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Premium tactile features, and 'feel'

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by RoadTraveler, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    A Tactile Premium
    What new m4/3 camera are intentionally designed and manufactured to be 'premium' products? I don't mean just for looks, but the tactile user interface, etc. I've placed this thread in the Panasonic section merely because I'm using the GX1 as a baseline and Panasonic bodies are the only m4/3 cameras I have experience with. But if the digital Olympus bodies have what I want I'd likely be willing to switch in the future when/if I need new bodies.

    GX1 Baseline
    I'm a huge GX1 fan; I was lucky enough to buy one as my first m4/3 camera in late 2012. It's possible that the GX1 helped me 'convert' to m4/3 (later sold my FF Canon kit) because the camera 'fit' me. Part of my photographic history involves rangefinder film cameras, both the Contax G2 and Leica M, which are both very well made machines that feel great to use, user interface if you will. So the GX1 fit not only because of its rangefinder style and size, but the obvious quality of the body while being used.

    When compared to the G3 or the G5 bodies that I also acquired in late 2012 (still have a G3), the GX1's mode dial and on/off switch atop the camera are firmer, positive, and nicer to use than the G3 or G5. Likewise the metal buttons on the rear offer a positive click, more feel, and a firmer resistance is felt before and during pressing. To my mind there is a substantial difference in the way these bodies provide feedback in use, which is also helpful when finding and using the rear buttons merely by feel which I often do while looking through the LVF2 on a GX1 body.

    It's only fair to say I'm not a blind fan of the GX1, the silver printing (etching?) on the sliver buttons on the rear make reading the printing very difficult, this was a big design failure. However, I've had enough time and experience using my GX1s that I know most of the buttons by memory, which is better than having to read them, and I still have the nice tactile interface if/when the writing wears off.

    Did the older brother GF1 have this better build quality too?

    The GX7?
    I'd be happy if someone who has experience with the GX1 and other Panasonic bodies and understands and agrees with the contrasts I'm outlining would share that the GX7 has the same added resistance and superior tactile feel to the little buttons on the rear of the camera. However, I've not seen this mentioned in any of the GX7 reviews I've read, and looking at pictures the rear buttons appears to be the standard plastic type. So I'm guessing the GX7 doesn't offer a superior tactile interface, nor that of the lovely GX1…I'd love to be wrong here.

    If the GX7 doesn't continue in the vein of the premium GX1, which may have been designed for the discerning m4/3 buyers in Asia, what cameras do, or hopefully will? I'm willing to pay more for a better camera to use, not just IQ.

    Not that it should matter, but for the record, I'm not a camera fondling collector. I'm a long-time photographer/journalist, specializing in automotive/moto related journalism, use my cameras professionally, and appreciate quality.

    Cheers,

    James
     
  2. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    James,

    I own a G3, and briefly had some time to try out a GX7 in my local camera shop. From my brief impression, I would say that the tactile controls of the GX7 were much better than the G3. When I visited the store, I was mostly interested in the E-P5, as that was supposed to be a better tactile camera than the E-M5. After having tried the E-P5 and the GX7, I walked away feeling that the GX7 would be the camera I would add to my wish list. Although light, it feels right in my hand, and all of the controls fell where I thought they should, or close enough that I was not cursing them. I really like the rear MF/AF button on the GX7. It was easy to use, and it had a nice and easy snap between the two positions. I cannot say how the camera will hold up in the long run, but I believe that Panasonic spent some time making the GX7 a worthy contender. If you ever shot rangefinder cameras, like a Leica M or a Konica Hexar, you should feel right at home. Is it possible for you to try one out at a local store (or rent one for a few days)?

    Good luck,

    --Ken
     
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  3. ornithology

    ornithology Mu-43 Regular

    110
    Dec 21, 2013
    Vancouver, BC
    A
    Subscribed*
     
  4. lemmy

    lemmy Mu-43 Regular

    36
    Feb 19, 2013
    London, England
    David Thorpe
    I've been a professional photographer for all my working life using everything from plate cameras though Leica, Nikon Fs, Hasselblad and I can honestly day that the best handling camera I have ever used is the Panasonic GH3 with battery grip.

    The GX7 is excellent and in the same mould but a seemingly unlimited battery life with the GH3 and physical access to all the normally changed parameters is invaluable. The E-M1 is a beauty too but personally I still prefer the GH3 because of the better (in my opinion) menu system.
     
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  5. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    Positive and encouraging input guys, glad to hear the GX7 does not disappoint. In the case of the GX7, I know the bigger grip is well liked, and the meaty, metal appearing MF/AF control on the rear looks like it would provide good user feedback.

    While not trying to put too fine a point on it, though to clarify, it's the multitude of little buttons on the rear of bodies (mostly right-rear) that's I'm focused on. These are the buttons that feel very mushy and 'cheap' on the G3, but great on the GX1.

    After my original post I remembered that my Panasonic LX7 compact also has little metal buttons that also provide sharp, positive feedback when touched and pressed. I just put my hands on it and gave it another feel… While the LX7 is in a different class, and I prefer using the GX1 most of the time for a variety of reasons, the LX7 does provide similar tactile feel and the feedback that I desire (demand?).
     
  6. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    Someday I'll try one, unfortunately our one remaining, good, local camera store doesn't sell Panasonic. Not because they don't want to, but because Panasonic's minimum dealer inventory order is unreasonable for them (I've spoken to the owner about this). The big box stores sell the same stuff, nothing I want... All my m4/3 gear was purchased mail order from a variety of sources, which has worked well. The prices are great, but no try before you buy.

    I'm not in big hurry to stop using my GX1 bodies, in fact I recently purchased yet another body NIB for a mere $200, adding it to my rather large stable of existing GX1s. But someday I'll need or want a different camera body, and a GX7 or 'other' box could replace my G3 for use with TTL flash and a viewfinder. The key is I want the tactile feel of the GX1. :smile:
     
  7. leftnose

    leftnose Mu-43 Regular

    46
    Dec 5, 2013
    My first "real" camera was a hand-me-down Leica M2 from my father. I've also used his Nikon F3 and 'Blad 500C extensively. I've got Dad's M4 loaded with Ektar right now as well. My primary camera right now is a 5D3 with too much Canon glass. I bought the 5D3 because of the poor AF and sort-of-poor build quality of my previous 5D2. The 5D3 is the perfect DSLR to me. Great IQ, great handling and build quality. Great AF and RAWs that are a reasonable file size. It's just kinda big and heavy.

    I'm in the same boat as you re: the GX1. It was my first MFT body and it sold me on the format. Granted, it's good light but if a GX1 and 20/1.7 can do this:



    I'm not sure what more anyone could want from a "compact" system.

    I sold the GX1 last month and bought a GX7. To me, it addresses all the faults of the GX1: integrated EVF, two dials, etc.. However, to address your question, I think the GX7 offers better build quality than the GX1. My GX1 always had a little "creak" in the body if you gave it a gentle squeeze. The rear dial was easy to press in unintentionally. The GX7 feels like a rock. No creaks. no flex. Better dials. Buttons of equal quality to the GX1; you can find them by feel and positive click just the same as the GX1 A better touch screen. It's just a better camera, though slightly larger.

    Trust me, if you like your GX1, you will love the GX7. No, it's not a Leica or Nikon F, No, it's not my 5D3, either, but it's a fantastic camera to use. It just works and feels right.
     
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  8. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    How about LensRentals? Then you could evaluate a model that has already seen some action.

    --Ken
     
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  9. stevewestern

    stevewestern New to Mu-43

    4
    Jan 5, 2014
    I too believe that the way a camera sits in the hand, and how it feels to the user is one of the most important things in choosing what you buy.
    I have never felt tied to a brand but more tied to what I know and like, or maybe that should be what I like and come to know.

    Tactile is the big issue here.
    When money was easier to find I was big on vinyl albums for my music over CD's. There was something about owning and handling an album, plus the sound was way nicer to my ears. Cameras are much the same, and while I have never even held a Leica I imagine that they are one of the few manufacturers that get this whole user/tactile thing. Quality earns a pride of ownership from the owner, maybe over time, and a mutual respect. I like this !

    Good luck in your search James...
     
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  10. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Hi James, I do think you are wrong here. My wife has the G3 and I know exactly what you mean --- in fact its playback button won't activate without a really firm, mushy press. I have recently bought a GX7 and there is NO COMPARISON. :wink: The back buttons have a clean 'click' movement. The mode dial is stiff and clicky, ditto the on/off and mf/af switches.

    However I have not held a GX1 so I cannot directly compare those two.

    cheers
     
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  11. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012

    Great reply and perspective. I have my dad's Leicaflex SL kit, his IIIf that I used a time or two as a preteen was lost in a burglary…

    A 5D2 was my primary tool before m4/3, I never stepped up to the 5D3, maybe good because it might have kept me with Canon? Leaving big and heavy behind is why I'm here with m4/3. :wink:



    Yes, that's precisely my thinking regarding the GX1. Not that there are not different choices that are better for others, to each their own, it's good we are not all the same. But the combination of size, IQ, user-interface, and build quality in the little GX1 works so well for me and my uses (including moto travel) that I will tread very carefully before leaving it for another body. In addition, the fire sale prices I have purchased my last few GX1 bodies for ($200 NEW) seem utterly ridiculous for such a capable and fun to use camera that can be anything from a go-most-places compact to a money making tool.



    This is a huge and very meaningful endorsement for the GX7, particularly given what seems to be a somewhat similar photographic background, and your respect and appreciation for the GX1. The integrated EVF is surely a positive, if merely for the reason of not having to spend an extra $160 for the LVF2. Did you ever use a LVF2 on your GX1? It's hard to decipher from the posts critical of the GX7's EVF if it's as good, not quite as good, or slightly better than the LVF2? Guess it also depends if one likes to use their EVF with glasses or not, I use the LVF2 without specs, just have the diopter adjusted + were I need it. Surely it would nice to be able to use a TTL flash and the viewfinder at the same time, this would be the main benefit for me.

    Now you've got me thinking I need to go give my GX1s a squeeze to see if they "creak", I've not noticed this (yet).

    That the little buttons are of equal quality to the GX1 restores my faith that quality has moved upward as it should, at least with the GX-series. Not to only pick on the G3, my opinion of the G5 was similar, though maybe the newer G6 is better? Regardless, the GX7 is more my style than a G6 or even a GH3, which seems large for me.

    As an only slightly larger body, it seems the GX7 is again the clear upgrade path if/when it's time to move away from the GX1. Probably one niche the larger GX7 doesn't fit quite as well is as a makeshift, substitute, almost pocketable travel/everyday camera. That's the new job for my one silver GX1 body, after purchasing another (unneeded GX1) because of the low price. The sliver body was reunited with the 14-42 PZ lens it came with, the LVF2 was removed, and a 14 f/2.5 pancake might be added to make a compact kit that is routinely taken with even when there's no intention of shooting anything.

    I'm not an early adopter, and while I think the GX7 is probably worth the asking price, I can't afford to replace the several GX1 bodies I have with a similar number of GX7s. I really like going afield with 2–3+ identical bodies with lenses mounted and limiting the need to change lenses in potentially dirty conditions (dirt motos and 4WDs). I'd also prefer black without a premium price. If/when the GX7s drop to ridiculously low prices like the GX1s were, maybe in two years, maybe sub $4–300, that's when I'd be mostly likely to stock up.
     
  12. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    That's a good idea if I was in the market. But the only reason I'd remotely be in the market now would be to have a (much) better body with which to shoot TTL flash, an infrequent need at the moment. And, I want to pay less than the current price. Since coming over to m4/3 I've spent a serious amount of cash, including a few expensive lenses recently, which of course are a better long term investment.

    Remember, my query on this topic was about wanting to know the build quality of cameras other than my GX1, hoping my experiences regarding tactile feel with the G3 and G5 have not continued with newer models. Maybe it has continued with other models, but clearly the GX7 has been built to a high standard. :thumbup:
     
  13. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Funnily, Mike Johnson, on his blog, twice compared the GX7 to a Leica. [1] "It is to today's digital cameras just about what Leica's M6 was to cameradom in 1984." [2] "The GX7 is near and dear to my heart for being a Great Leap Forward from a series of cameras I've owned and loved, and for being more Leica-like than any current Leica. Sorry again, but it is."

    Beat that. :smile:
     
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  14. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    I better go read (or reread?) that blog post and review! :)
     
  15. leftnose

    leftnose Mu-43 Regular

    46
    Dec 5, 2013
    Well, my experience with Leica's is limited to the wholly manual cameras, not with the bodies with an integral light meter. "My" M4 is even a first model, made in Wetzlar, not an M4-2/M4-P. So, to me a Leica is a much more involved camera. With the two dials of the GX7, I can shoot it just like my 5D3 with aperture on the front dial and exposure comp on the rear dial.

    Also, with a traditional optical viewfinder, to me, a Leica is a much more "transparent" camera. I'm always aware that it's an EVF with the GX7.

    I appreciate the review my Mike Johnson. I can't really argue with him speaking on his own experience. My feelings are a bit different, though. To clarify, as well, I was speaking more to build quality than the shooting experience. Nothing is like winding a mechanical Leica, from the sound to the tactile feel of the lever. Nothing is quite like watching the frame lines move with the focus ring and to be able to see "around" your composition. And a Leica just feels like a solid ingot of brass in the hand.

    I did, yes, and that was one of my issues with the GX1. The viewfinder increased the effective size of the camera quite dramatically. I can fit a GX7 more easily than a GX1+EVF into the same camera bag. The "quality" never bothered me. I just didn't like the big tumor on the top of the camera.

    In terms of the LVF2 vs. GX7 EVF, the GX7 is at least as good as the LVF2. However, simply due to the weather here since I bought the GX7 and since I've only had it for a month, I don't have as much experience with it. The true test, I think, will be using it outside in summer with a bright sun directly overhead. I do wear glasses and I don't take them off to shoot. I just mush my face up against the camera!

    I bought the black GX7 kit from B&H. They had a special on the camera and, once I sold the lens with my GX1+EVF, I have about $500 new money in the body. Totally worth the price to me. I won't call it a bargain but it's a hugely capable camera for that price. I'm intrigued by the GM1 though and, if they ever release a black one in the US, I'll probably get one of those as well as my super portable camera.

    I probably ought to add that I've kept my MFT system super simple as a bit of a "reaction" to how complex my Canon gear has become over the last 15+ years of shooting EOS/EF. I've got two native MFT lenses, the 20/1.7 and 45/1.8 plus an M-mount adapter. I might add the 75/1.8 and swap the 20 for the PanLeica 15 but I've kept my MFT experience as basic as possible. And I think this is why I've become so enamored by the system. It's a return to photography for me and the gear doesn't get in the way of the craft.
     
  16. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    I can appreciate your dislike for the LVF2 atop a GX1, and I posted questions of concern about the LVF2 before buying my first for my first GX1 body. However for me, it was some worry about nothing. While I agree it's a bit of an appendage, I quickly became accustomed to its looks, and found it quite similar to having an axillary viewfinder in the hot shoe of both my Contax G and Leica M systems for 21mm or wider lenses, yet so much more useful and versatile.

    In use I simply love the LVF2, centered right above the lens, I often use it flipped up and look down into it, using a thumb to lift or push it back down, or even as another point to contact to steady things with a thumb against the side of the flipped-up LVF2. The diopter dial works well/easily, I know where my normal is but also marked it with paint, and the quality of the image seems very good both inside and outside in sunlight. I'm also having good success using it for manual focus lenses (w/ & w/o magnification). With a larger lens, which I have several of, the LVF2 might actually help visually balance the camera. With a smaller lens, I agree it looks rather large and ungainly, as it also does on an LX7. Since I love how it works, I obviously don't dislike them, I have four. :wink:



    True, bright sunlight will certainly show pros and cons. Not to dig on Fuji, but the LVF2 worked wonderfully on Christmas during a little walk with my dad, the EVF of his Fuji X stinks compared to the LVF2.


    .


    Interesting that you should mention the GM1. It's likely very clear that I don't need any more bodies, and I consider the GX1 to be a very capable and compact tool… but the GM1 has my attention because it's so insanely small. The little 12-32 lens is even appealing, though the 14mm f/2.5 I mentioned earlier still seems like a great small, fast lens.


    .

    This is were our use differs. I had about the same time (14+) using Canon film and digital SLRs, as well as the rangefinders I've mentioned, but after testing the m4/3 waters decided to sell my Canon SLR gear and go 100% m4/3. The only exception being my remaining Leica M film kit and the Panasonic LX7 compact.