Feature Design αNEX-5/NEX-3

More than appearance benefits from the power of design

Hibi: Classic NEX-5 design and performance will resonate with those seeking masterful shots. Of course, everyone has their own preferences and reasons for shooting. Sony also wanted to offer a model for those who want to paint everyday moments with a broader brush, so to speak. We sought a camera that would fit easily into anyone's routine, and a model to introduce the exceptional NEX potential to a wider audience. This was the inspiration behind the NEX-3.

An initial requirement I faced in differentiating it from the NEX-5 was to keep the body larger than the lens mount. But simply enlarging the body slightly and tweaking the shape would only make it look like a different version of the NEX-5. And in that case, the NEX-3 wouldn't fill a useful niche in this line. When you think about it, the two dominant elements of cameras—the lens and body—already have a strong visual identity. To me, it seemed unnecessary to give the body any other distinctive touches. If anything needed "redesigning," it was our basis for design decisions. In this way, my task was not simply restyling the camera but reconsidering its true essence as a creative tool. I knew this would yield insight on the identity of the NEX-3.

I focused on the different impressions we get from various tools. To cite an automotive example, sports cars and family cars excite a different feeling in us when driving, which in turn translates directly into our behavior. Handling and other driving details are arranged to fit our overall impression, and these tools certainly feel like an extension of the driver. Applying this thinking to the NEX-3, I was sure that introducing differences from the NEX-5 not only in the general appearance but also in grip details would arouse different feelings. It could be friendlier, more casual. I decided that accounting for these psychological factors would help me update the camera's identity.

Toward this end, I changed how the battery faces. On the NEX-5, it's perpendicular to the body, and on the NEX-3, it's in the same plane. It was not easy mechanically, but I was unwilling to compromise because this was the niche the NEX-3 had to fill in the NEX line. Accordingly, the grip is wider, which creates a flat, inviting surface. In appearance and in your hand, it's a very user-friendly shape. I'm convinced that besides giving your hand some leeway on the grip, it supports our ideal of a casual camera that's easy to use. User tests confirmed a clear division between users who prefer the NEX-5 and those who prefer the NEX-3. This proves how we succeeded in distinguishing the models from each other—they're different not from superficial restyling but from how people feel when using them.

The practical thinking behind the novel controls

Takahashi: NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras incorporate a new user interface. It represents our solution to the conflicting needs we noticed when developing relatively accessible cameras such as compacts.

Specifically, there's a big difference between the expectations of pro photographers or advanced amateurs and those of the vast majority of beginners about what represents a desirable level of control. Most beginners don't apply the knowledge or techniques that advanced users take for granted as articular shooting mode, exposur particular shooting mode, exposure, or other details. Target NEX-5/NEX-3 users might be inconvenienced by too many buttons or dials. Ideally, the controls should resemble those on a mobile phone. Isn't it about time that cameras offer the same simplicity, that anyone who picks it up should be able to use it intuitively? Sure, our solution might surprise some pros or camera journalists, but to address real user needs, this issue must be dealt with, one way or another.

What's more, the LCD panel on NEX-5/NEX-3 cameras has a generous 16:9 aspect ratio. This gives us plenty of space to identify the current functions of soft keys. It also expands the potential of on-screen graphics. We capitalized on this, so that even users unfamiliar with expressions such as aperture or aperture-priority mode can use Background Defocus to achieve the desired blurriness, for example. Because it was a wholly new user interface, we enjoyed constant input from the design team in matters from basic organization to appearance as we created the control system.

Okumura: We kept the controls on back simple: three soft keys (with variable functions) and a control wheel with four-way buttons. The variable functions are not labeled on the camera; they're displayed on the right side of the screen. The buttons serve a different role as needed, leading you to desired functions.

Graphic design of the menu screen deserved special attention. Although NEX-5/NEX-3 cameras were developed with beginning DSLR users in mind, all users may appreciate how they uphold traditions of photography. Even the icons were developed along these lines, with quality in mind. We considered what organizing themes and styling would help people make choices with confidence.

The user interface includes shooting tips, which was a recommendation from those of us in UI design. What's unique is that the camera detects shooting conditions, suggests techniques that may be effective, and demonstrates results. It's more convenient than conventional help systems because there's no need to choose options in a list, and there's a wealth of information to help you shoot better. We hope it encourages habitual auto mode shooters to brush up their skills and enjoy shooting more. Additionally, full-screen examples are shown during scene selection, making the choice even more intuitive.

Developing a new user interface for these cameras from scratch was a good opportunity, and I think we now have the framework to apply the advances in upcoming products.


Shooting Tips

Scene Selection
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