Engineer/Management Interviews Tell me Nothing

(commentary)

Every trade show and most camera introductions provoke a series of “interviews” with various high-level executives and engineers. I hate the publication of these things, as more often than not they’re marketing chaff in another guise, not news or even anything with even modest content value. 

Beyond that we have language and access issues. The Japanese are very quick to hide behind language, even when they speak English perfectly well. Access to the subjects to interview tends to not only be restricted to organizations the companies prefer, but even that access is highly restricted in time, as well. I long ago gave up trying to do serious interviews with the Japanese camera companies at trade shows because of these problems, though a few, notably Dave Etchells at Imaging-Resource, still do a pretty good job of asking tough questions and pushing for more access time. 

But far worse than dilluted news interviews are the “self” interviews, where camera companies publish faux question-and-answer sessions with key personnel. We got another one of those this week with the announcement of the Canon 5DS as Canon published a Q&A with Tsunemasa Ohara, “the key man behind the development of the revolutionary 50.6 Megapixel Canon EOS 5DS…”  

Didn’t really tell me anything useful or previously unknown, unfortunately. So let me tackle those same questions asked of Ohara-san and provide the correct answers ;~). Careful, my tongue is thoroughly in cheek. 

  • Who came up with the idea and vision for the 5DS? No one. It was just the next logical thing we needed to do to keep up with our main competitor. We apologize for taking so long to do that.

  • What are the key technical advantages compared to high-resolution DSLRs and medium format cameras? Well, compared to the only other high-resolution DSLR, we have more pixels. Compared to medium format cameras, we have the same number of pixels as some, but our cameras are smaller. Of course, our DSLR competitor has had their product selling for three years and we still aren’t shipping ours, and medium format cameras have much larger photosites than our camera and thus produce better quality data. So, maybe there isn’t any key advantage.

  • What criteria was placed on the sensor development? More pixels than our direct competitor as soon as possible, and before they have a chance to increase their pixel count.

  • Why two versions of the camera, one with and one without low-pass filters? That’s the way our competitor did it. Even though they’ve now abandoned that approach, we’re committed to promulgating it. Moreover, it gives us an answer to the complaint “my images have moire in them”: you bought the wrong camera. That’s so much easier to do than to actually engineer a sliding filter over the sensor that can manage either approach.

  • Why are there crop settings in this new camera? Why are there crop settings in our competitor’s cameras? Marketing told us that we needed parity or else they would have to come up with a reason why cropping is bad. 

  • Why does the new camera lack headphone sockets when they can record video? Our engineers were lazy. Rather than make any change to the existing body at all, we felt it was better to leave off a feature. But we did put a larger USB 3.0 connector in there, so that makes it okay, right?

  • Where might your cameras be going in the future? There’s nothing really new coming. We started with a few pixels and just keep adding more. We started with a sluggish processor and just keep making it faster. We’re really good at these “just make it a little ‘more than before' types of tasks.” Eventually we’ll have gigapixels and terahertz. Someone must need that.

I really don’t understand why marketing departments think that such Q&A sessions are necessary. They impart no useful information, and in the case of Canon’s answer about the missing headphone socket, it just makes them look incompetent. If you’re going to use energy to create something, tell us something we don’t know, especially something that’s useful.

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