egapixel and digital zoom one-upsmanship have proven effective marketing tools, but these features appear to be emphasized at the expense of other important aspects of the digicam consumer experience. For example, a hummingbird can flap its wings 239 times1 before the Canon G5, on auto-focus, can snap a single digital picture.2 Which of these two facts will digicam consumers find impressive? Continued overemphasis of marketable features, such as pixels and zoom, jeopardize the future sales and overall popularity of digital imaging. Nobody wants to find lumps of coal under the digicam industry tree in the years to come!

What Do Consumers
Want For Christmas?

Not Digital Cameras with Bad Shutter Lags
That Are a Hassle to Use!

by Glenn D. Slovenko

Imagine the scenario from this recent press release: "Nothing is more exciting than the birth of a child, and with the help of Nikon Coolpix and Lamaze Publishing, capturing that priceless picture of baby will be a snap... 'Since every picture of baby matters...'"3 Now imagine that the dedicated photographer for this magic moment of birth has the camera at the ready, then at the exact moment the baby's head appears, the photographer presses the shutter, and, and, and...the husband moves his position, and now the camera captures the newborn's first moment of life. Well, not quite. Actually, the camera captured the father's shirt, in front of the newborn's first moment of life. With today's typical shutter and auto-focus lag times, the scene can change many times before the camera captures the image. Shutter and AF lag are real problems in actual use. And, yes, "every picture of baby matters." How many lumps of Christmas coal would this incident be worth?

True, the above does represent an extreme example; however, anyone with a digicam knows of those precious shots that got away. Presuming the camera will shoot when you press the button does not seem to be an unrealistic expectation. The following is a published consumer opinion that is readily displayed to a worldwide audience of prospective purchasers: "This camera takes a looong time between pressing the shutter release and capturing the can forget about taking action photos, people walking around, animals, or anything moving unpredictably. 1 find myself mentally calculating trajectories, and then composing the shot based upon the prediction. This results in a lot of lousy photos."4

In its own way, the marketplace is highlighting deficiencies in the consumer experience. Consumer rants, public and in print, as well as objective and subjective ratings and reviews abound. For example, displays a rating matrix that includes subjective consumer ratings of shutter lag. Untold sales are being lost as a result of consumers who are unhappy with or unwilling to accept the state-of-the-state digicam consumer experience. Here at EZ Rated, Inc., consumers who have struggled through the testing process with the latest digicam regularly tell us they are thankful for the experience. Why? Now they know they are not going to buy a new digicam as previously intended. The reason typically offered is that they now believe the process is more of a hassle than they are prepared to deal with.

Too much of the digicam consumer experience is still too maddening. First, consumers must wade through the confusing array of pixel and zoom claims, media formats, form factors, and industry jargon, etc. If they make it through that odyssey, they then must learn how to set up and operate their new beast, and ultimately figure out how to transfer digital files. For their journey, prospective buyers have been promised wondrous experiences—laced with simplicity and utility. Unrealistic expectations of simplicity and utility that is...

When consumers get their new' cameras home, their visions of bliss often morph into rage as promises are not realized, at least not quickly enough. In no time these consumers have to deal with their new camera's unanticipated limitations, such as lag, low-light focusing, optical viewfinders, and obscure logic controls, etc. What they are offered, to help them deal with all of this, is "gibberish committed to paper"—otherwise known as a manual. Finally, consumers are supposed to circumnavigate the obstacles in getting an affordable quality print from their camera—a process for which there are many solutions—few of which are truly consumer friendly. Disappointment, negative referrals, brand damage, support requests, and returns, etc., are obvious end results.

In the first half of 2003, "global sales of cellphones with built-in cameras surpassed sales of conventional digital cameras."5 For consumers, the convenience afforded in having their ever-present phone double as their point-and-shoot is almost irresistible. No matter how the image is captured, satisfaction is what counts. Megapixels may move product—over the short term, but satisfied consumers move more product—and do so over the long term. Hopefully, next year your neighbor will still want the latest digicam under the tree—as opposed to the latest digi-Nokia. ptn

Glenn D. Slovenko is the president and CEO of EZ Rated, which provides out-of-box setup and first use evaluations, diagnostics, and technical documentation services based on its proprietary anthropological usability processes.  For more information about EZ Rated, visit

1Rauzon, Mark J. Hummingbirds. Ulster , PA. Grolier. 1997: 12-13.
2‘The next generation of Canon's popular "G" model updates the line with a larger, 5.0-megapixel CCD,’ The Imaging Resource. August 18, 2003.
3 “Nikon Coolpix Helps New Moms and Expectant Couples Prepare for a Lifetime Of Memories,” Nikon, Cotober, 6, 2003.
5 Strategy Analytics, as reported in, “Camera Phones Pass Milestone In Photo Market,” The Wall Street Journal September 22, 2003

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