Feature Design NXCAM NEX-FS100
Feature Design NXCAM NEX-FS100

The courage to break the mold

Miyashita: A major requirement in determining the overall structure was to arrange the screen along the optical axis. Camera operators in our preliminary research unanimously agreed that this is more natural and affords a better view. Compared to side-mounted screens, screens along the optical axis are closer to an operator's line of sight, which feels more natural. In this respect, it's like an optical viewfinder on a DSLR. But because this layout is quite novel in pro camcorders, it took some courage for us to make it happen.

Aware of the challenges, I prepared a design sample. A little investigation convinced me that this layout did make sense. As I looked down on the screen from above, as if the model were a midsize film camera, it felt secure in both hands. Low-angle shooting would be easy, and high-angle shots would be no problem once you configure the camcorder for upside-down use. But more than this, you can easily switch the camera to an upright position and shoot with it in that orientation. This feature sets the NEX-FS100 apart from conventional Handycam style. It's a distinct advantage in video production for fashion pieces, digital signage in retail settings, or other footage in portrait orientation.

We also incorporated feedback from the field when deciding the layout for buttons and switches. On DSLRs, controls are clustered on the top and back of the camera, facing the photographer. We adopted this approach in the NEX-FS100 and arranged primary controls on top of the camera. At the same time, the critical buttons found on the side of most pro camcorders are also arranged on the side of this model. When you think about it, few DSLR video controls can be used once recording begins, anyway, except in focusing and composing shots. We decided that adopting a control layout familiar to movie camera operators would help ensure intuitive operation.

Outweighing originality was an honest answer to production needs

Miyashita: Pro video cameras are generally used with tripods or stabilized by other means, but sometimes camera operators want to switch to hand-held shooting. To support both shooting styles, the handle and the grip of the NEX-FS100 are detachable.

For me the most nerve-wracking part of this project was designing the direct viewfinder. It clips on to the LCD screen, and other than incorporating eyepiece optics, it's essentially a simple tube. From the rectangular point of attachment all the way to the eyepiece, the shape could have been conical, or it could have been rectangular. Precisely because there were no structural limitations, it was hard to decide what silhouette would just seem right. After several tests, I finally settled on the current shape, which expands on our cylinder + box theme. As a result, the overall shape is somewhat symbolic. Video signals are "funneled" from a cylindrical lens into a box-like body in the middle and then funneled out through the cylindrical eyepiece.

Niitsu: Ultimately, NEX-FS100 design marks a clear departure from that of previous pro camcorders. The LCD screen can be pushed to the side or used on top, and interacting with the camera this way gives you a different impression of the camera than you might have gotten from other cameras to date. Still, the camera took this novel form not because we wanted to introduce a new product format. Instead, it's an honest answer we found after seeking the best product format for a new field, acting on feedback from that field.

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