You’re Going to Complain About Something

Having now supported cameras on the Internet for 28 years (yes 28), it’s very easy for me to conclude the following: no matter what camera brand or model you buy, you’re going to complain about something. 

It might be a feature you consider to be missing, it might be some UX bit that bothers you; it might be that the grip and control positions just don’t align with your abnormally large (or small) hands; it might be that performance is 99% of what you need but not 100%. You’re going to complain. And I’m going to hear it ;~). 

If you want to hear my own biggest and most consistent complaint, here it is: I fail to understand why a company will change something that was proven to work with a new choice just because they feel they have to change something. The classic example of this was when Nikon spent a decade establishing that the exposure compensation button was to the right rear of the shutter release, then suddenly moved it with the N80. My complaint was quick, loud, and heard by Nikon: they’ve not repeated that mistake in multiple decades since.

We really need to group complaints into some categorization system. Something that makes a camera more difficult to use than before but has no clear benefit—moving the exposure compensation button, for example—is a terrible thing to do to customers. If you make changes like that, you’d better quickly fix it, or you'll start losing customers. 

Many of the things that I complain about—which almost always happens in the How’s it Handle? section of my reviews—are things you only discover with continued use of the product. I’m constantly amazed when in Tokyo about how many of the folk I meet who design our cameras and lenses aren’t actually active photographers themselves. 

This means that problems that come up in actual use have to get relayed to the engineers in order to be heard. The current system  to do that is no different than the system that’s been used for this for many years: (1) product managers in the subsidiaries need to hear the complaint, (2) those product managers often then need to convince the subsidiary CEO of the problem because (3) the CEO is typically a Japanese executive currently serving a stint overseas and he’s the one that tends to do all the translation and direct contact work with corporate, or at least directly manage that process. 

Since photography is a global thing, it’s important for all the Japanese camera companies to have a well-tuned and efficient methodology of interacting with and understanding their customers, and no where is that more important than in terms of hearing and understanding complaints. 

The problem, of course, is that the Internet is full of complaints, and some complaints are posed by people who don't even own or use the product in question. So you can't just casually look at the disinformation on the Internet and decide what needs fixing and what doesn't. Not that the Japanese camera companies even do much of that. 

As I noted, every one of you has a complaint. So a number of filters immediately start to come into play: (1) is that just a wishful thinking thing (“please make a 200mp full frame camera”)?; (2) is it a personal preference (“I want more control over the focus-shift function”)?; (3) is it a legitimate-to-purpose need (“for selfie video I need an articulating LCD”)?; or (4) is it something that’s broken (“the camera forgets my setting when I change exposure modes”)?

#1 will be ignored, always (though product marketing might try to quantify how many people think that way, because someday they might need to decide between a 60mp and 100mp full frame sensor, and 100mp may come closer to satisfying those 200mp requests than 60mp). 

#2 tends to also be ignored, unless you’re a super-influencer and famous photographer, particularly if you have a big audience and might bolt to a competitor’s product if a feature isn’t changed or added. Also: if a competitive product suddenly sports this feature, that will sometimes get a camera company’s attention, particularly if the Internet starts amplifying its impact (truthfully or not). 

#3 gets promoted into consideration within product marketing’s long list of things they can/might do, but only if product marketing heard the complaint in the first place and recognized it as important. I'm pretty sure the "full list" never gets conveyed to Tokyo, but rather a carefully curated capsule. Why? Because a big, complete, huge list would essentially say "you messed up" and it's not proper in Japanese culture to be that critical. It would be shameful to the engineers. Even if such a list did exist, it's unlikely it would be conveyed to the product designers for that reason.

#4 needs to be duplicated or verified by someone at the subsidiary before it will be relayed back to Japan to get prioritized by engineering. Loss of function complaints tend to get priority here. If the problem can be duplicated, a fix might show up in firmware; or it might not, as it depends upon how big the problem is perceived to be and how often it would be encountered. Higher end cameras will get "more fixes" than lower end cameras.

What we have here is capitalism at its worst. #2 through #4 may actually get done by the camera maker, but only in the followup product. It does you no good that the complaint was heard and addressed, as you don't want to buy a replacement for the product you already paid money for. You even see vestiges of this on the Internet: "why should I pay to be a beta tester?" 

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