Monday, November 19, 2012

Camera Clueless

Sony Australia sent "Gary Heery, professional photographer," out to see if he could find the "DSLR Clueless;" people Sony defines as those who have "all the gear and no idea." Of course, Mr. Heery manages to find a group of people with Nikon and Canon cameras who leave the camera on "auto" all the time or otherwise basically don't know what they're doing. These good sports are mocked on camera with signs such as "Unfit to DSLR" and "DSLR Gear - No Idea." The point is a fairly simple one - promote their Alpha NEX-series cameras by creating the impression that Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras are too difficult, complicated and heavy for the average shutterbug.

The First Victim...
Surprisingly, despite the fact that Sony also sells DSLRs, which are supposed to "Take your photography to the next level" and provide "Pro features and top technologies," none of the DSLR Clueless seem to own them - even though the defining characteristic of the type is a belief (based on just such puffery) that it's the gear, and not the wielder, that makes the difference. And, predictably, Sony disabled comments on the video to prevent some wag from making that point - or asking why, if DSLRs are so awful, Sony bothers to sell them.

Most people who have made it a point to understand the technology of cameras know that eventually, the consumer DSLR market will likely fade to a few special-purpose niches, especially once Nikon gets their mirrorless offering together and Canon gets on board (or one or both fall by the wayside as another company eats their lunch). There are any number of reasons why the non-SLR cameras are excellent choices for the sort of general-purpose photography that most people engage in. If the Sony ads had addressed these issues, that would be one thing. Instead, they went after the idea that many SLR users are clueless n00bs who don’t know one end of a camera from the other, and so people should buy Sony mirrorless cameras instead. To a degree, I get it – it’s about making a catchy video that might go “viral” on the Internet. Mocking ignorant/stupid people tends to garner more publicity than dry technical-speak. But if someone who doesn't know what DSRL means is in over their head owning one, I don't see how that situation would be any better if they shelled out roughly the same amount of money for a MILC*. After all, it's not like a mirrorless camera is any better than one with a mirror if you don't know enough to change the default settings, or otherwise let the camera do all the thinking. Sure, they're smaller and lighter - and so I guess if you're going to suck, you may as well avoid straining yourself while you're at it...

Rather than pitching a product on: “This will suit your needs, and provide some advantages over the competition,” and incidentally being funny about it, Sony opted for “Buy our stuff so people (including us) don’t point and laugh at you,” and in the meantime, seemed to add a subtext of “Photography is hard, and you’re not smart enough to use the equipment that other companies (or we ourselves) sell.” I don’t think that this approach worked for Apple, and it seems that Sony is simply the latest company to conflate “moderately amusing” with “effectively communicates a value proposition.”

You. According to Sony.
*Mirrorless Interchangable-Lens Camera, for the MILC-Clueless among you. The main difference is that MILC cameras do not have optical viewfinders, so there is no need to have a mirror in the camera that allows you to look out through the lens. Even if the camera has a viewfinder, it shows you a smaller version of what the LCD screen on the back of the camera shows you, in the same way that the larger "point-and-shoot" cameras do. This allows the bodies to be much smaller, and simpler mechanically. This doesn't, however, make them automatically less feature-rich or easier to use.

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