So I was just wondering. What happens to the online end of the digital imaging hobby when new camera introductions slow to a crawl?
People love to read about new cameras, new technology, new ideas—"whatever's next," in the words of one commentator. According to 1001 Noisy Cameras' latest "Leaderboard," there were 123 new cameras introduced in the first quarter of 2010. Seems like a ton. So all is well then?
Herein lies the rub: of those 123, only eight were new interchangeable-lens types with 4/3-sized sensors or better. And of those eight, two (Panasonic G2, Canon T2i) were updates or modified versions of existing cameras; two were "stripper" or more basic versions of more fully-featured cameras (Sony A450, a bare-bones A550, and Panasonic G10); and one was a longtime vaporware camera that still hasn't actually materialized (that I know of—the Sigma SD15). Only three—the Samsung NX-10, Olympus E-PL1, and Pentax 645D—are significantly new models capable of generating any degree of real excitement among enthusiasts. And none of the three are mainstream APS-C or "full-frame" DLSRs. Two are mirrorless Micro-types, and only one—the big Pentax—is the kind of thing that used to keep the writers working late and the fires burning bright.
...And it might not even make it to the English-speaking countries at all. Hmm.
Sony has a rare recent hit on its hands with the popular new W290. But it's not the sort of camera that gets a veteran photo-dog's heart pumping hard.
Of course, new cameras will continue to be introduced, and we'll all continue to be interested in them. But most people reading this will remember the heady days of the "core" of the digital transition, maybe 1998–2005, when progress was rapid and we were spoiled for news. New things—new big things—new big exciting things—were coming down the pike one right after the other. One right on top of the other, sometimes.
This particular site—I mean TOP—reached the apex of its popularity (measured in traffic, at least) when I offered commentary on the Nikon D3 and D700, the Canon 5D Mark II, and the Sony A900 in the fall of 2008. The scene hasn't been nearly that exciting lately.
It's not like nothing's happened since then. But there's been a definite slowing of progress in the past year and a half (doubtless partly a consequence of the global financial crisis, as well as slowly saturating markets). And, on the digital camera sites, there's been a perceptible calming of the waters—even as competing sites spring up all the time, as Johnny-come-lately webpreneurs vie like neighborhood kids for their slices of the online profit pie. Also, most of the excitement seems to have been at the low and high ends of the scale, with mirrorless pocket cameras and the newest "645" big-sensor cameras, or in new features like the spreading-kudzu video convergence thing (which to me is........snuffurfllubub huuuuunh? What just happened? Sorry, musta put myself right to sleep there. Guess my snores woke me up*).
So I'm just wondering. What's going to happen when there's just not much news to report? Or when cameraphones siphon the juice off the point-and-shoot market and the mirrorless cameras kill the entry-level end of the DSLR market—and the mid-level DSLRs get so good that even some pros won't feel the need to justify the big rigs?
I'll still be over here off to the side happily blowsing about replica sailing ships, horse races, and whatever my current infatuation happens to be amongst photographers and their books (to paraphrase what Thomas Jefferson said of reading, I have a canine appetite for pictures). But whither the big digi sites? Occasional scintillating news of new firmware updates plus tips to deals on printer ink, before the chirping crickets recommence? Not prognosticating here; like I say, just wondering.
*Video isn't my thing, in other words.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Glenn Gordon: "I'm not a camera maven. Obsessing over gear and galloping technology makes me slightly nauseous, so I try to maintain a safe distance from the techno-commentariat, all the far-seeing Nostradamuses prognosticating on the future of photography and pronouncing on the fatal flaws of this or that camera or software or new holy wafer of silicon. Gear is seductive—I'm a sucker for it myself—but in the words of one who teaches by example, 'it's not about the bike.'
"I think it would be interesting if every comment offered to TOP were accompanied by a photograph—made by the commentator, so that we could not only read what the person thinks but could see how the writer sees. It would probably make for an editorial nightmare, but it would tether talk to vision, and possibly reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere."
Featured Comment by Shawn Barnett: "This is a Photokina year. Watch for more big news this Summer and Fall."