Observations/passing comment on Panasonic G6

Why haven’t Panasonic got their act together? I expect more from an expensive product.

I know it is easy to criticise manufacturer’s decision without knowing the full background behind each decision, and I think in general Olympus and Panasonic do a reasonable job of balancing tradeoffs when it comes to m4/3 features and design.

Dial Choices

But what on earth is so earth shatteringly important about sweep panorama mode that it deserves a dedicated position on the mode dial? What a waste! At least let me assign a different function to that position (like HDR – if it worked better 🙂 )

Scrolling

And then there are these little gems:

Image 7

Scene Guide Mode. Presented as a “coverflow” interface, scroll left or right by using <, >, thumbwheel or the slider bar on the display. Can also flick to scroll, but cannot select by touching the raised image sample.

Image 8

Creative Control Mode. Though immediately adjacent to the previous mode, is presented as a vertical scrolling thumbnail list with a sample beside the list. Cannot flick to scroll, cannot use < or > to scroll – must use the “up” and “down” buttons. Can use thumbwheel but of course this scrolls sideways and doesn’t directly correspond to the direction the thumbnails move (which is vertically).

Why didn’t Panasonic attempt some kind of consistency across these two interfaces? After all, they are doing approximately the same thing.

Navigation Inconsistencies

There are other, navigational inconsistencies. For example, this is the main menu – the first menu you encounter when you press the Menu/Set button.Image 5

Touchscreen navigation is available, you just press the icon that corresponds to your choice. Alternatively, you can navigate intuitively by using the four directional buttons on the navigator. For example, you can navigate directly from the top row to the bottom row by pressing the “up” and “down” buttons, or wrap along the row and onto the next by using the “left” or “right” buttons. To go from “Rec” to “Custom” just press the “down” key once.

But this is the Quick Menu display. It is styled entirely differently, probably because it is an overlay display (overlaid on the live view).Image 6

The difference in appearance isn’t welcome, and I assume that adds some kind of functionality (though, could the main menu also be presented this way?)

However, navigation (outside of using the touch screen) is different. You have to note that there are two different levels of highlighting, on shows the top level menu that is active, and the second shows the current setting. The image above shows that the picture setting is the active menu, and that the current setting is “STD” – and the icon in the centre of the display also shows the setting is “STD”. To navigate to change the setting, you have to press “down” to get to the cluster of icons in the centre, and once there, you cannot press “down” to get from the top row of icons to the bottom row – you can only scroll left and right and wrap into the next row. This is different behaviour to the main menu.

Consider also that you press the “down” key to get to the center area when you are moving the highlight from the top edge of the screen – if the menu choice you want to change is on the bottom of the screen you have to navigate sideways through all the icons on the edge to wrap to the correct one on the bottom, then press the “up” key. And then press the “down” key to get back to the edge of the display.

This is an unbelievably clumsy way of presenting and changing major settings quickly, and falls well short of the Olympus approach with the Super Control Panel.

Function Keys

There are 7 Fn keys available, 2 of these are touchscreen only. Of the remaining 5, some really are better left at their default setting – to access QMenu, for example. However, to quite some degree, custom assignments are almost useless.

For example, a common custom setting would be to assign manual focus to a Fn key, so you can immediately switch from your current focus setting, to manual focus, and back to your previous focus setting.

Well, it can’t be done. You can only assign a high level menu choice to the Fn keys. The effect of this, is that if you assign AF to a Fn key, pressing it brings up a screen that displays the AF menu choices exactly as pressing the “left” key would have done. This is braindead. You then have to navigate through to your preferred choice, select it and exit and then continue as you were. Pretty complex when all you want to do is switch to manual focus. Then, to return to your previous focus setting you have to go through the same process, but remember what your previous setting was, navigate to it and select it.

Sure, there are work arounds – you have to learn how to use the camera differently – but there is no way to quickly switch to MF and back again just by pressing a button and without having to view a screen and make and select a menu choice. At least on the GH2 there is a physical switch that performs this function – but the guys who designed the interface for the G6 haven’t noticed this switch doesn’t exist on the G6.

This kind of thing is quite disappointing when I come across it, especially as the camera is otherwise rather a joy to use and quite excellent. It would be easy to just suggest that it is better to use the touch screen all the time, but if you want to view the display through the viewfinder – a common situation – you have to use the key and cannot use the touchscreen. It is as if Panasonic have decided the touchscreen is the main input method and as a result they’ve only come up with a half-assed keyboard input scheme, and even that has been designed by several people who never talk to each other and won’t coordinate. However, even the touchscreen schema is inconsistent in different parts of the menu structure.

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