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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

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...and even [ Henry Ford ] couldn't make new ones cheap enough to compete with the same cars bought secondhand. The same thing is now happening with digital cameras.

But the robust and active market for used cameras made possible by the internet makes it easier to quickly and reliably get a good price for your old camera so you can afford a new one.

I'd guess that even action cams (gopro etc) have brought competion to the compact camera market.

This "Model T effect" sounds very plausible. Today I saw an ad for a Sony a7 at less than 700€, that's a cheap price for a full-frame camera!

According to a report on BBC radio, something similar is happening across the retail sector, especially with regards to fashion. There's some sort of saturation point that's been reached. People are beginning to think they've got enough possessions.

Here is another thought...complexity of operation. It takes considerable effort and time to become familiar with all the buttons and controls to use them in an intuitive efficient manner. I submit it becomes just too much for the average joe to deal with.

From my personal perspective, I agree on all points. In the last 12 months, I've upgraded (or at least laterally shifted) my equipment. I've bought 6 cameras--only two of which were new and those two cameras were end-of-model closeouts. Older technology still works when your needs are basic.

Smartphone cameras have no impact on me. I have an iPhone but using the camera gives me all the personal satisfaction of tapping around on a piece of thin plywood. I know you can get good results from phone cameras but it's not worth the loss in handling. I'd rather carry around a single use appliance, preferably with a viewfinder and good ergonomics. But I'm in the photo "enthusiast" category, not the general photo "consumer" category. Convenience is not an issue with us enthusiasts but it's near the top of the list for non-enthusiasts. Phone cameras probably impact the sales of all digital cameras more than I think.

In my own strictly non-scientific thinking, I agree that your factor 1 (sufficiency) is killing sales growth of interchangeable lens cameras, but I also think that your factor 4 (no longer all the rage) is also major.

The best analogy might be Hi-Fi in the 60's and 70's: When all the kids, moms, etc, started listening to Sony Walkmans and later CDs, you risk looking like a bit of a plonker (a great British word! (Aka 'Sad Anorak')) for spending a fortune so that you can futz around with turntables, carefully balanced arms, and pre-amps, to get sound that everyone thinks is indistinguishable.

Uncle Bert with his huge DSLR had better have huge artistic skill if he isn't going to look silly next to his niece with her iPhone 7 – and he almost never has.

I peaked when I was 32, I don't see anyone worrying about that.

They're big companies, they'll cope. So they're not selling 20 bazillion cameras per year now, they're only selling 10 bazillion cameras, is that the issue? I'm sure they will figure something out.

Up until a couple of years ago, everyone thought the price of oil would increase forever. Now they think it will stay low forever.

D-SLRs were never anything other than a niche market. Most people buy them and leave them in a drawer. Been true for decades, even pre-digital.

Let's see if the prices drop any.

It looks as if some similar forces are also affecting Apple Computer.

"Plonker"

What a great word, I can hardly wait to use it.

Maybe we're just over saturated with more images being deleted now than were ever developed and printed in the film age

Never having much money, in my film days I almost always bought used. The one exception was my first camera, a Fujica 701. Even my first DSLR was used: a Canon 10D purchased from a friend who upgraded.

Since then I've bought new, and more than I ever did with film. I upgraded the Canon to a Pentax K20D (at the insistence of the friend who sold me the 10D); then a Pentax K3 and now a Pentax K1. I also bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC GX1 new and an Olympus air. But I did buy the Sony RX100iii used from the widow of the best friend of my camera recommending friend.

That's enough cameras, I should think, and I see no immediate reason to move up. An extra lens, perhaps, for the K3; perhaps a used lens. And maybe a Pentax flash to replace the older Sunpack 544 (I think).

Oh, and like you, Mike, I want to upgrade to an iPhone 7 for the camera. And that's enough. I think.

I keep reading that smartphones are impacting DSLR sales, but no evidence of cause and effect. It's easy enough to believe that they've impacted digicam sales and I'm sure there are some consumers who might have bought up to DSLRs (from point & shoots) who don't want to be bothered now that their phones have proven so convenient & fun (facebook, etc).

On this side of the peak (the downhill side) we have product sufficiency and the expense of upgrading, as you say. But we also have a degree of market saturation. On the uphill side, we not only had product insufficiency (making us more willing to upgrade) we also had pent up demand. Not every household that would have liked a DSLR had one yet. Prices had been higher than today's entry level kits and $499 Black Friday specials.

Just because smart phones have cameras, it's a leap to associate an increase in phone sales with a decrease in ILC sales. Smart phones also have screens - if flat panel TV sales shrink, should we attribute that to phones ? Sooner or later, we'll see sales of smart phones themselves peak and then decline (statista forecasts a peak in 2018). How will we explain that ?

Whoops. I meant an extra lens for the K1. I want to sell the K3.

An amusing (!?) aside: the K20D was my first new camera in 30+ years. I bought it in part because we were traveling to Ireland and that would be its "shake down" voyage. I bought a new messenger bag for the camera which fit lens down into the bag with the camera back at the top. I packed carefully and had the camera ready to go when--an hour before our departure--I discovered I needed something in the bag. I opened the bag, got what I needed, set the open bag on the foot of our bed and went upstairs to my office.

A few minutes later a loud "Bang" echoed through the whole house, one of those "What @$$#&@!?" sounds. I ran downstairs to see the camera, in its bag, sitting upside down on the floor at the foot of the bed. When I picked up the bag the back of the brand new almost never used Pentax was completely smashed. It wouldn't even power on. Following a string of expletives I replaced the Pentax with the now unretired 10D.

Upon our return I took the Pentax back to Calumet, from whom I purchased it. Calumet sent it back to Pentax who had it for three months before they gave up and sent me a new body. Apparently the force of the drop screwed up the works so badly it couldn't be realigned.

A few months later I received a Calumet advert in the mail with an ad for Calumet's camera insurance with a photo of a smashed camera and the headline "This Camera was Purchased without Calumet Camera Protection." I looked at the photo: it was a Pentax K20D. Could it be? I asked the store manager the next time I was in and he confirmed that yes, it was my "new" camera. Who'd a thunk it?

Really excellent article, Mike and agree on all points. Regarding sufficiency, this is a point Thom Hogan has been making regarding sensor resolution for quite a while now. From the polling of his rather large readership, he's found that the majority did not want or need more megapixels, but better connectivity directly to social media, dynamic range & high ISO noise performance. This is something that Sony, and particularly in Thom's view, Nikon have not figured out yet.

A lot of the pros I shoot motor racing with figured it out quite a while ago, and the majority are still using pro DSLRs that average 5-10 years old; the venerable Nikon D3, D300 and Canon 1D MkIIN amongst them (myself included until the X-T2 arrived in Sept.) These capable tools still get the job done, and that's all they need them to do. In fact, I can't remember one of my motorsports PJ buddies ever once telling me they needed more megapixels, but they sure as h*ll want more shutter actuations (300,000 would be good). And of course, the lenses will always stay.

Also good points regarding the used market; I just sold my 4 year old X-Pro1 to a friend who is absolutely thrilled to have it. Point being, even mirrorless cameras from 4 years ago are capable of making extraordinarily good photographs.

Last, as it relates to buying a lot of gear...yep, guilty as charged. Turns out I never needed that Oly OM-D E-M1 and a suite of lenses. Truly excellent system, they just don't create the magic the Fujis can. Need to get that gear up for sale.

The amazing thing about digital for the professional market, is it's still an upward curve, we're nowhere near as good as digital can get maybe with new algorithms or whatever. A new Canon T6 still has better looking files than the old Canon 20D (and still nothing better than pro transparency film).

The problem for professionals, is that the costs associated with it, well, it's like being a portrait photographer in the 60's and buying a brand new Hasselblad system every 3-4 years, because something minor changed about it; really financially untenable. That's one of the reasons I'm out of the business (and all my sub-35 millennials, that work for me, that "claim" to be photographers, haven't bought any equipment other than what they went through college with, and don't book themselves to do any weekend freelance!).

I think what's happening in regard to "amatuer" digital, is that a lot of the phone output looks better than the digital point-and-shoot output! Sharper, better color, decent contrast, especially though services like Instagram. As a pro, I can take a ton of crap looking files, that I can spend a lot of time on the back end trying to fix; but with a phone camera, a lot of the "look" is built in.

I think people are voting with their pocket books to take the "futz" out of digital imaging. My sisters iPhone has better autocolor than my Nikon pro camera. My Nikon has 9 sharpness settings in which 7 are unuseable, 7 contrast settings of which 5 are unuseable, ditto saturation etc. Why is this what people want? I'm a pro and I don't want it. My sister came back from India with her iPhone photos and I'd be hard-pressed to spend the time to figure out how to set my camera to match her results!

One look at that iPhone output, and I think a lot of people are done with "prosumer" cameras.

A big factor, I think, is saturation. Almost everyone who wants a digital camera and can afford one already has one. And, as you say, for many of those people what they have is fully sufficient.

Once everyone has experienced the magic the rage, as you say, is over. It is no longer the trendy thing to do.

For myself, the last new, current model camera I bought was a Panasonic G1 in early 2009 -- and on that one I got an introductory discount, though I was so eager to try mirrorless I would have paid full price. Every other camera body in the last 10 years has been used or closeout, though I have bought a couple of new lenses.

I patiently wait for major image quality updates before buying new gear. My last was the D800E, replacing a secondhand Kodak 14nx.

The major image innovations seem to be happening in the smart phone arena. I am still quite impressed with the 21 MP camera on my MotoX Pure I bought last year.

My last photography show this spring feature large prints (18"x28") from the D800E and from the phone. People were totally blown away when I told them which images were shot with which camera. Side by side, the quality differences were indistinguishable.

A nice article about the "Light" camera written by it's developer.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gadgets/inside-the-development-of-light-the-tiny-digital-camera-that-outperforms-dslrs

It appears the fascination with gear, despite what blog readership stats suggest, is on the wane. It's a bit like walking down the cereal aisle in a supermarket: how can there possibly be a profitable market for that many variations on the same thing?

And pity Uncle Bert, referenced above. Sooner or later he's going to realize that his niece is getting better photos with her iPhone than he is with his DSLR. Her eyes are fresh, her reaction/response time much quicker, and she's taken ten shots while he's been fumbling to change his lens.

The times, they are a-changin'.

I completely agree with the factors you cite as contributing to the wane of the camera industry sales, Mike. Phone cameras have certainly largely eliminated the small p&s segment and the other segments have become glutted and confused.

There is, however, the demographic aspect why underlies the whole game. The guys (and, yeah, they were nearly all guys) who bought so much of each new wave of cameras have grown up. Their lives have changed. Their kids have grown and gone. They may not travel much any more. They certainly don't want to schlep all that dslr gear on their arthritic frames any more! And most have become frustrated and bored with photography. So they don't shell-out for that new $3,500 Canon 5D Mark IV.

And meanwhile their kids think that their camera phones are just fine for their photo needs, being able to instantly blast their pictures around the planet.

The camera manufacturers hoped that the addition of video to their still cameras would help save the day. But it ain't. Frankly, I don't know what will sustain growth in the camera industry. The professional/vocational segment is nowhere near large or rich enough to do the job.

Shrug. We still have plenty of stuff, new and used, for our lifetimes.

Oh, about the iPhone 7....NO headphone jack. For me that is a total deal-breaker, camera or no. And no, I do not want to have to carry another "dongle" just to use my nice balanced armature IEMs. Or, worse yet, use a "splitter dongle" so that I can charge the phone while listening to music. Phil Schiller said it took "Courage" to take out the headphone jack. No, Phil, it was STUPID.

Jony Ive's insistence on minimalism in design is also stripping out basic key functionality. Ever try to use the current Podcast app from Apple? It's so stripped out that it's almost impossible to use. Ironically, Ive's obsession with minimalism has gotten to the point where Apple apps and hardware are harder to use, not more intuitive.

Wait, but what about the TOP OCOL/Leica Year movement?

I kid only slightly, because those TOP tips have reverberated through the photo web.

But in more general terms, consider that most every decent photo site on the web has been righteously repeating the mantra that Equipment Doesn't Matter for years now (even as most of them review every new thing that comes out). Some of that is bound to sink in--if not directly into minds and hearts, then into google searches, as the web becomes more and more the defacto source of photo information (and continues to improves as such).

Combine that with now years of sufficiency in cameras down to the lowest "enthusiast" tier and even below. (Which also means that there are more and more sufficient cameras on the used market, btw.)

...and with the fact that millenials, the newest potential buying generation, aren't holding up their end, seeming relatively less interested in technological advances, and relatively more interested in "artistic" picture-making, historic processes, analog photography and such. (Note that Lomography is not part of CIPA studies; nor, I believe, are products like Instax.)

Even the snapshotters among them are increasingly occupied with video, which is more conveniently captured and shared via smartphone than via still camera.

I'm not saying these factors are as significant as the ones listed in the post, but they will all pile on to hurt the CIPA stats. It's not just the technology, it's the zeitgeist.

1) "More and more photographers are realizing they're perfectly happy with their older cameras." That's me alright!

2) "It's expensive to keep up with the very latest thing, and many of us have been burned...by ourselves" That's me again!

3) "...more and more price-sensitive buyers are finding they can save money, lots of money, by buying cameras at the end-of-model-run closeouts or by buying little-used cameras that are one or even two generations old." That will be me - for the first time - pretty soon!

If you project out the trend line, s by 2019 or 2020 the Camera companies will have to produce in Negative numbers.
I wonder how that's going to work...... maybe like the farm subsidies where you get paid for not growing......

As we sell fewer and fewer cameras, that also means that there will be fewer used cameras going forward, so maybe we'll normalize around the 2015 level which is about equal to the numbers at the beginning of the graph......
Or maybe our future imaging needs really will be mostly met by hand held multi function devices.
The digital revolution really did mean that virtually EVERYONE who wanted pictures had to buy a new camera. By now, they have.
Add that to the unprecedented ability to instantly share and the huge bump in the graph is explained.
Want another one that big ? You need to disintermediate digital with a new technology so good that everone feels they need and want it.
More focus points or 8k video is probably not going to do that.

We are just going back to film era numbers, minus the Box-Brownie owners (iPhone). The gear collectors and measurebators have gone on to another h̶o̶b̶b̶y̶ way to waste their money. We are left with the very serious amateurs (who buy most of the expensive pro gear) and the pros (who buy whatever has the best ROI).

Very few Box-Brownie owners upgraded to SLRs, and not many iPhone users will upgrade to Interchangeable Lens Cameras. The market ain't coming back.

Here the numbers till august 2016 around 20% down compare to last year for changeable lens camera, and 50% down for build in lens cameras.

http://www.cipa.jp/stats/documents/e/d-201608_e.pdf

Actually all luxury- and hobbys products are down in the same period, money flow is slowing down, taxes and insurance up, Euro down, at least here in Europe it is clear for me.

Showing off treads in fora are down, general advice everywhere goes like do you need $$$$ product xyz? No then buy otherwise.

My takeaway from that chart is the increasing share of Interchangeable Lens Cameras - and volume looks stable-ish. As has been noted that's the effect of smartphones, and pretty much a no-brainer

I vividly recall an article in (I think) Modern Photography magazine back around the late 1980s about the potential for a sharp decline in SLR system sales attributable to first generation VHS-system 'camcorders'. A basic consumer grade camcorder cost just about the same as a good SLR with two lenses and a hot shoe flash unit. At the time, SLR sales were riding high, buoyed by advances like auto-exposure and auto-focus that made them much easier for casual users to get good results with. Sort of the 'wave' effect; plenty of hobbyists probably bought an SLR...and then used the 35 mm point 'n shoot in their pocket a lot more.
SLR's pretty much always presupposed an audience more dedicated to creative photography and image quality than more casual cameras. Digital SLR's (and now mirrorless systems) likewise presuppose more devotion to image quality and flexibility than iPhone users. I suspect the market is in part just resuming its prior trajectory, prior to the digital excitement, when something like an Olympus XA series compact 35 mm camera made a lot more sense than a big SLR for a lot of casual users taking family photos. I always have my cell phone with me, and I have taken a few genuinely good shots with it. But every time I look at them I wish I had taken the effort to deploy my 'real' camera.

What about the influence of the way we view the pictures we take?

Most photos are now either viewed on an electronic device or uploaded to the web to be viewed on an electronic device. And even a 4K screen is a lowly 8MP equivalent. It's almost impossible to buy any camera that doesn't already out resolve the way most people look at photographs.

And besides Samsungs ill fated attempts at connectivity it's just too much hassle for people to get their pictures to Instagram from a non connected camera. No one has time to futz around with the *app* for their camera, do the transfer, fix it in Snapseed.... It's just easier to pull out your phone. People are mostly lazy and lots of people have decided it's just too much effort to use a "real" camera.

Gordon

The group of people who are interested in interchangeable lens cameras is getting old and gray. Younger people are using the cameras of their smartphones, tablets, webcams en and action cameras. They work, see and communicate in different ways. Some shoot more pictures in a day than I do in a year, but no one is printing them anymore.

They don't have shelves full of cd's and records home or libraries either. And in the city where I live they don't own their a car but use small shared electric ones that you can hire at every street corner.

After decades of consumerism and 'stuffocation' we should welcome these developments that allow us to tidy things up bit.

Seeing this made me think, 'have I ever bought a new camera?'
Looking back over nearly 50 years of messing with cameras I have bought dozens of used cameras paying anywhere from $1 to $900 (yeah, it was that Leica M that I had always dreamed about). Thinking about it the only new in box cameras I have ever purchased were discontinued and discounted models, a Minolta HiMatic 9, Rollei 35B, and Olympus E-410. I think the camera companies view customers like me as useless.

I bought a new Nikon D800 in 2012 when it offered revolutionary advances in many things, particularly image quality. Today, there are cameras with better image quality, but the difference to the best is not huge. There are ergonomic advances, but they are not that big. There is better autofocus, but for many types of shooting it doesn't make a significant difference.

I don't think this is untypical in DSLRs, rather the mid to upper range DSLR produced in the last few years is already good enough that revolutionary advances haven't happened and most people are satisfied with what they have. Now there has been a lot of development in mirrorless, but that was niche to start with.

I also believe, though I don't have evidence to back it up, that DSLRs were more popular with the general population around 2010 when they offered a good mix of convenience, quality and price. Since then, many people realized that they either have a perfectly good camera, that their photography needs are taken care of by their smartphone which also does social media or that photography wasn't a hobby for them. It would be interesting to find real evidence for or against the waning popularity of DSLRs among casual users.

But there are new users too! Just saw a few teenage girls setting up a video shoot with a DSLR, something where technology has made rapid advances in the past decade, making the latest models a lot more desirable than for stills photography alone.

Mike, I agree with all your points. But I think what Mr. Tanaka above cited about demographics is equally important. The people who bought new toys regularly (cameras, scuba, high-fi, skis, jet skis, "luxury" cookware) are baby-boomers, and they are getting older. Older often means shedding junk, not acquiring more, especially if you have an older version of the thing that serves its function. But not all is lost for the purveyors of luxury toys. When the Millennials enter the workforce in large number and begin to earn serious salaries, I predict that they will be just as avaricious and consumer-oriented as their elders - just give them a few years to get going.

As for buying stuff: I re-acquired a Rolleiflex 3.5E and am using film more and more.

I had to work hard for years to fight the largely unwarranted irritation I feel about image noise, limited exposure range and autofocus inaccuracy that I saw in my digital SLRs. (You've helped me appreciate a touch of image noise, for which many thanks.) But even I am happy with a DSLR first released in late 2010, though I only bought mine in 2014 at the end of its run, for very little money.

I often shoot in low light so would be happy with even better high-ISO performance but, for the first time in the digital era, I know that the cost of getting that small improvement is too high. I have customers who own the latest and greatest DSLRs and mirrorless cameras so I get to see and appreciate the improvements but not be depressed by them. Times are good!

... and got left with that faintly sick feeling of money flushed down the loo with no one but ourselves to blame ...

Nothing faint about it. When I asked my personal finances software program how much I had spent on photography over the last decade, the response I got left me positively nauseated for many days. (This does include printers, inks and paper, but was even after saving money by buying some stuff second-hand and grey market, and also after sales of images and prints.) A likely repeat of that nausea is a major impediment to an X-T2. Funding one by selling old gear doesn't help much, given how little it brings.

Its so true. After a month on no alcohol ....first for me in 50 years .... I found it interesting.
Decided I had too much stuff. Sold some camera lenses etc ...at last.... and have decided to not buy amything for a year.

Three months in ... Fantastic. Spending more time taking photos ...less time thinking of what other kens would make my photography better. I'll see how it is going in 9 months ...good so far

It used to be that you bought used at first, saved up, and then something new hit and you had to have it - hit me twice. Once, the Canon EOS A2 - everything, every single thing I wanted in a camera, especially the vertical grip. The easy days of college credit cards made that possible. And then in the digital era, I had a D7000 the first week, after debating a used D90. Both worth every penny. But now? The X-T2 is great, but my X-T1 is great. Heck, My D600 was better in many ways, but I sold that - cameras are all good enough that it's only the crazy and passionate(and the 5 working professionals) that are buying new. I honestly wonder how much the rental houses are becoming big buyers, as the Uber/Zipcar generation picks up a hobby...

Who cares what the industry offers? Its the output that matters, and it sucks!!!

Still waiting for a deal on a Pen-F, but have used my older Olys little since the iPhone is so good - my 1C1L1Y setup.

Uncle Bert hits too close to home. Just in the past year, a 20-something niece was teasing me about being the only person she knows still using a "real" camera to take pictures.

But to put in my two cents' worth on reasons for possibly declining sales: if my camera was good enough for my needs yesterday, it did not all of a sudden become "not good enough" today just because a newer model has been released. Obviously, accidents, thefts and wear-and-tear happen, but regular upgrades to get an incremental improvement are a fool's errand (and I say that despite having as much... cough... GAS as anyone ).

There are a lot sensible comments being made here but to me the whole question of camera buying strategies (and what is happening to same) misses the point. From a consumer perspective a camera (lens&body) is a means to an end; that end may be a print; it may be a jpg; it may be a coffee mug. Now we all know that cameras & lenses have other externalities that people wish (e.g. "look like a pro"), but those are, er, idiosyncratic. The industry can't rest on them.

For years rich, high resolution, high DR, high color depth prints was the goal of most photogs, pro or not. That is why us 35mm guys all wanted to "step up" to medium or view camera gear (with all its costs & consequences). THAT IS NOT TODAY's MARKET. The major current consumption mode is jpg on a screen of some sort. Even 4k monitors are only 8mp and that, as we know, is a tiny fraction of the market. Any post 2010 digital gear is more than up to the challenge.

So when we say that older gear is "sufficient" what we really mean is that it is sufficient in the use cases that most still images have today: jpgs or coffee mugs. And those of us that have spent a lifetime acquiring and refining skills that squeeze more resolution, DR, and color depth out of still images are . . . obsolete.

Our friend Mr. Hogan is right: the current market values communications ease far more than greater image quality, which is so . . . old.

My daughter asserts that i am not old, but "real old."


How about a few recommendations for slightly older model cameras that we can buy at a reasonable price and try out, and then sell for little or no loss, Mike?

I'm sure that would be gratefully received and much bookmarked by your loyal readership.

I don't think that I, a keen amateur and former gear addict, will ever again wish for a new digital camera on the strength of its image quality or pixel count alone: IMO all current (and reasonably old) models down to and including enthusiast level offer far more in this regard than I shall ever need.

Nevertheless, I might still be tempted away from my G3 by a feature which makes for ease of operation: a better EVF for my failing eyesight; a shutter speed dial so I don't have to fumble through the menu; a distance and depth-of-field indicator so I can zone focus and just fire away... But even then, I would now think twice.

I agree with Gary Bliss reporting words of Mr. Hogan: the number of persons that treasure their photo in prints is dramatically reducing year after year.
The young generations, those who are supposed to buy the photographic equipment after the baby boomers will give up, are far more interested in sending their shots, no matter how technically perfect, to their internet audience and they do not need a highly sophisticated camera, a smart phone it is more than enough.
The phone producers year after year are improving their optical performance while the camera makers are still timidly approaching the communication field.
I would be very interested in buying the new Pentax K-70 but it seems that, besides it's excellent optical performance, in communication terms it is still far away from an acceptable standard.
Perhaps I will hold on for one more year, but time is passing and I am getting really old...

There was an earthquake in Japan which shut down sensor production for quite a while. New cameras are just now becoming available again. Discussing trends in the middle of an aberration might not be the best.

Just a thought.
You can still buy turntables (Soto?). They have features you want and they don't have features you don't want. They are very well made and very expensive. Once the marketeers go home you can usually get some very good products. Looking at the cameras announced at Photokina this year, they seem to have a lot of what we want and not a lot of what we don't want. Prices are rising rapidly. Do the camera manufacturers think we are entering an end of life cycle?

Regarding iPhones.
I don't own one. But, I do own a Samsung Galaxy S6. DXO rated it as #1 at time of its introduction even outranking the iPhone by a few (meaningless) points. I sometimes leave my DSLR at home and just use my phone. So, yes, my perception of my DSLR is colored by my perception of my cell phone. And, yes, I'm sure that perception spills over into my buying choices as well. Now for my pet peeve. When I set my camera to "Full Auto" shouldn't it become the greatest point and shoot camera the world has ever seen. That, of course, never happens. Idiot digital camera reviewers have argued for over a decade that enthusiasts want images that can (must!) be processed after the fact. I don't know of anyone who wants to post-process if they don't have to. I do know of many people who use cell phones because the results are immediately usable.

If camera manufacturers made their jpegs more consumer friendly and their raws more professional friendly, they might sell more cameras. Or not.

Barry Reid: These kids love their Vinyl records, OM-10s, Trips and Polaroids. I probably see more film cameras than DSLRs on a Saturday at our local market!

Hey Barry. it's not just the kids. I'm over ¾ of a century in physical age, and New 55 positive/negative film http://www.new55.net will make me break out my Toyo 4x5 this winter. Hopefully by the New Year I'll have trimmed down to several GoPros, an iPhone 7+ and the above mentioned 4x5.

In todays digital world of social media and YouTube, you don't need much quality. Here's a 21 second video I did back in 2011 with a FlipVideo camera (remember those?) and my iPod Touch 4G's video camera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiBhqyZ2EhQ So I'll do just fine with the iPhone and the GoPros for general use, and the Toyo for the times I feel the need to make an analogue print.

Check-out TokyoCameraStyle http://tokyocamerastyle.com to see what's happening with the very serious amateurs in Tokyo—not a single digital camera in sight.

I am still using an eight years old Canon 1Ds mkIII for assignments. I would be glad to upgrade to something new/better/higher ISO camera. Maybe something like the comingFuji GFX 50 sparkles my interest.

As for personal work, a Leica Monochrom (four years old) is very much in use. No plan to upgrade neither here. Again, the newer model must be better. But my money will not go there.

As many here, I am now more careful my money.

"We recently had a similar experience when I dusted off a Panasonic LX7 for my brother..."

Yeah, that LX7... I have one (and put an EVF on it) together with a Nikon D7100 and its couple of lenses (some of the old, 'analog' type). Great little camera, prints are beautiful, at least up to 19x13 (or 'super A3"). It's my 'always with me'- camera and invites/inspires me to a different, more spontaneous, maybe even more creative style of photography.
Looks like I have my bases covered and won't contribute much to an increase in camera sales.

Does industry-peaking help us bring the view into focus?

I could probably do quite well with one of the newer iPhones as a principle camera but I have this aversion with talking to people on the phone, perferring email whenever possible. I make, maybe, two phone calls a week, usually for such mundane tasks as scheduling a medical appointment or an oil change. Would it make sense to own an iPhone that was dedicated exclusively to photography?

Having a clutch of EM5 mk1 cameras for a couple of years, I added a Pen F, partly out of curiosity and partly from the industry pressure to buy new ( I worked in a camera shop for 8 years and should be immune!). The thing that struck me was an underwelming improvement leap and rekindled loyalty to the old.

When I retired 2 years ago bought myself a Leica x2 have had great time so couple months back bought used X1, they meet or exceed my needs so I am happy, x2 b/w X1 for color. Don't have computer give my daughter sd card loads her computer I make my selection she goes to some program we add captions she sends to Walgreens few hours later I have book w photos, I only use JPEG and I enjoy this easy way of having things done. Would I buy another a Leica Q would be wonderful but I really don't know if I would buy a newer camera or go back into market and get another X1/x2.

Hi Mike,
I've been thinking about this post for a few days, and I had this thought:
I wish I could go back in time, and give 12 or 13 year old me a compact, wide, slowish, mostly auto rangefinder, like the Olympus XA. I'd tell myself to take one photo every day - since 10 rolls per year isn't outrageous. But I'd tell myself, take one picture every day, of someone, or some thing, or some phenomena that you love. I'd beg young me to do this for ten years.

I think of all the pictures I could now have, of all the people, or places, or ephemeral phenomena that I loved. It would have been enough.

Yes, I think I'd have benefited from some kind of short tele macro lens - the Tokina 90/2.5 comes to mind. But from then until the digital revolution, two cameras, two focal lengths would have been sufficient. You were right, just as you wrote in your letter to George: 35mm and 85mm. Everything else is desire, not need.

I'm thinking about the new iphone, with the 28mm and 56mm lenses; sounds about right.

Re: Camera Industry Peaked in 2011

I think its a lot of things, a little bit of everything that has added to the decline of camera sales. I sometimes wonder though if some of it's because of the magic silver bullet syndrome, some people struggled with film cameras especially the film and developing that one had to contend with, then along comes digital and hey no film or processing hassles! people jumped on the digital camera band wagon, thinking that finally technology would give them the advantage they had always hoped for and that their photography would 'magically' improve.

Once the out put quality of digital cameras more or less peaked several years ago, some photographers had to contend with the fact that their photography would not improve with the latest updated camera. Today there is a bit of a shift for of going back to film, because back in the day some of those fantastic old film photographers took some amazingly great photographs and people are maybe trying to figure out how the heck they did that.

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