Decidedly different from conventional "Handycam"s. But on closer inspection, clearly a Sony. This may be your first impression of the HDR-TG1/TG3E, a compact and slim HD "Handycam". Simple. Yet the more you look, the more you discover. Thrilling just to hold in your hand. Besides signaling product functions, this design delivers something of greater value. Welcome to the launch of a new example of sophisticated Sony design.
Niitsu: Over the years, I have mainly been involved in television design at Sony. My last camcorder project was nearly two decades ago, but ever since, a pocketable camcorder had been a dream of mine. So naturally, I was thrilled to participate when I heard Sony was finally making that dream a reality, and as an HD "Handycam", no less.
I knew that Noriaki had already created a visual mock-up exploring some concepts that laid the groundwork in HDR-TG1/TG3E design. Understandably, at that early stage, it was as if the video functions of a "Cyber-shot" camera had been transplanted into a rudimentary camcorder. But it was indeed pocket-sized, and its "Handycam" heritage was unmistakable. I immediately asked Noriaki to join me. But I certainly wasn't going to watch from the sidelines. I must have seemed like a meddlesome old man, despite asking him to participate.
Takagi: We reevaluated the design, starting with the basic shape. We didn't limit ourselves to the original mock-up. Although we did eventually adopt the vertical format, Takuya told me to try flattening the sides of the lens barrel, which was initially cylindrical to give the lens impact. At first I resisted the idea. I thought a cylindrical barrel would seem more camera-like, and some veteran "Handycam" designers agreed.
Niitsu: I thought flattening the barrel was the right move. After all, defying veteran sensibilities is a sign of a fresh approach. I can understand why camera designers evaluate products by the lens. The lens reflects design priorities, so to speak. But for a pocketable camcorder, we had to focus on a sleek profile. I was probably also drawing on years of experience in television design, where you don't need to insist on cylindrical lens barrels.
Takagi: The body is quite compact. On this level, we must avoid careless design. Arrange the strobe (flash), lens, and other parts indiscriminately, and you end up with a shrunken "Handycam" that looks like a toy. Instead, we wanted to make sure it gave the right impression. It should feel like an exquisite optical instrument. We focused a lot on the lens section, in this regard.
Especially since the lens barrel itself is not cylindrical, it was more desirable to have the lens look round in front. But at this size, there's a risk of vignetting (not enough exposure at the corners of the screen) unless we improvise a little. Look at the HDR-TG1/TG3E and you'll notice that the section encircling the lens is shaped like an SLR petal hood. There are cut-outs around this part, which are even slanted to draw more light in. Inside, the lens cover is right in front of the lens. We would not have needed such sophisticated shapes had we used a round lens barrel. I maintained my design ideals here, as much as possible. Even the printing of the Carl Zeiss logo reflects an uncompromising attitude. Hearing my request, the engineers complained that printing at this angle would be as hard as skiing down a steep Alpine slope.
The strobe also shows attention to detail. It's nicely integrated by the lens itself, instead of being a bump next to the barrel. That's one of my own touches in our work for the HDR-TG1/TG3E. After repeated attempts, I considered the Fresnel lens of the strobe as an element of design and encircled the lens with it. Bold headlights on upscale cars in recent years give an aura of luxury, and that matches my thinking here.
Our efforts for a neat, refined appearance extend to details in the LCD panel hinge. Normally, lines are visible between the fixed and moving parts of a hinge, as if the hinged part were a cut-out piece. My desire to avoid these lines drove me to develop several designs and prototypes representing a new way to hold the panel. Our diligent engineers helped a lot here, too.