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Friday, 11 April 2014

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But ... maybe it's also good, for committed and/or professional photographers? Why? Because the competition then is at the level of a Kodak Instamatic.

Could not agree more, Mike. Not unlike the way in which desk top publishing technology turned "everyman" into a journalist, or copywriter or art director. I love the quote attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright: "I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters." Substitute the mind-numbing technology of your choice.


Mike,

Taking a longer term look at the cell/camera/do everything devices so currently in vogue I think they will ultimately do the enthusiast camera market good.

Cellphone cameras do a couple of things very well- being with you all the time and, as cameras do a good job in conditions that don't challenge their built in limitations which are huge.

As users see the results they often get with their phones (I'v seen more poor results than good)I believe they will start looking for a better tool to take their snapshots. And so the search for a better camera begins. Or, so I hope!

cheer,
Joe

They are aweful because the camera companies pulled a "Kodak Moment" and refused to jump on board.

I am guilty. I have a couple of nice digital cameras lying around, but over the last few months I've taken most of my photographs with my cell phone. It's usually in my pocket, my phone uploads them to a cloud service automagically, and I can view/edit them later from a computer without fiddling with an SD card reader.

I drool over the Fujifilm, Sony, Panasonic, etc. cameras that you review here, but for now, I'm happy with the camera that's with me all the time.

I take it you just read some kind of depressing camera sales article?

The digital camera seems to be following the path of the desktop personal computer...mostly sold to an older crowd except for the high end, specialized offerings, and even the older folk are discovering that a smartphone and a tablet will do most of the time.

When I go to a large family party these days I see perhaps 90% smartphone photos, and ten percent old point-and-shoot digital camera photos. I have never seen someone pull out a nice, modern pocket camera with a fast lens except for my brother who bought a Canon S95 on my recommendation. It makes you wonder how long the manufactures can hold out competing for the same small number of hobbyists and professionals who buy the nicer cameras.

does anyone see a ripple in the stream of technology that gives us every picture making tool in the long story of human picture making? not going back too far look how oil painting in the 15th C. diminished the audience for Tempera. chemical photography and 18th/19th century optics are probably the next big thing. think of the culture when these mediums were introduced. chemical photography exists in a structure like the telephone where the user is dependent forever

Is a new paradigm for photography such a bad idea? It's long overdue, IMHO. Communicating with images is the objective; the tools are free to evolve. Let's give credit and support to the innovators, and celebrate the giant leaps forward. Too many industry players are in a baby-step, lock-step, milk-the-cash-cow mode: asleep at the switch, squandering resources and missing opportunities.

Rot and nonsense. As Ctein observed a few years back, and as Thom Hogan has mentioned a couple of times recently, cellphone cameras could very well prove to be a great driver of technology, not an underminer of it. Imagine a device with a hundred tiny cameras taking a hundred high-quality images at once, collecting vast quantities of optical information at several frames per second...

Mike,
If the cell phone cameras have eaten into the sales of digital cameras it is the fault of the camera manufactures. They have failed to make small, pocketable, low light capable, responsive digital cameras with good image quality.
Instead they have pushed the megapixel rating and x factor of the zoom lens to sky high levels in the name of progress. The results have been poor image quality and atrocious low light performance. In the bargain, cell phone cameras have become relatively good enough for average users. Average users are not worried of the fate of camera manufacturers. All that matters to him or her is the picture that is captured. Let the camera makers stew in their own juices till they learn the lessons. Probably then they will come out with a sensible small camera, if they are still in business.
Ranjit Grover

Sorry Mike I disagree, I am a professional photographer and could not give my daughter a camera, she has a good eye and was happy with an i phone but one day she said I am limited by my phone camera. I gave her a Fuji x20 and you could not pry it from her warm alive hand.

Sorry, but your "Great" argument, below, is far stronger. If anything, phone cameras are forcing "real" camera manufacturers to invest upwards into genuine tech value rather than milking profits on painting and marketing the same tired old 1/1.7 p&s cams.

Anyway, this is a train that left the station years ago.

Mike - you might make the same arguments for audiophile recordings/gear and the music industry. iPhone/iPad/iTunes (and their kin) have introduced millions to the joys of music and music collecting, and even provided a step up in quality in the music listening experience for many. On the other hand downloading music has decimated the music industry and local record stores, most kids don't realize that MP3s are not even close to the best we can do in music reproduction, the majority of musicians survive on live performances over record sales, and the audiophile hobbyist community and their gear (which, ironically, is probably better than ever) is continually shrinking. So democratization of music through low cost media and easy accessibility vs. quality sound and sustainability - who's to say which is best? As an audio hobbyist, I would prefer that both coexist, but the future reality is illustrated by my son who, although he will sit down and listen to vinyl with me and appreciates my system, primarily listens to iTunes on his iPhone even though he has a pretty nice audio system of his own (a hand-me-down).

What it might do though is decimate the market to the point that all manufactures are creating for niche markets. This would then distill cameras down to what each market requires and nothing more. Robust bramping controls included in the timelapse camera with an electronic shutter that doesn't wear out. A b&w sensor on a Fuji x100s style body. Sub $2000 6k video cameras with video cam form factor XLR inputs and built in ND filters. And of course open source software that I can change to fit the items I actually use into the menu.

Anything that isn't a phone camera is niche.

I don't think the existence of mainstream threatens all the niches. Certainly, there's a niche for reach and a niche for focus speed that phone cameras are really unlikely to ever statisfactorially address, because there's a limit to how much a cell phone camera can cost.

It's possible we're headed to a place where there's a sensor array on the back of the phone and that it won't need a silly physical concept like "focus" very much, but it's still going to need reach and that still means area and area still means money. So long tele for sports and wildlife might be the last holdout.

The best and worst thing about all this digital imagery is that most of it will eventually disappear into unreadable ones and zeros...

Sort of what George Eastman did to photography.
His simple 'you click, we do the rest' wiped out thousands of third rate photo entrepreneurs and created thousands in their wake.
Its what the automatic transmission did for cars, took some minimal skill out of driving to allow millions of less skilled drivers to drive about while texting on their cell phones.
As Darwin meant, 'survival is about leaving as many new mouths behind as possible, dam the eco-system, we need to reproduce'

What I don't understand is why Nikon, Canon,and especially Sony with their long history with consumer products, have done so little to fight back. And it is a fight. Only the swift and fit will survive.

But Netflix is partly streaming, right?
And good riddance to Blockbuster and their "late (ripoff") fees.

Judging by few recent iPhone 6 rumors Apple might be meeting both markets halfway.

Much like what 35mm did to large format. Much like what photography did to painting portraits as an industry. Innumerable new technologies have displaced old ones and will continue to do so.

I think what we are seeing is the true onset of photography for all. Inevitably, a significant shift like this will produce disruption in the industry. Companies will continue to adapt or (perhaps mostly) fail. What abides is the human need to try to leave a mark, through creating art, documenting what they see beautifully, or simply sharing what they had for lunch.

Some of that creative imperative will continue to need devices capable of capturing split seconds of action at distance in difficult light - or other specialty requirements. Some will need no more than they can carry in their pocket in the form of an iPhone.

I know a photographer here in Vancouver, Sharon Wish, who is creating beauty using both her D700 and her phone. The enabling technology changes, but surely it must be this creative impulse we value above all?

I have too many cameras myself, more than I need or use, because I am fascinated with the devices themselves - but, I accept they all may one day be quaint reminders of a different time, like the slide-rule in my nostalgia drawer.

In the grim, dark future of Photography, there are only selfies and blurry pictures of food, produced by the millions every second and instantly shared among the masses, each with a feeble plea that says "look at me, I'm beautiful, aren't I? And my life is fulfilling, isn't it?"

I don't comment here often, and I have the greatest respect for Mike, but I have to say that this is utter and complete nonsense.

The comet didn't destroy the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs lack of ability to adapt to life after the comet destroyed the dinosaurs.

The camera industry's health isn't being destroyed by smartphones, it's being destroyed by camera company ownership/management who don't know how to adapt to life after smartphones.

It's being destroyed by ownership/management who refuse to fix or even acknowledge known manufacturing problems with their cameras. That might have worked in 1974 when it was difficult to disseminate the information, but it stopped working by 2004 or earlier with the rise of the Internet, and we're ten years after that.

It's being destroyed by management teams who lie, cheat, and steal about their companies earnings, and do it for years on end.

It's being destroyed by a complete lack of imagination on what a 21st camera could look like, act like, function like.

Smartphones aren't killing the camera industry. The camera industry is slowly killing itself.

"Video killed the radio star".

Sad, and true.

Average snapshooters are not going to put up with cameras anymore. They are too much work.

The image capture of my iPhone 5 is so good that I seriously doubt anyone currently under about 20 will ever be in the market for a point & shoot camera. It will take a while, but eventually the idea of a "serious" camera as a birthday/holiday present will fade away; no more piles of low to mid-range DSLRs at Costco.

I appreciate the hell out of my carry-everywhere X100, but I'm fairly serious by current standards. If all I used it for was family pictures in restaurants (an application it is incredibly well-suited for) an iPhone 5 could replace it under 90% of the lighting conditions one is like to find in that environment.

Then there's "processing." The seamless, instant, do nothing wireless integration of the iPhone with other Apple devices is almost as disruptive as digital vs. film was to casual shooters. Even taking out a memory card and plugging it into a computer is too much now. I though Apple made a huge mistake in not putting an SD reader into the iPad; boy, was I wrong about that. Wireless integration with sharing/storage/editing/display is as big a deal as the elimination of expensive, frustrating film to the PHD (Push Here, Dummy) crowd.

Serious cameras are the vinyl record turntables of the near future, but you could argue that is just a return to the norm and that the early digital era explosion of fantastic, relatively cheap cameras was a rather delightful aberration. Oh well.

Looked at the date and the day and noticed today was not Sunday and this was not the
day for "Open Mike!"

The cell/mobile phone camera is a conveniene to those who utilize them as a device to record the image of the moment without having to utilize other methods including a writing instrument. The problem is, the lines of such events happening is blurred by the existence of another recording medium.

In historical terms for newspapers say, the reporter would have to remember what happened during an event, in his mind. Then came the advent of writing instruments (pencil mostly and a note pad) and with the pencil came the
portable (4x5) camera which gave the reader two sources, written and an image to accompany same. In a way the telephone camera is an extension of same. And too that same telephone camera has evolved to a moving image recording on said device.

So the next question, how often do any of us read a daily newspaper, in detail or do we receive our "news" by listening to audio or glancing at images and audio on a computer?

People your age or the youngsters, say your son who by dint of his father's occupation was probably exposed to more technological devices than the average child. What does Zander utilize on his telephone, other than as a telephone? Following his example and look at people say older than yourself Mike. How many of them use that similar portable telephone for reasons beyond the actual
telephone? And here's the important point, who showed them what their phone could do beyond being a portable telephone?
If nobody shows you or demonstrates same and if there is a perceived need will the same person use those extra devices? Such as the camera?

I have a good example to this tecchnological madness (as i call it)>
Had to take a friend to an appointment for an
open frame MRI.Waited for him in the large
hospital cafeteria. Opened my laptop to do some catchup. Surrounding me (it is a teaching hospital BTW) were students on lunch. Students here being between say 18-30 years of age. All of them got settled and started to eat and all looked at their mobile devices, FIRST! Either telephones or small tablets. Even some sitting in groups, they reviewed what was on their personal communication devices before talking to their friends or eating. Now would you do the same and were with friends having lunch? And here's the really odd thing, maybe only one or two (out maybe 200 or 300 in the area) using laptops.
And there were a few elderly people also perhaps waiting who ate their meals in silence
without any devices...the world has changed.
And we who are old or approaching our third
quarter century are not part of it....

Digital certainly ravaged the mass user-base of film users, but cellphones eating DSLRs is a different situation: film photography survives as a niche because it provides a medium and result that is definably distinctive from digital photography. Using a cellphone vs a digital camera? Not so much.

anything that affects the health of popular consumer products from the companies we depend on also eventually affects us

As others have pointed out, camera companies should long ago have figured out ways to make cameras play nicely with phones. Why do I have to rely on an Eye-Fi card to quickly get images from an EM-5 to friends via text message?

Cell phone cameras are finally forcing camera makers to do the things they should've done ages ago.

What else do we need, Mike? More ISO? Higher DR? Maybe these cell phones are here to get us to rearrange our priorities. Nothing new to buy, no marketplace to follow.... maybe in a few years I can take a few photos. :)

Also, most cellphone photos have the approximate half-life of spent condoms, so in about 10 years people are going to start noticing a large gap in their visual archives.

Or, kinda like photography did for portrait and landscape painting?

Didn't the wet plate guys say that about the dry plate guys, and the dry plate photographers were aghast at the great unwashed hord of film photographers because anyone can be a photographer if all they have to do is buy film.

Or Amazon to brick'n'mortar bookstores?

And they're dumbing down photography. The millions of snapshots saturating the 'net are changing expectations of what a "good" photograph is - and making it hard to find the good stuff (TOP does a great service in this respect).

Of course this applies to many enabling technologies - finding new authors on Amazon worth reading is really difficult due to the sheer amount of self-published dross.

Yes, I am sure there is as much, maybe more, real talent out there, but in all the arts its getting harder to sort the wheat from the chaff.

"We have a whole generation of people that don't really know what good music sounds like and we're going to end up with a generation of people that don't have a clue what a good photo looks like, let alone know what goes into creating one."

This is sort of crap. We also have a whole generation of kids with a whole recording studio in their basement doing who knows what. And another set who are probably taking better pictures with their phones than the majority of people decrying who awful phone pictures "must" be.

Smartphone photos are good to look at on smartphones.

It's a disruptive technology. The concept is not new; think of how the Bronze Age disrupted the Stone Age, and then the Iron Age the Bronze Age. If your tribe was stuck in the Bronze Age and you encountered another tribe in the Iron Age, chances were high your tribe wouldn't fare well from the encounter.

In more modern times, you wouldn't necessarily think of the refrigerator as a disruptive technology, but industrial refrigeration destroyed the New England ice trading business in the early 20th century:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_trade

This is how history works. If camera makers don't learn something from the phone companies, they'll become part of that history too. Why do you think Samsung merged their camera and phone divisions?

Cds, in particular, were a HUGE step up in sound quality for essentially all customers. MP3s are not of course a step up from that -- but the sound quality the teenager of today actually hears at their ears is, I think, much higher than it was a generation ago.

Also, it's much easier for a small local band to distribute CDs or downloadable MP3s to their fans than it was 30 years ago. And easier to make recordings of a quality hardly dreamed of 30 or so years ago.

Cede the ephemeral digital imagery to the masses, step away from the computer for a while and shoot more film. You'll feel better. :-)

I heard that "argument" before, when

- CDs started to replace vinyl
- Art Rock replaced Blues Rock/British Invasion
- quarts watches replaced mechanical ones
- compact cassettes replaced 8-track
- vinyl replaced old 78th
- electrical windscreen wipers replaced manual wipers
- small electrical starters replaced cranks
- radio replaced [well, not quite] opera houses
- cars replaced carriages and coaches for good
- the steam engine started to replace carriages and coaches and horses
- paper replaced papyrus
- papyrus replaced stone slabs
- fire replaced ...

In the past I bought my girlfriend a Yashica T4 and a Fujifilm F31fd. Unfortunately now she does not want the Sony RX100 that I wanted to give her, because she already has a camera in her smartphone!

Even though i love to take every chance to discuss photo-related things what comes to my mind is: that thing that happened (ability to take pictures with cellphones) is called innovation. Innovation happens all the time and will - most likely - happen forever.

So i think the question is somehow redundant. Another question is - imo - much more important: what do we as photographers to exploit and to take of advantage of the innovation? Since fighting innovation is an unwinnable task.

Mitch Krupp: I think it's wrong to dismissively compare what's happening with camera phones to what happened with MP3s. This isn't simply a case of consumers getting used to crappy quality. Granted, camera phones are similar to MP3s in that they do produce inferior quality goods (but which are good enough for most people), but, look ahead, it's a bit more than that.

What's really happening is classic disruptive innovation:

Disruptive innovation... describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.

As companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ needs evolve, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are actually too sophisticated, too expensive, and too complicated for many customers in their market.

Mike: Do camera phones represent the death of Canikon and other traditional camera manufacturers? Perhaps. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Maybe not: look at all the innovation phone manufacturers are experimenting with. Phone cameras will get better and better, eventually matching the quality of our current "real" cameras. This means camera manufacturers will have to innovate even faster, or die. Either way, photographers win, don't they?

Cameras are dead, long live Cameras!

We're ignoring a huge factor.

We're discussing relative use of phone cameras vs real cameras as though everything else were equal.

It's not. Phone cameras are 'free' in the sense that you are already paying for it as part of the entire smart phone package.

With real cameras you still have your smart phone bills, but are paying significant money for a real camera. Because since there is no longer a justification for a small point and shoot, you are paying $4-500 for a DSLR and lens, or a thousand dollars just for a mirrorless body. Not counting those lenses you now feel you also need.

The incremental cost of real cameras is substantial, and the manufacturers are addressing their dwindling market by doing the opposite of what they should do. They are offering very high priced items, hoping to make more margin on them. Hence, hastening the reputation for costliness without a corresponding increase in perceived value. Thus the manufacturers are hastening their own worrisome irrelevance.

In short, you are getting way too expensive to be just fun. We already have cheap fun with our phones. What do you have to offer other than leaving us with less money and, ok, an enhanced concept of our own coolness and artiness.

Until such time as the mobile/cell phone can serve me cold ice in my drinks and take pictures as capable as those delivered by my Nikon D700, this entire discussion is madness.

Oh, and it should also allow me to send and receive voice based communications without
hesitation anywhere in the world.

Actually am quite proud of the situation where the battery in my mobile cell phone has died when I do want to use it; dead from lack of use.

Well another way to look at it, would be that prime lens shooters are growing enormously ;)

Mike,

Don't know whether to slap you on the back or slap you around the head. Couldn't agree, or disagree, more with you. You have me bouncing the pros and cons around in my head with these last two posts. Like I don't have enough contradictions in my life to be getting on with.

But ultimately I think I'm with you on your first post. When I see my two year old snapping everything from a ball of dust under the table to clouds in the sky I think it can only be a good thing. High brow art it ain't but, for a two year old, she's developing nicely.

Mike, my understanding is that Netflix dominates online streaming to the tune of being the majority of internet traffic during the afterschool--dinnertime hours. Also, I saw a news report in the early days of their streaming service that they had planned on being a streaming service all along, and that the DVDs by mail thing was a stopgap until the internet in the US was fast enough and they could convince the studios to let them stream movies instead of mailing them.

This is only to reinforce what you say in your addendum about "any cameras" producing good photos. Years ago, I saw a show of color work at the Phila. Museum of Art. There were Egglestons, Meyerowitzs, Shores - many of the usual suspects. But the standouts for me were a number of very small pictures by William Christenberry -- all made with a Kodak Brownie.

Michael

I have made some 8x10" B&W prints from my Iphone 5s that look very, very good. I showed them to a friend that have a Nikon D800 and he cannot believe me, he thinks they are from my OMD EM5. Well, he is not to gifted, the best picture I have seen from his Nikon are of the doves that eat his dog pellets.

Robert: "And yet, the other day I saw a tourist take a photo with his smartphone. Nothing new, but he had big DSLR with big lens on one hip and a camera bag on the other."

Maybe he likes to share the photo on the social network right here right now, but the big boys (ie. DSLRs) can't make it at this moment. ^_'

I don't think "eating away at the camera industry" is a particularly bad thing. Evolution happens, deal - etc.

However, where I do dislike mobile photography is:
1) the normality-warping of filters
2) the lack of control - very much P+S

Oh ho! Digital cameras trashed the film market and so now they in turn are being suplanted by "the next big thing" You'll have to excuse me while I shed a tear. A very, very small tear.

OK, all better now.

The main problem with phone cameras is the difficulty of holding the steadily. The shape is all wrong.

"We have a whole generation of people that don't really know what good music sounds like and we're going to end up with a generation of people that don't have a clue what a good photo looks like, let alone know what goes into creating one."

The problem is just this: too much "white noise", an endless stream of kitties and sepia-coloured spaghetti plates and selfies of people jumping on a pool of water, all drowning the few young talented ones that start to put interest in photography exactly because cellphones are also cameras...

Hmzzz, I think cellphone camera's are simply usefull. I work with a young college Jolien and she uses it always for documentation of some fashion project we are performing on several 3D printers (midrange and high-end), great for recording print settings, protocols, procedures, share finished results with her co-worker back in Rotterdam. Now, I wouldn't trade an EM-5 for an iPhone (or any cameraphone) but for documentation these gadgets rock, big time (there I said it and I don't even own a cellphone). So what would be the best camera replacement of a cellphone camera without the personal remote control package (which others call a cellphone) attached.

Greets, Ed.

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