Sony/Panasonic in Japan

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Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Oct 21, 2016 5:20 am

I have probably mentioned before about the way Sony and Panasonic sell their cameras here in Japan which makes them rather unattractive and rarely bought by most non-Japanese residents. They have a Japanese-only menu that cannot be changed. A few stores sell a subset of the models as "international" versions with the following serious drawbacks:

1. The Sony and Panasonic "international" models have no Japan warranty.

2. Among the overseas models there are only a small subset of the ones that Sony and Panasonic sell all around the world. And almost never any newer models for several months, sometimes longer, sometimes never.

3. The "international" versions are 30-70% more than the "local" versions. The only difference in them is that the "international" version has the firmware that allows the menu language to be changed -- just like Sony and Panasonic cameras have that are sold outside Japan. Keep in mind that this much higher price is for a camera without a Japan warranty.

4. The "international" versions are usually kits with a lens so if you just want the body you are out of luck.

Earlier this year the first crack in the dam appeared. I was in Tokyo and talking with a worker at Yodobashi about a Sony model. He told me that recently the "international" version includes a Japan warranty. I then asked about Panasonic and he said they had changed recently too. Later I verified that information. Okay, still very expensive, usually not the latest cameras, a subset of what the companies sell, and often part of a kit, but at least you get a Japan warranty. That isn't enough of a change to get me to buy one here though, but it is a small, welcome change.

Now there is another, much bigger crack in the dam I discovered a couple of weeks ago. The Panasonic cameras that have come out this year have the regular, non-crippled firmware that allows you to change the language! The Panasonic GX7II (aka GX85/GX80) and very new G85/G80 both allow it and I verified it at a store by changing the menu language while playing with the cameras. Since they are the regular models the price also is the regular price without the huge markup for an "international" version -- and you aren't forced to buy a kit.

Unfortunately, Sony is still Japanese-only. :-( So now there is only Sony selling the crippled firmware cameras. Panasonic, Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sigma, Ricoh, Casio, Leica, Samsung, etc. all provide the normal changeable firmware in the cameras sold here. Maybe Sony too will change soon.

Fortunately I now have the realistic choice of choosing Olympus or Panasonic bodies for my m4/3 lenses and flash. Just like everyone all over the world outside Japan has always had. :-)
Last edited by bakubo on Sat Oct 22, 2016 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby Dusty » Fri Oct 21, 2016 6:03 pm

Henry, is there any way to update the firmware to the international version? Seems like some smart entrepreneur would figure that out!

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:00 pm

No, the cameras will only install the Japanese firmware in the Japanese cameras. Somehow it knows. Naturally, this would be the obvious and easy way to get the regular, non-crippled firmware, but it doesn't work.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:51 am

While I was in Yodobashi a few days ago I looked again at the Olympus PEN-F. I like it, but it just costs more than I am willing to pay. I wrote before about it:

Well, there is one thing I have been sort of hankering for off and on for the last few months. :lol: I have been jonesing for the PEN-F. Several times I almost decided to buy one, but each time I changed my mind. The price is rather high and, truth be told, there is nothing it has that is better for me than my E-M10II. There are some changes that some people care about: new 20mp sensor, 80mp High-res Shot mode, etc., but they aren't important to me. When it comes right down to it the body style is what I like so much and at the high price they still go for that isn't enough. :) Also, it uses a different battery and charger than my E-M10II and E-M10 so that is a negative.

The new Panasonic GX7II (aka GX85/GX80) is in many ways similar with a rangefinder style body, IBIS, etc. Doesn't have the old Leica IIIg, Contax II, Nikon S2, Canon VT, or Soviet Zorki 4 styling like the PEN-F has though. In Japan the prices are:

Olympus PEN-F: 132,000 yen - $1282
Panasonic GX7II: 67,000 yen - $660

If the PEN-F was maybe around $800 I might go for it, but I just can't talk myself into paying double the GX7II price for one. Of course, now Panasonic is an option here in Japan, but I can find pretty much no reason to get the GX7II over my E-M10II. I am still very happy with it. The PEN-F styling is the only thing that tempts me and usually I don't care much about the looks of a camera. :lol:

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby classiccameras » Sun Oct 23, 2016 3:45 pm

Makes you wonder just how far this Retro styling is going to go before it runs out of steam, Nikon fell fowl of that, I suspect that it has little appeal to the younger generation who prefer the smooth contours of a compact or their cell phone. It must be either the camera companies just self indulging in a bit of nostalgia or its aimed at a quite a narrow market, for oldens like us, who knows.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:38 pm

classiccameras wrote:Makes you wonder just how far this Retro styling is going to go before it runs out of steam, Nikon fell fowl of that, I suspect that it has little appeal to the younger generation who prefer the smooth contours of a compact or their cell phone. It must be either the camera companies just self indulging in a bit of nostalgia or its aimed at a quite a narrow market, for oldens like us, who knows.


Yeah, I wonder too. Leica is still doing it. Then Nikon started doing it with the Df. I see people in Japan using the Df pretty often. Not just old guys either. Just 2 days ago I saw a woman mid-20s with one. Fuji and Olympus then followed the success of the Df with their own sort of retro looking cameras and reports seem to be that they are a pretty good success too.

Of course, the Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony DSLRs/DSLTs are all retro too. They pretty much look like SLRs from the late 1980s -- 30 years ago! So, then one starts to wonder what retro even really means. What we are really talking about is styling and ergonomics and, as always, different people prefer different things.

When I got my E-M5 in 2012 when it was new people in Hawaii often stopped me to ask about my camera and tell me how cool it was. Almost always it was young people (under 30). In Japan I see people using Fuji and Olympus cameras and they are of all ages.

I posted here some time back about the fad of young people (teenagers and 20 somethings) buying old manual focus film SLRs at used shops and carrying them about hanging from their neck or shoulder. Sometimes I see them using them, but maybe some have them just as a fashion accessory.

Not being a business hot shot I don't know for sure, but my gut feel is that if Leica, Nikon, Fuji, and Olympus aren't able to make money with these designs they wouldn't make them. Also, reports are that the PEN-F is quite popular and sells well. One data point that supports that idea is that it has been out for 9 months and in Japan still sells for the original full price. I have never seen a discount on it.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby classiccameras » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:25 am

Interesting observations bakubo, it seems Olympus took the retro right back to the 60/70's using the OM-1, 2n and 10 as their role models of that era. Pen styling the same. The Nikon DF fell flat on its face in the UK and never got top marks reviews although it had reasonable sales. Fuji were one of the first to retro their compacts in the direction of Leica (X10), as they thought giving people Leica lookalike cameras added kudos to the brand, it certainly paid off for Fuji. Its interesting to see on the UK used camera sites the huge number of Olympus E-M xxxx cameras up for sale, Most are the earlier models so I suspect its a market created by people upgrading to later models.The Pen F is also expensive in the UK and I have nor seen any discounts, that's not to say there may be some around, but I have not seen any.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Tue Oct 25, 2016 1:07 am

As far as I can see what is meant about the Leica, Nikon, Fuji, and Olympus cameras when they are called retro is the case colors, some of the lines of the case, and the color/shape of the external controls. So far I haven't seen any that have non-functional external controls, etc. that are meant just for looks, but serve no other purpose. On my Olympus cameras all the knobs, buttons, control wheels, etc. do something and do something important -- just as my Sony and Canon cameras. So, what does retro styling really mean? What makes many current cameras which look like 30 years old film cameras not retro, but cameras that look like 40 years old film cameras retro?

In the same way, the pen I used to sign a paper yesterday is pretty darn retro. It looks and works almost exactly the same as pens I used 40 years ago. Retro! :) Or maybe the designers a long time ago decided that a long cylindrical object with a pointy thing at one end that makes marks on paper was just a pretty good design as a handwriting instrument so we are still mostly using that design. :)

I wrote quite a lot here about my mild displeasure with the E-M5 ergonomics in 2012 because Olympus had not thought through some of the design decisions when trying to make it look sort of like an old OM film SLR (knob height, etc.) -- at least for people like me who use their left eye. Fortunately, the E-M5II improved that a lot. The E-M10 was also an improvement (I wrote about that here too at the time) and the E-M10II is a further improvement. Now I don't find any particular compromise in order to have styling that is sort of similar to an old OM. The PEN-F really has no compromises that I have noticed (after playing with it more than a dozen times) in trying to look similar to an old rangefinder. By the way, I found some ergonomic areas with my Sony and Canon cameras I didn't like so much either and they weren't considered retro. :)

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Tue Oct 25, 2016 4:23 am

Since almost every camera sold today (other than phones) looks similar to old film cameras and for people who don't like those retro looks then I suggest forgetting about Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, and Pentax. If you want something that doesn't look retro go for the Sigma Quattro dp2 or other very un-retro looking camera designs.

Sigma-dp2-quattro.jpg
Sigma-dp2-quattro.jpg (88.01 KiB) Viewed 4044 times

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby classiccameras » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:09 pm

How awful, almost as strange as that weird Pentax a few years ago, but I guess it takes nice pictures. Thinking out side the box for a moment, by leaving Canon and Nikon which I had in years past not at the same time I might add, I effectively dumped the most versatile camera systems out there, for an E mount headache. The lens choices both new and used and 3rd party are vast for both brands as are scores of accessories. If you don't mind a non CSC just hold a D5500 and see how small and light it is, its also ergonomically nicer to hold and operate than a Sony A6000 xxx, and you get an OVF, Are the pictures any better I don't know but at that level of IQ its academic. The only thing against a DSLR is lens size and weight. Back to CSC's, Olympus EM seem to me as the best option for a compact system as it ticks many boxes. I think these retro looking cameras or shall we say vague copies of classic film cameras are not going to handle a variety of lenses, especially long lenses as comfortably on the front as a DSLR does.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:39 am

classiccameras, thank you for bringing up this whole thing about retro because it has got me thinking more about it and digital camera styling in general. The Sigma Quattro dp2 is not a throwback to film camera design. The Sony QX1 and Olympus Air 01 aren't either. There may also be a few other current cameras out there that have styling that is quite different from film cameras that I don't recall offhand. Otherwise all the Sony A mount, FE mount, and E mount cameras have film camera styling. So do all the Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax cameras. Even the Pentax K-01 still looked much like a film camera, I think. So, other than the 3 above I mentioned one could say pretty much all digital cameras have retro styling.

Some years ago cameras such as the Sony F707 and F828, Minolta D7i, Nikon 990, and a few others had new designs, but these days almost all digital cameras are retro styling. For whatever reason the companies have almost all returned to designs from decades ago. Tried and true?

By the way, I have held the Sigma Quattro dp2 several times at the store. My recollection is that there are 3 similar models, but with different non-interchangeable prime lenses. Actually, it feels pretty good. It is somewhat larger than you might imagine though.

Yes, the lower end Nikon and Canon DSLRs are quite small. Just as thick though as the other DSLRs though because of the flange distance. And, as you say, most of the lenses are still rather large.

The larger m4/3 bodies (E-M1, E-M1II, GH4, GH5, GX8) work well with larger lenses. Even my tiny E-M10II and E-M10 have inexpensive Olympus attachable grips that I add when I am using any lens that isn't very small. Adding the grip really changes the whole feel of the camera. Not better, just different. The E-M5II also has an extra, more expensive grip. I like this modular approach so that when I want the grip I can attach it in about 5 seconds, but when I don't want it (most of the time) I can leave it off.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby classiccameras » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:40 pm

I think M-4/3 is a good system to buy into, you have a good choice of Oly and Panny lenses plus a few 3rd party and an accessory list that's expanding. I was always a bit prejudice against M-4/3 thinking APS-C was superior but there really isn't much difference these days in performance. Interesting you mentioned some of the larger Olympus and Panasonic bodies as they are slowly creeping up into DSLR size which in a way defeats their title of a CSC.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:50 pm

Yeah, the top end m4/3 bodies are bigger. I think Olympus has 7 or 8 current models, but only the top E-M1/E-M1II is the larger body. Panasonic has a similar number of bodies and only their top ones are larger. I prefer the smaller, modular bodies.

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Re: Sony/Panasonic in Japan

Unread postby bakubo » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:41 am

bakubo wrote:Not being a business hot shot I don't know for sure, but my gut feel is that if Leica, Nikon, Fuji, and Olympus aren't able to make money with these designs they wouldn't make them. Also, reports are that the PEN-F is quite popular and sells well. One data point that supports that idea is that it has been out for 9 months and in Japan still sells for the original full price. I have never seen a discount on it.


I bought a PEN-F a few days ago. It is still the original price and hasn't been discounted, but the U.S. dollar has strengthened a lot since the election and on top of that I was able to get a 10% discount. The discount was not on the camera though. It was some sort of credit card promotion that gave a 10% discount for anything purchased from a list of sellers.


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