Takahashi: Not only for the grip, but obviously for the GUI as well, we took great pains to build in quality—so that the advantages of the design are even clearer when users touch and use the camera themselves—through the button layout and other aspects of usability. In the α700, we added a feature called Quick Navi that's accessed from the back LCD screen. This way, you can check the shooting settings at a glance and change them as needed.
LCD screens on most digital SLR cameras mainly play a role in letting users review images they've already shot. Sure, many models can show the settings here, but what makes Quick Navi special is that you can press the Function button, access the functions you want directly with the joystick, and then adjust the settings efficiently with the dial. There's no need to navigate menus just to adjust a particular setting, as in typical SLRs. You can check camera status, review your shots, and access the settings all on the same screen, seamlessly, and there's a sense of consistency in the operations. Shots taken vertically are automatically rotated for display, and the screen automatically dims when you look through the viewfinder.
Midrange cameras must be snappy and responsive. Quick Navi is a dynamic interface that quickly gives users what they want. I'm confident that this is exactly the kind of interface that has a positive effect on the user experience.
Hayashi: Digital SLR cameras in this class often follow a trend of many film SLRs to date by having an LCD panel on top. These aren't very practical, though. When you actually shoot, you're looking through the viewfinder as you control the camera, in many cases. Or you're using a tripod with the camera at eye level, which also makes the top screen hard to see. When you imagine how a D-SLR with a large LCD screen should be designed, you see the benefit of presenting all the information throughout operation, from initial setup to checking your images, on the back LCD screen. It seems more natural, considering the sequence of operations. Why not get rid of the top screen? A smarter layout would put the buttons you need most often in the most convenient places. The α700 is authentic in appearance while uniquely Sony, in this thinking. Of course, this is only how we see this approach demonstrated in the α700. We may well optimize or customize other models for other applications or body sizes. But our basic thinking about operation and the button layout, we'd like to keep applying this in future models.
Takahashi: Reviewing your images is also a little special on the α700. Most cameras just display full-screen images. The bigger the better, it seems. Or otherwise, we see various information or histograms. To compare consecutive shots, you have to rely on an index display. But because you can take advantage of continuous and bracketed shooting, wouldn't it be convenient if there were a more intuitive way to compare consecutive images? That's why on the α700, you can view the main screen and several thumbnails at the same time.
It took a lot of discussion to distill what's essential in the user interface. Everyone was a camera buff. We had fans of manual focus TLR(Twin Lens Reflex) and many other types. When you bring all these people with their own opinions together and give them the chance to develop an SLR—well, it's easy to imagine the kind of talks we had. Where should the mode dial go? What positions for the release button and joystick? How can we refine the texture? What functions should we provide dedicated buttons for? These were in-depth discussions. We also imagined scenarios from the user perspective as we worked out the design. The result of countless deliberations on all these topics is here, distilled down to the α700. It was an intense series of discussions. But all the hard work would be worth it if you appreciate and become attached to the camera when you try it yourself.