Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8: the "Pro" Still Photographer ...

The Panasonic Lumix GX8 in its nice silver delivery.
A more discrete black version is also available

My first impression was that GX8 fit like a glove to me. The handling, the control and the interface are easy to comprehend and you have the feeling to hold and to use a very pro oriented M4/3 format still camera.

The very confortable
 and secure front grip
 of the Lumix GX8
The grip factor is really one of the strongest points of the Lumix GX8 that is giving a very secure and confortable way of working with the model. Many times I have used the GX8 without bothering to put my wrist strap since I was feeling fully confident about the handling. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is large and very informative of the picture output result you can expect. Direct dial options are easy to learn and reach if needed. As usual push bottoms are handy and fast to react but can be accidently activated during shooting if you are not aware of your palm hand position. The LCD screen is also a very fine viewing tool and can be fully oriented in many ways.

The very beautiful and classical design of the Panasonic Lumix GX8 upper deck. An interesting mixture of classical presentation and modern direct dial functionality attributions
The Panasonic Lumix GX8 is a bigger camera than the previous GX7 (original). It appears as a design choice by Panasonic study board rather than a technical constraint especially with the venue of the new Lumix GX85 / GX80 (Japan GX7 Mark II) that has a significaly smaller size despite its similar features. For a full time photographer (dixit so-called pro) the dimensions of the GX8 are still smaller compare to traditional DSLR even more if you add the equivalent lenses. So it confirms in a way the “Pro” orientation of the model.

The tilt able electronic viewfinder (EVF) of the Panasonic 
Lumix GX8: a Chest level alternative that can preserve parallel 
vertical lines or help you for low level point of view
Is the Lumix GX8 an action camera? For spontaneous photography you can say without a doubt yes. For sport or very moving subject it cannot in any way compete with the modern DSLR that are the most advanced autofocusing system available on the market. Using the faster prime lenses will give you a more reactive GX8 in the view o my modest experiences. So doing action photography with the Lumix GX8 can be more challenging for the user. You have to rely on a more pro-active approach (Anticipation) than a reactive watching.

No in-board flash is available on the Lumix GX8. Again it seems to be a voluntary designer choice. Panasonic has often been joggling with that feature like in the case of the diminutive Lumix GM5. Without in-board a flash option you need to bring an external flash unit of some kind to perform at least fill-in flash operation. So it represents an additional device to think of but the advantage came by the fact that most of the external flash units are self-powered saving the camera own battery life. Again no in-board flash unit is reflecting a traditional “Pro” design approach.

The Panasonic Lumix GX8 is delivering beautiful image outputs. The exposure system is very accurate and you can rely on it on every operating modes offered by the GX8. Color rendering especially in the “Natural” mode is respecting the reality of the scene. The exposure direct control dial is handy.
You can produce rich black and white pictures that as always a big advantage of using a camera equipped with an EVF that is showing you on the spot the final image output prior to the picture taking.  In a strictly personal point of view using the new 20MP image captor didn’t represent a strong departure from the usual 16MP sensor used on many others M4/3 models. I am sure that the new 20MP will give some edge advantages on specific picture taking situations or in performing particular image post treatments. But for a Web diffuser like myself the difference will appear marginal at the most.
In combination with the Lumix Vario G 12-60mm lens the 
Panasonic GX8 can deliver very pleasant colours and fine details.

Using the monochrome option on the GX8 is producing 
excellent black and white results

After a few days of companionship the Panasonic Lumix GX8 had proved to be a very solid still camera. Its larger size will give you confidence to bring it everywhere on every circonstances even in bad weather. But you must remember this is not a very compact model such as the smaller Lumix GX85/80 model. Lens combination with the GX8 are better served by selecting the "Pro" lens version like the 12-35mm f2.8 and the 35-100mm f2.8 or the versatile 12-60mm. 

As a professionally oriented model, some aspects of the Lumix GX8 such as its generous grip, the add-on external flash option, its 20MP image captor and its titl-able EVF for example will be well received for everyday and intensive photographers.

On the road with the Lumix GX8

Although the Panasonic Lumix GX8 is a very well crafted camera it cannot be assimilated as an impressive model such as to be the previous Lumix GX7 (first version) which had many interesting features in a more smaller package. Even considering the improvement of the image sensor this redesign won't necessarely seduce everybody. Paradoxically Panasonic has already done better with the new GX85/80 (Japan GX7 Mark II) but with the sacrifice of the weather sealed body feature.

Now (August 2016) the current selling price of the camera combined with the Lumix Vario G 12-60mm lens is representing a better quality-price ratio for this quality level of product.

Special thanks: With the complicity of Panasonic Canada and my kindly representing contact person I was able to work with the GX8 model equipped with the newest Lumix Vario 12-60mm Power OIS lens.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 (Japan GX7 Mark II): TheTraveller Successor

The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 or GX7 Mark II (Japan):
A very classical rangefinder style digital modern camera
My first introduction to M4/3 image captor format was with the Olympus Pen EP-3, The camera and lenses dimensions were just perfect in my sense for an everyday compact camera. The only irritating omission was the absence of a traditional viewfinder and using the add-on EVF accessory simply destroy the homogeneity of the basic idea. Later the coming days of the OM-D series solved partly the problem by integrating a workable EVF and by offering in-body stabilization.

Panasonic have developped over the years a complete series of rangefinder style cameras such as more recently the GX7, GM5 and GX8 models all cameras doted with a good EVF and in-body stabilization. It reunited other successful features such as standard 16MP image sensor or the moe recent 20MP sensor for the GX8, touchscreen and tilt-able or fully orientable (GX8) LCD screen. The GX7 was a near perfect size model and the GM5 was a real traveler camera.
Many still photographers prefer the tilt-able screen
option over the fully orientable side-screen alternative
designed more for videographers

Now Panasonic have decided to refresh the GX7 by presenting the new GX7 Mark II (in Japan market) relabelled GX85 or GX80 into the other world markets. The "Mark II" designation clearly indicate the filiation with the previous and original GX7 version.

Many factors are differenciating the original GX7 from its successor, the Lumix GX85 / GX80 / GX7 Mark II. I will review some of them that I have found more determinant.

Less grip compared to the original
GX7 but more than the GM5
The Grip Factor
The Panasonic Lumix GX85 / GX80 have not the same grip volume as the original GX7. It results in a smaller prehension confort. Since the camera is more on the moderate heavy side for its overall dimensions it will ask you a more careful attention in bringing, holding and manipulating the model.  But compare to the previous and diminutive Lumix GM5,  the Lumix GX85 / GX 80 offer a more secure way to work with its body. It  is always possible that in the near future an add-on accessory grip will be proposed for some of of us  who are asking for a better grip.

The Switch Factor
The On/Off switch is is located on the upper right side of the body of the camera but reaching it with your thumb may ask you a strong contorsion exercice. All the other operating dials and fonction buttons are classically presented. No more direct dial for the the automatic and manual focusing setting is present on the Lumix GX85 / GX80 model. That absence can be compensated by using the autofocus with manuel correction option.

Reactivity and Focus Factors
In general the Panasonic Lumix GX85 / GX80 is a very reactive camera fast enough to capture spontaneous pictures of acting subjects. If you have chosen to work with larger aperture prime lenses such as F1.7 or more the auto focus adjustment seems to be faster and on target most of the time. Screen touch focus selector can be another option easy to reach when you are more selective with less usual subject target (that option can be also desactivated on demand).

The Monochrome Factor
Some of my previous viewers know already my love affair with black and white photography and the Panasonic GX85 / GX80 will perfectly respond to that task by offering two monochrome photography options: MONO and MONO L. Ether versions give you a tonal palette from black to gray to white which is rich and detailed. Black and white photography rendering with digital still camera is now a mature feature. Professional results are obtained right from the start preventing that way more destructive post-treatment manipulations.

The Sensor Factor (16MP vs GX8's 20MP)
Panasonic have chosen to maintain the commun standard 16MP sensor for the GX7 Mark II. Quality  output of the picture using this sensor has been already demonstrated several times over the past. A marginal improvement can be observed by the fact of the absence of an anti-aliasing filter initially used to prevent  the moiré effect. These changes may offer you better image cropping factor ability without noticeable quality decrease.

Severe cropping is possible without altering the overall quality of the picture.
None retouched original picture

The Viewfinder Factor (Tilt GX-7 EVF vs Fixed GX85/GX80 EVF)
The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 s doted with an in-board EVF without the previous option of upper tit-ability present in the original GX7. That option has been offered with the newest rangefinder style Panasonic flagship model the GX8 which is in fact a larger camera with all-weather sealing and maybe more capability to resist from intense using. Apart from the tilt-able option, the previous (GX7) and the newest (GX85/GX80) EVFs are behaving in the same matter giving a good but more contrasty representation of the actual image. The big advantage of using EVF is its direct relation with the final result registered by the image captor. It is an almost perfect tool to preview black & white results. Moreover the EVF allow you to do instant review of your last picture taken without losing contact with your subject.

The Design Factor (Angular vs rounded GX7)
The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 is marginaly a more boxy camera compare to the first version of the GX7. It represent a certain drawback in term of ergonomic design of the model. Body style is more classical which is a popular present trend among many camera manufacturers. On a daily using basic sharp angular design camera are less confortable to work with to say the least but it is partially compensated by the more discrete presence of the device in face of the subject.

The Stabilization Factor (GX85/GX80 more in-board Axis)
Modern cameras need to be stabilized for many reasons. They are smaller and lighter packages and we are facing most of the time faster subjects or contexts that need to be adequately  stopped or freezes. The Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 offers the two stabilization options with in-board stabilization sensor and the possibility to combine lens stabilization (if offered by the lens model used) and sensor stab. Most of the time the stabilization factor will increase the definition of your picture output in a decisive way. Dont prevent yourself to use it extendely.

The Lens Factor (Panasonic G lens system + Zuiko M. options)
One of the decisive factor of selecting to work with M4/3 ILC format cameras resid in the the very interesting choice of lenses available on the market. These lenses can be versatile, fast or specialized and their overall dimension stay compact and lightweight. For sure my preference goes for the prime (focal fixed) lenses with moderate larger aperture such as the Panasonic Lumix G 20 F1.7 or G 42.5mm F1.7 OIS models. There are perfect matches to bring you good to outstanding results from the camera. For a one-lens traveler combination  you can consider the Lumix G Vario 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 OIS that is offered at a ridiculous selling price when you decide to buy the GX85/12-32mm package. There are many others lenses that can fit your specific need and the Olympus Zuiko M lenses can be also another option.

Other factors
The in-board flash of the Lumix GX85/GX80 can be a good help for using the fill-in flash technique and you have the possibility to put an external unit if you are a heavy flash user.

As usual for ILC mirrorless cameras an extra battery is clearly a must recommendation. For charging them an external charger seems to me a very practical add-on. I hope in some way that an add-on grip will be in someway available in the near future.

In short the Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80 (GX7 Mark II) represents a very interesting successor of the previous GX7 and GM5 models. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Just Give Me A Split Second Look!

Just give me a "split second look" !

Isn't the essence of photography? or the fondation of snap shoot life "picturization"?
Give me a freeze split second of your time-line (life) that I will prolong in space and visual memory.
Are we photographer or more likely thief of brief moments that we choose to extract of the repetition of their own entourage?
Yes just give me a split second look!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Photograph with an "S" (Fujifilm X-E2S): The essssence of photography

The Fujifilm X-E2Ssss...

If you came time to time to visit this blog you may have already notice my passion to photography which in fact is the essence of the message behind those illucubrations of mine. We see thinks, subjects, moods that we want to freeze in time and in mind and represent them after.Yes photography is a visual interpretation of our personal realities. Everybody can add to this fantastic mosaic of flashes of life.

And between you and your subject there is the "tool". For the painter it is the canvas, the colours and the brush. In photography it is the camera i.e. the device which we use to register our pictures. It can be simple like the original stenope or very complex like our actual digital cameras. For many a creative tool should be inspiring, should be the extension of our mind and soul that will allow us to express our originality of reframing, recompose and reorganize our representation of the living.

And a tool that can be raffine is something rare to find especially in this time of short consuming. That is why I fully appreciate the Fujifilm approach to allow many upgrades of their products. Yes they have also a classical way of designing cameras in the sense of the modern compact model that have been started with the event of 35mm film photography. This heritage is fully assumed by Fujifilm and the people behind the logo.

My previous post Fujifilm X-E2: The digital rangefinder without rangefinder  was my introduction  to the Fujifilm world of ILC X-Mount Series.  For sure the X-E1 have rightly preceded the second version but as usual I was late to discover the concept.

Working in the past with some Leica rangefinder models like the M4-P and the M6, I was curious to experiment the digital interpretation of those modern  and classic compact cameras.By today standards the M4-P and M6 would be no more really so-call compact cameras in the external dimensions and  relatively heavy weight but comparing with their medium format cousins they were small device as for their line of taking lenses. I think it has been a fondamental inspiration when Fujifilm designers begin to draw the first esquisses of the future ILC X-Mount Series.

The viewfinder schools: On-Off axis (action photography vs contextual) and about EVF
Are you an off-axis or an on-axis viewfinder devotee? Without discussing about the pro and con of each viewfinder location, we can advance that on-axis viewfinder are better designed for following action when using telephoto lenses. Off-axis viewfinder seem to be a better tool for contextual photography and by revealing a good part of the photographer's face it create a more intimate interrelation with the (live) subject.
Using EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) technology is different from the classical optical way (rangefinder or reflex) because it represent to a certain extent the final result extracted from your image captor. "What you, what you get" is more accurate especially in Black and White. Composition of your picture can be carefully done at the taking moment. For statical subject it is a perfect tool. In action photography you must concentrate your attention on your viewfinder rendering because of the processing delay of the picture. Simply put EVF offer you a representation of the instant past.
My only big prevention about EVF in general is the more contrasty image presented in comparison of the final picture. Because of that I have on several occasions that I have adjusted my picture expectation with an overall higher level of contrast that has to be corrected by editing the final photo file.

Modern direct dial control.
Modern direct dial controllers are the digital interpretation of the traditional film manual camera control setting for the exposure and the focus. Even if automatic setting options are now very reliable and even better than human evaluation many photographers still prefer to introduce their exposure or focus bias. Except for ISO selection all other manual controls are available on the Fujifilm X-E2S and are presented usually on the fashion manner of the past camera, You can easily parameter your shutter speed or your aperture (for most of the XF X-Mount lenses). Focus can be done manually by using either the viewfinder or the back screen. All the critical informations are clearly presented. So you can preselect your  exposure setting without actually looking  at the viewfinder/screen (Camera off if you want to save battery life). The exposure correction dial with direct appreciation on the viewfinder/back screen is also a very handy and creative  photographic tool.

Color and canvas model interpretation
That is one of the strongest advantage to use Fujifilm X  products. You can really select the color palette that will fit with your specific need. Fujifilm is really into the imaging business at first and is dedicating its products mainly for that purpose.

Lenses and lenses
Since the Fujifilm X-E2S is an ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) you can select any lenses available from the Fujifilm X-Mount Series. If you are looking for a very compact package you can try the Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 lens. Except for its modest maximum aperture of F2.8 the 27mm lens is a good all-around optic that give a lot of  photographic opportunities.To a certain extent the same advantage apply for most of the short and normal fix focal lengths offered by Fujifilm. The zoom lens models are also another optical option especially for the trans-standard ones that are giving you larger focal range in one device which can be appreciated on travel for example.  The telephoto zoom options are somewhat big customers for a compact camera like the X-E2S especially considering its off-axis viewfinder but it works. A moderated fix focal telephoto like the Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 is an excellent portrait option and a very efficient discriminating lens.
When you are considering the purchase of an ILC you have to question yourself about the lens combination you are looking for because it can dictate your camera choice at the end. Fujifilm offers you the two viewfinder options, on and off axis which is very appreciated.

Handling and body size
The Fujifilm X-E2S is a very light camera. If I am using the camera in combination of an heavier lens my left hand is becoming the main assise of the lens in order to maintain a correct balance of the set. With fixed shot or normal focal lenses the camera offer you a pleasant and small package that can be fully appreciated in doing spontaneous photography (street, candid, travel, etc.) Space around the right hand side is limited and unwanted function button activation may occur. Adding a grip can help but the most confortable one is the first model (HG-XE1) only available now in used equipment. The view finder and the back screen are efficient tools. The  back screen doesn't need to be direct view with is compensating for the absence of a tilting option.

Auto-focus and reactivity
Focusing on subject is part of the selective processing when you are composing your final photograph. Since the camera is not directly link with your brain it is still a difficult task to select and lock on the object or subject that has been chosen by the operator. Most traditional and pre visible subject are now well covered by the automatic focusing modern system.

Flash, in-board, external on-camera and off-camera
The Fujifilm X-E2S is doted of an in-board small flash that can serve as an emergency unit or more likely as a fill-in flash very contrasty front light situation. The flash power can be adjusted via the flat compensation option which is better to be added to the Quick menu selection for faster access. Flash photography is now less usual in spontaneous photography. It is now more related with creative photography (studio style) as a discriminative light source. In that case off-camera flash units offer a better control of the effect intended and many devices combinations are available on the market and as rental opportunities.

The revenge of B&W photography (!)
One of a nicest thing to do with Fujifilm cameras is Black & White photography. You can choose to do it right from the start or later in post-production editing. With the help of the Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) you will see in real time the final result of your picture. So doing B&W photography has never been so constructive since the event of digital camera and EVF. Monochrome picture representations are here to stay as a major visual sub-art in concentrating your attention to graphic composition and the light contrast and repartition.

X-E2S: A fashion camera? Yes because we are fashion people!
Fashion is at first a way of doing or be something.  It can be purely utilitarian or on the other simply frivolous. Qualifying the Fujifilm X-E2S as a fashion camera in trying to underestimate its creative qualities is simply the expression of personal dislike for this type of design. Because every (photographic) tool is also a cultural and social expression. The most important factor is that the Fujifilm X-E2S is beautiful photographic device from which we create interesting pictures.

Surely the Fujifilm X-E2S can be an inspiration to do photography at least for a certain kind of person. I will never contest that others models are or seem to be better performer in specifics aspects of their operating features. Nobody is perfect and it is true that things tend to get more sophisticated with time. But the "S" sense of the X-E2S is to be a productive tool of photographic expression.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4: the twin personality lens !

The Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 lens is part of the initial line-up of the Fujifilm X-Mount optics. Its firmware has been improved extendedly to meet the requirement of the newest camera additions from Fujifilm.

The Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 receive a very classic presentation that will recall for some of us the classical lenses from the 35mm film era. Aperture and focus controls are traditional (although they are in fact simulated mechanical adjustments). It is not a small and light lens but without optical image stabilization option (no OIS) its heaviness add some inertial weight that can help to prevent shakeness. Yes it is a "made in Japan" product. An imposant metallic and nicely crafted lens hood is included with the lens that can prevent some flare phenomena under certain light conditions.

A double life
The twin personality of the Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 lens is relating about its portrait and macro vocations. In fact it more a small telephoto with a very near close focusing ability. So it gives you the possibility to take picture of your main subject at a very short distance and cutting down the deep of field a lot. Those qualities are rightly appreciated in portrait purpose.
As a small telephoto lens my preferred aperture setting is to select the maximum opening (F2.4) as often it is possible. The Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 had respond beautifully to that (ab)use of its largest aperture. Thus F2.4 appears to be modest but in reality it is easily comparable to the traditional Leica Elmarit 90mm F2.8 or the Nikkor AI-S 105mm F2.5 lenses of the time.

Action photography can be a challenge as usual for that kind of lenses. Snap Sport Shooters will definitively have problems to get full proofed on-focus subject by simply snap and follow the subject mobility. Prefocus (Auto or Manuel) setting is highly recommended but I have discovered that the Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 in normal lightning condition got its own ability with close distance action subjects. Panning your subject may be the more successful way of getting in-focus action subjects. Predictive manual focusing is another way of doing action photography with that lens but experimentation may be frustrating.

Kiki Piccolo is our "impossible" subject for action
photography. But through the small bars the
XT-10 / XF 60mm manage to focus rightly and
be able to freeze most the movement.

No stabilization on this lens mean you will need to be careful about your own ability to hold your camera very steadily and following action by panning your subject. In low light or interior conditions that will be a challenge since we are now more and more relaying on stabilization options over lenses or cameras. Your rate of success will decrease as you will find in selecting your final choice of pictures during the editing session. For that point of view it is always better to review your results on the spot by using the camera rear screen.

Accurate focusing is another challenge in particular with short distance subject. A small movement from the part of the subject or from your part will result in a visible out of focus of the interesting point of view.

Fujifilm Classic Rendering
With a macro lens of this type we are looking for higher quality results if not the best available. On the optical point of view the Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 will deliver very fine and detailed images. Closing down a bit your aperture will optimize yours results corner to corner but you don't need to go too far to get that. 

Fujifilm color output is outstanding as usual. The last lens series that I have worked that was so distinctive was the Leica one during the eighties because I was mainly relying on slide films for colour projects. Fujinon X-Mount lenses will give you good colour and tonal separations. So editing your pictures will be more a fine tuning experience if your composition has been done carefully.

Even if the Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 lens is not really a snap shooter optic to say the least, it stays a wonderful selective tool if you are ready to invest the effort (and persistence) in your photography. And at the end you will obtain something different of your own originality.

Ok Kiki it's finish!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS II: The Urban Traveller

Fugace Selfie on the run at 16mm setting

 Many of us are looking for the magic lens that will be "the one and only" optic to bring with them. That elude device should be compact, light, first class quality, practical, sturdy and doted with a fairly large maximum aperture. For sure this concept does not exist in this modern era. So contemporary designers are trying to imagine many compensating technologies to cope with traditional constraints. Optical Stabilization (or image captor stabilisation), Higher ISO sensibility availability,
Extended variable vocals range (zoom) , In-board camera image post-processing, etc are part of the actual answers offered by manufacturers.

And more and more these technological advancements are responding to many of those very demanding exigences.Many of the so-call kit lenses are now very fine products that deliver high quality picture results without  big compromises.

The Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS II lens is a good illustration of that trend. Its focal range is particularly interesting for urban or traveling photographers.

Flare with strong front lightning: The Fujinon XC 16-50mm maintains its creativity.
A good pick-up street lens

With a widest angle of more than 80 degrees the
XC 16-50mm is a useful lens for contextual photography allowing the user  to work with very close subjects and preserving its environmental context. Interior and urban projects can be apprehended with ease. Some photographers will propose it as a good landscape or even architectural tool. Since proportions of the objects can be sometime strongly altered at its widest setting I will stay caution with that kind of general advice.

Another area of interesting purpose of the Fujinon XC 16-50mm lens is more related with spontaneous photography like street photography or off-camera shooting (without looking at the viewfinder or view screen). In that case after-cropping can be done at the expense of loosing some image definition.

Photography is also a visual expression that requires impact at first and spontaneous photography is mainly about that. At every moment a quick swing of the focal ring of the lens can transform it as a small telephoto on the ready with a little more of one aperture stop lost (so beware about your shutter speed).

Minette; Ray of Light
The finesse of the Fujinon XC 16-50mm OIS II lens can be observed with this B&W picture of our beloved Minette if you examine the details of its fur.  This prove the ability of the lens of doing good close-up subjects with extended detail separations.

The Fujinon XC 16-50mm OIS II lens is not part of the XF Fujifilm X-mount series. It translates by a lighter construction, the absence of an aperture ring and visibly by the use of more plastic components. On a very intensive use the lens may show a faster  rate of wear but this point has yet to be proven. Ruggedness may be another weaker point and I won't recommend it for careless users who like to bang expensive photo equipment. So it is not a  real photojournalist lens in the traditional way of working but the Fujinon XC 16-50mm OIS II can be a very handy and fine tool for photographers who will treat it with respect.

The Fujinon XC 16-50mm OIS II is the kit lens for urban traveller.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Back to the past design mania: The newest Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and Olympus Pen-F (and all other rangefinder style cameras)

The Olympus Pen-F get a perfect 10 for its
glamour design. (M4/3 Image Captor Format)
Is this the ultimate itineration of the past design trend in photographic equipment? 

We have seen many of those during the past years especially with mirror less new models of camera and even in the D-SLR garden with the Nikon DF or the Fujifilm X-T1/10 (The speedo D-SLR mirrorless) interpretations.
The Fujifilm X-Pro 2: The "Reporter" with
its very distinctive Hybrid Viewfinder.
(APS-C Image Captor Format)
But the Olympus Pen-F along with the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 may be some of the most interesting representations of modern imitation of ancient design that have started with Oscar Barnack creation of the Leica.

I won't review the functionalities of the Pen-F or the X-Pro 2 on the strictly photo taking sense since many fine reviewers have done that already very efficiently. My point of view will simply concentrate on the similarities that the designers have reinterpreted by drawing the Olympus Pen-F and the Fujifilm X-Pro 2.

Leica IIIG: The last version of the original screw
Leica mount ILC of its time (circa 1957-60).
You can notice the front slow shutter speed dial,
the rewind knob, strap eyelets, standard flash shoe.
The Rangefinder Style
The On/Off switch of the Olympus Pen-F is a very original representation of the antique rewind knob taken from the old film era. The similarity is confounding especially for old timer users of 35mm rangefinder cameras. In front of the Pen-F camera you will find the slow speed dial pardon the creative dial selector.
The Nikon Df with the traditional
shutter release cable and a front
(aperture?) selector.

(24X36mm Frame Captor Format)

Front slow speed dial imitation is not a first as we have seen the same illustration with the Nikon DF D-SLR model and may be others recent designs that I cannot recall. And how about the shutter release button of both Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and the Pen-F that offer the optional use of the ancien (mechanical) cable release as it has been reintroduced few years ago in several rangefinder style Fujifilm other camera models. The standard flash (hot) shoe remains another option from the past. It seems that the others flash bay experimented designs never be fully appreciated although most of the modern portable flash units are strictly dedicated to designed models of cameras.
Olympus Pen-F On/Off switch
à la rewing knob of the past.
Note the eyelet for the strap.
Triangular strap hangers fitted onto also traditional eyelets are coming back from the past which remains a good exercice of ability and string for your fingertips. And how about an almost plain back side when you are reversing the back screen even if it is not by far a real novelty. 

Off-axis Viewfinder is another mimic taken from rangefinder design, With the exception of the Fujifilm X-Pro1/2 doted of an hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder all others manufacturers are offering an electronic version (EVF) or simply no viewfinder at all.
Fujifilm X-Pro 2 Off-axis
Hybrid  Optical/Electronic

Many old rangefinder design solutions were based on mechanical constraints that have completely disappear with the electronic revolution. Direct controls are now more related to be by-pass alternatives to menu interfaces. Automatic continuous adjustments are more precise than manual step scale ones but the access through physical dials or buttons seems for many a faster and more reliable way of choosing specific options.
Fujinon XF 35mm F2 R is a
classical presentation with
focusing and aperture rings.
The focal fixed lens proposals are following the same path with aperture and manual focusing rings that are recalling the mechanical lenses. But we must add that all the newest designs are using by-wire technology.

Is it a practical idea?
Fujifilm X-T1 Direct Setting Dials with ISO sensibility, Shutter speed
and Exposure correction (Aperture/Focusing Rings are on lens).

There is not a definite answer to that highly subjective question. For some of us the design and technical choice used for ranger finger style cameras will seem good sense and they will enjoy the look of the device. But it remains that on a daily use some practical flaws may appear. For example the On/Off switch on the left side will ask you to use both hands to active the Olympus Pen-F which will appear as a major draw in active photography. Many others (like me) have applauded the return of the mechanical cable release but in fact an electronic cable will generate less induced vibration. We must admit that the modern camera designs have solved or improved extendedly the fonctionalities of the device over the years. Menu interface have first replaced many single controls and offer by fear greater versatilities of adjustments but now we are seing the return of direct setting tools for specific adjustments. Hopefully exposure tolerances are now greater with the modern digital image captor.

The art of designing is an experimentation of choices and a exercice of style. And using a specific designed tool is in fact prolonging its basic idea in time. At the end it is purely a subjective interpretation of our reality.