The Nintendo Switch – What Every Camera Company Should Learn From Awesome Nintendo

This post seems unusual and out-of-place for a blog which focuses on photography. But trust me there is a link in this article. We wish that the Japanese camera manufacturers would be more like Nintendo!

Nintendo has just revealed their new generation game console. If a picture says a thousand words, moving pictures probably say many more. So feast your eyes on Nintendo’s genius:

I have never owned a Nintendo console in recent years – my only experience with Nintendo is limited to their “Game & Watch” portable gaming gadgets in the 80s. Though I was (yeah, “was”) a Sony Playstation gamer, I held huge respect for Sony’s rival. The Nintendo Switch just reminded me of all the things that made this Japanese company so amazing. Let’s go down the list.

1. Nintendo actually understands their products and customers.
Nintendo has this gift of understanding what makes a product fun to use, what makes a customer happy, what a user wants – even when the user does not really know what they want!

On the contrary, many camera companies seem to be filled with executives and decision-makers who don’t actually use their own products. Have you ever bought a camera, used it, then wonder to yourself, “What were these guys thinking? Do they even use the stuff they themselves design? Would these guys in management even know how to set white balance if I handed them a D750 and D810? Could they even give me a coherent answer if I then asked them why the controls are different?”

2. Nintendo actually understands their business – the concept of fun!
This is a little abstract. There is a philosophy of game design within Nintendo which is rarely seen anywhere else. These people actually understand the concept of “fun”! When most gaming companies create a game, they hand you a “features list”. “These are the 1001 features in our new game!” So you play their game, and sure all those features are there. Then you either say, “hey this is cool” or “yes this is OK”. The Nintendo designers on the other hand, give you a “fun experience”. They do not have a thousand features, but they make you feel, “wow I really enjoyed this!” It is not about a feature list – that misses the point altogether. It is about whether or not doing something actually makes the experience more enjoyable.

Now let us ask a retrospective question regarding the Japanese camera makers. How long has it been since any of them actually made something that was fun to use? In this industry, it has always been about feature lists. But how much thought is given to creating a physical layout, UI and giving us features that actually makes taking pictures delightful? This is quite an abstract question that is not easy to answer. In summary, it should be easy for a user to set up a camera in a way that just lets them “forget about the camera and focus on taking the picture”. Ironically, bulky DSLRs come very close to satisfying this criteria due to their complexities, wealth of options and generous offer of external controls. A user could really create a personalized configuration that allows him to work with minimum interruptions. Unfortunately the DSLRs’ advantage is crippled by their unwieldy large sizes. Smaller MILCs on the other hand have the disadvantage of having their external controls crammed together in more narrow spaces, so you frequently need to interrupt your picture-taking flow by having to fiddle with tiny controls.

3. Nintendo is actually innovative and creative and does things no one has ever done before
The Nintendo DS first introduced the concept of touch-based fun and gaming – long before Apple came out with the iPhone. The Nintendo Wii introduced the idea of motion-based gaming and showed the world new ways to play in groups and have fun with family and friends. Now with the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo is bringing a new concept of gaming which is social, flexible, easy-to-use and thoroughly relevant to the modern lifestyles of people around the world. Hope I can say the same of the Japanese camera companies!

4. There is no perfect hardware, but Nintendo products are exceedingly well balanced.
Controllers and portable consoles just fit properly into your hand. Home consoles are sized to fit nicely into its space in a home. Battery life is just reasonable. Price tags are also just nice! Nintendo has this incredible gift of making everything fit together nicely into a compelling package that exudes an impressive amount of care and thought that was put into its design. They may not sell you hardware with the most powerful CPUs and graphics cards, but their products are always extremely well-balanced and matched with an agreeable price tag. Please could more camera companies be like this? Why does the near-perfect-for-enthusiasts D5500 have no AF fine-tune? Why does the incredible D7200 not have the swivel touch-enabled LCD screen the D5500 has? Why are there so few DX lenses? Arrrggghhhh 😡

If I sound like I’m being grouchy with the camera companies – maybe I am. The fact that Nintendo can demonstrate how good they are in thinking ahead, innovative and understanding of customer wants in a creative industry just makes the insufficiency of the Japanese camera makers even more obvious in comparison. These guys are awesome! If only more businesses emulated them. *Sigh*- WY

2 comments

  1. Spot-on. My little “archaic and no-good” Nikon V1 is wonderfully fun to use. But then, WHY does it chimp the latest shot in the viewfinder every time, requiring a shutter button press to clear the review image? As you said, don’t these guys use their cameras? Tech companies with big egos are standard nowadays. Even Google sucks at user interface (UI) – see the Gmail web interface which is terminally ugly, and Chrome which requires umpteen clicks to access a stored bookmark. And then there’s Microsoft, and before it WordPerfect, who buried the most fun-to-use tool for working writers, WordStar. But I’ve gone off track. Let’s not even mention Sony who can’t design a menu to save their lives. But I agree with you, Au, the big pro DSLRS are wonderful because they do the basic brilliantly and you can mostly set them up to work very, very simply – my late-1990s Nikon F4 was so so simple to use that I could almost forget about it, except for the crushing weight that threatened to dislocate a shoulder. Mirrorless makers are hinting at fun – at cameras that just get out of the way and let us do a job, but really, there are few superstars up to now, maybe the enthusiast superzooms – Panasonic FZ1000, Sony RX100 III, and Nikon’s DL 24-500. Of course, the Panny comes with Panasonics non-existent customer service, the Sony can’t track focus worth beans in low light, and Nikon’s new camera is still an unknown quantity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does appear to me that at the moment, Fujifilm is the no.1 camera company which really understands its business and customers. The recent X-T2 is really getting good enough that Canikon should be worried and paying attention. The ergonomics and operation still isn’t as smooth as a DSLR, but it is definitely better than a Sony.You also feel you are buying into a system where the company actually understands their product and their customers’ experience. Although introductory prices could be restrictive, after a year or two the products do drop to reasonable levels. A grey market X-Pro2 in my part of the world is about 1.4K USD now.

      For me, 2017 might be Nikon’s “judgement year”. We’ll see if they finally introduce a reasonable MILC that can get people excited. And if they do, whether they will cripple it intentionally to protect the D5/D500 market position! 😡

      When I finally get need a new body and Nikon continues to disappoint, I might eventually turn to Fujifilm. 😛

      Like

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