Magazine Article


Cameras as Consumer Electronics

The Need to Know?

Plenty of digital cameras today are as simple to use (albeit far more successful) as the old Apple QuickTake, and require no greater knowledge. Less, if you consider the port conflicts and related phobias vanquished by USB downloads and camera-card readers. So an emboldened customer may come in and say: “I see the camera has manual exposure control and shutter priority and aperture priority—so what?”

Is there a website for the explanation?

Of course, anyone accustomed to selling cameras knows the answer to the customer’s question, and starts with the meaning of “correct exposure.”

You see, “correct exposure” means that a certain quantity of light—we’ll call it “X”—strikes the image-forming substance (film emulsion, CCD, CMOS, etc.). Three factors produce this “X” amount in the camera: the f/stop (or aperture, or lens speed), the shutter speed (or exposure time, different from lens speed), and the ISO equivalency (formerly film speed, different from lens speed or shutter speed). The settings for all three can be made greater or lesser, doubling the amount of light if you go down the scale, halving the amount of light if you go up. Thus, if f/5.6 at 1/1000 sec. at ISO 400 produces ‘X’” light on the image-forming substance, so does f/4.5 at 1/2000 sec. at ISO 400. So does f/8 at 1/1000 at ISO 800.

See? Nothing to it.

So if that’s what you tell the customer, the customer will reply, “I get it. So f/2.8 at 1/1000 at ISO 100 would also provide ‘X’ light and correct exposure. But tell me. So what, anyway?” The appointed seller of the original QuickTake wasn’t expected to expound on such matters, and neither is his descendant on the advanced cameras of today.

Avoiding the Issue

Some of us must sell a camera a minute just to keep up. We need a customer who buys, without stopping for questions.

Yet if a camera’s main feature is its interchangeable lenses, as it is in DSLRs, the customer might start a new round of so-whats. Here come questions about depth-of-field and f/stops again.

Is there any way to cut it short?

Well, we could perhaps sell an interchangeable-lens camera, and no interchangeable lenses to go with it. Who needs to know about f/stops then?

Why would customers buy interchangeable-lens cameras without interchangeable lenses? For all kinds of reasons, enough that it was said in the old days that most nonprofessionals did not buy additional lenses for their 35mm SLRs. An SLR’s main feature might be interchangeable lenses, but that’s not its only feature.

Panasonic gives us a perfect illustration. They sell an interchangeable-lens camera, but only with their chosen lens. It’s a spectacular lens that everyone should love, which is good; they can’t buy the camera without it.

What does having just one lens for a camera accomplish? Well, among other possibilities, it makes the camera easy to sell anywhere they can’t or don’t want to give long explanations. Here is the camera, here is the lens, that’ll be $1,999 please, less the rebate. Next?

Now, everybody knows Panasonic plans a second lens for the camera. They could be shipping an optional non-zoom as early as February. Will more lenses follow? Maybe, though the dearth of announcements on the topic suggests that Panasonic has other priorities.

Catch It On Video

The Live View monitor of the Panasonic DSLR is one of the rad new features defining value in digital cameras, having been found in three other cameras (all Olympus models) already. Properly designed, it brings a range of options to end-users that simply didn’t exist before, expanding the ways the camera can be used and the range of subjects it can take pictures of, [Editor’s note: see the July 2006 issue of PTN]. It brings some serious advantages to the picture-taking repertoire, all of which accrue to the end-user.

Other features of the L1’s monitor screen could, like the single available lens, accrue something to the seller as well.

The camera, like most on the market, provides a number of color programs that can be selected at will. They’re named “Standard,” “Dynamic,” “Nature,” and “Smooth,” and they represent overall approaches—general saturation, hue, contrast—in the way the camera creates pictures.