Camera UI meets Design Sprint
Case
Camera UI meets Design Sprint
Challenge
Since 2010, digital cameras have been disrupted by smartphones and sales dropped more than 80%. But in the declining camera market, mirrorless cameras have grown slowly. Sony is #1 in this market, foremost in the U.S. (see source). While Sony is technically advanced, their user interface falls short and still receives bad reviews, regardless of product updates. Because I use a Sony Alpha 7R2 as a hobby photographer and I am unhappy with the interface, I made it a personal challenge to prototype a new User Interface concept in 5 days, all by myself!
User Research
I was searching for Sony camera experts. But where to find them? I asked the employees in Berlin's Sony store if they liked to be interviewed. They declined. I asked professional photographers on Instagram to join. No answer. Then I moved to plan C and looked for expert opinions online. Voila! Photographers had posted camera reviews in blogs and on YouTube. In one case the expert described 150+ Sony camera features in 50 minutes and concluded: "Pfhuhhh! If you made it until here, you are a person of unique perseverance."
This is what users said about the Sony Alpha 7R2 & 7R3:
⭐ The function button is awesome
⭐ The "My Menu" on the 7R3 is great
❌ The standard menu is badly organized, illogical, out of place
❌ Autofocus is not always reliable
❌ PlayMemories Apps are difficult to install on the camera
Problem Definition
Using a new camera for the first time is the most critical moment. In my own experience, I watched YouTube tutorials for the basic camera setup, struggled with the strobe installation and bought a book from Brian Smith. After some time, one eventually get used to it. The perfect problem definition after a few iterations was: "Understanding a Sony camera in less than 5 minutes".
Ideation
During the ideation, I sketched out three steps of an idea. In "Live Preview Touch" I imagined that users could change settings with touch gestures on the camera display. "Feature Love Cursor" was built around a cursor as the main navigation tool — in combination with scrollable lists of features. The third idea "Voice Assistant" was a test to interact with the professional camera in a new way, like Alexa or Google Home. After aligning them with the user research, I defined these features for my prototype:
Simplification
⭐ One physical trigger instead of 14 buttons/wheels
⭐ Touch display

Improved User Experience

Better organized settings for long-lasting changes
⭐ Hotspot corners for shooting, viewing, settings
⭐ Transparency and micro-animations

Smart Assistance

Onboarding to explain key features
Live menu for quick changes
Smart Feedback on images
MVP
First, I worked on the new interface. In Sketch I divided the screen into 40 px units — which is the absolute minimum for touch elements. Then I tested different design options from my quick scribbles. That was the moment where I ran into a few UX problems. How could users switch between different shooting modes? How do they switch between shooting and viewing?
I implemented a "hotspot concept" with one access point in each corner. In the shooting mode, users could lock certain parameters and change them intuitively. I built in smart feedback, where users decide whether they apply the suggestions or not. The general settings were structured in a completely new way. I also created an onboarding process to introduce the most important features. Two days of design — the invested time improved the product a lot!
I had in mind to animate the interface with „Principle" and to run it on an iPhone. This automatically led to a "touch display" concept. But now came the fun part: I built a "foam camera" around the smartphone with the running interface. Therefore I „killed" all 14 physical buttons and wheels and left only one: the trigger! It turned out very nicely.
Outcome
I set up three usability tests and kicked off each session with questions about photography in general, just to know if users were beginners or experts and if they used smartphones or professional cameras. Then I unpacked my prototype and set 10 tasks to observe how users interacted with it. They loved it! The user ranking of their Top 5 features clearly resonated with the Design Sprint goal "understanding a Sony camera within 5 minutes".
The Top 5 features
⭐ Touch display (12 stars)
⭐ Hot spot corners for shooting, viewing, settings (10 stars)
⭐ Onboarding to explain key features (8 stars)
⭐ Smart Feedback on images (3 stars)
⭐ Live menu for quick changes (2 stars)