LUMIX’s Approach to the Ultimate
Advanced design technology maximized in the pursuit of robustness, durability and heat releasing efficiency
- Does the S Series differ from the GH Series in terms of durability and impact resistance?
Yasuda: The GH Series has been used preferably by many professionals. For the S Series, however, we disregarded the previous quality standards and went back to the drawing board and set new quality standards in order to take the quality to higher levels for professional applications.
- Specifically, what kind of effort went into the development?
Yasuda: We boast extremely reliable computer simulation technology. By utilizing it, we discovered possible weak points in terms of strength and took countermeasures in the design stage. Without this process, we might overlook weak points even if the product clears evaluation tests. To prevent such an outcome, we paid painstaking attention and ensured high levels of robustness and operational durability.
- Did you use the same criteria in the evaluation tests as before？
Yasuda: We set new quality standards from scratch as I mentioned, but the evaluation criteria were even harsher than the standards. For example, in the drop test, we let the camera mounted with a lens fall in various angles from the specified height repeatedly until a problem occurred. We not only made sure that the product cleared all design criteria, but also searched for weaknesses and raised the performance limits as high as possible during the development.
- What was the most difficult point?
Yasuda: There were many difficulties, but the most challenging task was to achieve robustness, durability and high heat releasing efficiency all at once. We have accumulated a wealth of knowhow through the development of the GH Series, but attaining high 4K 60p/50p* video recording capability with full-frame cameras was an especially tall order. The simulation conducted during the early design stage indicated that the internal temperature of the camera exceeded the specified maximum temperature in less than several minutes. So, we mounted a heat dissipation frame inside the camera to raise the levels of robustness and durability and to improve the heat releasing efficiency at the same time. Furthermore, we reworked the circuit layout and carefully selected materials. Through those steady and persistent efforts, we were able to achieve all our objectives and raised the continuous recording duration to a practical level.
* PAL areas only.
It took LUMIX, a pioneer of MFTS with a spirit of challenge, to develop ideal full-frame cameras in this size.
- About 10 years ago, in 2008, Panasonic introduced its first digital single-lens mirrorless (DSLM) cameras. Since then the company has been striving to reduce the size and weight of cameras for enhanced mobility. Why is the company now releasing full-frame cameras of this size and weight as if going against the current of time?
-S Series product leader
Takahashi: Because the mirrorless camera has no mirror inside, it allows mounting of a lens with a short backfocus. This not only increases the lens design flexibility but also enables video shooting, which was impossible before due to structural reasons. The Micro Four Thirds System offers profound depth of field and is physically smaller and lighter, thus allowing the image stabilizer function to provide a better effect than a full-frame camera. By drawing on those advantages, we achieved excellent photographing versatility regardless of the subject type and reduced the size and weight of telephoto lenses.
Meanwhile, in about 2011 we began examining what the LUMIX camera brand needed in order to survive in the industry into the future. Our answer was to launch the development of full-frame cameras.
In developing the S1R and S1, we placed high priority on operational ease and operational feeling, which could not be expressed by numbers, instead of focusing on specifications, to create a “tool” that can be used to shoot several thousand pictures a day. Thus, we took on the challenge of developing cameras from scratch. We put painstaking efforts into designing the center of gravity, button layout, grip, menu structure and others. As a result, we succeeded in creating products of this size and weight.
- What were you most particular about?
Takahashi: The viewfinder. We deemed it possible that raising the resolution of the viewfinder--even an electronic viewfinder--to a level close to that of the human eye would achieve almost equivalent “visual quality.” That idea led to the adoption of an OLED with 5.76-million-dot resolution.
- The S Series’ viewfinder offers a very natural field of view so it allows the user to concentrate on the subject.
Takahashi: That was the fruition of our commitment to improving not only the resolution of the screen display but also the optical system of the viewfinder. Even the cover glass is a rational 5-group 5-element construction. The viewfinder provides natural brightness even to the periphery, eliminates contrast degradation, and offers clear, distortion-free images from corner to corner. Many photographers commented that the viewfinder almost served as their eyes and they didn’t get eye fatigue even when looking at it all day long.
- When I looked through the viewfinder, I was surprised that the time lag common to electronic viewfinders was very small.
Takahashi: The frame rate is 120 fps and the display time lag is approximately 0.005 seconds. During the over 10 years of developing Micro Four Thirds System products, we exerted great efforts in improving the performance of viewfinders. The Real View Finder on the S1R and S1 is the culmination of such efforts. In shooting portraits, some photographers look directly at the subject with one eye and the viewfinder with the other eye. When a photographer adopts such a picture-taking style, the Real View Finder will be more comfortable to use.
Creation of cameras that respond spontaneously to the photographers’ intention and their finger operations.
- What was the point you were most particular about in designing the S Series?
Kitade: As we presumed that the S Series would be used by professional photographers as a “tool,” we allowed no compromise in the development of the design. Even though we have been engaged in the development of cameras for many years, we might overlook some points or have preconceptions. Therefore, prior to the start of our designing activities, we attended professionals’ photo shooting sites and conducted detailed research to understand how they maneuver their cameras and what’s on their minds when clicking the shutter.
- Did you learn anything new?
-Camera product design
Kitade: We felt that professional photographers strongly wished to “concentrate on the subject and artistic expression without being troubled by controlling and operating the camera operation,” more so than we thought. We intently observed the photo shooting process and camera operations, analyzed the flow of photographing, and then determined the priority level of each operation part before we started the designing activities.
- Specifically, what kind of consideration did you give to operationality?
Kitade: First, we decided on the position of the joystick because it is most frequently used for achieving intended photographic expressions. We placed the joystick at the location where it would be easiest to operate. Once this was done, we arranged other buttons according to the flow of photographing. In our discussions with the planning members and designers, which started in the early development stages, we agreed to assign one function to one button. This would minimize the possibility of operating errors, thus allowing the user to concentrate on taking pictures.
- When I compared the S Series with another camera, I realized that even a small difference of only a few millimeters in the button location resulted in a significant change in operating ease.
Kitade: The operation buttons used during photographing are usually grouped on the grip side. However, because other large parts, such as a battery, were installed on that side, it would be difficult to mount the operation buttons at ideal locations. In the development of the S Series, the exterior design team tweaked the internal structure ingeniously with meticulous attention to even a slight difference of 1 mm. Consequently, the operation parts were arranged to satisfy the design aim. The S Series’ design could not have been achieved without the passion and commitment of all those involved in the development to creating cameras that would be chosen and appreciated by professionals. I’m sure that when customers hold the S Series in their hands, they will know immediately how easy it is to operate it.