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11-09-2010, 03:59 PM   #1
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User interface (menu) likes and dislikes

So there's a lot of threads right now comparing the features of camera A to camera B, but I often find that the User Interface (UI) or menu system of these cameras are often overlooked. Ergonomics is often mentioned, but I feel the UI has a lot to do with the ergonomics.

You'll often hear me say in these forums that the K-x was my first DSLR, but that's a lie, as I often forget I initially purchased a Canon T1i (500D) prior to the Pentax. Of course the T1i was sent back in favor of the K-x after playing with the Canon for about 2 weeks and the rest is history I now own a K-7 in addition to the K-x and noticed a large step up in terms of customizing the controls.

Anyhow, I recently had a chance to play around with a friend's D90 and D3100. Aside from discussing the capability of each camera to shoot an image, I found the user interface to be awkward, albeit probably because I'm so used to the Pentax. I did find the Nikon D3100 to be very newbie friendly, as it had a picture of the aperture opening and closing when that value was changed. It also had good descriptions within the menu defining each value (shutter, ISO, aperture, etc).

Despite that, I still find Pentax seems to be more customizable in defining what functions can be assigned to the buttons or e-dials compared to the D90, T1i, or D3100.

Some of my favorite Pentax UI features off the top of my head:

zoom in or out using the rear dial for previewing shots
multi-deleting of photos by photo or folder
white balance preview
green button customization
RAW button customization
front/rear dial customization (k-7) for any mode (M, Av, Tv, Sv, etc).

Now to be fair, I should probably have given the Nikons some more time, but maybe some of you dual system shooters can chime in. What are some of your favorite UI features of Pentax? What are your favorites from other brands?

11-09-2010, 04:03 PM   #2
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The Pentax's menu is very functional, but not pretty- other manufacturers (especially casio) shine in making both come together very nicely.

It's obvious that the bulk of the menu was programmed separately from the newer info screen and fn menu, which use different designs and should be more integrated with each other, IMO.

If there's anything I'd want changed right away, it's the way the custom functions are laid out. Not fun to go scrolling through multiple pages of loosely sorted options. They should also be referred to as "options" rather than "custom functions", since the purpose of custom functions has been superseded by the USER mode.

I agree- the raw button customization is great. I also really like the new horizontal level on the K-5, and the way the record menu is set up. Not too big of a fan of the info/fn screens, but I guess they get the job done.

Now this is just me being picky, as in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn't complain one bit about the Pentax menus (especially since they switched to the high-res 3 inch LCD's).

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11-09-2010, 04:14 PM   #3
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I didn't take into account "pretty" but I did used to own a Casio Exilim and found it very intuitive. Strangely, I find it to be similar to Pentax's menu where you scroll left to right to access different settings, then up and down to choose specific value. I'll admit, I don't like scrolling through all the pages of Pentax's custom functions, but typically once I have them set, I don't really revisit them.

In terms of pretty, I though the menu on the Nikon D3100 was pretty. Are the menus in the K-5 much different from the K-7?
11-09-2010, 04:41 PM   #4
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I believe some cams have a User Menu, where one can assign commonly used menu items. This seems a great idea as once one has set one's options there's generally a few that need changing every now and then, so quick access to them would be nice.

11-09-2010, 05:12 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by einstrigger Quote
I didn't take into account "pretty" but I did used to own a Casio Exilim and found it very intuitive. Strangely, I find it to be similar to Pentax's menu where you scroll left to right to access different settings, then up and down to choose specific value. I'll admit, I don't like scrolling through all the pages of Pentax's custom functions, but typically once I have them set, I don't really revisit them.

In terms of pretty, I though the menu on the Nikon D3100 was pretty. Are the menus in the K-5 much different from the K-7?
Yes "pretty" is wholly a subjective cosmetics value, whereas true ergonomics is more a bio-behavioural implementation science aimed at efficiency~usage problem solving and "intuitive" is the target there like you say.

And just because different people find different scenarios 'intuitive' (to them) doesn't mean that their criteria of judgment is not subjective, or derived from predisposition or a prelearned familiarity.

I hate it how you need the dexterity of an octopus and the memory of an elephant to operate all the buttons and menus of a DSLR usably.

It strikes me that Cameras pose so many crazy impossibles like other small mobile devices, smart phones etc., that we use daily.
So maybe there's a lot to learn from that field? Perhaps even the huge success of Apple's iDrone range of products, and their mostly icon/gfx driven K.I.S.S and tactile (touch) interface lies much of the answer?
(Sony has made early inroads in touch in P&S)

The fact that Pentax has proved that body colour has strong appeal in DSLRs is a great step of progress in that regard.
If only mfgrs did it in prosumer models too.

.R.
11-09-2010, 05:18 PM   #6
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Now that you mention it, there are many touch screen options that are beginning to crop up. Panasonic and Sony come to mind. Naturally, I've come to love manual controls using the K-7, but I would still like to see how such controls are implemented with these new crop of cameras. Since shooting with DSLRs, I've found I need efficiency and speed, something I fear a touch screen and menu diving can't provide.
11-09-2010, 05:47 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by einstrigger Quote
Now that you mention it, there are many touch screen options that are beginning to crop up. Panasonic and Sony come to mind. Naturally, I've come to love manual controls using the K-7, but I would still like to see how such controls are implemented with these new crop of cameras. Since shooting with DSLRs, I've found I need efficiency and speed, something I fear a touch screen and menu diving can't provide.
True, but that's all in the science as I see it. You don't go all (fully) touch, like you say that can be silly, inefficient and clumsy.
It's a balance of right methods and tools for the job.
Simplifying I suppose might be the term [?], so that brain and motor coordination can meld in harmony sans confusion and conflict.

It's not easy whilst still retaining full manual creative control and power to the user but that doesn't mean stick to old school geekoid ways of buttons on levers within buttons ifs ands and buts is any acceptable answer.

The momentous movement from character based DOS to full blown GUI was a case in point that unsettled many luddites.

.R.
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