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Pentax, why’d you let Nikon steal the user interface?

4 Nov

Just to clarify up front, when I say “steal”, I don’t mean “take a protected design”, I mean “grab the category” or “become best at”.

I’m talking about the incredible extent of manual operation and tactile feedback that was previously offered by the K-5 and is now showcased in even more spectacular fashion by the Nikon Df. Pentax, meanwhile, removed those features from the K-3.

Years ago, when I started to get interested in cameras above the point and shoot ranges, one that caught my eye was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 (why they re-use this repetitive naming with each new camera, I’ve no idea). The reason it caught my eye was that it had double-loaded its mode dial in a rather compelling way. The main knob was a classic mode dial with “red Auto”, PASM, direct access to scene modes for landscape, macro, sports, portrait and night portrait modes as well as SCN and Custom positions for further options. Below that was a lever with positions for single and continuous drive, time delay and some other setting I don’t recall (video?).

Pentax similarly appealed to me years later because the K-5 allowed metering mode (full, centre-weighted and spot) and focus mode (full, point select or central point) to be separately and directly controlled. You can run your thumb over the focus lever and immediately know what setting it’s on without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. You don’t miss a second of action that way.

By contrast, the K-3 has no information on the focus points even in the viewfinder. Exposure mode is visible, but I’ve always had trouble reading that info as often the light outside is much brighter than the illumination of those symbols.

In comes the Df and has many of those things easily visible, although not all of them discernible through tactile feedback. I appreciate Pentax’ ingenuity in offering a stills/video switch – much needed, great thinking – but I question their reluctance to ensure that the existing pivot switches could be accommodated, and that a simple one for the AA filter would also be included. The supersized mic jack truly is a gimmick by comparison – much less worthy of inclusion in my view.

Well, that’s my opinion on the user interface. The K-3 may well prove to be vastly technologically superior to the Df at a lower price point and with the limitations of a smaller sensor, but it would be nice to be left with a feeling that Pentax didn’t fire or retire the one guy that understood user interfaces.

By the way, if they can do a silver and black version, or a K-5 II with and without AA filter, why can’t they omit that stupid mode dial lock release lever and instead release one model with the mode dial lock button and one without? (Read the manual or a good review to know what I’m talking about – not the one by CNET because the reviewer for all I can discern didn’t understand how the lever is functions.) That would have left them space for one more functional lever. Just a thought.

Wasted grip space part 2

10 Sep

Olympus can do it too (so can Sony):

Bottom view of an Olympus E-M1.

Olympus E-M1 battery compartment does not extend to the battery grip. Source: BigDogsTopTips; used under Fair Use laws for commentary.

Has Sony used the space inside the A3000 grip?

29 Aug

Image via Used under fair use provisions for commentary as camera not available yet.

I’d really like to know what they did with the space inside the grip. It’s obviously not used as a battery compartment. Could it be that it’s hollow or just solid plastic? Smells of a wasted opportunity…