Digital SLR Camera D2X
"We spared no effort to create a camera approaching absolute customer satisfaction."
The instincts and ideas of product designers led to the peerless performance of the D2X.
The new image processing engine is the fruit of your labor. What are its most appealing advantages?
I think the first big point of appeal is how well it achieves balance in color reproduction. We discovered that what makes for beautiful color reproduction depends on customer preferences. The definition of beautiful color differs from one person to another. Some may value images with vivid saturation, while others may not. Users of a high-end camera like the D2X tend to require both faithful color reproduction and easy post-shooting processing operation, because they want superior quality and capability to complete an image as a work. "Superior quality" constitutes good balance. Good balance in color reproduction. Smooth gradation. Appropriate sharpness. For the image processing engine of the D2X, we sought to achieve a good balance of elements, resulting in unprecedented performance. We take pride in having produced a camera that is suitable for the workflow of professional photographers.
I heard that one of the technological advantages offered by this new engine is its optimal distribution of analog and digital signal processing. Does this advantage contribute to the good balance that you talk about in the overall image?
I think so. Especially when a user wants an image that can be handled easily, smoothness of the gradation can be very important. Maximizing this smoothness required integration of acuteness of the basic tone curve and analog signal processing. You can see gradation characteristic results when you try retouching an image shot with the D2X.
Please explain analog signal processing in this case more specifically.
The acuteness of the tone curve is directly related to the minuteness of signal partitioning. The more acute the gradation, the more precise the luminosity measurement. With conventional digital cameras, reproduction of gradation depends solely on the results of digital measurement, eventually causing gaps in gradation. To minimize such gaps in gradation, the D2X introduces our unconventional approach of analog adjustment for white balance in the first stage of signal processing. This approach helps to achieve smoother, more accurate gradation than conventional digital cameras are capable of.
I see. So it applies a revolutionary new idea that has never been realized in a conventional image processing system.
Exactly. This approach is fundamentally different from the usual approaches to image processing. And, to tell you the truth, it was quite difficult to introduce the analog white balance adjustment system. Conventionally, white balance is conditioned digitally. Once an image is taken with a digital camera, A/D conversion occurs first, then this digital image is evaluated to determine the white balance value, according to the conventional process. With the D2X, however, the white balance adjustment is in analog, which means that white balance value is determined for the image before A/D conversion. So we had to figure out a new mechanism for this.
What kinds of results occur in using such an innovative white balance adjustment?
The most distinguishable results appear in skin tones. Especially in portrait shots, you can appreciate its effect at a glance. Overall, the D2X image processing engine is superb at reproduction of gradation and contrast. So, by applying its own white balance adjustment, the D2X can provide beautiful, smooth gradation in images.
Sounds great. Is there any other new technology you want to mention?
In supporting the new technology of sYCC color space, we realized another revolutionary idea. It produces JPEG files in a broader range than sRGB does, in order to exploit output capabilities of the latest color printers to maximum advantage.
So many ideas and so much effort went into completing the D2X!
It's true. For example, the white balance control I mentioned a little while ago may not necessarily require analog processing. If we had decided to use conventional digital white balance control, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble. Some people may think we are too obsessive. But we wanted to rise to the challenge, because we believe that pursuing every benefit, no matter how small, was worth the extra effort if it allowed the D2X to come closer to achieving absolute user satisfaction. We didn't take the short route, but we had the spirit and determination to keep up the hard work, and it led us to create a better product in the end.
You are really passionate about development in all respects. I remember you discussing the importance of considering the camera's usefulness from a user's perspective throughout this process. Could you elaborate on this?
Of course. Let me talk about one example. Users of the D2X are mainly professional photographers who handle commercial shooting, as well as high-end amateur photographers who are enthusiastic about creating works such as nature or insect photographs. How the textures are expressed in the image is really important to such photographers. So we took great care to ensure that our noise reduction technology will never spoil the image texture. With the number of effective pixels increasing to 12.4 million, noise can tend to appear easily, so the quality of noise reduction technology greatly influences texture. Throughout the image design process, we put a lot of emphasis on how to bring out the best in lens characteristics and users' creative intentions.
I can feel the professionalism of its caliber for professional use. How about the processing speed of the new engine?
The camera's speed is a very important element, too. The new engine of the D2X achieves quite high speeds, especially compared with conventional digital cameras. You certainly feel the comfort that provides. Actually, I was comfortable shooting even with the prototype. The worth of such speed is revealed especially when shooting in RAW data format. The time required to record has been radically shortened, and you don't have to wait long at all for the camera to finish preparing for the next shot. The shooting rhythm is very important, for example, when shooting fashion models. Professional models are used to the shooting rhythm of a film-based camera, which can provide 20 to 30 consecutive images at intervals of 1 to 2 seconds. From the start of D2X development, we aimed for performance sufficient to accommodate a professional photographer's workflow, so we are happy that we succeeded in achieving the same shooting rhythm as that of film-based cameras.
"Digital cameras themselves provide the fun and flexibility that manipulating film provides."
In photography, there is so much to know, which relatively few actually know about.
Your comments about the new image processing engine's features lead me to feel that "usefulness" is its key overall characteristic.
It could be. What we did from the very beginning of D2X development was analyze how people would use a new high-spec digital camera and what users would think is useful. This analysis clarified our aims for each function, so it might be natural that the most distinguished characteristic of the final product is "usefulness." I am confident that we've achieved a very high level of usefulness.
I see. But of course the D2X should provide various functions, too. Wasn't it quite difficult to integrate usefulness and wide-ranging functionality?
Definitely. But it is true that digital cameras have much more potential for image creation, so it is inevitable that more and more functions are required of new models. For example, with a digital camera, you can select characteristics of tone or sharpness, or have noise reduction on or off. You can also control the white balance so that you get a warm image or a cool image. In the age of black-and-white film, photographers adjusted chemicals, temperatures and time for print development, as well as ways of printing on photographic paper, to create pieces of work that expressed their creative intentions. With a digital camera, those adjustments can be made in the camera itself, so photographers can enjoy the fun of creation more easily. And the D2X is equipped with various functions to enhance and intensify the fun for professional and high-level amateur photographers.
Looking ahead, what is your dream as a technical expert?
It is always in my philosophy to pursue usefulness. I want to produce a camera that brings the fun of photography to more people. I mentioned the fun of developing black-and-white film, but relatively few photographers know about this. With a digital camera, it is much easier to process an image into a piece of work that fulfills creative intention, so I want to help give the world that kind of fun in photography through products that I develop.