Kodak Camera Industrial Design Surprise

I was at Circuit City a few days ago, browsing the digital camera aisle. My trusty Canon G2 has served me well, but its bulk prevents me from carrying it around with me at all times. I also have to admit that its operating speed is starting to feel a little sluggish compared to the newer cameras. It wouldn’t hurt to look, I reasoned.

As I looked over the assembled Nikons, Canons, and Olympus cameras, I found that none of them really moved me. Feature sets, form factors, etc…all of them have pretty much settled into a silvery melange of difficult-to-differentiate product. What stood out most, though, was the surprisingly attractive Kodak EasyShare One and Kodak V570One cameras.

Good-looking consumer electronics design from an American company???

Something a Little Different

EasyShare OneEasyShare One

I had become used to skipping over the blobby, featureless designs from Kodak and HP for years, preferring the matter-of-factness of Japanese industrial design. They have a visual design vocabulary that’s hard for me to describe; part of me thinks it comes from living in high-density urban areas and a love for iconography and fine detail. My favorite American design tends to draws on the bold attitude that accompanies having lots of resources and the space to show it off. Admittedly, I haven’t done an exhaustive review of the American design scene other than what I see in big-box retail stores; what I see there isn’t very inspiring.

V570V570

So it’s nice to finally come across a couple US-designed cameras that catch my eye.

  • Innovative Features. The EasyShare One was the first camera, apparently, to have built-in WiFi. It also has a very large LCD back panel with a stylus for clicking things off…that’s pretty cool. The V570 has a dual-lens design: one is for zoom, the other is for wide-angle. In practice, the transition between zoom and wide-angle seemed a little sluggish and uneven to me, but it’s a great feature, in a compact package.

  • Nice Design. A lot of American consumer electronics design is just terrible. At best, it gets the job done without being too ugly (Dell comes to mind here). When it comes to making something look awesome, though, it’s hard to touch the Japanese. They live and breath small. The only American company that comes to mind in the same space is Apple, with their luscious iPods and brushed-metal Macs. The balance between austere unblemished surfaces and clusters of electronic functionality is usually overlooked. The Kodak V570, by comparison, draws upon retro influences (I love the lens cluster) and bold rectilinear form. It’s just so yummy…it’s a brick of digital camera goodness bursting with visual candy. It manages to strike a balance between that austerity and excitement, a little reminiscent of the Sony PSP, but more fun. The flat front face almost looks like a cartoon diagram of a digital camera…awesome! And the lens closing mechanism makes the coolest “thunk” sound.

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p>I have no idea if the camera shoots well…I’ll have to check Digital Photo Review to see what they’re saying about it. This camera, though, is at the top of my list for a new point-and-shoot, if it meets my technical criteria…and when I have some money to spare. In the meantime, the old G2 is shooting just fine.

Can I Pick ‘Em or What?

I was curious if the V570 was designed in-house at Kodak, so I did a search on “industrial design V570 kodak”; I discovered that the camrea won an IDEA 2006 Award from IDSA, the Industrial Designers Society of America.

Visit SiteA little further digging uncovered the design house that worked with Kodak on both the V570 and, as it turns out, the other Kodak camera I liked: Blue Map Design in New York City. They have a great photo spread (see above) on the V570 camera. Sweet!

Be sure to check out the other IDEA 2006 award winners…great design deserves recognition! According to the Blue Map website, they also were a Red Dot Award Winner in 2006, a prize I am not familiar with. The Red Dot website, though, looks like it has a lot of interesting communications design resources. Bookmarked!