Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pentax K-m/K2000 Designer's Notes: Masaaki Haga, Pentax Designer

This is the first of the "designer's notes" from the people responsible for the Pentax's K-m/K2000 (Edit: there will be more than 3). I was curious to learn more about what was involved in tweaking the mechanics of a camera like the K200D into something much smaller, so Pentax graciously let their designers speak for themselves, in their own words which I've edited for translation. As you'll see, many research considerations and a lot of personalized care went into the new camera.

Pentax K-m/K2000 designer: Mr. Masaaki Haga

Designing With A Target In Mind

I put most of my effort into removing the "difficult" impression of a DSLR for the K-m's (K2000) target users. For people who start their DSLR experience with the K-m (K2000), I wanted it to give a "friendly" impression. I kept in mind that its design should be easy to understand and operate for all users, but especially for women who are upgrading from digital compact cameras to a DSLR. I was thorough in my pursuit of usability and simplicity, but at the same time I was careful to not let "friendliness" decrease the impression of "richness". The internal composition allowed for a more rounded appearance, but I tried to make it sharp along the edges, all the while retaining its softness, so that basically users can feel that the camera is cool and stylish.

Prototype drawing

The Difficult Part

The difficult part to figure out was how exactly to inherit the K20D's theme, keeping the consistency in details balanced, while making it smaller and lighter. The width of the K-m (K2000) is the world's smallest, but we had to be careful so that both women who have small hands and men who have bigger hands can feel comfortable. I started considering shape from the AA battery area and how it related to the fingers. I also wanted the concave part at the front part of the grip to allow the user’s middle finger to rest naturally. Then we also considered how they rest their thumb and we tried keeping enough area for a tight grip. In the end, we finished it up by putting rubber around the grip, which added some thickness. But we tried to leave a lighter impression and for the surface texture to give you a comfortable feeling. It was essential. Regarding the buttons on the back, I spent a lot of time with other engineers and designers examining what was possible. The area is so small that the layout had to be totally different from other current products. After trial and error, we reached a result where users should be able to operate by right hand only, even while holding the camera tightly with both hands. This layout is original to the K-m (K2000).

The first rough mockup

Back panel

The Internal Questionnaire For Women

We had an internal questionnaire for young women so that we could understand their preferences in entry class DSLR designs. I realized that they require "something” attractive to their eyes, or how to say, with “some spice”. One of the points I put effort into is that it needed an element which makes the user look like a "real, serious photographer."  They want friendliness, but it has to be “substantial” at the same time. It's a difficult balance between “substantial” and “too friendly (cheap)”. It should not something so "serious" that the target users reject it as complicated, but appropriately balanced so as not to appear cheap. This feeling is hard to describe, but I think I fully expressed it on the K-m (K2000). So please look at it directly for what I want to say.

Detailed mockup

My Design Inspirations

I usually pay attention to car design, which is directly related to camera design. It's the royal road for many elements that I can apply to camera design. I also look at other products to absorb ideas. When it comes to art, I spend time viewing pictures, sculptures, photo galleries, etc. This is for my job, but I admit it's privately for me, too. (I can earn a living and have fun at the same time.) I hope I have more time to spend on these pursuits.

Final K-m

My Collection

I like collecting wrist watches, especially those made in the 1970s. I took this photo at home. My most favorite watches are those with a mechanical system, an ultra hard casing, and sapphire cut glass. I have more than 10 of them with these specifications. My favorite brand is RADO, which makes many scratch proof watches with an ultra hard casing. These left a strong impression on me in my early teenage years, and maybe that’s why I still like them now. So, many in my collection are made by RADO. It's also good brand for a variety of designs, ranging from traditional to near future styles. It's fun to look at their various forms, respectively, when they use materials that are hard to process, especially in the BALBOA series. This also affects me when I design cameras.

Photos courtesy of Pentax. Thanks to Michelle Martin for her assistance!


RiceHigh said...

Excellent article, Michael and I do like it! Looking forward for your second part and third part of the interview. Is in the third part the electronics engineer will speak, after tomorrow's published interview with the mechanical engineer?

Besides, just quite curious to know who actually arranged/conducted the interview, doing the translation and where and when for the interview? Mind sharing with us?

Michael said...

Pentax coordinated with the three designers in Japan and prepared the original text internally, which I've helped translate and edit for English. All three "notes" (design, electronics, and mechanical) may have appeared already overseas in Japanese, but I believe this is the first publication in the US, because Pentax was aware that I was asking into the design process for the K-m. Pentax has very kindly allowed me to publish the notes in their entirety.

pentaxdslrs said...

Great article Michael.

It just reminds me once again on how intimate the relationship between Pentax users and Pentax "The Company" can be. I had a post on my blog last February entitled: "Owning a Pentax DSLR is more like being part of a family". You can't reach a Ned Bunnell, a Michelle Martin or a Chris Pound and all of the other Pentax personel with the other DSLR makers. Pentax is my photography family, along with all the Pentaxians out there.

Best Regards,

Yvon Bourque

Sune said...

Great work as always. Good to see some new articles. Thanks :-)

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting read. Unforunately, through the lines, the same old Pentax thinking is visible, as was in the past: Pentax design is not only made in Japan, it is aimed at the Japanese market.

I never forget the Digibino (integrated binocular with digicam) which I was shown at a Photokina. Nice - but unusable for almost any non-Asian person, because the separation between the eyes was not adjustable and by far too narrow for the average European/Caucasian. I could not use it and nobody else "in the rest of the World" could, too. You could get them nearly for free for years after, because they were unsaleable.

If asking the internal female staff is the design principle of Pentax, well - that explains a lot, unfortunately.

Thanks from a 30 years Pentax user for that insight!

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