On every Nikon camera with an external LCD display and/or an in-finder one, figures of zero are stylized as the bottom half of an 8 rather than the outer rectangle of segments as used on almost every other device with a 7-segment display:

Nikon D40 LCD themes

Why is this done? One rumor I've read about suggests a preventive measure dating to the poor reliability assumed in the early days of LCDs assuming that this zero couldn't be mistaken for an 8 with a burnt out middle segment, however this smaller zero tradition also appears in the shutter speed dials of many earlier Nikons (picture from a Nikon FE, but dating back to at least the EL2):

Nikon FE shutter speed dial

  • Most clearly this is to save battery! The larger 0 uses 2 more segments...
    – Unapiedra
    May 1 '13 at 22:24

The smaller 0 on the dial has in my view a much simpler explanation:

If the 0 were normal size than it would touch the number above and below. The smaller 0s appear only on the longer numbers (not on M90, 30, 60 but on 250, 500, 1000).

  • Somehow other manufacturers don't have the same problem and they use regular 0s. May 2 '13 at 11:00
  • True yet other manufactures' shutter speed dials (i.e. Canon AE-1) look terrible from a design and typography point of view.
    – Unapiedra
    May 5 '13 at 17:28
  • 1
    Do they? I got quite a lot stuff done related to the design and I can tell you that I hardly can see any flaw at all - both: in typography and design. If anything - there's a huge issue with typography on Nikon cameras dials. May 7 '13 at 18:10

While I don't have an "official" answer, one reason I've thought that the size difference makes sense is that the size difference helps the shutter speed to be instantly recognizable. That is, when the shutter speed text measures all the same size you are typically actually reading the numerals, but when they are varied (if even so slightly) you are able to scan the shutter speed more quickly and recognize it by shape. It's the same theory as when reading text: for common words you don't actually read the individual letters, but rather you see the shape of the word and recognize that. Similarly, that's the reason for "lining" text figures -- they are more easily recognizable because of their shape.

  • I got something contrary - if I see a number that's made half of letters (0s replaced by os) and next to it are regular words with small letter 0 - it takes me twice as long to "catch up" with this way of displaying data than it'd be otherwise. 0 is a very characteristic number and it also can be very easily recognized only by shape. In no way it requires any slow "reading" as you suggest. May 2 '13 at 11:01
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    I think o's are there because of quick recognition too. The important thing is the first number so it is "highligted" using smaller o's. You won't read them and focus on the main number. If they were 0's, your brain will try to find 8 among them - it is very similar. 1240000000000000000 1240000000008000000 124oooooooooooooooo May 2 '13 at 11:36

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