An anecdotal story about "build quality." An often uttered "feature of cult-y cameras.
It's very important to understand that all of these "features" are subjective and the quality quotient cannot be objectively measured. We don't have ready access to rates of repair or MTBF. We are allowing our sensory input to prejudice our "feelings" about a camera, inferring absolute qualities that might not exist or, if they do exist, might not exceed the same list of qualities in similar products.
Here I will tell a story and hope that the camera buyers can make a connection.
Many, many years ago, when I was an electrical engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin I supplemented the money my parents contributed to my education and upkeep with a part time job at a hi-fi store. For people too young to remember hi-fil stores were specialty shops that sold home audio equipment. Stereo receivers, turntables, cassette decks, reel to reel recording machines, loudspeakers, component amplifiers, pre-amplifiers and tuners.
At the beginning of my part time sales career almost every
stereo receiver and amplifier used very, very heavy transformers in their power supplies and some used additional wire wound transformers at the output stage to the speakers. This made the units extremely heavy and added a lot of expense to the product. Eventually the wise use of diode rectifiers allowed for efficient transformer-less power supplies and were embraced by most audio equipment manufacturers. It should have been a godsend to the mid-to-higher echelons of product makers because it reduced power consumption, reduced heat issues, reduced the need for large chassis size and heavy duty construction. The reduced weight would also reduce shipping costs.
But there was a fly in the ointment. Legions of potential buyers, credit cards and checkbooks at the ready, would come in and evaluate the gear. In some part of their evaluation they would "heft" the unit in a subconscious measure of the "build quality." The newer, lighter units were uniformly thought to be of less quality. We heard lots of complaints that the manufacturing had been cheapened. That the new products would certainly not be as reliable or might not even have the same sound quality because of the negative ramifications of reduced weight (and in some cases, bulk).
The very next generation of products from nearly every maker were built to be much heavier. We staffers would open up the chassis and look to see what might be different only to find lots of dense but meaningless metal structure that would add back weight in lieu of the now absent transformers. Customers liked the newer units just fine and even commented on how much better the sound quality was. The reality, according to the tech reps and sales reps, is that nothing in the audible pipeline had changed. No changes had been made to the circuit designs or components. Where the rubber met the road both generations of the products were identical.
Inside nearly every camera from Japan is a Copal shutter. As a system component they also come with their own peripheral circuits. The shutters in almost every mirrorless camera are more or less the same in the same format cameras. Some are spec'd differently, may have some different features, and I am sure there are different performance classes, but I am equally sure that, across brands, Copal or Seiko are not making tiers of similar products with different reliability aim points or unit to unit performance metrics. The real guts of almost every mirrorless camera are integrated circuits. Microprocessors and micro controllers that come from Six Sigma plants and have failure rates mostly measured in single digit parts per million. And anymore most sensors are from Sony factories and largely interchangeable with same format cameras in other brands.
The reality is that a camera like the EM1-2 might have better "feel" and more insinuation of build quality just because the maker decided that these attributes might be important to you, the camera buyer, on an emotional level, and so they've increased the thickness and density of the baseplate, the internal metal skeleton, the top plate and any other part where adding density would be easy and inexpensive. The increase in weight translates to density and, because of our consumer training, to our belief that the density connotes higher quality materials and finish.
You can't really see "build quality" where it actually counts; in the making of the circuit boards and the running of wire harnesses. The electronic interconnection points. All of which makes conversations about how "solid this thing feels in my hands!!!!" more or less meaningless -- except of the placebo effect. Or our collective cultural training of what quality might feel like...
I'm not saying that Olympus's new camera isn't built to higher physical standards than, say, the new Fuji but the only difference it probably makes is in the happiness you get from it's tactile feedback. Under the hood? Not so much. Copal shutters in both, Sony sensors in both. (assumed, not researched).
I'm illustrating the article here with a photo of a Sony A7Rii and a Rokinon lens. The camera is nicely heavy but I'd wager it's mostly the internal metal cage that accounts for the weight. The "build quality" is all about making sure the sensor module is perfectly plano-parallel to the lens flange. That's not something you can see with your eyes or feel through the external shell. The Rokinon lens sports a dense plastic barrel but this tells you nothing about the quality of optical element assembly. I know from reading Roger's columns on LensRental.com that the interiors of the Zeiss lenses I own are also mostly plastic but they put on a metal shell because they know we expect it. Not because it is a superior engineering choice.
I'm not making a value judgement between one camera company and another here, I just wanted to point out that we're not always rational as we assess the more ephemeral "features" of the gear we lust after. See: Hasselblad Lunar.......