Attn! Always use a VPN when RSSing!
Your IP adress is . Country:
Your ISP blocks content and issues fines based on your location. Hide your IP address with a VPN!
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

The independent source for study and review of camera ergonomics.

older | 1 | .... | 19 | 20 | (Page 21) | 22 | 23 | .... | 28 | newer

    0 0



    LX7

    And the camera it could and should have been

    September 2016


    The mockup. Marginally larger but very much better ergonomically. The lens is as far to the left side of the body (as viewed by the operator) as possible opening up space on the right for a proper handle.


    At  Photokina this year Panasonic announced several cameras.


    One of these is the LX10/15 billed by Panasonic as “The ultimate compact camera”, with a “polished look” and a “sleek compact body”.


    The blurb continues with …..“The aperture ring allows direct intuitive control of the aperture”….


    I was looking forward to this camera’s arrival but am now disappointed. They messed up the ergonomics.


    This post is not a review of the camera but some observations and comments about its ergonomics based on photos, early hands-on reviews and my experience with advanced compact cameras.


    I feel reasonably confident that Panasonic will do a decent job with the picture quality, lens, autofocus and performance.


    My concerns are with some obvious ergonomic mistakes which in my view should never have been allowed to appear in a supposedly advanced compact camera from a major manufacturer.


    From the left, TZ80, Mockup, RX100(4)   Each fits comfortably in a Lowe Pro Portland 20 belt pouch. 


    Market position

    In the age of ever more sophisticated smartphones there are still some people who prefer to use a camera for taking photos.

    * Many of these are expert/enthusiast users who enjoy the process of operating a well designed camera and will be mightily alienated if the device is not well designed as unfortunately is the case with the LX10.   Online forums already have posts from disappointed users.

    * These people want a camera which is really compact, able to be carried in a pocket or small pouch on a belt so it is ready for use at any time.

    * It must make better photos than a smartphone.

    * It must have very good performance especially in low light levels and with sometimes difficult subjects such as children at play.


    TZ80, Mockup, RX100(4) rear view


    The scaling problem

    Cameras do not scale up or down. The designer cannot effectively take a design and scale it up or down and expect it to have an efficient user interface.


    This appears self evident to me as the hands which operate the device stay the same size.

    The corollary to this is that very small cameras need a fresh approach to design.


    Unfortunately camera designers appear not to understand this so we repeatedly see very small models which have a control layout just like larger models. The result is tiny buttons, cramped holding surfaces, and fiddly operation.


    The Proper Camera

    I take the view that to be worth buying and using, a camera must be different from a smartphone. The process of using a camera needs to be distinctly different from that of a smartphone.


    If not what is the point ?  


    My concept of the Proper Camera encapsulates the attributes I think a camera must have.


    These are:

    * A decent handle and thumb support so the user can get a grip on the thing

    * A fixed always ready EVF (not pop-up)

    * A fully articulating monitor

    * A Mode Dial

    * Twin control dials

    * A JOG lever to move the active AF area instantly

    * A zoom lens

    * Built in flash

    * A full set of hard controls for the expert/enthusiast user.


    LX10  ergonomic mistakes

    1. There is no EVF and no way to fit one. The Sony RX100(Mk 3 and 4) each have a built in EVF. I have a Mk4 and I can confirm that this is better than no EVF but not as user friendly as a fixed, always ready type.  I live in Sydney Australia where bright sunny conditions are normal making image preview almost impossible with the monitor on any camera.


    It seems likely that the EVF was omitted to  keep the body size down.  I understand this but would very much prefer a slightly larger body with an EVF.

    As it stands the LX10 is not a competitor for the RX100(3/4).


    2. The aperture ring is a big mistake. 

    * This camera has a Mode Dial and two control dials. My studies on similar cameras (such as the TZ100 and LX100) show that changing aperture with a control dial requires fewer actions, each less complex than performing the same task using an aperture ring.


    * The design of the ring fitted to the LX10 is most unsatisfactory. The only way for the fingers of the left hand to get sufficient purchase to turn the ring is by engaging with the two small serrated lands.  The relationship of these lands to the fingers of the left hand will be different for each aperture setting and for landscape or portrait orientation, left hand over or left hand under holding style.

    The aperture ring on the LX100 has the same dismally inadequate detail design. As a result I almost always used this camera in P Mode. Working the aperture ring was just so awkward.

    (and working the shutter speed dial was worse so I rarely tried to use Shutter Priority AE)

    Yes, I know people spring to the defence of the aperture ring on user forums and say they think it is a good idea. But I wonder if these people actually use the camera or just talk about it in an abstract fashion.


    * The lens aperture varies with focal length. So if an aperture between f1.4 and f2.8 is set on the ring it will often be wrong depending on the focal length. If you set f1.4 then zoom out to the longest focal length the actual lens aperture will be f2.8 but f1.4 is showing on the ring.

    The whole idea of an aperture ring on a modern electronic camera with a variable aperture zoom is ergonomic nonsense.


    3.  There is no proper handle and the front of the body is smooth like the TZ100. In their efforts to make the body “sleek” they have made it difficult to hold. In my view there is no excuse for this sort of styling affectation. Do people buy this thing because it looks “sleek” ?  I don’t know, maybe some do but the result is an ergonomic kludge.


    4. The monitor swings up but not down. That on the RX100(4) swings both ways.  Fully articulated would be even better.  A swing down monitor is very handy for overhead shots.


    5. The 4way controller is not one of Panasonic’s best designs. In the photos it appears to be very similar to that used in the TZ100 which is just serviceable but the type used on the FZ1000 is the same size but much easier to locate and operate by feel.


    6. In his ‘First Impressions” review of the LX10 on Digital Photography Review Richard Butler makes the following observations:

    ……The second odd decision is the way Panasonic makes use of the camera's command dial on its right-hand shoulder. In manual and shutter priority mode it controls shutter speed. In program mode it controls program shift. In aperture priority mode? Nothing.

    But that's fine, you can customize its function to be exposure compensation. Well, fine until you move back to shutter priority mode or manual, at which point can no longer change the shutter speed. At all.

    And just to top it all off, Panasonic is the only manufacturer remaining that won't let you use exposure comp in manual mode with Auto ISO, so the dial suddenly becomes non-functional.

    This failure by Panasonic to allow the user to allocate sensible functions to the control dials is completely incomprehensible to me. Did the people allocating dial functions ever use the camera ?


    7. Last, Panasonic perseveres with its 20thCentury auto ISO algorithms in the 21st Century. It is way past time Panasonic fixed this to allow ISO and therefore shutter speed to vary with lens focal length and to allow the user to set a minimum shutter speed for each focal length.


    Mockup in hand. The grip is secure with both the third finger of the right hand and the thumb well supported. The top control dial is immediately adjacent to the right index finger on the shutter button. The JOG lever is immediately to the left of the right thumb for easy access and operation. The entire user interface forms a coherent ergonomic whole.

    Mockup rear view. All the controls are quite substantial, designed to be easily located and operated by the fingers but with minimal risk of accidental button presses. The JOG lever does the work of a 4 Way controller when required.




    There is a better way

    Over the last five years I have made 13 plywood mockup cameras to test my ideas about ergonomic aspects of design.  When making a mockup  I specify a set of dimensions then evolve the shape by experimenting with different configurations. So for instance if I find a handle is not right I remove it and start over.  I do not determine the shape with drawings but by experimenting with the relationship between various shapes and the functional anatomy of my hands and the hands of other family members.


    My answer to the problem of the small-enough-to-be-pocketable  advanced compact camera is shown in the mockup seen in this post.


    I realised very early in the design development process that simply shrinking a larger model would not be satisfactory. So I took a different approach to produce a design which is still clearly a camera but with a user interface which I have not seen on any existing camera to date.


    The mockup provides a secure hold on the device with a substantial, carefully shaped handle and thumb support. All the buttons and dials are decently large and easy to find by feel and operate.


    It has a Mode Dial + twin control dial layout. The control dials are easy to find and operate by feel without having to change grip with either hand.


    The built in EVF has a vertical height of 14.5mm which is sufficient for a decently functional viewing experience.


    There is a substantial JOG lever correctly placed for easy access by the right thumb without having to move any other finger. The JOG lever allows direct control of the AF area position in capture phase of use and has the usual functions of a 4 way controller in other phases of use such as scrolling around menus. 


    There is a built in flash unit and the monitor articulates. I suspect that in practice a fully articulating monitor might require an extra 2-3 mm depth in the body of the camera.  The monitor is slightly smaller than that on the Sony RX100(4) but quite adequate I think.


     The final shape and configuration of this mockup arose from basic ergonomic principles guided by the functional anatomy of human hands and an understanding of the tasks required to operate a modern electronic camera and the actions required to carry out those tasks.


    It is ergonomically and functionally coherent.  It was made possible by thinking outside the usual box which appears to constrain camera design in the current era.


    It is only marginally larger than the Sony RX100(4) but in production would provide a very much better user experience.


    Obviously the mockup looks a bit rough but it would clean up quite well in a production version. 

    As to the shape and the “style”, form follows function as it should.



    If the camera makers had the courage to step just a little outside the conventional envelope with a production model like this mockup, I think they would be pleased by the positive response from consumers.


    0 0
  • 09/28/16--23:36: Photokina 2016 What I wanted

  • This is the camera I want to see replacing the Panasonic LX100. It fits nicely in a Lowe Pro Portland 30 belt pouch but is a fully featured Proper Camera with a full set of controls for streamlined use by an expert/enthusiast photographer. It could use either a "one inch" or "Four thirds" sensor and in either case have a collapsing lens with a much wider aperture than you could mount on an ILC of comparable size.

    The camera world is facing challenges to its very existence as never before.


    What do I want  from the camera makers ?  Of course in my dreams I want an all-in-one camera which can do absolutely everything without having to carry and change lenses and which fits in a small belt pouch.


    A little more realistically I have realised that an approach which I can live with is based on two cameras, each with a fixed zoom lens.


    One is a compact camera with a large lens aperture for indoor pictures without flash, which I prefer not to use.


    The second is a superzoom model for outdoor use.


    What have I got ?   Currently my indoor camera, which of course works perfectly fine outdoors, is a Sony RX100(4).  This camera makes very good pictures and I suppose I should be happy with it. But it is not a particularly nice camera to use. The controls are cramped and fiddly and the pop-up-pull-out-push-back-push-down EVF gets more irritating the more I use it.


    My outdoor camera is a Panasonic FZ1000. This is the best all-in-one camera I have ever owned and the two copies in our family are working just fine.


    What upgrades would I like to see ?   In the indoor camera department I would like to see either a model similar to the just announced LX10 but with a built in EVF and a better set of controls or a slightly larger model like the mockup shown in this post. This could have a proper handle, larger EVF and more enthusiast oriented controls. This could be thought of as an upgrade and reworking of the LX100 concept.  I am still waiting to see if Panasonic decides to produce an LX100 successor.



    Rear view of the mockup LX100 replacement which I would like to see.


    Front view of mockup Lumix LX100 replacement as I would like to see it.




    For the outdoor model I wanted to see an upgraded FZ1000 with a lens equivalent to that in the Sony RX10 (3). The Sony RX10(3) is actually smaller than either the FZ1000 or FZ2000 even though it has a lens with more zoom and a wider aperture than either of the Panasonics.


    So why don’t I simply get an RX10(3) and stop grumbling ?


    Because the RX10(3) has only plain contrast detect AF (no DFD, no PDAF) and has been reported by users to have some problems focussing at the long end of the zoom and on moving subjects. In addition this camera has a control layout which I do not favour at all.


    For a mainly stills shooter like myself the FZ2000 offers little inducement to upgrade from the FZ1000. In terms of specifications the main upgrade feature is a 20% longer lens at the cost of 1/3 stop aperture and an Australian MRRP of $1699. This will probably go to market about $100 less which I consider a very reasonable price for this highly specified camera but for an existing FZ1000 owner the upgrade looks less appealing.


    This is the camera I wish Panasonic had made instead of the LX10 and Sony instead of the RX100 series. It fits easily in a Lowe Pro Portland 20 pouch but is a fully featured Proper Camera with a full set of controls for the expert/enthusiast user.


    Other brands  In recent times I have found little to interest me from brands other than Sony and Panasonic.


    Canon has the G7X (2) but this has no EVF and a not-so-good lens. The G5X could work as my indoors/general purpose/walkabout camera if it had a better lens and much better performance especially with RAW capture. The G3X has no EVF on a 25x zoom and sluggish performance making it useful for distant statues perhaps but not much else.  As a former long time Canon user I am very disappointed with Canon’s relentlessly mediocre current offerings


    Nikon appears to have gone AWL in the fixed zoom lens camera department and none of the other makers is offering anything of interest to me or in several cases anything at all.


    What about an ILC ?  Panasonic has at last released the definitive M43 G camera in the form of the G80/85. If I were still interested in owning an ILC and doing the interchangeable lens thing, this model would be very appealing.


    But none of the lens options make much sense for me.


    For the indoors I would be looking at the Lumix 12-35mm f2.8. But at the wide end that is two stops slower than the LX10. The only way to get wide aperture lenses is to use primes. This has no appeal to me at all as it is expensive and puts me back on the changing lenses treadmill.  Been there, done that.


    At the wide end of the zoom (34mm equivalent) I can use the LX10 at ISO 800 when the G80 with 12-35mm would need ISO 3200. On my tests recent M43 cameras offer about 2/3 to 1 stop better high ISO noise performance than current “one inch” sensors so the compact wins here.


    For outdoor use I would be looking at the Lumix 14-140mm but that has a very limited zoom range compared to the FZ models and a smaller lens aperture. I have used this lens on M43 and see no advantage over the FZ1000 in picture quality or anything else.


    So Photokina 2016 has been rather a non event for me. The products which appear to have attracted most interest from the press commentariat are prestige medium format models from Hasselblad and Fuji. These may attract the interest of wealthy enthusiasts as status symbols but will be of little interest to camera users who want to enjoy the process of making good photos.  


    These cameras seem to me like Lamborghinis at the motor show. The masses go ooh—aah  and a very small number of wealthy status conscious individuals actually buy one. The manufacturer stays in business because the price for each vehicle is so high. The cars themselves are impractical things which have difficulty negotiating the smallest bump or gutter.


    I guess Hasselblad with its long history in medium format and prestige brand name might make this work. But Fuji ? We shall see.


      





    0 0


    This chart has been doing the rounds of photo websites recently. You can see there was a brief golden age of camera shipments from 2008-2011 followed by a dramatic fall mainly affecting fixed lens cameras but also interchangeable lens types to s significant extent. Presumably the camera makers are concerned by this but their responses as evaluated by me based on current product offerings seem curiously detached from the reality of the crisis in which the camera industry finds itself.  The camera makers appear to be sleepwalking into self imposed irrelevance.


    In February 2014 I posted on this blog a piece titled “Fuji X-T1 a contrarian ergonomic view”. The X-T1 had just been released to a rapturous reception from reviewers and would-be users alike.


    I analysed the design carefully and concluded that the X-T1 was burdened with many ergonomic problems which would make it slower and more awkward to use than, say, a current model Canon or Nikon prosumer DSLR. I compared the X-T1 to the Panasonic FZ1000 and found the FZ1000 had a much more effective, streamlined user interface.


    I had the temerity to post a link to this item on a Fuji camera user forum. The reaction was astounding. Well, astounding to me at the time anyway.


    The Fuji fanatics reacted like a pack of wild dogs whose pups had come under attack by some predator.


    Fast forward to today and I find that some things have not changed.


    Some people will still offer nasty vicious comments online to anyone with whose views they disagree

    and


    There has been disappointingly little progress on the ergonomic aspects of camera design.


    I notice that Digital Photography Review posted its review of the Fuji X-T2 on 19 October this year (2016)


    Bearing in mind that DPR is owned by Amazon and the mission of Amazon is to sell stuff I find some of the reviewer’s comments appropriately diplomatic while trying perhaps to hint at some of the issues which I found with the X-T1.


    For instance ….”direct controls give an engaging shooting experience”……..


    My ergonomic translation:  “In order to carry out the tasks required to operate the camera the X-T2 requires more actions, each more complex than are required by a well designed conventional (mode Dial + Control Dials) ILC or fixed Zoom model”.


    And again………(The X-T2 ) …”offers an extensive array of direct control points to a degree that’s possibly excessive”…..


    My ergonomic translation…….”The camera is cluttered with multiple redundant control points. It would be faster and more streamlined to operate with fewer, more thoughtfully considered controls”.


    On the left, my Mockup 13 incorporating the results of my research over the last 6 years into camera controls and ergonomics. On the right my Pentax Spotmatic from 1964.  The Spotmatic might be a nostalgic favourite but is is a vastly less enjoyable device to hold and operate than the Mockup 13. You really have to get these cameras in hand to appreciate the difference between them.  Some camera makers are attempting to re-incarnate some  version of the Spotmatic in current camera designs to the immense detriment of their usability.
    Nostalgia for  the "good old days" does not make for good camera design.


    In today’s post I would like to deal with some fads, fashions and affectations which blight and burden some modern cameras making them more awkward to use than they could easily be with better ergonomic design.


    I am assuming hand held operation outside a studio and using available light for the most part, supplemented from time to time by on camera flash.


    Let us start with some basic principles of camera ergonomics:


    There are four phases of camera use, Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.


    In each Phase the user must carry out some tasks, each of which requires actions, the number and complexity of which can be observed by anyone having the will to do so.



    Note that in the Capture Phase the user is either looking through the viewfinder or at the monitor, not at the top of the camera.


    Main tasks in each Phase

    In Setup Phase  the user trawls through the menus and selects options for the multitude of functions on a modern camera including dial functions button functions and much more.


    Prepare Phase comes in the minutes before making photos. This mainly consists of selecting the desired mode when conditions change. This might include the main shooting mode, drive mode, focus mode, autofocus mode, flash settings…..and potentially many others. These selections are best performed with engraved  (set-and-see) dials on the camera top plate and/or various buttons and a Q Menu if available.


    In Capture Phase the user must look at the subject, frame up, zoom, adjust exposure and focus then make the shot. One is looking either through the viewfinder or at the monitor, not the top of the camera and not the lens barrel.


    In Capture Phase one might want to adjust primary (aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity) and secondary (exposure compensation) exposure parameters and primary and secondary focussing parameters, all while looking continuously through the viewfinder or at the monitor.

    The most appropriate type of control module for adjustments in Capture Phase is one or more control dials the function of which is mode dependent and which can easily be located and operated by the fingers without having to look at the dial(s).


    So that is a quick summary of some basic principles.


    Now let us examine some controls which keep appearing on modern cameras which offer the user a less than streamlined operating experience.


    Aperture ring around the lens barrel  This relic of the past appears on Sony RX, and Panasonic LX cameras and others and on some but not most micro four thirds and Fujifilm lenses, go figure.


    In practice the main problems with this means of changing aperture are:


    * It requires more actions each more complex to operate an aperture ring  (requires entire left hand and two fingers to move) than it does to turn an optimally positioned control dial (can be done with right index finger only).

    * In Capture Phase the aperture ring is invisible to the user (unless the camera is on a tripod) and therefore the f stop numbers marked on it serve no useful purpose.  You can see the numbers on the ring when you don’t need to (in Prepare Phase) but cannot see them when you do need to (in Capture Phase).

    * The f number indications will sometimes be incorrect with variable aperture zooms.

    * The aperture ring takes up space which could be used for another purpose such as a focus ring or zoom ring.


    Shutter speed dial  This is another relic of the past which has multiple ergonomic problems.

    * With the dial in the usual position on the right side of the camera top plate the user must release grip on the camera with the right hand, support the mass of the camera with the left hand then reach back with two fingers to turn the dial. A mode dependent control dial requires only a small movement of the right index finger to make the required adjustment with no need to alter grip with either hand.

    * No dial can contain all the available shutter speeds including intermediates and long exposures. So for these speeds some additional control must be provided in the form of an accessory dial or similar. This is ridiculously clumsy and convoluted.

    * You can see the shutter speed dial in Prepare Phase when there is no need to see it, but cannot see it in Capture Phase when you do need to see an indication of shutter speed. This therefore must be in the viewfinder or monitor making the speed inscribed on the dial redundant.

    * The shutter speed dial  occupies valuable camera real estate which would be better allocated to a control module for Prepare Phase adjustment for instance drive mode.


    Exposure compensation dials  have become very fashionable lately. Several ILCs and fixed lens models feature one of these often top right on the top plate of the camera. They suffer from several of the same problems as aperture rings and shutter speed dials.

    * One very effective way to determine if exposure compensation is required is to view the appearance of zebras in the EVF or monitor. If the zebras indicate highlight blowout negative exposure compensation can be dialled in before the exposure is made. This process requires that the operator have full view of the subject and zebras in the EVF at all times in Capture Phase of use. An engraved EC dial on top of the camera is invisible and therefore essentially useless.

    * Working the dial usually requires two fingers, causing disruption of right hand grip.

    * A more useful module for Prepare Phase could be used in place of the EC dial.

    * EC is more effectively carried out with a mode dependent control dial.

    * If EC is adjusted with a control dial the setting can be configured to revert to zero when the camera is powered down or the exposure mode changed.



    Stacked Dials   There are variations on this theme. Some cameras have dial over dial, others have dial over lever module or similar. In either case it is not a matter of if but when the user will accidentally change a parameter unintentionally. Yet some new cameras persist with this feature which is entirely un-necessary for and counterproductive to a streamlined, fast reliable user interface.

    ISO dial   ISO sensitivity is a primary exposure parameter requiring fast adjustment in Capture Phase of use with the eye to the viewfinder and with minimal disruption to the hold of the hands on the camera. All this is easily achieved if  ISO is adjusted with a control dial. The location of a separate, dedicated ISO dial on top of or sometimes on the front of the body is intellectually logical but ergonomically clumsy and inefficient.


    Top plate LCD screens  were required for SLRs and early  DSLRs as there was no other place to display camera data. But now all LCD screen data and much more can be displayed on the rear monitor and/or EVF if fitted, making the LCD screen redundant. Yet these relics of the past keep reappearing on modern cameras (such as the Sony RX10, 1,2,3.) which have no requirement for such a display which takes up valuable camera real estate which could be put to better use.


    No handle, no thumb support---No excuse !!   With my mockups I have shown that even a pocketable camera can be fitted with a serviceable handle and thumb support. There is no ergonomic reason whatsoever for the ongoing appearance of cameras without a decently serviceable handle and thumb support.

    Presumably their omission has something to do with “styling” which raises the question -----does one buy a camera to admire on the shelf or to use for the purpose of taking photographs ? 


    Studio cameras 

    If the camera is in a studio, supported on a tripod or similar and the subject is lit primarily by studio flash then a different kind of control layout can be appropriate. In this case the camera will be used in manual mode with the aperture, shutter speed and ISO set according to the requirements of the shoot and the exposure determined by the flash output as measured by an incident meter at the subject.

    In this setting it can be quite appropriate to have the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings on engraved dials on the camera top plate, easily visible by the user looking down on the camera.

    The new Fuji GFX50S medium format digital camera has an aperture ring on the barrel of each lens, an ISO dial and a shutter speed dial. In a studio setting this could be quite workable, even preferable. But for users planning to take the GFX50S out and about this control layout will not be optimal.

    Back to the camera production chart

    It is clear from the CIPA chart at the top of this post that the years 2008-2011 marked the apogee of camera production on planet earth.


    Now here is the thing………….


    The most popular cameras were, of course point-and-shoot compacts. The smartphone revolution has dealt this camera type a terminal blow. But we also see a sharp decline in the number of 
    Interchangeable lens cameras (ILC) produced.


    What was the most popular type of ILC in the years 2008-2011 ?


    Mostly Canon and Nikon (with some Sony SLT) entry to midrange DSLRs.


    Most of these cameras

    * Did not have a separate aperture ring.

    * Did not have a Shutter Speed dial.

    * Did not have an exposure compensation dial.

    * Did not have a top plate LCD panel.

    * Did not have an ISO dial.


    * Did not have stacked dials.
    * Did have a proper handle.

    * Did have a decent thumb support.


    It appears to me that the camera makers (all of them) have decided to retreat to an alternative universe. In this very strange place they are abandoning a modern control layout which has been shown to produce good cameras which sell well in favour of a retreat to symbols of the 1960s for reasons entirely unclear to me.


    It seems to me that the more cameras which are thrust upon us with slow, clumsy 1960’s era control systems the more the rush away from cameras will accelerate. I do not have to be much of a prophet to say this, the trend is in full flight for all to see.


    Can camera makers rescue the camera industry at all ?


    Not with their present strategies.


    We are getting cameras with all kinds of extravagant technological capabilities which I never knew I wanted, such as being able to select focus after the shot or taking 24 frames per second of still photos each separately focused.


    After hearing about these amazing capabilities I still don’t want them.


    But I do want good ergonomics. I do want cameras which are a pleasure to hold and operate.


    But all too often the camera makers are serving up technological marvels which are just not enjoyable to hold and operate at all.


    They could easily fix this. But the will does not appear to be there.


    Such a pity.






    0 0


    Panasonic TZ80 (ZS60)  This photo was made with a consumer travel zoom at the long end of the zoom range. I include it here to make the point that good enough photos can be made even with models from near the bottom of the price point range.  I take the view that many high end models are simply overkill for the majority of photographers, even enthusiasts.


    Regular readers of this blog  may have noticed that there have been no posts here since October. I have been unwell with several problems requiring surgery. I am now on the mend with plans for more posts over the coming weeks.


    The silly season is upon us again  with camera review sites handing out awards in profusion like sports day at junior school where all shall have prizes.


    In 2014 I gave the COTY award to the Panasonic FZ1000because it enabled me to dispense with the tedium and cost of buying, carrying and changing lenses.


    Since then the FZ1000 has proven its worth in our family with several copies of the camera travelling to the Arctic ocean North of Spitsbergen, Antarctica, Iceland, Europe, South America and many locations in Australia including sandy deserts. The cameras have functioned perfectly in all conditions and allowed us to make many memorable records of our travels and family life.


    The camera works well indoors and outdoors and gives good results across the entire zoom range. With some expertise in Adobe Camera Raw ISO sensitivity settings up to 12800 can be used with decent results.


    Each year Digital Photography Review publishes a series of roundups with “What camera should I buy” recommendations.  


    This year (2016) in the ‘Enthusiast Long Zoom’ category their recommendation was………..yes, you guessed it: the Panasonic FZ1000.


    No doubt this recommendation was influenced by the fact that the FZ1000 is still in production and available at a much more attractive price point than the more recently introduced Sony RX10(3) and Panasonic FZ2000 models, while offering most of the features and performance of both.


    In 2015 I did not make a COTY award, there being in my view no camera which offered a game changing contribution to the camera genre.


    This year (2016) camera sales have declined again for the 6th year in a row with all categories being adversely affected.


    Presumably this has led to a reduction in research and development budgets as the manufacturers scramble for survival. So it is perhaps not surprising that again we see a slow rate of technological development.


    The consequence of this is a paucity of models which even attempt to push the product development envelope.


    Let us review the categories:


    There are two types of interchangeable lens camera the DSLR and the MILC.


    If one were a Nikon user with a bag full of expensive lenses then I guess the D500 might be the camera of the year.


    But the DSLR has a genre really has nowhere to go in terms of evolution so will never get a COTY award from me.


    The Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (MILC) category does have room for further evolution but the pace of this has been frustratingly slow in recent years.


    For the enthusiast owner of a bag full of high spec Olympus M43 lenses the EM1 (2) might be camera of the year. But this model is really just fixing deficiencies of the 3 year old original EM1 and does little to develop the MILC genre. For instance it appears to have a standard mechanical focal plane shutter, albeit one designed to reduce the risk of shutter shock.


    If I were still interested in interchangeable lens cameras, I would find the Panasonic G80 a more appealing offering with most of the performance of the EM1(2) at 40% of the price.


    In the fixed lens category we can start with the enthusiast compacts.


    In 2012 the original Sony RX100 really was a groundbreaking product, setting a new standard for image quality in a very small package. Since then Panasonic, Canon and Sony itself have jumped on the “one inch” sensor bandwagon with a series of models which at best provide small incremental improvements to the original. There is nothing wrong with that but none of them really stands out as COTY material.


    Canon’s offerings have been relentlessly half baked, mediocre things. Canon was once the industry innovator, alas no longer.


    Sony’s updates of the original RX100 are good cameras in the technological sense but have many ergonomic deficiencies and each advances the genre such a small amount that one must regard the exercise as primarily one of marketing.


    Panasonic’s recent offerings are ergonomically inconsistent with the FZ2000 offering a very good user interface but the LX10 having numerous designed-in operational deficiencies such as no handle, slippery front, no EVF, front ring easily bumped in error, poor function allocation to rear dial, antiquated auto ISO algorithm and more.


    Indeed there is much room for improvement in the ergonomics of all these small cameras and I will be publishing several posts about this soon.


    Nikon appears to be missing in action, or inaction, having announced the DL series almost a year ago but thus far having failed to produce the goods.


    In the enthusiast long zoom category we have the Sony RX10(3) and Panasonic FZ2000.

    If the RX10(3) had the high speed sensor and continuous AF from the RX100(5), a  better user interface and better ergonomics it might have been a contender for COTY.


    The FZ2000 is not much of a step up from the FZ1000 for stills photography and I have now seen two reports of lack of sharpness from the lens.


    The year also saw introduction or at least announcement of  relatively compact medium format models from Hasselblad and Fuji.  These cameras could be seen as the digital equivalent of rangefinder medium format cameras of the film era.


    I regard these cameras as status symbols like Lamborghinis at the motor show. Some wealthy enthusiasts will buy them and proclaim themselves well pleased with their own wisdom.  I have no problem with that but I doubt that anybody actually needs one of these cameras.


    Some years ago I owned and extensively used a Mamiya 7 medium format film camera over a period of 6 years. This camera had among the best lenses available in medium format in its day and was built to a high standard.


    When I review my scans of the medium format negatives from the Mamiya 7  I rate them about equal to or offering a bit less image information than my Sony RX100(4).  Seriously. Today’s best digital compacts are at least as good as the best medium format in the days of film.


    So there you have it. No COTY award from Camera Ergonomics again this year.



    In the meantime I am holding on to my trusty Panasonic FZ1000 and my Sony RX100(4) when I want a compact. The RX100(4) is not a particularly pleasurable camera to hold or operate but it works well, operates efficiently and makes surprisingly good pictures indoors and outdoors. 


    0 0

    Murraya    Panasonic LX10 gets in close but only at the wide end of the zoom


    The rise and rise of smartphones has seen a steep decline in sales of traditional point and shoot small compact cameras. The smartphone has become the preferred point and shoot photographic device for millions of people around the world.


    Which leads me to the question:  is there a future for the advanced, enthusiast oriented compact camera ?


    I think there is for the following reasons:


    * A dedicated camera can have a zoom lens ranging from 3x to 60x. It is much more difficult to incorporate a zoom lens into a smartphone although various makers are trying to find ways around this restriction for instance by having two camera modules one with a wide angle lens and the other with a longer lens.


    * Camera reviewers often point out that a camera can have better picture quality than a smartphone. This is true enough but when the smartphone makes pictures which are good enough for most users the fact that some other device might make better pictures becomes irrelevant.


    * I think the most enduring reason a person might choose to make pictures with a camera lies with the nature of the user experience.


    The user experience with a smartphone is utilitarian. The person taking a photo does not know or care about aspects of the process which involve exposure, focussing, aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity. The 21st Century point and shoot device is the modern reincarnation of the Kodak Box Brownie from 100 years ago…..”You press the shutter, we do the rest”.


    That is absolutely fine for most people but some individuals want to have more control over the photographic process. They actually want to know what aperture, shutter speed, ISO setting and exposure compensation the camera is set to use. They want to nominate the exact part of the subject which will be rendered sharply in focus. They want to tell the camera to use single or continuous autofocus and sometimes focus manually. They want to utilise a range of options for video capture.


    The elements of this control are holding, viewing and operating.


    The user needs to be able to hold the device securely to keep it steady for sharp results.


    The monitor needs to show a clear view of the subject with easily visible camera data. This view needs to be replicated in an eye level viewfinder so the user can hold the camera steady and operate it effectively in bright sunlight or in low light or at the long end of a zoom.


    The camera needs to encourage the user to monitor and adjust all primary and secondary exposure and focussing parameters in Capture Phase of use and to smoothly alter settings for focus, drive, color and others in Prepare Phase of use.


    My view is that every camera including the smallest should enable the user to quickly and smoothly exercise a high level of control over the picture taking process.


    Some history of advanced compact cameras


    In the year 2000 Canon introduced the G1, a chunky compact camera designed to appeal as a backup for users accustomed to operating a DSLR with a full set of controls. 


    In so doing Canon created a new category of ‘prosumer’ fixed zoom lens small camera.


    Over the next ten years Canon dominated this category with ten more models in the G series. 


    During this period Canon stuck fairly close to the formula which made the G series so successful:


    * The cameras were small but not tiny. Early versions had a box volume (width x height x depth powered down) of 500-600 cubic centimeters but later versions trimmed down to around 400 c.c.


    * They had a handle allowing the user to get a decent hold on the device.


    * They had a comprehensive set of controls to exercise the capabilities of expert and enthusiast photographers.


    * They had a good quality zoom lens and decent picture quality.


    My history with Canon G cams started with the G7 followed by the G9, G10, G12 and last the G16 in 2013.


    So I gained considerable familiarity with the line and generally enjoyed using these cameras, with the notable exception of the atrocious optical viewfinder which showed only 60% of the actual picture area, with parallax error to make matters worse.


    Then in 2012 Sony changed the compact camera world forever with the RX100.  This was a triumph of technology and marketing for Sony.


    The ‘one inch’ sensor had an area 2.5 times larger than the ‘1/1.7 inch’ sensor in the Canon G cams and their Nikon equivalents.


    It was also a new and advanced design which had a higher DXO Mark score that the larger Micro Four Thirds sensors and even several APS-C sensors.


    Somehow Sony managed to package this larger and much better sensor into a body smaller than any other advanced prosumer style compact of the day.


    The original RX100 has a box volume of only 213 c.c.  The latest mark 4 and 5 versions have grown a bit having acquired more features but are still very small with a box volume of 252 c.c.


    Sony’s marketing achievement was to persuade consumers to pay considerably more money for this diminutive model than the larger Canon G and similar Nikon products of the time.


    This was quite something as until the arrival of the RX100,  camera makers had carefully nurtured the idea that ‘bigger is better’, easily seen in Canon and Nikon’s DSLR offerings.


    It was game over for the traditional prosumer style compact with the ‘1/1.7 inch’ sensor.


    Soon Canon and Panasonic produced their own range of fixed lens cameras based on the Sony ‘One inch’ sensor and Nikon is about to join the group with the 3 model DL series after a delay of almost a year from their initial announcement.


    Has the ‘one inch’ sensor  brought wonderful benefits to the world of compact cameras ?


    My answer to this is partly yes, partly no.


    The ‘yes’ is the improved picture quality enabled by the larger sensor.  Picture quality of the latest models is so good that I now have little interest in cameras using a larger sensor size.


    For some people the pocketable size of these cameras may also be a compelling attraction.


    But there are two problems with these new cameras:


    The first is the lens lottery.


    I have now seen many reports on review sites, particularly Digital Photography Review and on user forums, of inconsistent lens quality with Sony, Canon and Panasonic compacts using the ‘One inch’ sensor. It would seem to be a challenge for designers to produce compact collapsible lenses of very small size but which still cover the large (for a compact) sensor.


    My own experience is:


    * Two copies of the Panasonic TZ110 (ZS100) each with lens quality which varied substantially but also inconsistently (meaning sharpness changed unpredictably from shot to shot) with focal length and aperture.  However some users are reporting  consistently high image quality with this model across the focal length and aperture range.


    * One Sony RX100(4) with a near perfect lens, well centred and sharp at all apertures and focal lengths.  But others have reported considerable unsharpness  on  one side of the frame depending on the focal length.


    * One Panasonic LX10 which had inconsistent lens quality out of the box but which is improving after about 3000 exposures.  I will post more about this soon, including discussion about the idea that a lens might benefit from a ‘running in’ period.


    You pays your money and takes your chances. This is not at all satisfactory to me or many other users.


    The second is poor ergonomics leading to an unsatisfying user experience.

    It seems to me that the designers of these little compacts have taken the general shape and layout of a larger camera and scaled it down. But this is unsatisfactory for the obvious reason that the hands which use the device remain stubbornly the same size.

    I will expound on this in the next post with reference to the Panasonic LX10 and Sony RX100(4).





    0 0


    I actually made this picture with a Panasonic FZ1000 not one of the compacts discussed in this post . I think he is a bit camera shy because he moved to a different location the next day. 

    The big appeal  of these modern compact cameras is that they can reliably deliver very good picture quality in a compact package.


    The picture quality is so good even indoors and in low light that I no longer have any interest in cameras which use a larger sensor.


    But there is considerable room for improvement in the ergonomics, user interface and user experience provided by these cameras.


    In this post I detail ergonomic issues with the design and implementation of the user interface of the 

    Panasonic LX10 and Sony RX100(4), then offer suggestions about measures I would like to see the makers implement to fix the various problems.


    Size, shape and  layout


    The diminutive size of these compact precludes them from having optimal ergonomics. They are simply too small to allow the fitment of an anatomical handle and there is very limited real estate for control modules.


    Both models have been given smooth flat surfaces and sharp corners. Presumably someone in product development thinks this is ‘stylish’ but cameras with the best ergonomics like prosumer DSLRs have textured, grippy curved surfaces and rounded corners.


    The Canon G7X (2) has a textured front surface, a decent mini handle, a decent thumb support which also helps stop the thumb from straying onto the screen and bevelled edges.


    I never read anyone on user forums complaining about the appearance or ‘style’ of this camera but I have read several reports that it works better ergonomically than the Panasonic or Sony models.  By the way I elected not to buy the G7X(2) because of reported issues with the lens, AF Continuous performance and the stacked dials (Mode Dial over Exposure Compensation Dial).


    I would like to see all these cameras have the lens moved over to the left (as viewed by the user) as far as possible to free up space for a more robust handle as seen on my mockup in the next post.

    So they are small which limits what is possible. However I think the main problem with the layout of these cameras is that they appear to be scaled down versions of larger models. There is simply not enough space on the control panel (the area to the right of the monitor) to usefully accommodate the 10 buttons which can be found there.


    I will show some ideas for an alternative layout in the next post.


    Sony RX100 (4)


    The main ergonomic issues with this camera are:


    * The menus are a confusing muddle.  They need a complete restructure and rewrite.


    * There is no touch screen. I am usually no great fan of touch screens but on these little compacts the screen is readily accessible to the thumb(s) which greatly speeds up AF area selection and other selection operations. Sony could to advantage copy the Panasonic approach to touch screen operation.


    * The lens ring turns smoothly. This gives the process of changing aperture and shutter speed a disconnected feel with no tactile indication of when one had reached the desired point.  An option to make this ring clicky would help.


    * A more prominent thumb support would help the holding experience.


    * I wish Sony would include the stick on handle in the box. I paid AUD1188 for this camera. The AG-R2 accessory grip cost AUD18. I bet it cost Sony a dollar. They would make buyers  happy by including it with every camera.


    Panasonic LX10


    This camera has more ergonomic issues than the Sony.


    * There is no EVF. This makes the camera difficult to use in bright sunlight or cloudy-bright conditions. The problem is exacerbated by the ‘monitor style’ of the screen with camera data superimposed over the lower part of the preview image. The option to set the screen to ‘viewfinder style’ with camera data beneath the preview image, available on most Panasonic cameras, is not to be had on the LX10.  In bright conditions outdoors I find the aperture and shutter speed readouts impossible to read.


    I have a Clear Viewer device on order and will report on this in due course.


    I would like to see Panasonic incorporate a built in EVF into every camera they make.


    * There is no proper handle on the smooth front of the body. Worse, Panasonic does not make an accessory handle available. You have to experiment with e grips, croc grips and home made stick on handles or put up with the insecure feeling of the slippery surface.


    * The aperture ring is a gratuitous ergonomic abomination. Why ?


    It is gratuitous because it does not need to be there at all. The thumb dial which is much easier to operate adjusts shutter speed in S and M  Modes and Program Shift in P Mode. The logical action would be for it to adjust Aperture in A Mode but in fact it does nothing at all in A Mode.


    The aperture ring itself is very badly designed. It can only be turned with fingers of the left hand on the two small raised serrated lands. These are awkward to reach and the ring is awkward to turn with left hand over or under in landscape or portrait orientation.


    The finger of the left hand on the right side lug (as viewed by the user) bangs into the third finger of the right hand at f2.8 as the ring is turned.


    I think the persons responsible for this ergonomic kludge should be consigned to street sweeping duties.


    Panasonic could possibly rescue the situation with a firmware update to allow the aperture ring to be disabled and aperture selected with the thumb dial.


    * The exposure algorithm in P Mode seems rather strange to me. In bright light the camera will hold onto the widest aperture until the shutter speed rises to 1/1600 second. 

    The Sony defaults to f4 in bright light, an aperture more likely to be appropriate for outdoor subjects.


    * Panasonic is still using its old primitive Auto ISO algorithm which does not allow shutter speed to change with zoom and does not allow the user to set a minimum shutter speed.

    I would like to see Panasonic simply copy Sony’s implementation of  Program Mode and Auto ISO algorithms.  Maybe they could incorporate this into a firmware update.



    Next post- some of my ideas and suggestions to fix these ergonomic problems in a small compact camera.


    0 0

    Sony RX100 Mk4. There is nothing wrong with the picture quality achievable with these modern compacts. They deliver very good detail, color and dynamic range.


    In the previous post I  identified some ergonomic failings with current model enthusiast pocketable compacts.


    In this post I present my Mockup #10 which embodies some of my ideas about ergonomics leading to a design which I submit could enable a more engaging, streamlined user experience than any pocketable compact on the market at the present time.


    Many current small compact cameras have very poorly realised ergonomics. I believe one of the reasons for this is that many of them are scaled down versions of larger models. Cameras do not scale up or down for the simple reason that the hands which use them stay the same size.


    So with Mockup #10 I used basic ergonomic principles to come up with something a bit different from the standard run of the mill compact design which features in many current models.


    Although only 2mm wider and 3mm higher than a Sony RX100 (4),  Mockup #10 has a substantial handle and substantial thumb support built in, an  EVF of serviceable dimensions built in and always ready, built in flash, a JOG lever for instantly moving the active AF area and other functions, twin dials and control lever, 8 programmable buttons and a fully articulated monitor. 


    This is a full set of controls to suit the enthusiast user, similar to those you would expect to see on a mid level prosumer interchangeable lens camera.


    In order to fit all these control elements in, something had to go or shrink.

    In the case of Mockup #10 the traditional 4 Way Controller has gone, its function being taken over by the more ergonomically accessible and efficient JOG lever.


    In addition the monitor is smaller than you usually see in cameras this size in order to make 14mm of  height available for the built in EVF.

    Mockup 10 in hand rear view. The hand and fingers are comfortable. The thumb is not resting on any buttons. The thumb can easily swing to the left onto the JOG lever without disrupting grip.

    Mockup 10 in hand top view. The right hand has a very secure and decently comfortable hold on the camera. The right index finger can easily move from the Shutter Button to the Control Dial to the Control Lever




    The ergonomic principles on which this mockup is based are as follows:


    * I start the design process with a set of dimensions but no drawings, just concepts and some pieces of plywood which I shape freehand.


    The concepts are:


    * Form follows function and function follows fingers.


    * There are four Phases of use, Setup, Prepare, Capture and Review.


    * A specification can be written for each Phase of use. This describes which functions the camera should be able to carry out in that Phase.


    * Each function requires the user to carry out a task. Each task requires actions by the fingers.


    * The number and complexity of actions can be observed. Good design leads to  a control system which requires the minimum number and least complexity of actions.


    * All control modules must be positioned and shaped for optimum haptics. This means controls are easy to locate, feel, identify and operate by the fingers without having to look at them.


    * All control modules are configured for consistent and expected operation to achieve ‘value up’ and ‘value down’.  This means, for instance turning a lens ring to the right at the top to make the value (of the focal length or aperture or exposure compensation or whatever is being adjusted) increase.


    I think most of us have been trained to expect a movement up or to the right to produce ‘value up’ and a movement down or to the left to give ‘value down’.


    Here is my ergonomic specification for the Operating component of Capture Phase of use:

    “The user is able to adjust all primary and secondary exposure, framing and focussing parameters using the index finger and thumb of the right hand and one finger of the left hand while continuously looking through the viewfinder and without changing grip with either hand.”


    Primary exposure parameters are: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO sensitivity.


    Secondary exposure parameters are: Exposure Compensation and White balance.


    Primary framing parameters are: zoom and image preview.


    Primary focussing parameters are: Autofocus or Manual focus.


    Secondary focussing parameters are: Change position and size of active AF/MF area.

    Mockup #10 is configured to fulfil this specification. I have not yet encountered an actual compact camera (and very few cameras of any description) about which I could say the same thing.

    Mockup 10 rear view

    Mockup 10 front view




    How does it work ?


    With reference to the attached photos:


    Holding


    There is a substantial mini handle and a substantial thumb support. These allow the camera to be held securely and steadily while still allowing the right index finger unimpeded access to the Control Lever, Shutter Button and Control Dial. The right thumb can swing left to operate the JOG lever without disrupting grip with the base of the thumb.


    The left hand can hold the left side of the camera using ‘hand under’ or ‘hand over’ position and in either position can turn the lens ring. 


    I prefer the ‘left hand over’ position as it allows me to curl the left index finger over the EVF eyepiece to exclude stray light and help set the eye to the optimal viewing distance with the forehead resting on the finger.  In this position the third finger turns the lens ring.


    Viewing


    Mockup #10 has both a built in, always ready EVF and a fully articulated monitor. A swing up/down monitor would be an option.


    The EVF eyepiece is 14mm high, sufficient for a large enough panel to provide a decent viewing experience.


    The monitor is a little smaller than usual as it must be to fit into the space. Digital cameras a few years ago had monitors this size and smaller. With the excellent modern panel designs the size shown here should be perfectly adequate for good image preview and review.


    Operating


    The Control Dial adjusts Program Shift in P Mode, Aperture in A Mode,  Shutter Speed in S mode and both Aperture and Shutter Speed in M Mode.


    The way it works in M Mode is that the Control Dial adjusts Aperture directly and Shutter Speed if it is turned while the ALT key is held pressed with the 4th finger of the right hand.  Or it could be configured to do the reverse.


    The ALT key allows each control to have a default function and an alternate function. It has been positioned so the 4thfinger of the right hand can operate it without releasing grip on the handle with the third finger. It is also located to prevent accidental actuation.


    The lens ring actuates zoom which can be continuous or step, as configured either in a menu or by pressing the ALT key.  Or the Lens Ring can be configured for Manual Focus when the ALT key is pressed.


    The Control Lever adjusts Exposure Compensation by default or enters the White Balance interface with the ALT key.


    Or the functions of the Lens Ring and Control Lever can be reversed.


    Autofocus is activated as usual by half press of the shutter button.


    The JOG Lever directly controls position of the active AF Area.  If the JOG lever is pressed  inwards until it clicks it can also control AF Area size.


    The JOG Lever also does menu scrolling duty in the Setup and Prepare Phases of use where it works like the familiar 4 Way Controller.


    I would allocate ISO sensitivity to the button just to the left (as viewed by the operator) of the JOG lever. This is reachable without unduly disrupting grip with the right hand.


    So there you have it for operation in Capture Phase of use. All the criteria of the specification have been met.  Not bad for a very small compact model.


    The function of each of the remaining buttons is user selectable from a long list of alternatives. Each button can have two functions using the ALT key.


    Most users will want Menu, Quick Menu, Playback, Disp(lay) and a selection of preferred modes such as Focus, Autofocus and Drive.


    Motion picture can be initiated with  its own button or ALT + Shutter Button.


    Of course this system does require the user to remember what functions attach to which control modules and what alternate is activated by the ALT key.


    The benefit is that the user has control over all of it.


    It is also possible to have Custom Modes on the Mode Dial so, for instance some buttons can have certain functions with still photos but different functions with motion picture capture.


    Beginners can set the mode Dial to the ‘Auto’ Mode and have the camera operate as a point and shooter with all functions on default settings.


    Summary

    Mockup #10 is my ‘proof of concept’ demonstration that it is possible to craft an enthusiast compact camera providing a level of user control similar to that of a prosumer interchangeable lens camera.

    I would very much like to see some manufacturer build a camera to this design.











    0 0


    Panasonic Lumix LX10

    Concept

    For many years photographers have wanted big camera picture quality in a small camera body. They can have it but there are two caveats. First ‘full frame’ digital compacts have a fixed focal length lens, no zoom. Second the few models of this type which exist are very expensive. For instance in Australia the retail price of a Sony RX1R(2) is $5275 and the not-very-compact Leica Q is $6289. Ouch.


    But there is another type of camera with a smaller sensor, a much more consumer friendly price tag and picture quality good enough for most enthusiast photographers requirements.


    There is a growing group of them on the market at the present time. There are the Sony RX 100 original and Mk 2, 3, 4 and 5 versions, Canon G5X, G7X in two versions and G9X, Panasonic TZ100/110 and most recently the Panasonic LX10.   All these cameras use one or other version of the Sony ‘one inch’ sensor.


    The LX10 competes most directly on price and features with the Canon G7X (versions 1 and 2). 

    These models have a touch screen but no EVF whereas the Sony RX100 (from Mk 3 up) models have a built in pop-up EVF but no touch screen. The Sony models are also considerably more expensive.


    History  

    The LX10 is the sixth enthusiast compact released by Panasonic with the LX prefix.  The line began with the LX1 of 2005. Panasonic sought to differentiate the LX series from the Canon G compacts and equivalent Nikon models with smaller size, multi aspect ratio sensor and wider aperture lens of good quality. The LX1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 each utilised a sensor having a diagonal  measurement of  approximately 9.3mm.


    None of the series has featured a built in EVF but several including the LX7 could be fitted with an accessory EVF slotting into the hotshoe.


    The LX10 uses a much larger sensor measuring 15.9mm on the diagonal with 2.76 times the area of the previous generation sensor. This enables much improved picture quality.


    Despite the larger sensor the LX10 is actually smaller than the LX7 in every dimension. Both have a lens aperture of f1.4 at the wide end of the zoom.


    This has been made possible by advances in aspheric lens technology allowing the overall size of a lens to be reduced while retaining high optical quality.


    Target user group

    The LX series has always targeted enthusiast photographers who want high quality pictures without the size and mass of an ILC.


    Features and specifications

    Although very small, the LX10 has twin dial operation, swing up touch screen, plenty of controls for the enthusiast user and a wide aperture lens for low light work. It also has an Aperture Ring on the lens. This feature first appeared on the LX7 of 2012 for reasons not stated by Panasonic. The actual design of the Aperture Ring on the LX7 is better than that on the LX10 in having serrations around the entire circumference of the ring. The LX10 just has two raised lands with serrations making the ring more difficult to operate particularly when switching from landscape to portrait orientation.


    Otherwise the LX10 has most of the features of a current model Panasonic camera including DFD AF, 4K video and auto panorama.


    You can read all the details elsewhere.


    Picture quality

    The lens on the LX10 is quite ambitious with a 3x zoom starting at f1.4 at the wide end, but dropping quickly to f2.5 at (focal length equivalent) 28mm and f2.8 at 30 mm and thereafter.


    On testing my LX10, which I bought and paid for, I found the lens to be extremely sharp in the central area of the frame at all focal lengths and apertures. Edge sharpness was less consistent being good at the widest aperture at each focal length but dropping somewhat with the lens stopped down a little then recovering by about f5.6.


    I found highlight and shadow detail very good, better than the Sony RX100(4) which I tested alongside the LX10. I also found the Panasonic to make exposures to protect highlights more effectively than the Sony in conditions with high subject brightness range.


    I also preferred the Panasonic JPG rendition to that of the Sony which was often rather cool and lacking a little in color saturation.


    At ISO 6400 the RX100(4) had about 0.7 stops less luminance noise than the LX10. As the two cameras use the same or very similar Sony sensor it would appear that Panasonic has emphasised highlight and shadow detail in the processor while Sony favours noise reduction. The difference is observable with matched subjects and conditions in both JPG and RAW files but I doubt it would be noticeable in general photography. 


    Performance

    The LX10 responds very quickly to user inputs in all modalities of use. It focusses very quickly and operates very quickly even with RAW+JPG capture.


    The position of the active AF area can be moved very quickly with the touch screen.


    I tested follow focus ability in AF continuous and Burst M on a subject walking towards the camera from 5 meters to 1 meter. I found that the DFD AF works very well giving over 90% of frames very sharply in focus.  The LX10 is very much more capable than the RX100(4) on this test. Sony’s answer to this is the RX100(5) but that is a much more expensive proposition.


    Ergonomics

    This is the weakest aspect of the LX10. There is no proper handle and none is available from Panasonic. The Aperture Ring is awkward to use and aperture adjustment cannot be assigned to the thumb dial. There is no EVF and no way to fit one.


    Overall the camera is serviceable but could be improved with an ergonomic rethink.


    Summary

    In many respects the LX10 is a very good camera. It makes excellent photos in a wide variety of conditions indoors and outdoors. It is fast and responsive in operation. It is reasonably priced particularly when compared to the Sony RX100 models.


    Yet overall I feel a bit disappointed by the LX10 if only because it appears to be a ‘me too’ model, bringing nothing much new or original to the user experience.


    But for the photographer who prefers the Panasonic user interface I can recommend the LX 10 with the reservations indicated above.


    If Sony, Canon and Panasonic could combine their efforts and produce a camera with the best features from the RX, G7X and LX series, us users might have something really special. Sadly it will never be.




    0 0

    Mockup #14 in hand top view. The right index finger can easily reach four control points (Shutter Button, Control Dial, control Lever and the button under the finger in this photo)  with no movement required from any other finger.  The thumb can easily swing across to the left to operate the JOG lever without disrupting grip. the camera can be driven easily with these two fingers of the right hand and one finger of the left hand on the lens ring.


    At a Christmas family gatheringa few days ago I was the only person with a camera. Everyone else used a smartphone to record the event.  I think it likely that this scenario would be repeated in many families around the world.


    I think the significance of this for camera design is that the only people still using cameras are enthusiasts.


    Snapshooters use smartphones. 


    It follows therefore that every camera of any size should be designed for engaging, enjoyable use by the enthusiast/expert photographer.


    The technology of compact cameras has improved greatly over the last ten years. Better, larger sensors and better lenses have given us pocketable compacts with imaging capability to rival that of full frame models of just a few years ago.


    The big problem  with these mini marvels is their compromised ergonomics and user experience. Most of them are utilitarian little things which can make very good pictures but are not much fun to use.


    In a previous post I presented some ideas for an improved version of the enthusiast pocketable camera in the form of Mockup #10.


    But the camera I really want is a bit larger, to be carried in a belt pouch.


    Increasing the size just a little can have a dramatic effect on the possibilities for ergonomic design with better holding, viewing and operating and a much more engaging experience for the enthusiast user.


    Mockup #14 in hand rear view. Using the JOG lever to move active AF Area involves fewer movements, each less complex than are required for the same task using touchscreen. 


    Some years ago Canon produced the G series line of Powershot compacts. These were typically small but not tiny. They had a box volume (width x height x depth) of around 400cc.


    Then in 2012 Sony produced the RX100 with a larger sensor and better picture quality than the G series in a much smaller package having a box volume of  only 212cc.


    The G series and similar cameras from Nikon could not survive the technological onslaught from Sony.


    But while the RX100 was a technological tour de force in 2012 it was and still is an unrewarding little thing to use. There is no handle, no EVF and the controls are all very cramped.


    Canon, Panasonic and (soon) Nikon all played me-too-catch-up-with-Sony with a series of models all using the ‘One Inch’ sensor and most of them tiny just like the Sony RX100 series.


    Now read what Digital Photography Review said about the Canon G10 in 2008:


    “Coming from almost any other compact to this camera will come as a very pleasant surprise. This camera feels very comfortable and secure in the hand. The extra grip texture on the handgrip helps the secure feel. Metering and focus point selection, and AE Lock buttons are all within easy reach of theright thumb, but the location of the exposure compensation dial means it will usually be operated with the left hand. The camera never feels cramped, as long as it is used at arm's length.

    Coming from a DSLR the G10 will be a revelation. This is one of the few compacts that feels as well built as a 40D/50D, and certainly feels better made than a 450D/1000D. While the G10 has retained the boxy rangefinder styling, and even the optical viewfinder. The further control enhancements over the G9 makes what was an intuitive camera to use even better for those who buy cameras to take lots of photos.”


    You can see the DPR team liked to hold and use the G10. It was large enough to have a decent handle and thumb support and a proper set of controls for the enthusiast user.


    I owned one of these for a time and always felt that while it was a very desirable size the actual design could be greatly improved.


    My vision of such a redesign is embodied by my Mockup #14 which I present in this post.


    This has a box volume of 407 cc, putting it right in the size range of the mid series Powershot G models.


    But the design is completely different, drawing on my investigations of camera ergonomics over the last six years using actual and mockup cameras.


    With reference to the photos, how would Mockup #14 work as a built camera ?


    Mockup #14 front with captions.  The lens housing has a diameter of 62mm which is 7mm more than that on the Sony RX100(4). This would enable a larger lens aperture.


    Overall concept

    The design is a flat top with a collapsing multi-barrel lens as this is the shape and style which fits most easily into a belt pouch.


    Maximum use is made of the available width, height and depth.


    This design also provides a perfect location for the JOG lever which I regard as an essential control module on a modern camera.


    A hump top such as the Canon G5X is 8mm taller and provides no suitable location for the JOG lever.


    I would envisage a ‘one inch’ sensor with a diagonal measurement of 15.9mm and a 24-100mm (equivalent) lens with an aperture of f1.4-f2.5.


    Mockup #14 rear. Layout designed for maximum efficiency of  holding, viewing and operating, while fitting easily into a belt pouch such as the Lowe Pro Portland 30 with divider removed.


    Holding

    You can see that there is a fully anatomical handle of the optimum inverted L shape. This allows the right hand to get a nice secure grip on the camera with the middle finger tucked under the overhang for security and the index finger right on the shutter button for immediate action.

    At the rear there is a substantial thumb support with no embedded buttons to be bumped accidentally. 

    The combination of the handle and thumb support allow the right hand and fingers to adopt the optimal ‘relaxed, half closed’ posture while holding and operating the device.


    Viewing

    I have allowed 18mm height for the EVF permitting a substantial sized panel to be used with sufficient magnification for relaxed viewing in all conditions.


    The monitor panel is 45mm high which I think is quite sufficient for easy image preview and review although it is a little smaller than the one on the Sony RX100(4) which is 54mm high. The monitor is of the optimal fully articulating type.


    Controls

    Mockup #14 has a ‘full house’ of controls.


    There are three dials, each with user assignable function: one around the lens, one behind the shutter button and one around the 4 Way Controller on the rear.


    There is a control lever in front of the shutter button and a JOG lever on the back just to the left of the thumb.


    On top there are two dedicated function dials with inscribed settings. One is the Exposure Mode Dial.


    I would make the other  a combined Drive/Focus Mode controller.


    There is a built in flash unit but no hotshoe. There is room for one or the other but not both.


    There are 10 buttons in addition to the 4Way controller.


    You can see I have labelled one of these as [Alt Key]. The idea is that pressing [Alt Key] + any button or dial with assignable function brings up an alternative function thereby effectively doubling the number of control points and the degree to which the controls can be customised to individual preference.


    The [Alt] Key is located so it is easy to operate with the 4th finger of the right hand without disrupting the 3rd finger or thumb,  in landscape or portrait orientation but will not easily be bumped accidentally.


    Operation

    In the Capture Phase of use I want to quickly and smoothly change all primary and secondary focus, framing and exposure parameters while looking continuously through the viewfinder and without shifting grip with either hand.


    There is a variety of ways this can be achieved depending on preference.


    I would use the control dial behind the shutter for Program Shift in P Mode, Aperture in A Mode and Shutter Speed in S Mode. In M Mode I would change Aperture with the Control Dial and Shutter Speed with [Alt] + Control Dial  (or the reverse if preferred).


    I would use the lens ring for continuous or step zoom (as preferred) and the Control Lever in front of the shutter button for Exposure Compensation.

    [Alt] + Lens Ring activates Manual Focus with automatic PIP enlargement of the active area.


    The button to the right of the Shutter Button could control ISO sensitivity with Button > Dial and any other assigned function with [Alt] + Button > Dial.


    The JOG lever has the primary task of directly moving the active AF area without having to change grip with the right hand.  AF Area size can be changed with the top Control Dial when the AF Area box is active.


    Video can be started with any assigned button or [Alt] + Shutter Button.


    Thus the camera can be driven in Capture Phase of use with the index finger and thumb of the right hand and one finger of the left hand without shifting grip and while looking continuously through the viewfinder.


    Either ‘left hand over’ (lens)  or ‘left hand under’ (lens) position can be used effectively in landscape or portrait orientation.


    Operation in Setup, Prepare and Review Phases of use is assigned to the remaining control modules with the exact task of each to be determined by user preference.


    Summary

    So there you have it. My favourite compact camera which nobody has built yet.


    The model which has come closest to my ideal over the last few years is the Panasonic LX100.  I owned and extensively used one of these for two years.


    Features of the LX100 which did not please me were

    * The lens protrudes making the overall depth too great for most belt pouches. I had to use the larger Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 5 which I found just a bit too big for comfortable carrying on a waist belt.

    * I strongly dislike the “traditional” control system with aperture ring, shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial. Fortunately the camera worked well in “A-A-A” mode (the equivalent of P Mode on a camera with a Mode Dial) because using it in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority was awkward and slow.

    * I ran comparison tests with the Sony RX100(4) and found the Sony to deliver better results in most conditions even indoors.




    Comment

    I think that a full featured compact along the lines of Mockup #14 described in this post is a much better device for general photography than any interchangeable lens camera (ILC) with a kit lens.

    Kit lenses usually run from f3.5 –f5.6. The lens on the compact can be f1.4 – f2.5 which is 2.5 stops faster throughout the zoom range. Even the current Sony RX100 models are 2 stops faster.


    But the latest Micro Four Thirds sensor (in the G80) has a DXO Mark score of 71 which is only one point better than the current Sony ‘One Inch’ sensor.

    If we go up to APS-C size we see that the Sony A6500 sensor scores 85 which in the DXO Mark scheme of things represents a one stop advantage over the ‘One Inch’ sensor.


    The compact still ends up with a one stop noise advantage.


    Sure the larger sensors are better at high ISO sensitivity settings but I have found that I rarely need to use high ISO with my RX100(4) even indoors.

    The compact is smaller, lighter, easier to carry and less expensive than many ILC + kit lens combinations.  


    For long lens work I use a superzoom, also with a ‘One Inch’ sensor.



    And I never need to change lenses.


    0 0


    Panasonic TZ80 at full zoom. This little compact camera can make quite decent photos if used thoughtfully. This is a Shrike Thrush in Sydney bush.



    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

    Sony A3500


    5

    5

    12

    7

    8

    2

    39

    Nikon 1 V2


    7

    6

    12

    10

    8

    3

    46

    Panasonic GM5

    10

    10

    4

    10

    12

    2

    48

    Panasonic LX10

    12

    12

    5

    6

    8

    5

    48

    Nikon P900


    10

    6

    13

    11

    8

    2

    50

    Sony RX100 Mk4

    8

    12

    7

    9

    11

    5

    52

    Panasonic LX100

    10

    8

    11

    10

    10

    5

    54

    Fuji X-T1

    10

    9

    9

    13

    10

    4

    55

    Canon SX60


    10

    9

    16

    11

    6

    4

    56

    Panasonic TZ110(ZS100)

    12

    13

    4

    10

    15

    5

    59

    Panasonic TZ70(ZS50)

    12

    13

    6

    11

    20

    2

    64

    Panasonic TZ80 (ZS60)

    12

    12

    7

    10

    19

    5

    65

    Panasonic G6


    11

    10

    14

    14

    14

    3

    66

    Panasonic GX80/85

    10

    12

    11

    12

    17

    5

    68

    Panasonic GX8

    10

    12

    12

    18

    14

    5

    71

    Panasonic FZ300/330

    10

    12

    18

    18

    16

    5

    79

    Panasonic G7


    10

    13

    18

    18

    17

    5

    81

    Panasonic FZ1000

    10

    13

    17

    18

    20

    5

    83

    Panasonic GH4

    10

    13

    18

    18

    19

    5

    83

    Panasonic FZ2500

    12

    13

    18

    18

    20

    5

    86




    0 0



    Panasonic  has joined Sony and Canon (and maybe sometime soon, Nikon if they can overcome the problems, whatever they may be, which have delayed release of the DL series for almost a year) in the rush to produce fixed zoom lens cameras which use one or other version of the Sony 8.8 x 13.2 mm (so-called ‘one inch’, which it is not) sensor which provides very good picture quality.

    Some of these are compacts including the Sony RX100 (versions 1-5), Canon G,(5,7,9) X and Panasonic TZ/ZS100, LX10.


    Some are much larger hump top style (DSLR –like) models including the Sony RX10(1,2,3), Panasonic FZ1000, FZ2500.


    The Canon G3X seems not to know what kind of camera it wants to be with a long lens but no built in EVF and sluggish performance compared to the competition from Sony and Panasonic.


    The Sony RX100 (versions 3-5) are the premium models with a built in, pop-up EVF. But they are also considerably more expensive than the LX10 and G7X (versions 1 and 2) without an EVF.


    The LX10 has many advanced and sophisticated features for still and video capture or both simultaneously.


    Setting up the camera can be daunting for a novice so I hope the hints in this post are helpful.


    Accessories


    Battery and charger

    As is becoming very common, the LX10 comes only with USB charging in camera. This means you cannot use the camera while a battery is charging. I recommend getting an aftermarket battery compatible with the Panasonic DMW-BLH7E and an external charger.


    ClearViewer ?

    There is a device called a ClearViewer which you can search for online. You can get one specifically for the LX10. I bought one for testing. It works as advertised providing a magnified view of the monitor screen.

    Is it worth getting one ?

    I suspect that a few years ago when monitor screens were not as bright as they are now, the answer might have been yes.  But I find I can use the LX10 screen even in sunlight.

    Of  course the image preview is not as clear as that seen when the camera is in shade but it is serviceable.

    Therefore I did not find the ClearViewer particularly useful for this camera. But some users report they like the ClearViewer. It does make the camera data easier to read.


    Wrist Strap

    Due to the slippery nature of the camera I recommend fitting this right away and using it always.


    Handle

    Like the TZ/ZS100,  the LX10 has a smooth front face with a low ridge where a handle could have been located. Presumably this is to create the ‘sleek’ style promoted by Panasonic.

    Some owners are happy to use the camera as is but others feel that some kind of holding assistance is required.   User forums have offered several options including Croc Grip, e-Grip and various stick-on mini handles.

    My own impression is that something is needed to improve holding security.


    Carry bag

    Some owners will put the LX10 in a pocket. In this case I recommend slipping the camera into a ziploc plastic bag or similar to keep dirt and other grunge out of the camera.

    My practice is to use a belt pouch. There are many options. I chose the Lowe Pro Portland 20. I turn the pouch inside out to cut out the red divider, making more space in the pouch.


    The Aperture Ring

    This is the only way to change aperture. Unfortunately the ring is not well designed so some practice using it is recommended.  I found there is no easy way to use it at all so I infrequently use A Mode on this camera.


    Custom Modes

    The first thing to grasp is that the LX10 has three Custom Modes available from the C icon on the Mode Dial. See Page 85 of the ‘Operating Instructions for advanced features’ (the Instructions), available on any Panasonic national website under the ‘Support’ tab for the camera.  This is a PDF which is easy to navigate and comprehensive in scope.

    Almost everything except the items on the Setup Menu can be assigned to a Custom Mode.

    This means that in effect you can have four completely different setups each for a different capture circumstance.

    For instance the standard setup might be for general photography then perhaps C1 for tripod work, C2 for video and C3 for something else.

    Dial operation and functions, Fn button functions, Mode Dial position and most Rec, Motion Picture and Custom Menu items can be captured in a Custom Mode. 

    Of course if you change your mind any of the Custom settings can be changed at any time.

    The only potential downside of this extensive configurability is the need to remember all the settings saved on each of the Custom Modes.


    Dial function

    See Pages 35-36 of the Instructions.

    On first sight of the Instructions it might appear that one could set up the dials to any kind of personal preference and that is partly true. But there are limitations on what the dials can and cannot do depending on the Mode Dial position.  For instance if you allocate [Exposure Compensation] to the rear dial it does nothing in Manual Exposure Mode, which is exactly when I would expect it to switch to changing shutter speed.  (By the way the rear dial on FZ2000 does what I would expect it to so why not the LX10 ??).

    There is also substantial duplication of functions between the two dials and between the dials and the cursor buttons.

    For the record I have assigned [Exposure Compensation] to the lens ring and [Default] to the rear dial. This changes Program shift in P mode, Shutter Speed in S Mode and M Mode and does nothing in A Mode because the only way to change Aperture is with the Aperture Ring.

    I would welcome a firmware upgrade to enable the Aperture Ring to be disabled and Aperture adjusted with the Rear Dial. This would be much better ergonomically as the Aperture Ring is badly designed and awkward to use whereas the rear dial is easy to use.


    Moving the active AF area

    In the Custom Menu I set [Touch Screen] ON, [Touch Tab] OFF and [Touch AF] to [AF].

    On many other Panasonic cameras there is an option to set [Direct Focus Area] but the LX10 does not offer this.

    The only way to activate the AF Area Box is to touch the screen. See the AF Area Box change to yellow with bounding arrows. Having done this you can move the box with the touch screen or the Cursor Buttons.

    Change the box size with the Rear Dial. Return the box to center with one press of the Disp button. A second press returns the box to default size.


    Panorama Settings

    First turn the Mode Dial to the Panorama icon.  Until you do this the [Panorama Settings] tab in the Rec Menu will be greyed out.

    For [direction] I use and recommend the bottom of the four options available.

    To make a panorama hold the camera in Portrait orientation, handle side up and sweep from left to right.

    For [Picture Size] I use and recommend [Standard] which is actually very wide.


    Function button settings

    There are three hard Fn Buttons and several more soft Fn Buttons on the right side of the screen accessible by setting [Touch Tab] ON in the Touch Settings in the Custom Menu.  The problem with these is that one’s fingers are forever brushing against the screen and activating one or more of these tabs unexpectedly.

    I find this irritating so I switch [Touch Tab] OFF.

    This leaves the three hard Fn buttons.

    Fn3 is allocated to the Q Menu by default and can be left with that function.

    To select a function for Fn 1 and 2 press and hold the button for about three seconds until the Fn Button Set options screen appears with 11 pages each with 4 options.

    At first sight the need to select from 44 options for each button may appear to be a daunting prospect.

    But there is a logic to this.

    The idea is to locate the parameters you want to use in Capture Phase of use onto the Fn buttons and items required in Prepare Phase onto the Q Menu.  Items infrequently required can stay in the main menus.

    Individuals have their own priorities about this which may be different depending on whether still photo or video is being used.


    For the record I have

    On Fn 1, AFS/AFF/AFC

    On Fn 2, Stabiliser

    On Fn 3, Q Menu


    Q Menu settings

    You can leave the Q Menu at default settings or create a Custom Q Menu in which you can have just the items you require without the screen being cluttered with unwanted items.  See Pages 44-45 of the Instructions.

    For the record I have Sensitivity, AF Mode and Quality on the Q Menu.

    There is no list of Q Menu items in the instructions, you have to view the available options in the camera.


    Menu settings

    I will just refer to the Menu items which I think could benefit from more explanation than is found in the Instructions which are actually very comprehensive.


    Rec Menu

    * Photo Style.   I use a Custom Photo Style with contrast +/- 0, Sharpness -1, Noise Reduction -5, Saturation +/-0.   Panasonic (and other makers) uses rather heavy handed noise reduction on JPGs by default. As a result I find the best quality JPGs use the lowest level of NR available.

    * AF Mode.    Panasonic cameras have many options for AF Mode but I find the most reliable is [1 Area] which I use almost all the time with [Pinpoint] on occasion when I want to focus on a bird in a tree or similar.

    * AFS/AFF/AFC.  AF Single and AF Continuous are reasonably self explanatory. AFF is an attempt to have the best of both worlds. So AFF works like AFS until the camera detects subject movement when it switches to something resembling but not the same as AFC.

    * Metering Mode.    I always use Multiple metering for the most reliable results.

    * Burst Rate. The fastest burst rate which gives AF, AE and Live View on each frame is Burst M.  The camera can easily follow focus on moving subjects in Burst M and AF-C.

    * iDynamic works. When there is high subject brightness range the camera reduces exposure to protect highlights then applies a tone correction curve to JPGs to bring up the dark tones.  I leave this at AUTO.

    * Shutter Type. I leave this on MSHTR (Mechanical) unless for some reason I want a shutter speed faster than 1/2000.  Mechanical is the most versatile as you can have flash sync at all available shutter speeds.


    Custom Menu

    * Zebras are very handy for detecting overexposure of highlights before exposure, allowing exposure compensation to be made prior to exposure. I set the level at 105% for RAW and 100% for JPG.

    * Lens retraction. At last Panasonic has fixed this annoyance. On previous Panasonic cameras the lens would automatically retract about 15 seconds after pressing the Playback button to review a shot. If you set [Lens Retract] OFF this does not happen.

    * Exposure Comp Reset. If you set this ON then any exposure compensation applied is cancelled when the Mode Dial position is changed or the camera switched off.  I find this very handy to prevent inadvertent exposure compensation when I do not want it.

    * Self Timer Auto Off.  When set to ON the self timer will automatically cancel when the camera is switched off but not when the Mode Dial position is changed.

    I think the Instructions are quite sufficiently clear for the remainder of the Menu items.









    0 0


    Scaly breasted lorikeet at Taronga zoo Sydney. This picture was made with the zoom at (equivalent) 800mm and 1/30 second hand held, an amazingly slow shutter speed made possible by the excellent VR.


    Readers of this blog will be aware that I like the versatility of fixed zoom cameras. Some of them such as the B700 appear to promise an all purpose solution to a wide range of photographic requirements.


    In their promotional material for the B700,  Nikon says... …”Come face to face with fast moving wildlife or players on a pitch…”


    This says to me that Nikon wants you to believe that the camera is suitable for photographing sports and “fast moving” wildlife.


    I recently acquired one  and have been putting the camera through its paces.


    Here is a summary of what I regard as the camera’s best and most frustrating features.


    Best features


    * The concept  This is a remarkably compact 60x zoom camera. It fits neatly into a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 10 bag. 

    It is modestly priced.


    The combination of compact dimensions and moderate price make it accessible to a wide spectrum of ordinary consumers.


    The most successful cameras over the years have been those which are accessible to  ordinary people of modest means.


    * The lens   For a compact 60x zoom the lens on the B700 does a very good job. From the wide end through to the mid zoom range it delivers commendably good definition right across the frame.

    Contrast and resolution fall away somewhat towards the long end of the zoom as is usual with this type of lens but resolution is decent even at full zoom.


    * Vibration reduction  Nikon knows how to do effective VR and it shows in the B700. I have some decently sharp pictures made hand held at the long end of the zoom (equivalent focal length 1440 mm) at 1/100 second shutter speed.


    In the middle of the zoom range (focal length equivalent 300-600mm) I have sharp pictures in the shutter speed range 1/20 to 1/60 second.


    That is impressive.  In fact I rate the VR as this camera’s best feature.


    Of course results like this demand careful technique by the photographer and a static subject or at least one which holds still for a few seconds.


    * Handle and thumb support   The handle on the B700 is well shaped and carries a heavily textured surface finish for grip. The shutter button is in the optimal position directly above the inner face of the handle.


    The thumb support is well shaped and substantial with a soft rubberised insert providing a secure location for the thumb.


    The command dial is easily reached and operated by the right thumb.


    * Easy Panorama really is easy and works very well with generally artefact free stitching even with difficult foliage type subjects.


    * Manual focus  works well (I assign MF to the T/W lever on the side of the lens barrel) with peaking level adjustable on the fly without having to enter a menu.


    * Fully articulated monitor  This is the most versatile monitor type and it works well on the B700.


    * Picture quality  for stills and video is generally very good especially in the lower ISO sensitivity range.


    I suspect that some photographers who would never think of using a camera with the very small 6.17 x 4.55 (diagonal 7.6mm) sensor might be surprised at what it can do. 


    I have been making prints up to 410 x 540 actual picture size from these small sensor cameras and they look absolutely fine with no grain visible at normal viewing distance.


    I have been making photographs for 63 years with various types of equipment. I rate the picture quality produced by the B700 as about equal to color negative 35mm film from an SLR with a good prime lens.


    Of course the depth of focus is different but in my view sharpness, color fidelity and grain are equivalent.


    B700 at the long end of the zoom hand held. I cleaned up some flare over the finch's beak in Photoshop



    So there is much to like about the B700


    However………………there are some


    Frustrating and annoying features


    These range from substantial to trivial.


    Unfortunately they are numerous which detracts from the pleasure of using this camera.


    Starting with the most disappointing things first:


    * Shot-to-shot times   The B700 shares the same body and lens as its precursor, the P610. 


    The B700 adds RAW output for stills and 4K for video.


    This requires a faster processor, particularly given the large size (31.5MB) of the RAW files.


    Unfortunately this is precisely where the B700 is much less capable than it needs to be if any user is to photograph “fast moving wildlife”, or indeed anything moving at all.


    I test shot to shot times as follows:


    I set AF Single and Single shot drive. I point the camera at a subject on which it can easily focus then repeatedly press the shutter forcing the camera to AF, AE and live view on each shot.  I use a stopwatch to time how long it takes to make 10 shots.


    With RAW+JPG Fine and auto image review ON, the B700 took 20 seconds for a shot to shot time of 2 seconds.


    With auto image review OFF the time dropped to 16 seconds, giving a shot to shot time of 1.6 seconds.


    With image review OFF the user is presented with a blank screen for about half a second after each shot.


    With JPG only and image review OFF it took 10 seconds giving a shot to shot time of 1.0 seconds.


    To put these figures into perspective I ran the same tests on my little Panasonic TZ80 compact.


    This camera made 10 RAW+JPGs in 4 seconds with no screen blackout. That is four times the speed of the B700.


    * Continuous autofocus  The B700 does not have AF-C. At all. Nada. Nothing.


    It cannot follow focus on a subject moving towards or away from the camera.


    This is very disappointing on a camera touted by its maker as suitable for fast moving wildlife.


    The B700 does have various speeds of continuous drive but all of them fix focus and exposure on the first frame.


    It also has Full time AF and Prefocus modes but these only work prior to the shot being taken.


    Again using the little TZ80 compact for comparison, the TZ80 can follow focus on moving subjects at 5 fps with AF, AE and live view on each frame and approximately 90% of frames sharply in focus.


    I have previously owned and used a P7800 and a P900 and found both those cameras lacking performance and desperately needing a faster processor.


    Unfortunately Nikon is still failing to fix this problem.


    So the technique for making still photos of moving subjects, sport, action and similar is the same as we used in the old days of manual focus.


    That is to prefocus on a spot you know the runner, motorbike or whatever will pass, then press the shutter just before the subject arrives.


    Unfortunately the B700 does not have AF Lock so you have to prefocus manually which is slower and in my experience less accurate than AF.


    The really strange thing about this is that Nikon makes (or did make, they might have forgotten lately) the “1” series ILCs which are capable of continuous AF and follow focus at extremely high speeds, even faster than most DSLRs.


    Clearly Nikon has the capability to give their mirrorless cameras super fast performance.


    Yet they don’t endow their Coolpix cameras with this.


    Why,  Nikon ??


    * Insufficient control points  There is no My Menu, no Quick Menu and only 2 Function buttons.

    There is only one command dial on top of the camera but there is space behind the shutter button for a Canon style command dial there also.


    On many cameras the Delete button does double duty in Capture Phase as a Function button but on the B700 it sits there doing nothing.


    There is plenty of space on the B700 for a more comprehensive control layout.


    Unfortunately I find myself in the Main menus frequently when using the B700 just to adjust parameters which should be easily controllable via quick access portals.


    For instance the active AF area can be moved about the screen. The sequence is:


    Press OK > press up/down/left/right or up/down/rotate lower dial to move the AF area which is shown with a white bounding box and arrows when active.


    At this point I expect to be able to change the size of the AF area with the command dial, as I can with other cameras. The dial is otherwise just sitting there doing nothing.


    But no, not on the B700. The portal for changing the size of the AF area is [AF Area Mode]  which you find on a completely different tab in the Shooting Menu. And to get at that you must either enter the Shooting Menu or assign the function to a Fn button.


    But watch out there are only two of these.


    Fortunately menu resume applies so it is reasonably easy to return to the last accessed item.


    Also there is a User Settings Mode which allows the user to create two separate sets of settings with different allocations to the function buttons so in effect the camera can operate as if it has four function buttons.


    Minor irritations


    If a camera has but a few of these it is no big deal. Unfortunately the B700 has many.


    Here in no particular order are some of them:


    * Menus   The B700 has a minimalist menu system. The advantage of this is there are not many 
    choices which must be made. The disadvantage is there are not many choices which can be made.


    There are also some oddities.


    VR is in the Setup menu. Why ???


    Noise Reduction is on a separate tab from Picture Control. Why ??


    * Displays   The actual focal length is not displayed unless [Zoom Memory] has been selected.

    But a) this does not work if Auto Mode is selected

          b) When selected the focal length can only be changed from one set point to the next taking one pull or push on the zoom lever each time. If all the available set points are selected that is 14 actions of the zoom lever to traverse the zoom range once.


    The actual ISO sensitivity is not displayed unless a fixed ISO is set.


    Shots taken in portrait orientation to not auto rotate on playback or in Photoshop. Actually my notes say they do rotate when the picture was made in the Auto Mode. But now as I check this is not happening. ?????


    Update: I checked this again and found some frames auto rotate and others do not, go figure…..??


    There is no level gauge and no zebras.


    The battery status indicator is inadequate.  I changes very quickly from “full” to ‘almost empty” then ‘Empty”.


    * Others


    No filter threads.


    No lens hood.


    The EVF eyepiece is hard, rectangular and uncomfortable.


    Battery charging is by USB only.


    There is no hotshoe.


    Auto ISO algorithms are basic with no way to have minimum shutter speed change with lens focal length. With a 60x zoom I think that is an issue which needs to be rectified.


    The B700 goes some way to making up for this with its excellent VR but a more sophisticated auto ISO algorithm would be even better.


    There is no way to change both aperture and shutter speed with the command dial as is normal practice on a DSLR.


    On the B700, the command dial changes aperture and the multi selector dial changes shutter speed (or the reverse).


    I find this irritating. I learn to drive a camera by muscle memory. If my memory says the command dial is the place to go to control primary exposure parameters it is disruptive to have to remember to go somewhere else for one of them.


    You have to re-set the timer for every shot !!!  I find this extremely irritating and routinely forget when I am working from the tripod.


    Moving AF area  This is easy enough to move but only one click of the multi selector at a time.

    There is no [return to center] button. You have to click-click-click-click  to get the AF area back to the center.


    There is no [return to default size] function when the AF area is active. As described above you have to go to the separate [AF Area Mode].


    RAW files display with uncorrected distortion in Bridge, Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw. Each has to be corrected manually.


    By the way the RAWs have a field of view about 10% linear larger than the JPGs.



    Playback  I have not been able to find a way to scroll from one enlarged image to the next.

    The only way I can discover to get from one image to the next in playback is to press the OK button to resume [fit on screen] size, then scroll with the multi selector.

    I find this extremely irritating if, for instance I want to review a series of frames of the same subject 
    such as a person, and want to pick the best one.


    Summary

    Nikon has done a very good job with the basic bones of this camera. It is very compact and comfortable to hold.   It has a very good lens with excellent vibration reduction.  Image quality is good. It has some well implemented features such as easy panorama and manual focusing.  Single autofocus is commendably reliable and accurate.


    The camera is decently competent indoors with or without flash


    It makes good quality video.


    As a stills camera it  works very well for a wide variety of subjects as long as they hold still for a few seconds at least.


    For my usage the main disappointments of the B700 are the same ones I found with the P900 and the P7800 before that.


    These are slow shot to shot times and inability to follow focus effectively on subjects moving towards or away from the camera.


    In addition there are numerous quirks and foibles in the operating system each of which is perhaps minor but in sum they diminish my enjoyment of using the camera.


    I find the B700 a more appealing model than the P900. It is more compact, has RAW output and a more useful focal length range.


    With a faster processor and better implemented ergonomics Nikon could have made the B700 a category killer model.


    As it stands the B700 seems to me like a half finished project.


    There are so many impediments to smooth operation in the P,S,A,M modes that I usually just set the green [Auto] mode or P Mode and let the camera do its automatic thing.


    This mostly works out quite well and often produces a good  result.


    Suggestions for Nikon’s product development people


    The Coolpix series desperately needs


    1. A seriously fast processor. Other Nikon cameras have one. Why is the Coolpix line being starved of speed ?


    Are they worried that users will give up their DSLRs in favour of bridge cameras ?


    Why would they care as long as the customers are buying a Nikon ?


    It’s a mystery.


    2. The capacity to follow focus on moving subjects.

    Panasonic has DFD, Sony has on chip PDAF and Nikon has on chip PDAF in the “1” series and the as-yet-unseen and often delayed DL series compacts.

    Why not the Coolpix ??


    3. The entire operating system needs a very big refresh and re-alignment with the performance potential of a modern digital camera. It needs to appeal to the expert/enthusiast user.

    Nikon needs to grasp the idea that expert/enthusiasts want to use bridge cameras, as well as or instead of  DSLRs.

    Sony and Panasonic are running rings around Canon and Nikon with  speed and capability in the fixed zoom category.

    Nikon appears to have an edge over the competition with regard to lens quality, VR and to some extent picture quality but I doubt that will  last forever.

















    0 0


    This was actually shot on my back verandah where we get lots of flying visitors.


    I recently spent a day at Taronga zoo in Sydney  becoming acquainted with the B700 and finding it very suitable for subjects which will hold still for at least a few seconds.


    The pictures can tell the story.


    All the photos started as RAWs, converted in Adobe Camera Raw and run through Photoshop.

    I shoot RAW + JPG Fine and find I can ALWAYS get a better photo from the RAW file with a bit of work in ACR and Photoshop.

    The problem with the JPGs in the B700 and every other small sensor camera I have used is that the JPG engine tries to eliminate luminance noise even when the NR level is set to LOW. 

    Unfortunately this also eliminates fine detail which is readily found in the RAW files.

    This is the JPG from the TIFF from the original RAW file.  compare this with the SOOC JPG below.
       
     File from the RAW original above, unmodified SOOC JPG below.

    Straight out of camera JPG. I selected this subject because of the high subject brightness range, usually a problem for small sensor cameras.
    but the RAW file above shows that substantial highlight and shadow detail are able to be revealed from the original RAW.

    The photo below was made in the rainforest aviary.



     



    This metallic starling was shot handheld at focal length (equivalent) 400mm and 1/13 second which is 5 stops slower than the recommended inverse of the focal length rule.
    You can see the picture is not quite tack sharp but I think it is very good in the circumstances.

    0 0




    B700, Noisy Miner take-off

    The B700  represents a very appealing concept let down by sub optimal implementation of the operating system and user interface.


    This ergonomic appraisal and score follows my usualschedule which you can read about here.


    Setup phase

    This is decently managed although models from Panasonic and Sony typically have many more options from which to select.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to this limited option set. It makes the setup process easier for beginners but locks out many options available in other cameras.


    Menus are easy to access, navigate and read with a good graphical user interface.


    Menu resume operates so it is reasonably easy to re enter the last used menu item.


    Unfortunately there is no My Menu and no Quick Menu.


    In addition there are some oddities.


    For instance Vibration Reduction is in the Setup Menu which seems to me an odd place to put it.


    Fortunately it can be allocated to a Fn button.


    Noise Reduction is not in the Picture Control panel where logic says it should be.


    Setup score 9/15


    Prepare phase

    We see much the same theme in the Prepare Phase of use. The available controls are easy enough to use, there just aren’t all that many of them. The camera is large enough to accommodate a more comprehensive suite of direct controls.


    There is no Quick Menu and only two Function buttons although the Delete button sits there doing nothing in prepare and Capture Phases of use.


    There is one User Settings mode on the Mode Dial which does go some way towards making up for the lack of direct access control points.


    I find when using the camera that I have to go into the main menus more often than I think is reasonable.


    The buttons on the 4 way controller and the Fn buttons are easy to operate.


    Prepare score 9/15


    Nikon B700 rear


    Operate phase


    Holding

    The handle and thumb support are well shaped and positioned.


    The camera a pleasure to hold.


    I might prefer a slightly fatter handle and a slightly deeper thumb support but that would be quibbling.


    Holding score 18/20


    Viewing

    There is a good quality EVF and a good quality monitor which is of the optimal fully articulated type.


    There are limited options for the user to adjust the style and parameters of the panels but I find the default settings are good anyway.


    There is a long (about half a second) blackout after each shot, an unwanted feature which reminds me of mirrorless cameras of five or more years ago.


    There are limited options for guidelines and other on screen displays.


    The actual focal length and ISO settings are not displayed in many Modes of use.


    There is peaking but no level gauge and no zebras.

    Viewing score 11/20


    Operating

    The camera is decently user friendly in one of the automatic modes (Auto or P), less so in the S, A and M modes.


    The command dial is nicely positioned and easy to turn.


    There are several quirks and foibles in the operating system and user interface.


    There is no AF Continuous but no AF lock either for presetting focus on a moving subject expected at a particular location, such as a race car coming around a corner.


    Aperture and shutter speed controls are on different dials. They cannot both be assigned to the command dial as is the usual practice on a DSLR.


    The self timer infuriatingly self cancels after every shot.


    Zooming with Zoom Memory operation is tediously slow.


    The procedure for changing position of the active AF area is un-necessarily slow, requiring multiple clicks with no one-click return to center.


    Changing size of the active AF area is via a completely separate portal to that used for changing AF area position.


    The camera’s operational limitations  mean that the user who wants to take control of the camera (as opposed to point-and-shoot) has to make many more actions than is the case with cameras having a more evolved ergonomic design.


    Operating score 15/25


    Review

    I could not find any way to scroll from one enlarged frame to the next. If I am photographing, say, a person I might make 20 exposures and want to look at the face in detail in each frame.


    But to do that on the B700 I have to press the OK button to zoom back to ‘fit on monitor’ size, scroll to the next frame then pull the zoom lever repeatedly to return to the required zoom level then repeat the whole process on every frame.


    This tedious procedure has unfortunately been inherited from the P900 and was one the things which annoyed me about that camera.


    Review score 2/5


    Total score 64/100


    Comment

    The B700 has RAW capture, a good lens, very good VR and good picture quality. It will attract the interest of enthusiast and expert photographers as well as the snapshooters who traditionally have used this type of small sensor bridge style camera.


    There is a mis- match between the imaging capabilities which now have RAW output and the operating system which is largely inherited from the  JPG-only P610 and P900.


    Summary

    A score of 64 is not terrible for this type of camera. 

    It is better than the P900 which I found less enjoyable to use and which I gave an ergonomic score of 50.

    However the Panasonic FZ300 which is another small sensor bridge style model, scores  better on all measures for a total of 79.


    Nikon can do better.



    Let me put that a little more strongly:  I believe that if Nikon is to survive as a camera maker it  MUST do better.


    0 0


    I actually made this picture with a beat up old Panasonic FZ70 because that camera happened to be in my hand when the butcher bird was eyeing me off hoping for a feed.


    February 2017



    The Panasonic FZ2500 managed to achieve the highest ergonomic score of any camera which I have tested, just beating the FZ1000 and GH4.


    I believe other manufacturers would do their customers a favour if they were to take inspiration and practical guidance from the FZ2000 which could be used as role model for good ergonomic design.


    This is the result of providing two lens control rings and a front control dial behind the shutter button, Canon DSLR style, in addition to the rear dial.

    Setup Phase

    The FZ2000 uses the standard Panasonic menu system with some additions to the Motion Picture menu. It is reasonably well laid out, certainly better than the Sony and Olympus versions. The graphical user interface is very nice.


    There is still no My Menu unfortunately but there is a Q Menu which can be user customised.


    Front and rear dial functions can be configured to personal preference.


    There are seven hard Function buttons each with user selectable function.


    There are three Custom Modes available from the C icon on the Mode Dial. This means in effect that there are four separate ways to set up the camera. So, you could have one set for general photography, one for sport/action, one for video and so forth.


    All you have to do is remember which settings apply to which Custom Mode.


    Setup Score 12/15

    Setup could be improved with a more user centric menu system (this comment applies to every camera I have tested) and the addition of a My Menu.


    Prepare Phase

    This is the period of a few minutes before capture when the user is configuring the camera for current conditions.


    The FZ2000 manages this very well.


    There is a hard Drive Mode dial and  a Focus Mode lever easily reached by the right thumb. The combination of function buttons and Q Menu allows Prepare Phase settings to be quickly and smoothly made.


    The memory card slot is separate from the battery compartment and very accessible, and the tripod socket is on the lens axis.


    There are built in ND filters for video.


    Prepare Score 13/15


    Capture Phase


    Holding

    The anatomical handle is well shaped with modified ‘inverted L’ design for comfort and secure holding. I personally prefer a slightly fatter handle but others may not.


    The thumb support has been redesigned from that on the FZ1000 and is an improvement.


    The left hand can easily support the lens barrel in ‘hand under’ or ‘hand over’ position although one has to be careful not to accidentally bump one of the Fn buttons on the left side of the lens barrel.


    Holding score 18/20


    Viewing

    The EVF and monitor screen are both excellent. Both can be configured to ‘monitor style’ or ‘viewfinder style’. Both are clear, bright and sharp providing an excellent subject preview and  clear readout of camera data.


    EVF refresh rate is fast with very little blackout in Burst Mode shooting.


    The monitor is of the optimal fully articulated type.


    Viewing Score  18/20


    Operating

    The FZ2000 is a very pleasant camera to use. It is fast, responsive and smooth. All adjustments can be made with minimal disruption to the picture taking flow.


    All primary and secondary exposure, zoom and focus parameters can be adjusted smoothly without changing grip with either hand and while looking continuously through the viewfinder.


    Switching from AF to MF on the fly is very easy.


    Exposure Compensation can be assigned to the rear dial and works very well with the zebras.


    Few cameras offer a better operating experience.


    The only things preventing an even higher score are:


    * The camera is still using Panasonic’s antediluvian auto ISO algorithms which do not allow for a minimum shutter speed range dependent on zoom position. This means the user has to switch frequently to Shutter Priority Mode to achieve the optimum shutter speed for the focal length in use.

    Panasonic needs to fix this ASAP. All they need to do is copy the Sony method.


    * The camera has space for and needs a JOG lever for instant adjustment of AF Area position. The GH5 has one so clearly Panasonic has the technology.


    * One minor niggle: I would like to see the front dial 2mm closer to the shutter button.  My 73 year old hands are not as flexible as they once were.  I expect younger users will not notice the distance between the shutter button and the front dial.


    Operating Score 20/25


    Review Phase

    The FZ200 has a comprehensive suite of Review Phase capabilities all well implemented.

    The only improvement I can think of would be to implement Sony’s practice of bringing up the AF area at 100% when the Playback button is pressed. 


    Review Phase Score 5/5


    Total Score  86/100


    Comment

    When a camera has very good ergonomics as this one does there is really very little to comment on.

    Everything works very well and has been designed properly for smooth fast operation by an experienced user.

    The camera  is a pleasure to use.



    With a few adjustments as suggested above it could be almost perfect.


    0 0


    Nikon B700

    Imagine a camera  with a 60 x zoom lens spanning very wide to ultra long focal lengths, a built in  eye level viewfinder of good quality,  a nice monitor, a comfortable anatomical handle, a well designed thumb support,  a comprehensive set of controls for the expert/enthusiast user, in a compact size easily carried in a small bag and all this at a budget friendly price.


    In fact such cameras exist and are readily available to consumers.


    So what is the catch ?


    Why do interchangeable lens cameras continue to thrive in the marketplace ?


    The answer is picture quality and specifically luminance noise which can be prominent in  small sensor cameras.


    These superzoom cameras have a very small sensor usually measuring 4.55 x 6.17mm. The diagonal is 7.67mm and the area is 28 square millimetres.  This size sensor is often confusingly referred to a ‘1/2.3 inch’ for arcane reasons which need not concern us here.


    To give some perspective to these dimensions, this sensor is only slightly larger than the buttons on the back of these cameras.  A round button 5mm in diameter has an area of 19.6 square millimetres.


    An inexorable rule of photography is that image quality is dependent on sensor size and bigger is better, given equally advanced sensor technology.


    The sensor in these superzoom cameras is the same size as that commonly seen in smartphones.


    Outdoors in reasonably bright light these cameras are capable of producing very good picture quality.


    But indoors and in low light they are less impressive, giving way to cameras which utilise a larger sensor.


    The trade off is versatility, particularly in the form of huge zoom range and compact size, against image quality, particularly in low light levels.


    The good news is that most sensor R&D is going into the smartphone and industrial sectors where small sensors are dominant.


    I expect, well anyway I hope, that this will deliver advances in small sensor technology to outstrip that appearing in larger sensors, giving a boost to the acceptability of devices using the small sensor.


    Just to put this discussion about picture quality into perspective, I have been making photos for 63 years. For most of those years I used film, in all sizes from subminiature through 35mm to 4 x 5 inch large format.


    I have hundreds of negatives and transparencies which I have printed to various sizes from A4 to 1200 x 900 mm.


    Using RAW capture and processing in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, I rate my recent shots made with the Nikon B700 as having picture quality equal to 35mm transparency film using a good prime lens.


    I am finding that even when printed up to an actual print size of 410 x 540mm, pictures from the TZ80 and B700 look sharp and clear on the wall. Nobody who looks at them comments on any perceived issues with the technical quality of the prints.


    My point is that for most of us, most of the time, these 7.6mm sensor cameras deliver good enough picture quality for almost any purpose.


    B700


    What’s available ?

    As I write, the current players are Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic.


    Olympus, Fujifilm, Pentax and others appear to have dropped out of this market sector.


    The pace of new model release has slowed with annual model cycles of the past being replaced by 2, 3 or 4 year cycles as sales and R&D budgets decline.


    Models available in Australia in January 2017 are:

    Canon:  Powershot  SX60

    Nikon: Coolpix  P900, P610, B700

    Sony: Cybershot HX400V, HX350, HX90V, HX80

    Panasonic Lumix:  TZ80 (ZS60), FZ300, FZ70, (FZ80 coming soon)


    Some of these are compacts. Those with the greatest zoom range  are larger with a hump top, ‘SLR style’ shape.


    I have not listed models without a built in EVF. I realise that people buy these things but I will not. 


    Maybe those people have ultra steady hands or maybe they just tolerate blurry pictures at the long end of the zoom.


    There are two other features which I regard as important in deciding which, if any, of these cameras one might buy.


    One is availability of RAW output. I often capture JPG + RAW. In my experience I can always improve on the JPG by working on the RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.


    The other is the availability of AF Continuous and the capacity to follow focus on a moving subject.


    I have little interest in a camera which does not have all three of these features. Despite this I have been using the Nikon B700 quite a lot recently but am finding its limitations.....well......you know........limiting. 


    I realise that some users feel they have no need for them but others want to use those features frequently. If the camera has them the user can choose. If the camera does not have them there is no choice.


    B700


    Theparadox of small sensor cameras

    The people most likely to use a small sensor camera are snapshooters. These users will often turn the mode Dial to the [Auto] setting then zoom, point and shoot.


    The people most likely to get the best results from a small sensor camera are expert/enthusiast users who will set one of the P, A, S M Modes, utilise RAW output, use all the camera’s controls to optimum effect and post process each image in a top quality RAW converter.


    I review and report on these cameras from the perspective of the expert/enthusiast user.


    Canon Powershot SX60

    This was announced in September 2014 so it is probably due for an update assuming Canon wants to stay with that model line.


    On Canon user forums I read many complaints from users who updated from the SX50 to the SX60 then wished they had not done so, feeling the SX50 to be the better camera.


    I bought and tested an SX60 and was not impressed. It has a nice handle and a good EVF but those are about the only positive things I could say about it.



    Nikon Coolpix P900


    It has an amazing 83x zoom lens of quite good quality. But it only shoots JPGs (slowly) and there are numerous ergonomic problems.


    In addition I found it difficult to get decent pictures hand held at the long end of the zoom.


    It uses the old, tediously slow Expeed C2 processor which desperately needs a major upgrade.


    Nikon Coolpix P610 and B700

    The B700 is an upgrade of the P610 using the same body and 60x zoom lens but with the addition of RAW output.


    The 24-1440mm (equivalent) lens is  about as long as I can manage if decently sharp hand held pictures are the desired outcome.


    I have been using the B700 for several weeks and find it to be an appealing camera with some significant deficiencies in specifications, features,  performance and ergonomics.


    It works well for still subjects however with a good lens, very good VR (stabiliser) and generally good picture quality, although the lens gets a bit soft at the long end.


    Unfortunately shot to shot times are slow and AF Continuous is not available.


    Sony Cybershots 

    I did not buy any of these due to the absence of RAW output.  I looked at sample images made with these cameras on various websites and was not pleased with the JPG rendition which appeared to me to have excessive noise reduction and sharpening.


    Panasonic FZ300

    If someone asked me to recommend the most versatile and capable all rounder of this group of cameras it would be the FZ300. Its 25-600mm f2.8 lens is the best optically and has the widest aperture of this group making it the most suitable for indoor as well as outdoor use.


    It is weather sealed and can easily follow focus on moving subjects. It has very good ergonomics and is a pleasure to use.


    It is an easy camera to recommend for all types of general photography including sport/action.


    However the lens is a bit short for small birds and distant wildlife. For these subjects one of the models with a longer zoom might be more suitable.


    The main argument against the FZ300 is the FZ1000 which is only about 25%  larger and more expensive but makes better pictures.

    An FZ400 with an effective focal length to 800mm might make a better case for the small sensor model.


    Panasonic TZ80 (ZS60)

    This is my favourite compact camera. It has a 30x zoom, all the latest Panasonic bells and whistles including zebras and peaking, 4K, AFC and much more.  It can follow focus on moving subjects and does a decent job with a wide range of subjects from landscapes to small birds. It is nice to use with a decent handle and thumb support, a built in EVF  and a good set of controls. Yet it fits into a Lowe Pro Portland 20 belt pouch with room for spare batteries and memory cards.


    Yes of course the Sony RX100 series make better pictures if you pixel peep them at 100% but the Sonys cost a lot more and have one tenth the zoom range.


    The TZ80 is a keeper in our family.


    Panasonic FZ70, FZ80

    I bought on eBay and have been using a banged up old FZ70 just to check out the lens. My copy is quite decentered making the pictures soft on one side at the wide end but quite good in the mid zoom range and acceptable the long end


    The FZ80 due in mid March may be more promising although it uses the same lens.


    These cameras have an interesting focal length range which goes from a super wide 20mm to a very long 1200mm. I find focal lengths longer than this are difficult to manage in real world hand held use.


    I plan to buy a FZ80 when it becomes available in Australia and will report on its capabilities in due course. I will have to figure out some way of weeding out bad copies of the lens.









    0 0


    Nikon B700

    In the previous post I described most of the long zoom, small sensor cameras which are currently available.


    These cameras have the so-called “1/2.3 inch” sensor which has no fixed size but most of the recent versions from Sony measure 4.55 x 6.17mm giving a diagonal of 7.67mm and an area of 28 square millimetres.


    Sony makes versions with 12, 16, 18 and 20 Mpx.


    These sensors give an image aspect ratio of 3:4 although astute observers will have noticed that the quoted dimensions of the chip actually have a ratio of 3:4.068. Presumably the extra bit of width has an important functional role.


    In recent times cameras with the so-called “one inch” sensor have become popular. The various versions of this sensor, also made by Sony, have a 2:3 aspect ratio and measure 8.8 x 13.2mm giving a diagonal of 15.9mm and an area of 116 square millimetres.


    This is approximately 2.1 times the diagonal of the 7.67mm sensor and 4.1 times the area.

    Not surprisingly the larger sensor gives better picture quality at all ISO settings,  with lower luminance noise, better color depth and (usually) better highlight and shadow detail (dynamic range).


    So why would anybody buy a camera with the smaller sensor size ?


    There could be various reasons of course. For instance cameras with the small sensor usually cost less than those with a larger sensor. Also they will be smaller for any given lens focal length and aperture range.


    But the main reason is zoom range.


    These cameras can pack into a small body zoom lenses the like of which was unheard of a few years ago. 


    We now have inexpensive consumer cameras with lenses zooming out to (35mm equivalent) 1200, 1440 and even 2000mm.


    These have a zoom range of 50 x, 60 x and up to 83 x. Amazing stuff.


    A 2000mm lens for the 35mm format, if such a thing existed,  would require a pack horse to carry it and cost as much as a high end luxury car.


    FZ300


    The Panasonic FZ300  was released in 2015. This is an update of the 2012  FZ200 using the same 12 Mp sensor  and (equivalent) 25-600mm constant f2.8 lens.


    The FZ300 has an upgraded body with better ergonomics, weathersealing, a faster processor, DFD focussing and 4K video plus many other features.


    It is a very good camera……BUT…….


    The FZ1000 which is only about 23% larger, heavier and more expensive, offers better picture quality up to a focal length of (effective) 600mm, better performance and better ergonomics.


    The only feature which I might have wanted which the FZ300 has but the FZ1000 does not have is  weathersealing.


    So the FZ1000 stayed in my camera drawer and the FZ300 did not.


    B700    hot summers day, hand held


    My ideas for a FZ400

    For birds, wildlife, sport, action and similar the camera needs a longer lens.


    The FZ200/300 lens has a filter size of 52mm.


    I think Panasonic could increase the focal length to (equivalent) 800mm with a filter size of about 62mm (the same as the FZ1000) and still keep the f2.8 aperture.  The larger entry diameter would probably also allow a wider aperture at the short end of the zoom, perhaps f2.5.


    Maybe even 1000mm at f3.5 or f4 might be possible.


    I think that would make the camera much more interesting for potential users. 


    The models with a longer zoom range all have an aperture in the f6.x range at the long end which restricts their usefulness for the very purposes which require a long lens, unless photographing distant statues is your thing.


    I have used several of these long lens cameras and found that they get difficult to use above about 800mm focal length.


    The subject is difficult to locate in the viewfinder and even more difficult to follow when it moves.


    The second thing I would like to see in a FZ400 is the latest 20 Mpx sensor.


    Conventional wisdom says that the 20 Mpx sensor should have more luminance noise than the 12 Mpx version.


    But my experience with all versions of the 7.67mm sensor (12, 16, 18 and 20 Mpx) is that the latest 20 Mpx version in the Nikon B700 has less noise at any matched print output size than all the versions with lower pixel counts.


    The third thing which I would like to see in a FZ400 is higher optical quality in the lens.


    It is my impression that the two key factors holding back picture quality in the small sensor cameras are luminance noise and lens quality.


    None of the 7.67 mm sensor cameras which I have tested (P900, B700, SX60, TZ70, TZ80, FZ200, FZ300, FZ70) has a lens to equal that on the FZ1000 for resolution and contrast.


    Of course if Panasonic did these three things the result would be a larger, heavier and more expensive camera.


    So be it, say I, but maybe others might not agree.


    But think about it…..800mm f2.8…..that would really be something.



    It would give the FZ400 a market niche occupied by nothing else and make for a camera with considerable appeal for general photography with the bonus of being ideal for sport, wildlife, birds and action.  


    0 0

    B700


    The first tipping point


    In June 2014  Panasonic announced the FZ1000, an all-in-one, bridge style camera shaped like and operating like a medium sized DSLR.


    The lens on this camera extends from (equivalent) 25mm at the wide end to 400mm at full zoom, an extremely versatile range.


    I bought my first FZ1000 as soon as it became available in Australia and have since abandoned all my interchangeable lens camera (ILC) gear with no regrets.


    The minor advantage I might or might not get from an ILC kit in some conditions is far outweighed by the convenience of the FZ1000. 


    If convenience was all the FZ1000 had to offer I would probably still be using an ILC.   


    But it also has very good specifications and features, very good picture quality, very good performance including the ability to follow focus on moving subjects and very good ergonomics.


    For 50 years prior to the FZ1000 I had mainly used cameras with interchangeable lenses. I lugged large camera bags full of lenses around the countryside and gave myself chronic back pain.


    So for me the ability to finally give up all my ILC gear was a major tipping point.


    What features which I sometimes want does the FZ1000 lack ?


    1.  An ultrawide lens setting. In truth I rarely want this so the lack is no hardship. Interior architectural photographers will have a different set of requirements.


    2. An ultra long lens capability. This I do want for birds, sport, action and animals either wild or in a zoo.  In the good old days of 35mm film 400mm was regarded as an ultra telephoto focal length. But now we can get (equivalent) 2000mm in a consumer camera our expectations have changed.

    For the present the most accessible route to ultra tele capability is via one of the small (7.6mm diagonal) sensor superzooms most of which are aimed at the travel/snapshooter crowd and thus have compromises to picture quality and lens quality.


    3. Excellent picture quality in low light. This is a moderate limitation of the FZ1000 but I have found that with thoughtful technique at the point of capture and careful processing in adobe Camera Raw,  results can be obtained which are easily good enough for family photos.


    B700


    The second tipping point ?

    Please allow me to digress a little here.


    I have the benefit of being able to examine hundreds of negatives and transparencies in sizes from 4x5 inch through various medium formats to 35mm (24x36mm actual size). I am able to compare these with photos made in recent years with digital cameras.


    My personal equivalence rating is:


    Current “full frame” (24 x 36mm) sensors give results equivalent to 4 x5 inch film.


    Micro Four Thirds and the better “One inch” sensor cameras give results equivalent to medium format film.


    The better models using the so-called  1/2.3 inch sensor (actually 4.55 x 6.17mm) can produce picture quality equivalent to 35mm film.


    Readers who disbelieve this might care to view my gallery (my DPR user name is axlotl) on Digital Photography review where you can view full sized JPGs.  All my gallery pictures were made with one of these small sensor cameras.


    Now here is the thing:


    For many years 35mm film was the standard imaging medium. It was good enough for just about everybody and for just about any purpose. It was universal and ubiquitous.


    Some of my personal favourite photos were made almost 50 years ago on ASA 400 black and white film (Kodak Tri-X, for those interested).  Some of these have been placed in a State Library.


    Nobody questions the technical quality of the prints.


    B700



    Fast forward to 2017 and  we now find a curious situation.


    The strong impression I have from user forums and photography websites is that cameras using the [1/2.3 inch] sensor are generally regarded as snapshooter’s toys, not for serious consideration by enthusiast and expert photographers.


    This idea is of course reinforced by manufacturers and vendors who make more profit from the more expensive cameras which they would prefer you to buy.


    In line with this marketing consideration we find that many cameras with the [1/2.3 inch] sensor are deliberately underspecified, to the point, I would say, of being crippled.


    Many of these models have a seriously crappy lens with vast zoom range but very poor quality control. Many lack RAW capture and most are grievously short of  features, with mediocre picture quality, poor performance and poor ergonomics.


    It does not need to be this way.


    With the best available sensor, a full set of specifications and features, very fast performance,  good ergonomics and a better quality lens than can be found on any current camera with the [1/2.3 inch] sensor, I think the second tipping point could be reached.


    At the second tipping point the only camera I would ever need has a [1/2.3 inch] sensor, a 60x zoom ranging from wide to very long, very good picture quality, abundant features, excellent performance and ergonomics. 


    The lens would be of excellent quality with an aperture wide enough for indoor use and a zoom range sufficient for just about anything.


    The model which perhaps comes closest to this at the moment is the Panasonic FZ300 but that camera’s lens is really too short for birds and wildlife and it uses an old, outdated sensor.


    I am currently using a Nikon B700 which has a much greater zoom range, decent lens quality and  good picture quality but limited (some might say crippled) features, performance and ergonomics.


    I have recently been testing a pair of Panasonic FZ70s.


    Each of  these has an unusably bad lens. One is severely decentered and soft at the wide end, the other is hopelessly unsharp at the long end.


    The soon-to-be-released FZ80 uses the same lens so prospects for that camera are not encouraging.


    So the second tipping point has not yet arrived for me.


    But…..maybe….someday….soonish…?








    0 0


    Photographing birds in flight is probably one of the most difficult tasks you can ask a camera to perform. The FZ300 does just fine. The main limitation on success is the experience and skill of the user.


    Panasonic announced the FZ300  in July 2015.


    I bought one as soon as it became available in Australia and used it for a short time.



    At the time I was very much engaged in learning about the FZ1000 and deciding to leave the world of interchangeable lens cameras forever.


    The FZ300 seemed at the time like a poor cousin to the FZ1000 so I gave it perhaps less attention than it deserved.


    Since then eight things have prompted this re-appraisal of the FZ300 and other fixed zoom lens cameras using the “smart phone” sensor.


    1.  I have gotten older and my priority has shifted towards finding the most compact solution to my all-in-one camera requirements.  My wife who likes to photograph birds has the same idea.

    The FZ300 and FZ70/80 are large enough to hold comfortably and steadily for minimal camera shake  but small enough to fit into a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 10 bag.


    Running dogs are not quite as difficult to photograph as birds in flight but they are still plenty challenging enough especially when backlit as here.


    2. My notions of acceptable picture quality have become more pragmatic. I recently completed and printed to A4 size a portfolio of 350 family photos dating from 1925 to the present.   Some of the originals were poor quality contact prints only 50 x 70 mm in size.

    Yet when family members view the prints not one of them asks what camera made the picture and no one has commented about the technical quality of the prints. The content is what matters.


    3. Over the last two years I have been exploring the level of picture quality available from cameras which use the so-called “1/2.3 inch” sensor which actually has a diagonal of around 7.67 mm.  The exact size can vary from one iteration to another.


    This is the same sized sensor found in many smartphones.


    I have found that even budget small sensor cameras such as the Panasonic TZ80 can produce pictures which I can print up to an actual size of 410 x 550 mm, about the largest size my Epson 4880 printer can output.


    These prints look just fine, clear and sharp with good presence on the wall, good highlight and shadow detail, good colour  and no grain apparent at normal viewing distance.


    I was on a ferry travelling at 17 knots in the opposite direction to this powerboat which is doing about 20 knots. The FZ300 had no trouble following focus on the power boat.


    4. In either compact or “bridge” style, small sensor cameras can have a much greater zoom range than any other camera type. In addition the bridge style models in particular can have excellent ergonomics (although not all actually do) providing an engaging, enjoyable experience for the user.


    Some like the FZ300 featured in this post meet my criteria for a “proper camera” with a very nice EVF, fully articulated monitor, proper anatomical handle and thumb support and a full set of controls for the expert/enthusiast user.


    5. I realised that the better digital cameras using a  7.67mm sensor have an output with about the same quality as the best I could get 15 years ago from 35mm film in a high quality camera with a good prime lens.

    I figure that if 35mm film was good enough for me and just about everybody else, which it was, then digital cameras with the 7.67mm sensor will do me just fine.


    6. I tested several small sensor cameras in a range of challenging situations including subjects with high brightness range, birds in flight and many others, and found they performed well enough for my purposes.


    7. I revisited Adobe Camera Raw and re-acquainted myself with the many sliders to be found there.  This revealed  the potential capability of ACR which I had not fully explored previously.

    I realised that by shooting RAW and working on the files in ACR I could obtain surprisingly good output even from high ISO (1600) files.


    You could probably photograph the sailboat with AF Single as it is moving slowly compared to the powerboats whizzing around on Sydney harbour. I used AFC and burst mode with all the 20 or so frames sharp.


    8.  Far and away the camera type most frequently purchased by individuals is the one in a smart phone.

    Cameras for CCTV and industrial uses are also vastly more numerous than dedicated consumer cameras for individuals wanting to take photos.

    Many of these cameras use a version of the now ubiquitous 7.67mm sensor type, often made by Sony or Samsung.


    I figure that most of the R&D effort is probably going into this sensor type with the expectation of improved picture quality in the hopefully near future.


    There you have the eight things.  I think that together they make a strong case for the camera with a “smart phone” sensor.

    So I bought another FZ300 and have been using it extensively in a variety of challenging situations. 

    My wife liked the feel and size of the FZ300 so we got one for her also.


    The photos which accompany this post illustrate the ability of the FZ300 to follow focus on moving subjects.


    At the time of writing The FZ300 is the most capable of the 7.67mm sensor cameras at this task.


    It is the only one I would use for birds in flight which it manages quite well.












    0 0


    This is from the RAW file worked in Adobe Camera Raw and converted to a JPG for publication.

    This is the JPG straight out of the camera.



    Conventional digital camera wisdom says that small sensor cameras have poor dynamic range. This means they struggle to render detail in highlights and shadows when subject brightness range is high.


    DXO Mark reports that the FZ300/330 has an overall RAW score of 38 and a DR score of 11.0.


    These results might tempt a prospective FZ300 buyer into thinking that the camera would be of little use when subject brightness range is high.


    So I put it to the test with many difficult subjects.


    Here are some pictures which illustrate the camera’s capability.


    For all but the most extreme situations the camera manages just fine as long as RAW capture is used and the full range of options in a good RAW converter are utilised. I use Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.


    Of course this illustrates the paradox of the small sensor cameras.


    This is that the people most likely to use such cameras are snapshooters who leave the Mode Dial on the [iA] setting and always shoot JPG.


    But the users most likely to get the best results are the enthusiast/experts who capture RAW and process thoughtfully in a RAW converter/image editor.


    See the difference in the pictures above and below:



    This version stared as a RAW with work in adobe Camera Raw. There is direct mid day sunlight shining through the clear glass roof onto the flagstones below. I would normally not bother to press the shutter button with light like this no matter what camera I am using as the subject brightness range is so high,  but I wanted to stress test the FZ300 .  You can see here the peak highlights have blown out but overall the result is quite pleasing I think.  

    This is the original JPG straight out of camera.


    Here is one from the rainforest

    Rainforest in direct sun on a clear day is one of the most difficult subjects to photograph due to the extreme subject brightness range. The tree in the center has blown out as have a few other highlights but overall I think this is quite a good result.  As with the QVB above I normally would not bother pressing the shutter button on a day like this.

    This is the out of camera JPG


older | 1 | .... | 19 | 20 | (Page 21) | 22 | 23 | .... | 28 | newer