switch off the electronic beeps to appreciate this.


    Unfortunately the shutter blades travel quite slowly compared to those of a standard shutter.  This limits mechanical shutter speed to 1/500sec and the fastest flash synch speed is 1/50 sec. The shutter automatically switches to Electronic when a speed faster than 1/500 is indicated.


    For my purposes the limitations of the GM5 shutter are less problematic than those of the G7.


    One day all ILCs will have a global shutter and  this tedious nonsense about M-Shutter, E-Shutter, bit rate and EFCS will all go away.


    Apart from the shutter, the GM5 has most of the functions,  features, image quality and performance  of other current model Panasonic 16 Mpx M43 cameras packed into a ridiculously small body.



    These include peaking, which works well with manual focus on the GM5, high quality (but not 4K) video, Wi-Fi, Zebras, many touch screen functions and much more.

    GM5 vs LX100 (or Sony RX100.3 or 100.4)


    To summarise quite a bit of testing:


    * Outdoors, in good light when you can use ISO 200 and f4-8 the GM5 with kit 12-32mm zoom delivers more information (detail) than the LX100 due to it having more pixels on the sensor (16 vs 12) and a slightly better lens within its focal length and aperture range.


    * Indoors, in low light the f1.7-2.8 lens in the LX100 has a 2 stop advantage over the 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 M43 kit zoom. This allows the LX100 to use a 2 stops lower ISO setting leading to better image quality.


    * The only way to get better picture quality from the GM5 than the LX100 (or RX100.3 or .4)  in both good and poor light is to mount a small fast prime lens.  You could run with just a single prime but I expect most photographers would want to carry 2 or 3 primes to cover their preferred focal length range. This means changing lenses from time to time, of course.
    I will discuss options for
    Panasonic prime lenses suitable for the GM5 in a later post. Fortunately the M43 system has a good selection of small fast primes on offer.


    Initial impressions of the GM5


    * Mine arrived with the 12-32mm kit lens already mounted on the body with no body cap and no spare lens rear cap. For an ILC ????!!!!


    I had to buy in some body and lens rear caps from an eBay supplier. I was not amused.


    * The body is extremely small. It feels like a Sony RX100 to hold. That is not a good thing. It constantly feels as though it is about to fall on the floor.


    I had to invest in an aftermarket handle a.s.a.p.  I got a genuine Panasonic one from an eBay seller in Japan but it cost AU$137. I was not amused. Yes there are less expensive aftermarket handles but the Panasonic one puts the third finger of the right hand in a good place to hold this sized camera and also gives an extra 5mm height which assists the grip and provides extra clearance for those lenses (such as the 20mm f1.7 pancake) which otherwise overhang the baseplate.


    The handle works decently well and allows me to feel that I can actually hold onto the camera without fear of its imminent submission to the forces of gravity.


    But Panasonic should incorporate a handle into the body design. There is absolutely no excuse for imposing a no handle design on camera users particularly when an integrated handle would cost no more to build than the present flat front shape.


    The accessory handle must be removed to change battery or memory card or mount the camera on a tripod.


    This nonsense all comes under the heading what-on-earth-were-they-thinking ?


    Stupid faults like this are so easy to avoid at the product concept stage. I sometimes, actually quite often come to think of it, feel that  camera designers are completely off with the pixies in some remote little world of their own, imposing poor decisions on their customers for reasons beyond my comprehension.


    Bad Panasonic.


    * Battery life is poor. In their zeal to make the body as thin as possible (23mm) the designers failed to provide enough space for a decent battery. So instead of the good enough 1025 mAh BLG10E found in the LX100, the GM5 has the smaller and not-good-enough 680 mAh BLH7E model. To make matters worse Panasonic genuine batteries are ridiculously expensive. So I got a couple of aftermarket ones. We shall see how that works out.  I have in the past found they run out of puff rather quickly.


    There was no need to make the body that thin. The lens mount sits 6mm in front of the front face of the body which could to considerable advantage been that much thicker, allowing the camera to be held more easily and a larger battery to be fitted. The dimensions of the camera would not change at all.


    I am not amused.  This is just bad design, presumably in the pursuit of some kind of ultra-thin ‘look’.


    Bad Panasonic.


    * Next up I see the monitor is fixed. Again I assume this is to keep the body thin. Unfortunately fixed monitors or indeed any monitor which always faces out tend to develop little scuff marks eventually even when used and carried with care.


    So I had to get a screen protector from another eBay supplier in the USA. It has not yet arrived.


    * And the 25mm f1.7 lens has not yet appeared. I had better be good.


    * However, notwithstanding all this grumbling and grizzling the pictures are good and the performance is good.  And the holding and handling are acceptable now the accessory handle is in place. So maybe I won’t throw the GM5 off a cliff just yet.





    0 0




    Camera

    Setup Phase

    Max 15

    Prepare Phase Max 15

                  Capture Phase

    Review Phase Max 5

    Total Max 100

    Holding Max 20

    Viewing Max 20

    Operating Max 25

    Nikon 1 V2

    7

    6

    21

    10

    8

    3

    46

    Panasonic G6

    11

    10

    14

    14

    14

    3

    66

    Panasonic GH4

    10

    13

    18

    18

    19

    5

    83

    Panasonic LX100

    10

    8

    11

    10

    10

    5

    54

    Panasonic FZ1000

    10

    13

    17

    18

    20

    5

    83

    Sony A3500

    5

    5

    12

    7

    8

    2

    39

    Fuji

     X-T1

    10

    9

    9

    13

    10

    4

    55

    Canon SX60

    10

    9

    16

    11

    6

    4

    56

    Panasonic TZ70(ZS50)

    12

    13

    6

    11

    20

    2

    64

    Nikon P900

    10

    6

    13

    11

    8

    2

    50

    Panasonic G7

    10

    13

    18

    18

    17

    5

    81

    Panasonic GX8

    10

    12

    12

    18

    14

    5

    71

    Panasonic FZ300/330

    10

    12

    18

    18

    16

    5

    79

    Panasonic GM5

    10

    10

    4

    10

    12

    2

    48




















































































































    0 0



    GM5 with 15mm f1.7 at f4. top and bottom cropped.  Very high resolution hand held.

    Although the GM5  is diminutive it has a standard 17.3 x 13 mm Micro Four Thirds sensor and technical image quality in about the middle range of recent 16 Mpx M43 cameras. 


    With a good lens mounted it can deliver some quite impressive results revealing a great deal of fine detail in a scene.


    Highlight and shadow detail are about average for a M43 camera. However with a little care at the exposure stage and RAW capture it is possible to reveal good highlight and shadow detail even with subjects having very high brightness range without resorting to multi exposure HDR strategies.


    Dark tones can be lifted in Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) without destructive effect on image quality other than a modest increase in grain. This allows the photographer to apply a little negative exposure compensation to prevent blown out highlights then lift the dark tones for a pleasing overall result.


    I ran a RAW stress test. This consists of taking one photo of a test subject with ISO 6400 set on the camera and another photo of the same subject with ISO 200 set but underexposed 5 stops (giving the same aperture and shutter speed) then pulled up 5 stops with the Exposure slider in Photoshop Camera Raw.


    The 5 stop pulled version showed mild yellow color cast and a little more grain than the ISO 6400 version. There was some ‘picket fencing’ on the histogram in the dark tones and some loss of detail in the deep shadows.  This test shows that dark parts of an image can be pulled up without serious adverse effect on picture quality.


    GM5 with 15mm f1.7. Good work against the light with truckloads of resolution.


    RAW files with suitable editing in Adobe Camera Raw look good to my eyes up to about ISO 3200 or even 6400 if necessary.


    JPGs look clear and sharp without any smearing or watercolour effect up to about ISO 1600.  I use the following Photo Style settings: Contrast -2, Sharpness +1, Noise Reduction -5, Saturation 0.


    With a fast prime lens mounted the GM5 can make pictures of very good quality without flash even indoors in low light.


    Very high subject brightness range. The sky was very bright.  Exposure minus 0.66 stops, adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw. Good detail throughout.


    Auto Panoramas


    The GM5 has an auto panorama feature accessed via a dedicated position on the Mode Dial. I tried it with the 12-32mm kit zoom and the 15mm f1.7 prime. Results are dependent on subject selection, lighting and user technique. Straight horizontal or diagonal lines are not managed well, being subject to ‘jaggies’. Subject elements close to the camera may not stitch well.


    However with appropriate subject selection, practice and good technique extremely impressive results can be achieved, with no stitching faults, very high levels of detail and good shadow/highlight rendition.


    In camera auto panorama. Good highlight and shadow detail, huge amounts of detail, clean stitching.

    Performance

    Overall the camera operates quickly, responding without delay to user inputs. You can make adjustments with the buttons and dials while the camera is writing files to the card.

    Single autofocus is almost instantaneous with many lenses including the 15mm f1.7 and the 12-32mm kit zoom.


    Looking at the two thousand or so test shots I have made thus far of static subjects  I see nil misfocussed frames. Nil. Single AF is not only fast it is very sensitive, accurate and reliable.


    It will focus on brush marks in paint and the fine texture of a carpet.


    It works even in light levels so low one can hardly see anything. The camera then switches to ‘low light’ focus mode which is slower but very accurate. The focus assist lamp is not required.


    Veiling flare. The sun is just outside the top right corner of the frame. I turned the camera 45 degrees to the right and the flare disappeared.


    Shot to shot time with Single shot drive, AFS, RAW or RAW+JPG capture and AF plus AE on every shot is 0.6 seconds.


    The GM5 is not ideal for sport/action but it might be used for capturing subjects such as children at play. In this situation the very fast AFS will usually deliver a correctly focussed result.


    In Burst Mode M with the mechanical shutter (AF and live view on each frame), the buffer will allow 7 RAW shots at 3 frames per second or 23 Fine JPGs before the frame rate slows abruptly. With a 40 MB/sec card the buffer takes 16 seconds to clear.


    In Burst Mode M with the E-Shutter and AF+ live view on each frame the frame rate increases to 7 fps, again allowing 7 RAW or 23 JPG Fine shots before the frame rate slows.


    Manual focus works very well with peaking and picture-in-picture auto zoom especially with one of the fast primes which give a very clear in focus/out of focus indication. Anyone coming from an entry level DSLR will be astounded at the speed and accuracy with which manual focus can be achieved with this camera (and other current model M43 cameras with peaking).


    I found exposures with Multiple Metering Mode reliably accurate in most situations although exposure compensation is required with very light or very dark subjects.


    The camera has user adjustable Zebras which allow accurate pre-exposure evaluation of highlight exposure and guide Exposure Compensation when  required.







    0 0




    Readers who follow this blog  will know that my initial impressions of the GM5 were not positive.


    However further use has convinced me that the camera has some redeeming qualities and is reasonably pleasant to use, as long as one is aware of its limitations.


    The redeeming qualities are:


    *  It can form the basis of a very compact yet capable ILC kit suitable for indoor or outdoor use with small fast prime lenses.


    * Very good picture quality.


    * Zippy performance in single shot mode.


    * No shutter shock issues with EFCS.


    The limitationsare:


    * Small size leads to ergonomic compromises although some of these are due to poor design decisions.


    * limited continuous shooting capability.


    * Limited, but adequate, selection of suitably small lenses.


    Ergonomics


    This evaluation and scoring follows my usual schedule.


    Setup Phase


    This follows the current Panasonic M43 ILC formula, seen in many other Panasonic M43 cameras. 
    The graphical user interface is very good. The content is quite voluminous and could be daunting for a newcomer to the Panasonic Menu system although not in the same league of obscurantism that you will find in an Olympus or Sony camera.  It is time Panasonic revised their Menu System to achieve greater coherency with more meaningful groupings of  like items.  Canon and Nikon do this better.


    Menu navigation is easy.


    Setup Phase Score 10/15


    Prepare Phase


    This is quite decent for a small camera with modest functional ambitions. There is a standard Mode 

    Dial on top with the usual iA, P, A, S, M settings plus one Custom mode access point and direct access to the panorama setting which is nice.


    There is a Set-and-SeeFocus Mode dial to the left of the shutter button. Given that this camera will be used most of the time in Single Shot Drive Mode then using this dial for Focus Mode makes sense.


    The Mode Dial is very small and difficult to turn even with two fingers so switching modes requires the capture process to be interrupted and the camera dropped down to turn the dial. Likewise the Focus Mode dial.


    There is a standard Panasonic Q Menu button with up to 15 user assignable functions and two Fn buttons.


    For the record I assign ISO to the Fn1 (Wi-Fi) button and Drive Mode to the Fn2 (LVF) button. If you want to use Wi-Fi it will have to be allocated to Fn 1 or Fn 2 as it cannot be allocated to the Q Menu. This would push Drive Mode back to the Q Menu.


    On the Custom Q Menu I put AF Mode, Stabiliser and Quality (RAW/JPG).


    Prepare Phase Score 10/15


    Capture Phase  Holding


    Without an accessory handle the GM5 feels a bit precarious to me. The thing is so small and thin that 
    I am unable to get a proper hold on it.

    Matters improve with an accessory handle but the holding position is cramped and still not very secure.


    Holding score without handle 4/20


    Holding score with handle 6/20


    Capture Phase Viewing


    There is a built in EVF always at the ready. The eyepiece is small and the view is also small and not particularly sharp or detailed. There is dioptre adjustment and a sensor for automatic switching between EVF and monitor.


    The eyecup is small and unable to effectively exclude stray light.


    The monitor is fixed, 75mm wide and 40mm high, making it approximately 16:9 aspect ratio in a camera which produces stills of 4:3 aspect ratio. This encroaches on the control panel on the right side of the monitor, impairing operation.   


    The EVF and Monitor are both adjustable for style (Viewfinder or Monitor style) and are both adjustable for Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Red Tint and Blue tint.


    I find the Monitor good to go with default settings but the EVF needs Brightness +5, Contrast -6, Saturation 0, Red Tint 0, Blue Tint 0,  for a realistic looking view of the subject.


    Both EVF and Monitor have all the usual and extensive Panasonic data displays which can be selected or deselected and cycled on and off with the Disp button.


    The EVF and Monitor can be configured to look the same for a seamless segue from one to the other.


    Viewing Score 10/20


    Capture Phase Operating


    Operating this camera is not a particularly enjoyable or streamlined experience. There are sufficient controls to get the job done but the process lacks smoothness and easy control of exposure and focus parameters.


    The single (rear) dial is small and rather stiff, requiring the tip of the right thumb to bear on the dial to turn it. If it were larger and more prominent the pad of the distal phalanx of the thumb could more reliably operate the dial without the need to flex the interphalangeal joint.


    The dial does have push-clickfunction enabling Exposure Compensation with the same dial. It has a click-turn action with each click representing a 1/3 EV step change in parameter.


    All the buttons are small but there is space on the camera to make most of them larger. If the monitor were not so wide the control panel could be larger allowing a larger Cursor Button set and larger surrounding buttons.


    There is a little ridge to the right of the cursor buttons which has thus far prevented me from any inadvertent activation of the right cursor button or Video or Disp buttons.


    Panasonic [Direct Focus Area] is available and I use this. The outer edges of the cursor buttons are sufficiently raised and sharpish to make this reasonably easy to operate by feel.


    I move ISO to Fn1, Drive Mode to Fn2 and AF Mode to the Q Menu.  White Balance can be allocated to the Q Menu if desired.     


    It is possible to control Aperture in A Mode (or Shutter speed in S Mode), ISO,  Exposure Compensation, AF and MF if required while continuously looking through the EVF and with little disruption to the grip with either hand. The process is just not as elegant as it could be with a better thought out set of user interface modules.


    Operating Score 12/25


    Review Phase


    There are not enough control modules to permit scrolling from one review image to the next at the same level of zoom and same position in the frame.


    Otherwise Playback functions are standard Panasonic fare and are probably far more extensive than many people will ever need.


    Review phase Score 2/5


    Total Score 48/100


    Comment:The GM5 could have scored better with more thoughtful design at the concept and implementation stages.










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