Monday, August 23, 2010

Arrogance, foolishness or just business

First, let me say that I think a lot of the angst over the NEX5 interface is overblown. No, the interface is not perfect, I would like one more button, I want some small alternations to the way the menus are structured and probably more than anything I want the ability to create some user customizable modes like the Memory Recall functions on the A700. But, I will admit that I am a pretty flexible camera user (in fact I'm pretty flexible in my use of most UIs) so I just dont get flustered by these things as much as most people. Similarly, I really do believe that for all practical purposes the IQ of the NEX at isos 200-1600 is so consistent that I've actually given up selecting iso and just keep the camera on auto-iso for everything except tri-pod work where I am deliberately seeking long exposures. I'm now convinced that both these traits dont make me a very good guide to what is (and is not) a good UI - I'm simply not demanding enough.

So, putting aside my own ambivalence its is clear that much of the interweb is anything but sanguine over the direction Sony has taken, not only with UI, but also with feature sets. Michael Reichman over at Luminous Landscape is perhaps the most vocal and direct critic of the recent Sony approach of both the NEX 5 stills camera and more recently with the NEX-VG10 combi-cam. And while I dont share his passion, even I am able to see that he has a point. These criticisms (taken from Michael Reichman but pretty common out there in the web) are certainly justified:

a) why the rapid descent into menus for obvious functions like changing an ISO setting?

b) why are the video options so limited?

c) why doesnt the NEX-VG10 shoot raw stills?

d) why cant Sony get simple things like histograms, manual focus support, exposure warnings sorted?

Its frustrating that these are issues at all. Why?

Because Sony has designed some of the great camera interfaces of our time in the A700/A900 and their various handi-cams why do they get this wrong now. Also,its not like the interface and functions of DSLRs, camcorders and new combi-cams arent well established. Sony could have spent a few thousand dollars, bought themselves a D3s and 7D and learnt exactly what photographers want from their cameras. Finally, with every camera since the A900, Sony has been bombarded with criticism of its relentless dumbing down and crippling of their cameras. Every site, every review, every blog, every test has said the same thing - that Sony camera lack the simple functions expected of cameras in that category and that the intefaces have been so simplified to actually be ore difficult to use rather than easier.

And yet Sony will not change direction.

Is this sheer arrogance. Does Sony hear but just think it knows better? Is this foolishness, does Sony just not understand? Or is Sony right and everyone else wrong?

Time will tell, but frankly whether arrogance or foolishness, I believe Sony is wrong and must stop this mindless stupifying of its own product.

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