Friday, August 6 2010

Dear Sony,

Most people don’t read much of the manual that ships with a camera. Some because they already know what they’re doing, and just need a few keys facts about specific features. Others because the quick-start guide covered batteries, power, and how to get at their pictures, and they really have no use for 90 pages of details on what every possible sub-menu does.

This, however, is no excuse for putting useless information into the manual. For instance, the descriptions you’ve chosen to explain the “image styles” in my a850, a high-end DSLR aimed at serious photographers:

  • Clear: For capturing images in a clear tone with limpid colors in the highlighted area, suitable for capturing radiant light.
  • Deep: For capturing images with deep and dense color expressions, suited to capturing the solid presence of the subject.
  • Light: For capturing images with bright and uncomplicated color expressions, suited to capturing refreshingly light ambience.

Compare to some of your other descriptions in the same section, where for instance the Vivid style is described with the words “saturation and contrast are heightened”, Neutral with “saturation and sharpness are lowered”, Landscape with “saturation, contrast, and sharpness are heightened”, and Night View with “contrast is attenuated”. These factual statements are followed by descriptions of their effect and intended use, where Clear, Deep, and Light are just fluff.

This is not a translation problem, because they’re fluff in the Japanese manual as well: “クリア:ハイライト部分の抜けがよく、透明感のある雰囲気に表現する。光の煌めき感などの表現に適 している”. This is about as clear as “limpid”, which is, ironically, as clear as mud.

dpreview’s test images from the optically-identical a900 suggest that Light and Deep are roughly equivalent to mild over/under-exposure, but sadly there’s no side-by-side of Clear and Light to see how they differ.