Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Cameras

The Easter bunny didn't leave me any camera gear the way Santa does, but he did leave me a little basket full of interesting camera reviews. Two of them come from Kirk Tuck and Matthew Robertson. In their respective reviews they both noted a key feature seldom considered by reviewers or buyers until the camera is purchased, and that's how the camera handles. More cameras (and gadgets in general) wind up as dust collecting shelfware because of poor handling than for any other reason.

Kirk Tuck posted a very short review of the Olympus XZ-1. While I make it a practice not to spoil another man's (or woman's) review before you've had a chance to read it, I'm going to break with practice. The key reason Kirk doesn't like the XZ-1 is it's "too little camera to hold on to." Plain old fashioned ergonomics. Or in XZ-1's case, the lack thereof.

Two weeks before Kirk's post, Matthew Robertson posted his review of the Panasonic TS3, a point-and-shoot on steroids that adds wild colors (see below) and environmental sealing into a big ol' grab-bag of features. In contrast to Kirk, Matthew liked the Panasonic's handling;
One standout feature of the TS3 is simply the feel of the camera. The curve at the top and bottom of the front grip, and the rounded left side of the camera, make it very nice to hold. It has a heft and solidity to it that's very reassuring, and it has an object-quality that goes a long way toward justifying its price even before it's turned on.
High praise for a camera that at times exhibits its own collection of "awkward" and "abysmal" marketing and design choices.

Olympus XZ-1Panasonic TS3

When you look at these photos, keep in mind they are not to exact scale, but they're close enough for the differences to be apparent. From the front, the Olympus looks like a thin slab with an oversized lens bolted to the front. The Olympus has nothing on the front for finger purchase, not even a rubberized non-slip covering. The Panasonic by comparison is molded with a minimal but effective grip on the left front side.

The back of the cameras are are close in their control layout, but the Olympus is actually better in my opinion than the Panasonic. The Olympus has a spot free of buttons and covered with a non-slip rubber pad, while the Panasonic is covered with buttons and finish of the body. I prefer the Olympus layout over the Panasonic.

What ruins the Olympus XZ-1's handling is the lack of corresponding material on the front side to afford a comfortable purchase for the right hand. If the designers of the XZ-1 didn't want to ruin the lines of the body with the bulge of a grip, they could have easily enough moved the Olympus label higher on the left front and the 'F1.8' label from the left to the right. This would have given a large enough area to be covered with the same material used on the back across the front side left side. Olympus could have even sculpted the rubberized material around the lens for a bit of design panache.

Whether this would satisfy Kirk's "too little camera to hold on too" complaint remains to be seen. I certainly doubt Olympus would consider it. The XZ-1 looks to be a camera designed by an art student, not a photographer.

Olympus XZ-1 rearPanasonic TS3 rear

Neither Kirk nor Matthew are dpReview material, and I am so grateful for that fact. These are two photographers who really use a camera or piece of gear and then write about their experiences with a good mix of facts and honesty you seldom find on the commercial review sites. I hope they both continue to review this way. If either stops, we'll all be the poorer for it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Bill. I appreciate your opinions on cameras and on reviews.

    Best, Kirk


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