Why don't high end cameras offer more customization?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Dansteinberg, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. Dansteinberg

    Dansteinberg New to Mu-43

    Jan 17, 2012
    As a recent owner of a Panasonic GX8, I have noticed how companies like Panasonic offer a curious mixture of extreme levels of customization, while at the same time, really limit the potential of a camera's hardware controls.

    On the GX8 for example, there are several function buttons that can each be mapped to literally dozens of different functions.

    But at the same time, when in aperture or shutter priority mode, in their default mode both of the control dials control the same parameter (aperture or shutter speed) with no option to remap one of the wheels to control another parameter.

    This got me thinking that when it comes to customization, there is so much further that we could go with these cameras. What's more frustrating is that most of these improvements are software related and would not be hard for the engineer to program. For example:

    -on a typical camera, any function button can only be assigned a single function. However, I have never owned a camera that lets you assign a 2nd function to the button by performing a "long press" of the control (like you do on smartphones) or a third control by doing a rapid "double tap"

    For example, on my GX8 I have one of the function buttons assigned to ISO, pressing the button turns up the ISO to the next level, which is handy. But it only goes in 1 direction, if I want to take the ISO back down, I am back to using the traditional cursor dial or wheels.

    This would be a perfect place to implement a long press function, where a long press of the same button takes the ISO down a level. Now the one function button works with ISO in both directions.

    Another example could be the auto exposure lock button, you could have a long press turn on something similar like focus lock.

    Ideally the cameras menu would let the user completely map any assignable functions to every button's normal press, long press, and double tap states.

    Focus Ring: On any auto focus lens for M43, the focus ring is actually just a rotary encoder like any other dial on the camera, and it is spoken for when using it in manual focus mode.

    I am not sure how typical I am, but I don't actually use manual focus that often, so for all the time I am using auto focus, that big comfortable dial is just sitting there completely unused.

    It would be a cool option is when you are in auto focus mode, the focus ring could be re-mapped to other parameters like aperture, iso, exposure compensation, white balance mode, etc. Of course when you switch to manual focus, the focus ring would have to go back to controlling focus, but for me at least, that's just not that often.

    Since the focus ring does not have any detents or clicks, the menu could also have a control for how much rotation equals a virtual click. Users could set it to whatever feels right to them.

    Display Screens
    The last disappointment is the lack of customization on the display screens. For example, on my GX8, I like to keep the viewfinder display on the "simple" display setting where it only shows aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, and ISO level.

    However, I wish it would also show the current battery level as a final 5th piece of information. It doesn't, and to have battery level shown, I have to toggle to the full info display, where the battery is now shown, but the top of the viewfinder is also filled with many, many other settings that I never change and don't need to clutter up the viewfinder with.

    It would be really great if the user could really set up the display screens the way they wanted them. Allow them to pick which pieces of info in the simple and complex displays, and even choose which "slot" they go in on the info strips at the top and bottom.

    Some may say this would be hard to set up in a camera menu, but I think it could be done. The GX8 uses a graphical approach to let you assign the tons of function buttons, you see a picture of the camera and its buttons, and you scroll to each one then select its function. The same could be done with a graphical representation of the simple and complex display screens.

    I know the camera companies are probably afraid of making things too complex, but the thing I wish they'd remember is that none of this stuff is a default behavior, it only is available if someone goes into the menu and wants to change it. They could even hide it all in a special "expert" menu that you have to purposefully go into, and leave it all out of the normal menus.

    I think Olympus took this approach for some deeper settings with the older Pens although if memory served, it was not implemented very clearly and when I owned an EP-2 I initially was saying "where the heck are the rest of the settings?"

    Overall, I really do wonder:

    -who the product managers are for these devices

    -how much they use these products in a real world basis and consider common user "use cases"

    -why they do not have the product managers and engineers monitor forums like these, see what people's chief software-based complaints are for a mode of camera, and then quickly address it with a firmware update.

    Olympus seems to have had a change of heart about this and is now doing firmware updates with new features more lately, but I don't think Panasonic really is?

    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Interestingly, Samsung NX mirrorless cameras do exactly this. Many of their lenses had an "i-Function" button their lens that would let you select a function to bind to the focus ring. Basically exactly as you say. I can't say I ever used it much, since the NX210 we have has 2 control dials already and it's usually used by girlfriend who is a bit less serious about her photography, but the idea is there.
  3. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 2, 2014
    Brisbane, Australia
    I personally wonder how much of it is just, well, techno-fear on the part of the target market, whether making it so explicit that everything to do with the ux on a camera is software functionality is just too disquieting a concept for the generational cohort buying cameras. I'm pretty sure the people actually developing the product are aware that there's no longer a need for any direct mechanical linkage between any function and action, but if you're marketing it a camera as a nostalgia trip back to a wasted youth, perhaps being able to treat any input as any function is bad for suspension of disbelief.
  4. Generationfourth

    Generationfourth Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 11, 2015
    I really like a lot of your ideas for long presses, focus ring, and I agree I've been dying for a custom display screen. But A lot of the customization options you are asking for are simply not deal breakers to the majority of buyers.

    It's a lot of research, work, usability testing, etc to enable customization features that say less than 15-20% of users will actually use. The product manager would prefer that the engineers/designers focus on the other 80% that will actually sell the camera. You bet your ass that there are panasonic designers wishing they could add such options to these cameras. Adding features also creates a more complex product. In this day and age staying on the side of simple and well thought out creates a more enjoyable product.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    Real Name:
    A related peeve of mine is the apparently silly restrictions - you can put these functions on those controls, but not these other controls. As a software engineer, that seems like more code and complexity to me. The simple rule should be any button can take any "button" function, and any dial can take any "dial" function.

    As for the complexity of setting up the camera, the obvious solution is an app for your phone or tablet or PC (or all three) which can also store different setups with names of your choice - "landscape", "event", etc.
  6. heli-mech

    heli-mech Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 9, 2012
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    Real Name:
    Man I don't know if I can remember anymore customizations than the E-M1 already offers. If I don't use it for a few days it takes me a few minutes to recall my setup as is.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  7. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    Imagine what a great prank it would be to customize every control to do the same thing, e.g. Aperture. On your friend's camera, of course.
    • Funny Funny x 2
  8. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2012
    Why not do the same thing on cars. You could customise the steering wheel, brakes and gas pedal to all switch functions. :dance3:
    • Funny Funny x 1
  9. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 2, 2014
    Brisbane, Australia
    Well, it seems to me like limiting functions to mimic analogue control functionality is of the same mind set as the work put in to making convincing fake engine notes for modern cars - something deep in people's minds has associated this byproduct of an old limitation of the technology with expected performance. Despite the link between the two having nothing much to do with anything anymore, it has to conform to people's expectations to sell.
  10. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2012
    Right,like soap suds. I am told it has no cleaning function and modern detergents don't require it.Also yellow coloring in margarine.Probably many others.
  11. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    You should also realize that complexity also translates to cost. For every code path that is added is another QA test case, maintenance, possible area of risk etc... We are also dealing with hardware so there is also additional cost associated and limits associated.

    Often, the extra complexity is avoided unless there is a valid market driven demand for the use case. In other words, will the complexity drive more sales. That's the real question to be answering rather than N-number of cool features to be thrown in.

    Of course things may be a little different than I imagine for consumer products. I'm in enterprise software which we often have the opposite problem... feature /complexity creep.... which makes software overtly difficult to use for no real good reason. Too many chefs in the design kitchen so to speak....
    • Agree Agree x 1