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Author Topic: J'Accuse  (Read 28043 times)

Quentin

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J'Accuse
« on: March 26, 2012, 10:45:26 am »

Actually perfect is the enemy of the good, and if we try to ask for too much too soon we won't get the good in good time, as it were  ;D
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image66

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2012, 11:32:53 am »

Apple's iOS 5.0 update is proof that they don't get everything right and it took over six months for them to fix the podcast player in the iPad after they broke it. But generally speaking, you are correct that Apple gets it.

My Panasonic DMC-L1 still has the same software flaws left behind after their initial set of bug fixes. They will never be fixed. Ever.

It's the same thing with every other camera. Once the camera hits production, a few people will fix a couple glaring issues, but otherwise everybody has moved on to the next deadline product release. And so it goes. This is the problem with new models coming out so frequently. There is never any perfecting of a product any longer. Of course, some companies have been known to take this to an extreme, but a good example of this is the Canon AE1 or Nikon F3 or Olympus OM-4Ti which were on the market so long that repeated revisions and improvements were made to the cameras. By the time we get to the last batches, they were about perfect.

Some manufacturers don't learn how to improve, though. My 2005 Jeep has the same manufacturing flaws as my 1999 did before it. Exact same vehicle from the exact same series. Six years later...

Between the lines, I think we can guess which camera manufacturer has triggered this essay. If my guess is correct, I ask the question of why haven't they fixed the glaring software flaws before releasing the new black model? I can only assume that the new interchangeable lens camera will never be fixed either.
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Craig Arnold

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2012, 11:34:33 am »

Consider the very recent history of camera development.
  • Sony A77, NEX7
  • Canon G1X, 5DMkIII, 1DX
  • Nikon 1-series, D800, D4
  • Pentax Q, K-01
  • Olympus OM-D
  • Fuji X100, X10, XPro1
  • Phase/Mamiya/Leaf systems developments.
  • Lytro Light Field Camera

An astonishing array of innovation, technical achievement and sheer hard work coming mostly out of Japan. In a time when their country suffered great devastation from the earthquake, tsunami and radiation; where hardly a single family in the whole country escaped tragedy.

So from me a huge thank you and great respect to the engineers in the fields of electronics, optics and manufacturing who have achieved so much despite such adversity.

I have had my wonderful wonderful X100 for 1 year now. Fuji made a camera just for me, and I love it beyond words. And I appreciate the risks taken by Fuji management to get the funding to make it in the first place and the wonderful work done by the engineers.

Articulating my emotional response to this article would doubtless result in an instant lifetime ban, so I will leave it at that.
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fafield

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2012, 11:55:48 am »

The problem Michael describes is one of user interface design, sometimes called "human factors.". I think the problem is more widespread than Michael suggests. The Ford Edge / Lincoln MKZ has been much downgraded by Consumer Reports and JD Power because of a very poor design of the vehicle's telematics (dashboard by Microsoft - literally).  Pick up any Motorola cellphone and tell me the user interface is anything more than a hack with totally inconsistent ways to navigate down and then back up menu levels. Many examples of poor UI can be cited. Only Apple seems to really get it.  Most of that credit is due to Steve Jobs with his maniacal focus on the UI and elegance in design. With Steve's passing, we need to watch the next iteration of products carefully.

Having spent my professional career in hi-tech R&D, UI design is relegated to after thought in too many companies.  The few who pay some attention usually form a UI committee, with the predictable result of "a camel is a horse designed by committee." Successful UIs come only by thoughtful design from the outset. Those that have been patched-up through testing feedback show it. How do we get the high tech community to change? By voting with our dollars.
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Rob C

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2012, 12:55:44 pm »

The Enemy of Excellence is "Good Enough"


That was a painful lesson I learned early in professional life.

I began photo-life working in an in-house photo-unit that was a service to the company engineers. We worked on a print, slide, film or whatever it happened to be until it was as good as we knew how to make it; my own specialty ended up being the colour lab. Then, when I left and went solo, I ran into the 'commercially acceptable' syndrome where I discovered that commercial labs wouldn't run the one extra filtration test that would have made the prints perfect. (I didn't have the volume to make my own colour processing, apart from Ciba, a viable prospect.) Result? Permanently unhappy customer, me, who tried to push as much as possible the way of Kodachrome or Ektachrome.

So what about cameras? I think there's an added factor there, beyond just incompetence or lack of care: there is more money to be made from delivering the 'new' than keeping the current alive. This works because it's digital, and the reasons/excuses allowing firms to hide behind this sorry state are manifold and all the manufacturers enjoy playing the same game: the updated model. And because it's digital, it all comes with a built-in passport that's the popular acceptance of constant change. It is built-in: people expect constant 'improvement' and they get constant change in its place.

As I mentioned today in another thread: I'd love another Series 500 'blad but wouldn't thank you for an MF digi box. Series 500 could have been for life. As Sedaka sang, more or less: she don't need improvement, she's just too nice to rearrange...

Rob C

Isaac

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2012, 01:24:47 pm »

  • J'Accuse -- "... iPads in a one year period (as but one example), and yet who rarely have significant design flaws ..."

    Humbly suggest that what you expect of a camera may be a great deal more than what you expect of the iPad.

    Do you try and use the iPad with other manufacturers equipment, or with old equipment, or in some way that would be ordinary for other computer equipment but not allowed on the iPad?

  • J'Accuse -- "I can only therefore accuse the majority of camera makers of lacking a real desire for excellence. Not an unachievable perfection requiring unlimited budget and time, but the excellence that we as photographers (at least some of us) try and achieve with our art."

    Hmmm, I understand the irritation but for "the majority of camera makers" isn't the "(at least some of us)" a tiny proportion of the (shrinking) number of people who actually use cameras (rather than smart phone cameras)?

    I remember reading an interview with Paul Strand where I think he said something to the effect that the photography industry is all about popular photography so it's not surprising when high quality techniques (platinum prints) stop being provided.


« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 04:54:07 pm by Isaac »
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Quentin

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2012, 06:35:37 pm »

I think we need to take a step back and realise the  marvels that we now hold in our hands. Perfect? No, because perfection is unachievable. Good?  I agree with with Craig - an astonishing array of innovation and technical achievement.  That's "good enough" for me.  

  
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Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, Arbitrato

theguywitha645d

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2012, 07:24:23 pm »

It is easy to be an armchair warrior. And naturally, only photographers know how to do it right (if it weren't for the fact they could never agree). It reminds of the editor that wanted an image of the sunrise over the pacific looking from the coast of California. It is easy to know more than the professional when you don't do the job.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 07:31:05 pm by theguywitha645d »
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aduke

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2012, 07:34:20 pm »

It is easy to be an armchair warrior. And naturally, only photographers know how to do it right (if it weren't for the fact they could never agree). It reminds of the editor that wanted an image of the sunrise over the pacific looking form the coast of California. It is easy to know more than the professional when you don't do the job.


And that reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a child, from a book of patriotic (read anti-fascist) cartoons. In this case, the subject being speared was an editor who asked his photographer to go out and photograph the black-out!

But back to the original point, the major problems with UI and controls in cameras is directly due to the planning and engineering groups not knowing how people would be using their product. At least not beyond the idea that you point the thing at what you want to photograph and press the correct button.

We can all get into almost any passenger car and drive off, mostly safely. This is due to the lesson learned by the US Army in WWII, where fighter planes were crashing because there was not a standard mode for vital controls, like the landing gear switch. In some planes, pushing is up lowered the gear, in some it raised the gear.

Alan
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theguywitha645d

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2012, 07:45:17 pm »

But back to the original point, the major problems with UI and controls in cameras is directly due to the planning and engineering groups not knowing how people would be using their product. At least not beyond the idea that you point the thing at what you want to photograph and press the correct button.

Really? The menus seem organized quite well on my cameras. Camera companies do research on how their customers use cameras. The menus are hardly random. Just because they are not organize the way you would like, does not mean they are not well organized.

We can all pick up a camera and take a picture and so I fail to see how cameras are somehow less organized than a car.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 07:50:26 pm by theguywitha645d »
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Peter McLennan

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2012, 07:47:00 pm »

Arriflex produced what is arguably the most ergonomically functional 16mm film camera ever made.  Compact, lightweight and nearly silent, it was standard equipment for decades.  I loved everything about it. 

Except that one thing.  The integrated TTL exposure meter needle that sat halfway up the left hand frame line pointed up for underexposure and down for overexposure. 

What were they thinking?  ???

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John Camp

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2012, 08:20:49 pm »

In my view, the problem isn't a lack of photography enthusiasts in camera companies, but the dominance of engineers, whether or not they're photography enthusiasts. I once took a semester-long course in land surveying when I was working on an archaeological dig, and the culmination of that work was using the then-new total stations, which (to simplify somewhat) combine transits with rangefinders and computers. It took me several weeks to become reasonably proficient in it, but then I watched a civil engineer, who was not a surveyor, essentially work out how to run the total station, and how to survey (starting with his knowledge of basic trig) in an *afternoon.* That's the engineering mind at work - just as it was with the BMW iDrive. Because of the way engineers think, and their wide-ranging experience with computers and technical matters, many of them can work through a flawed piece of firmware without much problem. "See? You just hit three-six-three-four, and there you are, at Initialize." I'm convinced that they don't even *notice* what many of us experience as problems. That's not because non-engineers are dumb, it's just that engineer-think is not their primary mode of problem solving (nor should it be, despite what engineers think.) In fact, I'd call this kind of software/firmware "engineer-dumb," because they can't effectively empathize with their potential customers. Note that it's not that they don't want to, it's that they *can't.*

Maybe the best way to fix this problem is to pose it as an engineering problem. How do you design an effective system for an alien? Well, first (an engineer might say) you have to study the alien. If the camera engineers would study photographers as alien beings, I think they'd do their job better.
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Isaac

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2012, 09:05:31 pm »

Maybe the best way to fix this problem is to...

... use a design firm.

http://www.cooper.com

http://www.ideo.com/

etc etc
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theguywitha645d

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2012, 09:10:31 pm »

Camera companies do use design firms.
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image66

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2012, 01:49:03 am »

Camera companies do use design firms.

Which is how we end up with "Got Print?" buttons, but no MLU.
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ansel aperture

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2012, 02:02:08 am »

"BMW recalls 1.3 million 5 and 6 series models worldwide

German luxury carmaker BMW is recalling some 1.3 million cars worldwide because of potential battery problems that could, in extreme cases, result in a fire".   [BBC  March 27]
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AnselAperture

Craig Arnold

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2012, 02:54:37 am »

The Sons of Martha
Rudyard Kipling 1907

The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited
   that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the
  careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she
  was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without
  end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and
  cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that
  the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care
  to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by
  land and main.

They say to mountains, "Be ye removed." They say to
  the lesser floods, "Be dry."
Under their rods are the rocks reproved-they are not
  afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the
  bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly
  sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece
  and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry
  behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into
  his terrible stall,
And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn
  him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till
  death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden - under the
  earthline their altars are-
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to
  restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again
  at a city's drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a
  little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop
  their job when they dam'-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark
  and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's
  day may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path
  more fair or flat -
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha
  spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness
  to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their
  common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed - they
  know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for
  them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see
  how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the
  Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!
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MikeMac

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2012, 03:29:57 am »

I totally agree with you here, the dedication of Japanese people in these companies is exemplary.
I too had a negative response to the article, I think it was intended as flame bait perhaps.
The car analogy is ok, but cars are also a much higher value item so people expect them to be better, and they are heavily legislated to ensure certain standards are met. There are plenty cars out their that have been recalled (Toyota!) and there are plenty faults in cars that either go un-recalled or are simply annoying to me as the engineers view on how things work doesn't match my view on how they should work.
Another analogy would be the software industry whose mantra is 'release early, release often'. They develop by customer interaction and iteration.
But yes, sometimes it is frustrating to have a good product that is marginally flawed and the camera maker does nothing to resolve it. There are exemptions. The Fuji X100 is a great example. Amazing camera, but upon initial release it had quirks. Fuji have regularly released firmware updates that improved matters, but recently released 1.20 that not only fixes most of the issues, but adds new functionality based on (customer) feedback. The camera may still not be perfect to all people or all situations, but it is so much better and Fuji are to be congratulated on making a brave new camera, providing high quality support (worldwide warranty collection) and regularly improving the firmware.
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Jeremy Roussak

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2012, 03:38:49 am »

Because of the way engineers think, and their wide-ranging experience with computers and technical matters, many of them can work through a flawed piece of firmware without much problem. "See? You just hit three-six-three-four, and there you are, at Initialize." I'm convinced that they don't even *notice* what many of us experience as problems. That's not because non-engineers are dumb, it's just that engineer-think is not their primary mode of problem solving (nor should it be, despite what engineers think.) In fact, I'd call this kind of software/firmware "engineer-dumb," because they can't effectively empathize with their potential customers. Note that it's not that they don't want to, it's that they *can't.*
That's spot on, but a subset of a wider issue: the gifted (in whatever field) very often simply do not understand how anyone could have any difficulty with matters which are, to them, easy and straightforward. Even wider than that, the engineering mind, which loves a challenge, cannot understand that what to it is a fascinating problem is to others merely an irritation, a block in the way of reaching a goal.

If the camera engineers would study photographers as alien beings, I think they'd do their job better.
You mean they aren't?

Jeremy
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David Hufford

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Re: J'Accuse
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2012, 04:25:48 am »

I totally agree with you here, the dedication of Japanese people in these companies is exemplary.
 To give credit where credit is due, not everyone who works at "these companies" is Japanese. That include those in Tokyo, let alone plants overseas. Of course, if you are talking about upper management/executive level, then your statement is a little closer to being correct. (I couldn't guess why that would be.)

An astonishing array of innovation, technical achievement and sheer hard work coming mostly out of Japan. In a time when their country suffered great devastation from the earthquake, tsunami and radiation; where hardly a single family in the whole country escaped tragedy.

The  last statement is not exactly accurate. The devastation from the tsunami was in the northeast (Tohoku) region. The Fukushima nuclear plants are also there. That area suffered enormous destruction. Tokyo had a stiff quake, but suffered little damage and few casualties. Things were mostly back to normal by the following Monday except for the threat of power outages and some transportation disruptions along with increasing concern about the problems with the nuclear plants. People in Tohoku and nearby areas suffered greatly, but most families outside that area---except those with friends or relatives there---escaped with little more than inconvenience. We certainly did in Tokyo, and that includes most of the staff (including engineers) at various Fujifilm offices. Further southwest toward Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, was barely affected by the quake.

Going to work after the quake for the vast, vast majority in Tokyo was in no way an act of heroism. We had to go to work. Since we wanted to have jobs, our companies---no matter the industry---had to find ways to keep operating and work around any difficulties from the quake which for most were problems of logistics and adapting to temporary electrical shortages. (Of course some camera companies---Nikon, for example---had factories in the Sendai area destroyed. I do not believe they lost any lives at the factory, but I am not certain of that.)

The fact that companies were able to turn things around so quickly is still an amazing accomplishment, but thankfully most did not have to do it having personally suffered a tragedy anything like people in Tohoku. People there are still living it and probably always will. There is a huge difference.

« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 04:41:37 am by David Hufford »
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