The goal of this project is to rethink the mapping of controls around a DSLR interface. There currently exists no standardization of control placement for DSLR cameras, meaning that expert users must re-learn a lot when switching between cameras because they mostly use the device by touch, and spend little time reading the interface. Additionally, many controls and menus are not grouped around common tasks nor do they explain their basic functionality. As a result many new users struggle to learn the basics of photography because they can’t decipher the iconography or terminology of this extremely complicated and powerful device, and as a result many people quickly abandon the learning process.
A Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera, or DSLR for short, aims to combine the mechanisms, optics, and controls of a traditional single-lens reflex camera combined with the digital imaging and instant displays of a digital camera. Two main competitors have emerged to dominate the majority of the market share: Canon and Nikon, which share around 71-75% of the market, with the rest belonging to Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Fuji.
However, there is a second tier market in point-and-shoot digital cameras, which are typically less expensive and may allow for manual controls but with less features and no interchangeable lenses. A niche competitor is actually smartphones, which have a digital camera that has vastly improved in ability and quality over the past few years. Smartphones are at a similar price point to DSLR cameras, and there are several new add-on apps that allow the built-in camera to function with some SLR-like controls. For many consumers, they would rather buy the smartphone with its additional features including wifi, portable internet, text, phone, etc rather than just a camera.
Through the process of prototyping I began by sketching and creating a paper prototype, which I then tested with 4 users (all students and non-DSLR owners). I found great insight among those who were heavy smart phone users, as they were also my biggest potential customer and had the greatest familiarity with this kind of interface. For the user test I had each user perform a simple image manipulation task and talk-through what they were doing and seeing. This helped greatly when it came to refining language, icons, and control placement. In between each round of testing I completed a set of Usability Aspect Reports for each user as well as a change log to document my process.
For the next stage of testing I created a similar task using Keynote and Prototyping on Paper, or POP, application to begin testing a clickable interface. This was done by using hot spots to connect a series of screens through a pre-arranged image manipulation task in which the user had to access each of the controls on the right hand side. I quickly realized after the first version and user test that having an image in place was necessary for users to gain immediate feedback about what they were doing.
For the final prototype I used Axure to create an interface that I could test on an iPhone 6 via mobile web. A classmate looked over my interface and evaluated it using Neilsen's canonical 10 heuristics.
I also completed two last rounds of user tests with 4 more users of various ages and backgrounds. However, I found as I created higher and higher fidelity versions I found that people wanted to explore more and more and suggested more and functionality, which is great, except it also created a need to build out increasingly complex functionality through a tool that was limited in terms of image manipulation on events. While the final prototype has a high degree of choices that can be made, its still ultimately handling the image functionality through a set of work arounds, not through programmatically manipulating images, which wouldn’t be possible in this tool.
As smartphones have emerged as strong digital cameras they have nearly destroyed the market for point-and-shoot cameras. While DSLRs may remain differentiated by continuing to expand on their offerings of lenses and features at better prices, they have overall notoriously poor controls that are extremely difficult to master. By offering more consistent controls that are easier to understand DSLR manufacturers could capture a larger market of eager novices who don’t have the time to invest in learning overly archaic and complicated controls. This process of scaffolding novices into enthusiasts could be achieved via an app like this that helps teach smartphone photographers basic manual controls, thus getting them hooked and passionate about more advanced photography.