A camera with a screen reader Sony A7RIV
There are a lot of visually impaired people who use still cameras as an important tool to capture a scene (like birthday party, or other special event) and see it later on a larger computer monitor. The inherent problem with this solution is that until recently, there were no DSLR cameras available with accessible menus. In late 2021, Sony launched their Sony Alpha 7 IV (A7R IV) camera which includes a first of it’s kind screen reader.
Now, this is not one of those attention-grabbing articles that inevitably every photography blogger writes. Camera body features evolve over time, and there are always YouTube photography influencers who make a big deal about jumping ship from one manufacturer to another. Reasons vary but mainly focus on a new feature set, or megapixel increase. These influencers end up selling their entire kit and wave the flag of the new manufacturer only to return at a later date because they always loved the previous manufacturer.
I have been shooting professionally since 2000 and been a Canon user since that time. I’m almost completely blind and I have stuck with them because I am comfortable with the menu layout and can navigate it quickly. My belief is that a photographer should invest in good lenses and body features will evolve over time. With good glass in hand, lenses can be adapted to new technology as in the transition to mirrorless and new lens mount for Canon.
I have never been one of those photographers who considered jumping ship from one camera manufacturer to another because of a single feature, until now. Having a screen reader available in the camera menu system could be a game changer for anyone who is visually impaired and is a photographer.
After a couple weeks of debating this point with many photographer colleagues, the consensus from the perspective of working photographers seems to be that a screen reader is not a needed function on a pro level camera because there are few visually impaired users who would consider purchasing a $3000+ camera setup. I disagree with this mentality, my experience is that when manufacturers are required or volunteer to implement accessibility features into any product, that product tends to increase in useability in unsuspecting ways for a larger audience than just those who need accessibility features. In terms of this camera, this not only helps the users who are low vision or visually impaired, but it forces those who are creating the menus and functionality of the product to take a long hard look at what and how they are implementing features (and I know this because I come from a long product manufacturing background). Just like beeping signals tell the visually impaired when it is safe to cross the street, the addition of screen reader technology could give Sony the opportunity to reflect on their menu layout and could in effect increase the quality of the user experience for all their users. I applaud Sony for implementing this feature even in its limited state (more on that later) and hope that other camera manufacturers follow suit in Sony’s groundbreaking addition of this feature.
The A7R IV
The A7R IV is a popular choice for professional level/enthusiast level photographers, sporting a 61-megapixel sensor, 4K 60p video recording and 10 frames per second burst. This camera is a great choice for still and video enthusiasts alike.
Screen reader technology has been available for years and is commonly used in everything from computers to smartphones and ATM machines. Sony (as of this writing) is the first camera manufacturer to include screen reader technology in a pro level camera. I have not been able to get hold of one of these cameras to test it myself, but it appears as though the initial implementation of the feature is a bit limited in the menus it will read. Users can adjust the speed of the voice up to 4X which is great for screen reader power users. Users also have the ability to adjust the volume of the screen reader voice.
As a professional landscape and travel photographer, I have never been tempted to trade in all of my gear and purchase a new camera system, but if Sony are not only leading the way to accessible photographic technology but committed to adding new capabilities for this screen reader technology, this could be my reason to switch. Thanks to the readers who alerted me to this technology, I will reach out to Sony and see if I can get a review unit so I can create a feature article about using this camera in the field.
If you would like to read more about Sony’s screen reader technology, here is an article I found from digitalcameraworld.com
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About the author
Ted Tahquechi is a blind photographer, travel influencer, disability advocate and photo educator based in Denver, Colorado. You can see more of Ted’s work at www.tahquechi.com
Ted operates Blind Travels, a travel blog designed specifically to empower blind and visually impaired travelers. https://www.blindtravels.com/
Ted’s body-positive Landscapes of the Body project has been shown all over the world, learn more about this intriguing collection of photographic work at: https://www.bodyscapes.photography/
Questions or comments? Feel free to email Ted at: firstname.lastname@example.org