Friday, October 17, 2008

Pentax K-m/K2000 Designer's Notes: Shigeru Wakashiro, Pentax Product Planning Manager

Here is the fourth of the "designer's notes" from Pentax's team that built the K-m/K2000 DSLR.

Pentax K-m/K2000 Product Planning Manager: Mr. Shigeru Wakashiro

The DSLR That's Easy To Use, But Equipped With Many Functions

There are people who want to shoot events, but I've also noticed that there are others who want to improve their camera skills as a hobby, or to feel cool holding a fashionable DSLR, even if they have some concerns about understanding difficult functions. So, it was important to get rid of some the elements that make users feel it's difficult, while keeping the elements that make them feel it's easy and enjoyable.
The designer and the mechanical engineers worked hard to make a small size body. We talked about operability many times and achieved easier operation. There are some helpful functions for beginners to take beautiful pictures and enjoy the camera. I believe we reached our targeted goal, based on our original plan.

I should add that our engineers worked hard to do their best to improve basic performance. The K-m (K2000) achieved the max. 3.5 fps for Continuous Shooting. I heard the shutter sound of Continuous Shooting every time when I visited the engineer’s floor, so I know they spent a long time figuring it out. I realized the difference in speed by comparing the final performance of K-m (K2000) and our other models' performances and felt very much satisfied by our result. I also know that they invested a lot effort for ISO 3200, the improvement on battery life (1650 shots without flash), and the improvement of AF speed, all based on the thorough improvement of main board design and the firmware. I am proud to say this is a perfect camera.

Plenty of Enjoyable Functionality

If you hear “entry-level camera,” you might think it's a camera with fewer functions. But the K-m (K2000) is a camera which has many similar functions to those of the upper model K20D, with the fewer buttons and a simpler User Interface to make it appear “easy.” For example, the K-m (K2000) is equipped with an in-camera RAW development function, custom image modes, and LCD color adjustment function, etc.

Toy Camera Look

I often check photos on the internet and noticed that there are many photos that seemed to be retouched by a PC. These photos are very interesting, and I thought it would be very fun for a lot of people if they didn’t need a PC to retouch, by making it far easier to do in-camera. The number of people who enjoy the camera would also increase. So, I thought about adding more digital filter functions to K-m (K2000) and discussed filters with the image quality engineers to exchange ideas. We also asked some people and picked up the ones which interested them. I also want to say to the users that it is very fun to mix some of the different digital filters. The effects look very different. Also, the User Interface is modified to be easier to use. There is also a new function named Index, which created layouts of all your photos to make up one picture. This function is exclusive to the K-m (K2000).

Another thing to mention is the Help function for beginners to learn more about the camera. After you learn through Help, this button can be allocated to another function when you don’t need Help anymore. I hope people who want to start using a DSLR will be satisfied by these functions and enjoy the K-m for long time.

Asking Many Women Their Opinions

The ratio of DSLR customers is absolutely higher among men. But when it comes to an entry-level DSLR, women occupy a rather high ratio. Even if the customer is a man, in many cases he uses it with his wifes. Taking these conditions into account, we thought about women as an important demographic, and considered the design, operation and functions for them. I asked some women to use the current models and asked them to list the negative points from a woman’s point of view. I also asked other women to join in the internal brain storming.

We improved some operability details, too. The Mode dial is smoother compared to other DSLRs. This is because there are some women who have long nails who feel it's hard to operate the dial using both the thumb and the forefinger. We also heard that some said it was uncomfortable to let go with one of their hands when operating. So, we figured out how to rotate the dial by only their right thumb while holding the grip. It was easy to make it just a bit smoother, but there was a concern that the dial might be rotated unexpectedly, so the designer thought about the location and the mechanical designer arranged some samples with different resistances to check the acceptable load. This issue is just a tip of the iceberg, but we got over many issues to make K-m (K2000) as easy as possible.

Myself, I worked on the Optio 750Z and Optio SV after being assigned to the product planning division. But these products already had some direction when I joined. After that, I was engaged in market research and technical development search with the development team. So, the K-m (K2000) is my first camera to work on from the very beginning till the end. I would say I feel very satisfied with all the new functions and the new operability I had hoped to see from the beginning.

What I Like

I like darts. I enjoy doing it with other customers, drinking at a bar. I bought one set for my room so I could enjoy it more and to improve, but the result is not good yet. I barely can reach 20 triple.

Previously: Kiyoshi, Yamamoto, Pentax Hardware Engineer

All photos courtesy of Pentax. Special thanks to Michelle Martin!


Miserere said...

Mike, I appreciate this series of articles; it gave me some great insight into what it takes to design a camera.

I was amused at how open they were about gearing the K2000 towards women. I wonder if this will deter men in the US from buying it. I do think it's a great idea, though; one comment you keep hearing from female Pentaxians is that the K10/20D is too big. On the other side of the fence, I've read many comments from female Canon Digital Rebel users saying that they bought that camera because when they went to the store it was the one that fit best in their hands. Unlike men, who seem to be more tech obsessive, women are more pragmatic when it comes to these kinds of choices and don't care about the brand that much, they just want something that's comfortable.

I hope Pentax's approach works and they sell a ton of these K2000s

robin said...

"Even if the customer is a man, in many cases he uses it with his wifes"

Nice! :-)

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