Oka: As for the overall design, we followed the guidelines of traditional movie cameras. Unlike camcorder operators, camera operators shooting movies must look through a viewfinder that's near the optical axis or it probably won't feel right. The F23 viewfinder is in the left corner of the optical axis, and the digital circuitry is concentrated across from it in the camera body. The video cassette unit can be used on back, where the film magazine would be on a conventional camera.
What's new is the addition of a jog dial in the digital controls. These controls are inset to keep them out of your face when the camera is on your shoulder, yet they are easily within reach for steady operation. The video cassette unit can also be attached on top, which balances the camera perfectly on your shoulder. This little trick would have been impossible in the age of film cameras.
Oka: But above all, we designed this camera with the production crew firmly in mind. The F23 will be used under conditions that are sometimes very tense and stressful. When rehearsal's over and the director says "Action!" the mood suddenly changes. "That's a wrap!" comes only after dozens of people have done their job flawlessly. Just one mistake can ruin everything. Yet under extreme stress, people inevitably make mistakes when operating equipment. That's when assistants get shouted at, for example...
We want design to support the great effort involved in filmmaking. We seek the kind of usability that makes it possible to execute each action accurately and confidently. That's why the layout and tactile response of the buttons and dials in the digital controls provides instant, reassuring feedback of correct operation. Incidentally, the remote control has an identical layout. As assistants master using the remote, they're mastering what it feels like to operate the camera itself, which prevents mistakes.
We applied the same insight through trial and error when designing how the terminals protrude on the right side of the camera. Before each new scene, assistants plug cords in here, again and again. They should be able to connect them securely without focusing on it. For this reason, the terminals actually protrude slightly outward and are tilted down a little instead of going straight back. It's quite a sophisticated shape, visualized spatially. The power inlet under them is also tilted slightly outward, so that users can get their hand in there and be sure of a firm connection. In a section that's accessed so often every day, this attention to detail makes the camera more reliable.
Oka: You won't get this kind of insight for careful design unless you observe what happens at a movie set. As a designer, it's critical to feel what users feel, as much as possible. I think that leads to good design. Watching work on movie sets and participating vicariously convinces me.
Besides this, we contemplated how the camera could assert a product identity fully in its element in a production environment. Professional camera operators face the challenges of their job with pride. We also wanted to convey this dignity and sense of status through design. The F23 is not a plain, boxy camera. Bevels and slanting surfaces make it interesting and fit the image we sought—an appearance unlike any movie cameras to date. There's also a playful spirit in some touches, such as the curves of the video cassette unit. Here, we wanted to assert a feeling of innovation, different from a traditional film magazine. It's styled after a capital D, as in Digital. And because it was marketed first (as a portable recorder, the SRW-1), buyers probably wondered why it's shaped this way.