In my last blog post, I rambled on about the challenges rendered by, and insight that comes from, having to become familiar with the interfaces and operating systems of all the different manufacturers.
It's a learning process that makes you realise that, while some are more awkward than others, most of them are in need of some work. Without question, all the current DSLR user interfaces (particularly the menu structures), are struggling under the weight of all the additional features that have been introduced. And it's not just DSLRs - I’ve spent this week working with a compact that requires nine button presses to change exposure compensation. I don't envy the task of trying to sensibly prioritise and structure so many features in a menu system, but I wonder whether it couldn't be done better...
Regardless of where you stand on the love/hate Apple bunfight (and my favoured position is on the sidelines, cheering the things done well and booing the company's insistence that you use its products exactly as it decrees), it’s undeniably got some talent when it comes to user-interfaces. As Exhibit A, I give you the iPod - a series of devices that have turned your record collections into databases, yet have remained an acceptable topic of conversation amongst people who don’t know a computer-orientated three-letter-acronym for every letter of the alphabet. And, if the court of public opinion will allow, I’d also like to submit Exhibit B : the iPhone. Ok, the first version was a bit rubbish but any product that can make headway in a mature market with seriously entrenched competitors, has probably got more to it than a good marketing campaign and the enthusiasm of a rather gaunt man in jeans and a black roll-neck.
|Can a camera maker do for the digicam what Apple has done for the mobile phone?|
My point is this: the Nokias and Blackberrys (well, Research in Motions, if you insist), of this world were pretty confident about the way user interfaces were done. They'd honed, refined and evolved their menu systems and were presumably comfortable that they were getting it right. And, until you’ve tried something else, they all seem perfectly good. But sometimes, with a little lateral thinking and a strategically-placed cocked hat, the established players can be shown there are other ways of doing things.
So that’s what I’m holding out for – a camera company brave enough to go back to a blank piece of paper and give some thought to other ways their control systems could work. Not something extended and adapted from the way its film cameras operated or from a menu system designed to house a handful of options - but an original idea based on the realisation that there are now around 100 menu options to squeeze in there. Revolution, rather than evolution, that’s not too much to ask for, is it?
(And there’ll be no marks awarded for just adding a touch-screen)