Sunday, January 09, 2005

The dismal state of consumer electronics: the curse of being market driven (Pogue): Circuits Newsletter

The newest camcorders, designed to meet the needs of discriminat ... err braindead consumers have been market driven over a cliff:
... problem of manufacturers concentrating on the zoom multiple, which is what people understand, instead of the widest angle, which is just as important. The result is camcorders with horribly "zoomed in" widest angles. Once again, they put their R&D into the features that market well, not the ones that actually make a better camcorder!

You can find out a camcorder's widest angle by looking at a less often published specification: the 35mm equivalent of your camcorder's zoom. The smaller the small number is, the wider the camcorder can get when fully zoomed out, and the bigger the big number the more zoomed in it can get.

Your DCR-TRV70 has a 35mm equivalent of 52 to 520mm. The 52mm minimum is HUGE. That's why you feel like your video is zoomed in. ... (Compare that to the 28mm of the Rebel, and the 18mm measurement of some good wide-angle lenses.)

You said you were looking for a Sony camcorder, so I looked up the 35 mm equivalents of their camcorders in the TRV70's price range (of course, all of these will be replaced this week at the Consumer Electronics Show):

DCR-HC65: 46 to 460 mm
DCR-HC85: 52 to 520 mm
DCR-PC350: 45 to 450 mm (probably the best camcorder in the Sony 2004 line)
DCR-HC1000: 49 to 588 mm (stay away — far, far away!)
It may be just old age, but I feel as though in the past 6 years this trend has run amok. Vendors are "customer driven" indeed -- but the problem is, the customer is an ass!

Ok, not an ass -- just a human being overwhelmed by endless complexity and unable to make informed buying decisions. Market research shows customers care about "Zoom" -- even though it's the last thing they need for most home video work. (Do you really want to see Aunt Jennie's zit?). The engineers know the customer is being stupid, but if they give the customer what they really need, rather than what the customer thinks they need -- the engineer's company will be out of business.

This happens all over the place. The result is that people who want quality products that are intelligently designed are being forced into the professional market -- and that costs a fortune!

Unfortunately it's only going to get worse. Successful companies must be market driven. They have no choice but to deliver what the masses want -- even if it's bad for them. Hmm. Maybe I'll become a Straussian.

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