When is a camera small enough?

In the film Zoolander Ben Stiller uses a ludicrously small mobile phone. There's also a Steve Jobs quote asking ironically, if 7" tablets will come with included sandpaper so that users could reduce the size of their fingers. It seems that camera manufacturers are inclined to follow the same path. Sure there are small digital compact cameras, but basically you point them at what you want to photograph and press the shutter button (probably the biggest thing on the camera)
However a camera like the GF2, Panasonic's latest m4/3 offering, is loaded with menu options and controls for stills and video. Their video at:- 
includes shots like these:-

Does that look comfortable to you? Note the somewhat bewildered photographer in the top shot.

It seems at all times you have to be looking at the screen, since this is the only way of altering settings apparently. 

This camera is intended for compact camera users to upgrade to - yes? They will want to and know how to navigate all this will they? Panasonic seem to have identified this huge market of people who want to go from the extreme simplicity of point and shoot to the extreme complexity of a touch screen controlled camera. Having worked with Panasonic menus I know they aren't the most intuitive I've ever seen.

Who exactly is driving this move towards smaller and smaller electronic devices? Do we all really want this? Cameras and phones are operated with our hands and fingers, hasn't it occurred to manufacturers that there is a limit to what we can work with? Do they think we are all shrinking? I can see the reasoning in making a small simple camera that can be carried in a pocket. But the GF2 is a small, extremely complex camera that requires several hours going through the manual and who knows how long learning to operate it. By the time you've negotiated the menus, sorted out your settings, and actually get round to taking a picture, your subject has probably left the country!

There's no doubt that the GF2, like other cameras of its type, is a technological marvel and will take great pictures. But to restrict it to touch screen and menu control and to reduce the size below the level of comfortable use seems to me to be counter productive. Surely Panasonic also hope that the camera can be a gateway to their other products. The GF2 is an interchangeable lens camera, but what happens when you put a lens other than a pancake onto the camera? The kit zoom looks big on it, imagine it with a 14-140mm, a 45-200mm or a 100-300mm. With those lenses and the touch screen operation it will become extremely difficult to use. Hardly a way to encourage people into the G system.

From the forums there seem to be three main criticisms being levelled at the camera, which has received a somewhat hostile reception.

1) Panasonic have sacrificed usability for some kind of "size war" with Sony.
2) They seem to believe that what is good for the Japanese market holds true across the world.
3) That many of the good things about the GF1 have been discarded.

The suspicion seems to be in many quarters that Panasonic are obsessed with competing against Sony and the NEX system and everything else is secondary. This is of course speculation but it could explain the GF2. The people who seem to be most critical of it are the very people who championed the GF1 so passionately. I'm sure I was not alone in expecting the GF2 to be a GF1+. Instead its almost a different camera. Did Sony NEX sales eat into GF1 sales? Is that why Panasonic have responded with this? If so why not bring out another camera? 

Smaller isn't more desirable, if it goes below the level of usability. I'm pretty enthusiastic about m4/3 and Panasonic as a camera manufacturer and in general I think they have got things right. They have produced a camera system that has combined size and weight advantages with quality and are to be applauded for that. The introduction of the GF2, and the removal of the GF1 from their current website, seems to indicate a change of direction. If its wildly successful will we get more of the same? If its not will the GF3 be even smaller or will they return to the GF1 template? Who knows. My reaction to the announcement was to order a GF1 which is arriving today.


Hopefully the weather, warm wet and dull, will change so I can get out and take some photographs instead of posting pictures of cameras and discussing new products, which while fun in itself is no substitute for the real thing.

B & I finally plucked up the courage to "modify" the firmware with regard to video on our GH1's. We have what I believe are known as GH13's !! Test Video to appear shortly. Yes more wind chimes!!!

All of my Canon gear is now on ebay and there's an Olympus 14-150mm zoom and a Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 MF M-Mount lens arriving soon so I'll be keen to test those.

No silver/grey GH2's for the UK apparently. Boo! HIss!

Even more concerning is that the GH2 has apparently disappeared off Amazon websites altogether and other stores are now saying December for delivery. Hopefully this means they need to make more silver/grey ones but somehow I doubt that!