Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?

Started Feb 26, 2013 | Discussions
MrTaikitso
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Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
Feb 26, 2013

A break from actual photography questions...

I am an experienced UX (User Experience) guy, who also happens to own an NEX 5R.

My team and I have a robust portfolio of prior work and clients.

Probably like many, I feel strongly, that just a few tweaks to the industrial, control and menu design of the NEX cameras would make them eminently more usable, in particular the low to mid end models.

I just spent an afternoon at a family event, where the 5R's form factor made composing a delight. IE, Kodak Brownie box/large format camera shoot from the hip position made possible by the angled display, compact design etc. I simply blended in, people probably thought I was tucking my tie in. Likewise, when stuck behind people, I could raise the camera above everyone, with the display flipped downwards.

However, faffing around changing mode, ISO, Auto/Manual focus etc etc, made the whole actual photography process a nightmare, in particular as I have come from a GH2 and larger cameras with physical controls for each function. (Pentax do this best!) Yes, one can configure one or two buttons for specific functions. IE, lower menu button for AEL etc. But here are fundamental flaws with this concept that are beyond the scope of this post to discuss. Clue: Imagine if you got into a colleagues car, and the clutch was on the right, or even on the dashboard and required hand operation! Or if you had to open the glove box to switch the lights on. Etc.

I have come up with a design that could not only improve future NEX cameras, but also be applied in part to a good number of the current models. (Having handled them all, the 6 and 7 are obviously a lot better, but still not perfect.)

Which begs the question, does anyone have any experience with or think it worth while approaching Sony, or is it a case of NIH? IE, Not Invented Here.

(To date, our clients have been American firms, except LG, who are of course Korean. We have no experience in approaching Japanese firms. Cultural differences can mean that specific steps need to be taken, so any tips much appreciated.)

I am interested in doing this out of necessity, not so much fiscal motivations. That NEX sensor needs an ergonomically brilliant body whilst retaining it's superb engineering and aesthetic.

Thanks!

Alex

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Sonyshine
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

Probably not....but go through the Sony office in your country.

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lesnapanda
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

It's sure worth it, but what the chances are, those ideas will be implemented (and you rewarded for the effort)? Hard to say. I think the controls suck simply because of the effort to keep them simple (and hide the most functions, so that beginners don't get overwhelmed). Physical buttons for most of the settings? Sure, but a beginner will get a heart attack seeing such a camera (even if it would be a joy to most of us).

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simon65
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Sony need telling, so tell them!
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

Go for it, any effort to improve upon the lousy menu system of the NEX-5 models has to be welcomed.

Write to the head of marketing in Japan. Point out what's wrong with the current system, and how you would improve upon them. If you prick his interest he'll pass it on, and your letter/email will carry more weight coming from the top-down, rather than vice versa.

Good luck

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to lesnapanda, Feb 26, 2013

lesnapanda wrote:

It's sure worth it, but what the chances are, those ideas will be implemented (and you rewarded for the effort)? Hard to say. I think the controls suck simply because of the effort to keep them simple (and hide the most functions, so that beginners don't get overwhelmed). Physical buttons for most of the settings? Sure, but a beginner will get a heart attack seeing such a camera (even if it would be a joy to most of us).

Well, most of the casual photographers I know actually own or owned cameras like the (excellent at the time) Nikon D40 - lots of buttons and fits in the hand, and produces great IQ. Most of the NEX users I see and chat with (here in the UK anyway) appear to be prosumers to pros, and chose NEX as their street camera because it offers the IQ of a larger body, but fits in the pocket.

Cameras like the popular Canon 650D and Nikon equivalent cater to the consumers here. They pick them up and know where all the controls are because they are marked. I used to watch people in Jessops, and consumers rush to the Canon/Nikon DSLRs, whilst prosumers and pros would (do!) head to Olympus/Sony/Panasonic area to handle an OM-D, NEX or GX1/GH2/3, already knowing the pros and cons of such cameras.

Just my take anyway, no pun intended.

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Sony need telling, so tell them!
In reply to simon65, Feb 26, 2013

simon65 wrote:

Go for it, any effort to improve upon the lousy menu system of the NEX-5 models has to be welcomed.

Write to the head of marketing in Japan. Point out what's wrong with the current system, and how you would improve upon them. If you prick his interest he'll pass it on, and your letter/email will carry more weight coming from the top-down, rather than vice versa.

Good luck

Thanks for the encouragement!

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Glenn
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

Sony has, and continues to have, cameras in their lineup that have superior controls and interface layouts. I suspect the limitations in the cameras we have are by design rather than ignorance as a way of model differentiation   This breeds a lot of contempt for Sony from Some quarters. what they need is an idea of how to clearly differentiate models in other ways and like you say standardize how you use them across the board. The problem comes with users of particular groups of cameras coming to Sony for the first time. Case in point the D40 you mentioned, I though it was an absolute disaster control wise. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution.

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to Sonyshine, Feb 26, 2013

Sonyshine wrote:

Probably not....but go through the Sony office in your country.

OK, will do. Thanks.

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to Glenn, Feb 26, 2013

Glenn wrote:

Sony has, and continues to have, cameras in their lineup that have superior controls and interface layouts. I suspect the limitations in the cameras we have are by design rather than ignorance as a way of model differentiation This breeds a lot of contempt for Sony from Some quarters. what they need is an idea of how to clearly differentiate models in other ways and like you say standardize how you use them across the board. The problem comes with users of particular groups of cameras coming to Sony for the first time. Case in point the D40 you mentioned, I though it was an absolute disaster control wise. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution.

D40 was one of the world's first consumer DSLRs, so I suppose they didn't get everything right, although I got to use one the other day (battered but functional) and was impressed by it's speed considering how old a model it is. Took some great shots.

I hear you about product differentiation, but a simple change could work wonders. It is a cultural thing, the Japanese have never been good at usability. Samsung are light years ahead on ergonomics and menus - just pickup an NX 20. Feels great and the menus are superb.

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JohnSingkit
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

MrTaikitso wrote:

Glenn wrote:

Sony has, and continues to have, cameras in their lineup that have superior controls and interface layouts. I suspect the limitations in the cameras we have are by design rather than ignorance as a way of model differentiation This breeds a lot of contempt for Sony from Some quarters. what they need is an idea of how to clearly differentiate models in other ways and like you say standardize how you use them across the board. The problem comes with users of particular groups of cameras coming to Sony for the first time. Case in point the D40 you mentioned, I though it was an absolute disaster control wise. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution.

D40 was one of the world's first consumer DSLRs, so I suppose they didn't get everything right, although I got to use one the other day (battered but functional) and was impressed by it's speed considering how old a model it is. Took some great shots.

I hear you about product differentiation, but a simple change could work wonders. It is a cultural thing, the Japanese have never been good at usability. Samsung are light years ahead on ergonomics and menus - just pickup an NX 20. Feels great and the menus are superb.

It is known that Sony does engage design consultants. Nothing ventured, nothing gained? Be bold and contact Sony UK, Sony USA, Sony Japan. One of them might listen. Of course, you should be prepared to swim against the tide of a concerted effort by Sony NEX team to offer a different camera that provides flexibility in setting the controls to individual's tendencies. It hasn't been done that well but part of it is because we are all creatures of habit......

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Glenn
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
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MrTaikitso
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to Glenn, Feb 26, 2013

Glenn wrote:

here is a lead for you. these might be people you could get hold of in Japan.

http://www.sony.com.ph/productcontent/405946/productcategory/e-mount-camera

Thanks!

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to lesnapanda, Feb 26, 2013

lesnapanda wrote:

It's sure worth it, but what the chances are, those ideas will be implemented (and you rewarded for the effort)? Hard to say. I think the controls suck simply because of the effort to keep them simple (and hide the most functions, so that beginners don't get overwhelmed). Physical buttons for most of the settings? Sure, but a beginner will get a heart attack seeing such a camera (even if it would be a joy to most of us).

I have a solution.

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Sony need telling, so tell them!
In reply to simon65, Feb 26, 2013

simon65 wrote:

Go for it, any effort to improve upon the lousy menu system of the NEX-5 models has to be welcomed.

Write to the head of marketing in Japan. Point out what's wrong with the current system, and how you would improve upon them. If you prick his interest he'll pass it on, and your letter/email will carry more weight coming from the top-down, rather than vice versa.

Good luck

Thanks. Good tip.

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parallaxproblem
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

MrTaikitso wrote:

A break from actual photography questions...

I am an experienced UX (User Experience) guy, who also happens to own an NEX 5R.

My team and I have a robust portfolio of prior work and clients.

Probably like many, I feel strongly, that just a few tweaks to the industrial, control and menu design of the NEX cameras would make them eminently more usable, in particular the low to mid end models.

I just spent an afternoon at a family event, where the 5R's form factor made composing a delight. IE, Kodak Brownie box/large format camera shoot from the hip position made possible by the angled display, compact design etc. I simply blended in, people probably thought I was tucking my tie in. Likewise, when stuck behind people, I could raise the camera above everyone, with the display flipped downwards.

However, faffing around changing mode, ISO, Auto/Manual focus etc etc, made the whole actual photography process a nightmare, in particular as I have come from a GH2 and larger cameras with physical controls for each function. (Pentax do this best!) Yes, one can configure one or two buttons for specific functions. IE, lower menu button for AEL etc. But here are fundamental flaws with this concept that are beyond the scope of this post to discuss. Clue: Imagine if you got into a colleagues car, and the clutch was on the right, or even on the dashboard and required hand operation! Or if you had to open the glove box to switch the lights on. Etc.

I have come up with a design that could not only improve future NEX cameras, but also be applied in part to a good number of the current models. (Having handled them all, the 6 and 7 are obviously a lot better, but still not perfect.)

Which begs the question, does anyone have any experience with or think it worth while approaching Sony, or is it a case of NIH? IE, Not Invented Here.

(To date, our clients have been American firms, except LG, who are of course Korean. We have no experience in approaching Japanese firms. Cultural differences can mean that specific steps need to be taken, so any tips much appreciated.)

I am interested in doing this out of necessity, not so much fiscal motivations. That NEX sensor needs an ergonomically brilliant body whilst retaining it's superb engineering and aesthetic.

Thanks!

Alex

Surely all they need to do is add a few extra slots to the custom menu on the Fn button to easily make a massive improvement?

But you will notice that the Original NEX 5 only had three custom slots in its final firmware, the NEX 5N has 5 and the 5R has 6 - but I doubt 'memory' restrictions were responsible for not putting more slots in the Original NEX 5 nor the reason why the 5R only has 6 slots...

Also notice that the NEX 5R still has that annoying pre-flash, even pointlessly in Manual mode, which makes it near impossible to use for remote flash work (coincidence?) and Sony themselves offer no adaptor to allow this functionality.  If you want it then you need to also buy a NEX 6, or an Alpha series camera (or go on Ebay and get a dodgy third party item)

What I'm saying is that I sincerely wish you luck with your endevour and hope Sony listen, but I suspect that the NEX 5 series interface is how it is because Sony want it that way (howerever misguided that might be), not for any other reason

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MrTaikitso
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to parallaxproblem, Feb 26, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/taikitso/

Surely all they need to do is add a few extra slots to the custom menu on the Fn button to easily make a massive improvement?

But you will notice that the Original NEX 5 only had three custom slots in its final firmware, the NEX 5N has 5 and the 5R has 6 - but I doubt 'memory' restrictions were responsible for not putting more slots in the Original NEX 5 nor the reason why the 5R only has 6 slots...

Also notice that the NEX 5R still has that annoying pre-flash, even pointlessly in Manual mode, which makes it near impossible to use for remote flash work (coincidence?) and Sony themselves offer no adaptor to allow this functionality. If you want it then you need to also buy a NEX 6, or an Alpha series camera (or go on Ebay and get a dodgy third party item)

What I'm saying is that I sincerely wish you luck with your endevour and hope Sony listen, but I suspect that the NEX 5 series interface is how it is because Sony want it that way (howerever misguided that might be), not for any other reason

We'll see. I confess I do hate it when companies of any sort design their products to be inconvenient to boost sales of a different model or make people upgrade every year. I so liked the 70s and 80s when things were built too last 5, if not 10 to 20 years. Most CRT TVs that people threw out when they upgraded to flat screens a few years ago were probably in their homes at least a decade or two, if not more. Same with cookers, microwaves - even cars!

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Keit ll
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to parallaxproblem, Feb 26, 2013

Sony read these forums & do take notice of suggestions but don`t expect any acknowledgments or any thanks......

There have been plenty of suggestions regarding menus & control layouts but for some reason Sony seem quite keen on ignoring the best ones ! It certainly doesn`t help when any suggestions for improvements are pounced upon by diehard loyalists who keep on insisting that all NEX models are the best thing since sliced bread but then quite paradoxically sing the praises of any new developments. :

Good luck with any efforts that you make but don`t expect any rewards.

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D Cox
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to Keit ll, Feb 26, 2013

Keit ll wrote:

Sony read these forums & do take notice of suggestions but don`t expect any acknowledgments or any thanks......

There have been plenty of suggestions regarding menus & control layouts but for some reason Sony seem quite keen on ignoring the best ones !

It may be that some people who work at Sony read this forum (and the Rumors site), but not the person who codes the menus. He may not even be fluent in English, and I guess that Google translates English into Japanese as badly as the other way.

Generally, nobody likes an outsider coming in and telling him he's doing his job all wrong. He gets enough of that from his boss.

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Glenn
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Re: Is it worth contacting Sony to offer design tips?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013

it's not only Sony that could benefit from your ideas. Good interface guys are hard to come by I guess.

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blue_skies
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Re: Fn button on 6 and 7?
In reply to MrTaikitso, Feb 26, 2013
 

MrTaikitso wrote:

A break from actual photography questions...

I am an experienced UX (User Experience) guy, who also happens to own an NEX 5R.

My team and I have a robust portfolio of prior work and clients.

Probably like many, I feel strongly, that just a few tweaks to the industrial, control and menu design of the NEX cameras would make them eminently more usable, in particular the low to mid end models.

I just spent an afternoon at a family event, where the 5R's form factor made composing a delight. IE, Kodak Brownie box/large format camera shoot from the hip position made possible by the angled display, compact design etc. I simply blended in, people probably thought I was tucking my tie in. Likewise, when stuck behind people, I could raise the camera above everyone, with the display flipped downwards.

However, faffing around changing mode, ISO, Auto/Manual focus etc etc, made the whole actual photography process a nightmare, in particular as I have come from a GH2 and larger cameras with physical controls for each function. (Pentax do this best!) Yes, one can configure one or two buttons for specific functions. IE, lower menu button for AEL etc. But here are fundamental flaws with this concept that are beyond the scope of this post to discuss. Clue: Imagine if you got into a colleagues car, and the clutch was on the right, or even on the dashboard and required hand operation! Or if you had to open the glove box to switch the lights on. Etc.

I have come up with a design that could not only improve future NEX cameras, but also be applied in part to a good number of the current models. (Having handled them all, the 6 and 7 are obviously a lot better, but still not perfect.)

Which begs the question, does anyone have any experience with or think it worth while approaching Sony, or is it a case of NIH? IE, Not Invented Here.

(To date, our clients have been American firms, except LG, who are of course Korean. We have no experience in approaching Japanese firms. Cultural differences can mean that specific steps need to be taken, so any tips much appreciated.)

I am interested in doing this out of necessity, not so much fiscal motivations. That NEX sensor needs an ergonomically brilliant body whilst retaining it's superb engineering and aesthetic.

Thanks!

Alex

The Fn button was added to the 6 and 7 specifically to address some of the points that you raise.

Sony is keeping the menus in 6 groups, so their access fits on the LCD screen with large icons.

The 6 moved the Mode menu into a dial, and added an Apps group.

Most of the most often needed functions are available in one or two clicks, depending on setup.

Visual feedback is on the screen, not on the button.

The menus have become lengthy, and could benefit from a sub-index, like Canon's do. Sony has this in the RX-1.

A 3 series Nex, 5 series Nex, and 6/7 series Nex was set up for a diiferent type of photographer - simply put: if you want more then you pay more.

Frankly, the 6 and 7 are quite usuable at a 'pro' level, but their setup will not trickle down to the 3 or 5 series.

Other than sub-indexing the menus and adding physical buttons (and info displays), there are not too many options for the designers. And part of the Nex appeal is its uncluttered look.

Personally, I would like a front side aperture control ring, that also becomes a multi-functional dial. I would like buttons to respond differently to long and short presses, I would like buttons  to interact more with each other, I would like the settings display being active on the LCD while I compose using the EVF, I would like the sub-indexed menu, but I do not want more (tiny) buttons.

Sony has lots of button experience with their SLT line, and lots of menu experience with their RX line. The original Nex was aimed to be small and simple, and gave us a simple menu and few buttons, which became part of its appeal.

In several threads here we have pointed out what we would like to see in a FF Nex, but I sensed resistance to a larger body (with space for more controls).

If your idea can add to all of this without affecting cost nor reliability, then please contact Sony, for I am sure that they will listen. But there are two buts, started by IBM eons ago: 1) do not take advise from outsiders, so internal work remains patentable and 2) marketing is not interested in enhancing the capabilities of lower end model which may cannibalize the sale and status of higher end models.

If you could explain your ideas in Japanese, it might help. But there is a sticky point about rights: as long as you claim rights to your ideas, Sony may simply not be allowed to listen. Stick a letter up front, releasing your rights.

Even so, you are threading on slippery legal grounds.

If you are not keen on monetary gain or recognition, discussing your ideas publicly, e.g. publish an article, may bear more fruit.

Another thought: file a patent on your ideas first. With a patent in place, you'd get a very different reception.

Anyways, all food for thought.

-- hide signature --

Cheers,
Henry

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