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Friday, 01 July 2016


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That made me smile. I also had an EOS 10 and never ever used the barcode reader. It was the perfect back-up camera for the Canon system. In fact I still have it, though it hasn't seen a roll of film since 2007. Cameras are lens holders and image storage devices.

The Leica M Edition 60 has a USP by not having a standard feature.

Strangely on top of from 8x10 ... D810 ... GH4 EM5MK2 ... I actually have the GF7. It is a cheap camera immediately after the GF8. With two lens it is really cheap. Just get it for one of the lens for weight reduction, but still use it several times to take selfie. And the Rolleiflex mode is great as well.

Sure, most of these silly "features" can be ignored, as they don't compromise the usability of the camera. But over the last couple of decades, there is clearly a trend that cameras became more and more complex through feature creep. Compare the size of the manual which came with an OM-1n - a small booklet - with the novel-sized handbook of a current Nikon DSLR. I guess many "features" exist just because they became feasible at a certain time, and now make even basic camera operation needlessly complex (hey, autofocus). Solutions in search of a problem.

An interesting point is that entry-level cameras are often cluttered up the most. I could imagine that at least in conservative markets, this scares off potential customers and makes them use their much simpler smartphone cameras instead.

The more superficial kind of "USP" was given a more cynical name by Alan Sugar, who came to fame with his Amstrad hi-fis and computers: "the mug's eyeful".


Oh, John, did you hit the nail on the head.

A little less than a year ago I was talking to a guy in charge of sales for a line of products for one of the electronics companies and asked him about the overly complex menus systems that were so common. (We were not talking about cameras in particular and he was not involved with them, but his company did produce them).

He immediately replied that they were aware of the problem and had tried to address it, but that they had "lost." He said the engineers wanted to make something different than any other company was making, so they would add functions just to be different. Frankly, nothing we were discussing could truly be said to be a unique selling point. Just distracting crud.

Again, we were not specifically talking about cameras, but as you observed, the same thing is going on there.

So do political parties also have USP's?

D.Hufford inspired a thought. There are a lot of menu items on my camera(s) that I set once and never really use any more. Why not be able to delete them to a holding bin of sorts so they are there should I sell the camera or be in a unique situation where I want to make the change. Then the menu would only show the few items that I change regularily when I go from say a street during the day to wildlife at twilight.

In the one sales workshop I was forced to attend the operative sales principle was, "features tell, benefits sell, put them together and you'll do well". Even if the 'features' we're just reworded dribble that all the other competing products also had.

Video on a DSLR is a useless (to me) USP.

@David Zivic:
Nikon, at least, does the opposite: they have a "My Menu" section where you can put the things that you care about. I think it's actually a slightly better solution than your proposal for several reasons:

1) The standard menus are still there, which makes it easier to find the rarely used functions if/when you need them.
2) You can combine things from many different places in the standard menu setup in one place, so there's less going up and down menus than there would be in your system.
3) You can change the order so that they're the way you want them, not the way the original engineers thought they should be.

As an aside, I have noticed, only in the last six months to year I guess, that advertisements ever so occasionally turn up here in Japan now with a tattooed person in them (by occasionally, I mean like, maybe I've seen three now). Briefly, and quite possibly some kind of famous sports person or someone somehow otherwise justified, but they are there. On the trains at the moment, Panasonic has a long play add covering multiple products that seeks to cover all bases - hip biz person, hip wife, hip dad, hip young girl, etc., and one very brief appearance of a tattooed hip 'arty' type (usp for every demographic?). Might seem like a small thing, but here, where tattoos are firmly associated with criminals, it seems very significant.

I've been mystified by Olympus putting silly "art effects" in the menus on the OM-D E-M1. This is their top line camera, made for serious photographers. Why would we want to apply painting, toy camera and blurring effects to our shots in the camera? Maybe later, once they've been imported to our browser, but I've never once felt the need to play silly games with my images from the menus in the camera. Give us simple menus, please!

I had a couple of film Canons with "eye control focus", I think they called it. I tried it and it sometimes worked pretty decently. But I used the cameras only with the center focus point active. It worked perfectly for me. I liked those cameras and used them for years until I switched to digital models. And while everyone still promotes multiple focus points, I still use only the center one.

Personally, the one feature I would love to see on cameras is the Kill Switch. It would turn off all the buttons, wheels, control dials and knobs you don't use but always get activated accidentally.

I think the USP is being replaced these days by something called the "user experience." I keep getting flyers in the mail from my cable company that tell me how some new feature or service they have added will enhance my "user experience." Well, dammit, I don't want an enhanced "user experience" (whatever the hell that is--the mind boggles), I just want to use their Internet service (on which they have a near monopoly*) to read TOP plus a few other web sites, stream some movies, and use Google.

*The only few other options available are too slow to provide a good "user experience."

Your remark that even a toaster must have a USP coincides with the current issue of Business Week. It reports on an "innovator" who builds a toaster that generates steam inside as it toasts (you need to add exactly 5 cubic cm of water) in sync with pulses of heat, because properly moist toast is what professionals make. US $230, but no official distribution in the U.S. yet.

My brother and I joked during the '80s, as more and more features were added to cameras, that it was only a matter of time before one offered automatic ear cleaning. A little arm with a swab at the end would pop out and clean your ears as you took the photo.

BTW, Canon also offers the My Menu feature and I find it very useful. Flash Settings and Format Card are two of the items I have there.

@Dogman: The Canon 6D has your desired Kill Switch, sort of. Canon calls it Lock Switch and it is located at the bottom right of the rear of the camera; you can dive into the menus and select three functions that can be locked independently by ticking checkboxes: The main dial (the wheel next to the shutter button); the quick-control dial on the rear; and the multi-controller on the rear.

I suppose this is why I have really come to appreciate what Fujifilm has done with their x-series bodies, even if there have been a few oversights along the way (but responsive firmware updates to address most of them).

I initially thought my XE-1 was surprisingly slow for a 2012 product (mostly file write & playback, though a faster SD card has mostly mitigated this), but I've come to learn it's it's also quite purposeful.

The the menu options allow you to configure a) the camera operation and b) the (excellent) file output.

I'm a little dismayed that many of their lenses seem to be chasing speed (and thus are relatively quite large), but the image quality is certainly there.

You should do a column on David Ogilvy who started image advertising - why Leica and Porsche can charge so much more than the features of the priduct would lead you to expect.
Or Al Ries and Jack Trout who followed Ogilvy with "positioning" in the 70s, how you are perceived in the marketplace - and how it's difficult if not impossible to change that position.

Dogman, my Fujifilm X30 has a "kill switch" that disables the controls so they won't be accidentally changed. I agree it's a useful feature, especially on a compact camera when the controls are rather crowded together.

This also made me think of the Leica MA, a fully mechanical, fully manual 35mm rangefinder, without even a built in meter, available new, and it is the year 2016! What is the USP of this product? I think it is; "Everything you need to make a photo, and not one thing more."
That, and of course, if you want a new, fully mechanical, non metered 35mm RF, with interchangeable lenses....well you don't have to sift through too many choices.

The Canon barcode reader was the nice precursor to the present day App.

Most (all?) Fujis have a partial kill switch - press and hold the menu/OK button until a padlock appears on the screen.

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