Thursday, October 17, 2013

Panasonic Releases Their Stupidest Camera Yet

I thought these days were done.

Panasonic spent years on its stupid quest to create a best seller by simply making very small cameras. I don't know why they kept tilting against this windmill, since the only successful cameras they or Olympus have made were the ones aimed at enthusiasts (GF1, E-M5, GH2), but they did.

I speculated that this was being driven by Panasonic's specifically Japanese perspective on design. Remember, these kawaii little cameras sold quite well in Japan. Both Olympus and Panasonic have seen great profits there. Everywhere else has been a total failure, though.

Do you remember when I ranted about Canon aiming the EOS M at women? Well, Panasonic has gone and done the next best thing. They've gone and released a "stylish" camera that "upgrades its cool factor," so you, the consumer, can "stay in style."

I'm taking these horrible quotes directly from the press release, just so you know. In fact, the first four paragraphs alone mention fashion or style twelve times.

Actually, I'm just going to copy the third paragraph completely. It's jaw-dropping.
A fashionable compact for your lifestyle
The LUMIX GM1 represents the most compact and fashion forward looking LUMIX G camera to date. Ground-breaking micro technology design has enabled Panasonic to pack the very latest imaging technology into the camera’s compact metallic alloy frame. Not only does this give the LUMIX GM1 an elegant look and feel, but the camera easily fits into your pocket and can be incorporated into day-to-day activities of any style-conscious enthusiast. Plus with many interchangeable micro lenses to choose from, creative options are nearly limitless.
Fashionable... for my... lifestyle? Is that a gay reference? Who knows! Panasonic certainly doesn't. I read this in the same sexist terms as Canon's EOS M. They don't specifically mention women as Canon did, but with the same focus on small size and fashion above all other things, the sub-text is clear: Panasonic thinks this is fer da' wimminz.

I don't know what women... actually, strike that. I know exactly which women Panasonic is selling this to: Japanese women. And even then, a very specific sub-demographic of Japanese women. Again, this has worked well for them in Japan. Sales are dropping off now, but they were good in the past.

But for every other market, for every other demographic, this shows a fundamental disconnect on the part of Panasonic. ILC cameras are driven by enthusiasts. The reason why APS-C SLR cameras sell is because pros and enthusiasts are using the higher-end stuff. People who are super-concerned with style don't have cameras anymore. They have iPhones.

This camera goes against everything an enthusiast would want. It's too small, too automatic, and the lens sucks. Yes, it has a bigger sensor than the RX100, but the lens is two stops slower! If Panasonic had included some amazing, prime lens... nope. Now that I think about it, not even then.

Even DPReview, a website that is so averse to writing anything negative that they won't review bad products like the Canon EOS M, was forced to write in question of this mutant's raison d'être.
There's no doubt that a camera like the GM1 isn't for everyone, but we don't want to sound negative. Panasonic clearly believes there's a demand for an extremely small camera with a very large sensor and interchangeable lenses, and with the GM1 its engineers have pushed the definition of 'pocketable enthusiast camera' to new limits. The GM1 is cute, fast, and packs an impressive sensor inside its tiny frame. It's quite a feat of engineering, and we can't wait to start shooting with a production-quality sample.
See what they did there. They pushed the actual judgment of the camera back onto Panasonic. Panasonic clearly believes that this camera is a good idea, so it must be, haha! Too bad Panasonic is on the verge of failure, so, obviously, they have mostly bad ideas. Coincidentally, the GM1 is one of those.

And don't forget, if the camera is too small, Panasonic will sell you a metal grip for $100. Yes. A piece of metal. For $100. What a deal. At least it's not as bad as the balls-to-the-wall insane as the Sony FDAV1 viewfinder for six-hundred-goddamned-dollars. Honestly, someone at Sony should be killed for deciding that was a reasonable thing to release to market. I mean, did they actually sell any?

But that, as I so frequently say, is neither here nor there. The GM1 is. And the GM1 is one thing: a ridiculous and late-to-the-party response to the Sony RX100. And at nearly $800 with a crappy lens, it is destined to fail. I wouldn't be surprised if this camera doesn't even crack quadruple digits in sales across the country. For all I know, it will sell a bazillion units in Japan. But in the U.S. and Europe, this thing won't just be an also-ran; it won't even show up for the race.

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