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Monday, 12 June 2017

Comments

I'm already ahead of you on this.

I'm buying another new Fujifilm XPro-1 body from Amazon for $429.93. I still need another month to save enough so hopefully it will still be available. I will test it and then put it away.

When my current XPro1 dies I'll get out the new one.

I will also wait until the XPRO2 gets dirt cheap (Probably after the XPro3 comes out.) buy one, test it, and then put it away until my XPro-1 dies.

I'm thinking that by the time that XPro2 dies I will be dead. I'm 73 now so it's possible.

But look at Leica -- it has made itself into a small high-tech company that manages to keep its head above water and apparently makes enough money to survive. Big diverse companies like Sony and Canon don't like lower-profit units that drag down their overall profit percentage because that affects stock price. On the other hand, companies with limited stock ownership (or an individual owner) can survive basically because the owners are willing to accept a steady, if somewhat lower, profit margin. There are all kinds of companies like that, and I can see a company like Nikon going in that direction. I wouldn't argue with the idea that several camera brands are going to disappear, though, because most of them ARE owed by large diverse companies that depend on keeping the stock price high. Those units won't "fail," exactly -- they'll simply be discarded. I think you're a little too worried about the impact of cell phone cameras; they're good for what they are, and will get better, but they also face limits (some of them physical, like, they pretty much have to stay flat and portable.) But I believe there will be always an opening for higher-end cameras that use speciality lenses and better sensors.

Fairly soon, we'll be like vintage car enthusiasts. Not because they're better, but because they're different, more manual, more *sensual*. And they look good. Mostly.

For the near future the deciding factor is glass. It's just not that easy to throw a 500mm lens on my iPhone when I'm doing sports or nature photography. Long term, I think they might solve some of that with processing and multiple lenses but it's still years away at this point.

Also, I think that Lytro might already be out of the consumer photography game. They were moving to being a film/movie services company doing HDR captures for CGI. But I haven't kept up recently.

...It's pretty amazing that the F6...can still be purchased from NOS (new old stock, meaning items manufactured years ago but still warehoused to be sold as new...

This fairly recent forum post

http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?threads/nikon-f6-old-vs-new.140237/page-2#post-1838679

from someone in Germany who has many industry contacts, and whose claims haven been proven correct many times in the past, contradicts that 'common wisdom' about the F6. He says it's still manufactured, but only when Nikon receives orders for it.

[That could be. I claim no special knowledge. I was just guessing. --Mike]

I agree with you in general. Some specifics:

- Cameras as status goods (Veblen goods) will be around for quite a while. See the mechanical watch industry for an example. So Leica should be safe.

- I agree that for still photography the phone camera will continue to get better and fewer and fewer people will want anything better.

- In the future it may be possible to pry people away from their phone cameras if they want to make better videos. There may be enough ambitious videographers (on youtube, for example) to support midrange cameras with good video. Panasonic has an edge here with their GH series, I think. Sony is also popular among youtube videographers.

- I like the concept of Fuji's Instax cameras. They are simple to use, and the idea of delivering a print instantly should hold up well in the future. I wouldn't place any bets on the rest of Fuji's lineup though. I haven't heard of anybody who uses Fuji mirrorless cameras for video.

Mike, I am sure that the owners of a Rolls Royce car built 20 years ago are aware that their cars are, by far, technologically surpassed even by today's compact cars.
But, I am sure, they will treasure it jealously and will always used it whenever they will deem it necessary.
The same happens for cameras: once they are made, just like computers, they get update for 5 or six years (at most) afterwards they become "vintage" as they name them at Apple Stores.
But it doesn't mean they do not work anymore.
In other words if within next three years, three camera makers will withdraw just like Samsung did, it will not mean anything to the owners of those cameras because even if camera maker would remain in the market, they wouldn't update them anyway.
To sum up: a couple of years ago Sony pulled out from personal PC business but, I am sure, those who bought them are still using their PC with full satisfaction.
Que sera, sera

Lytro, last I heard, wasn't really in the still photography business any more. They're doing 3D imaging for the movie industry, I think, and had a really promising product they were demoing, which made a lot of sense!

I'm a bit of a gear head, so my current cameras are unlikely to be my last. That said, I think there are fewer of us gear heads right now. I know two talented hobbyists who still use Canon 400Ds. Both started out with film; neither exactly has one foot in the grave. I suppose sufficiency is a thing 8-/.

I think you might flip the question on its head and ask, "do you think we will reach a point where photo-dawgs won't part with four weeks' after-tax pay for a premium imaging device?" My answer: no. I'm pretty much always ready to part with four weeks' pay for a premium imaging device. I have made that decision many, many times(not a financially rational decision, in any instance, but there ya go).

I am actually being brought up short on making a similar decision now with respect to the Olympus Pen F that Mike dangled in front of us a couple of weeks ago, because I am caught with PS5, LR5.7 and Windows 7 running on a five year old computer and I do not want to upgrade anything other than the camera . . .(but that's another issue, although related). These devices have to exist in a digital ecosystem.

My conclusion here is that the current market for premium imaging gear has not quite stabilized, but is getting there. My uneducated assumption is that as long as there are (I dunno . . ) 10 million people in the world with my photo predilections that there will be a market for whoever is left standing when the manufacturing dynamics Mike has identified have played out. It is so much fun to just make up numbers. Sigh.

If I were a competent financial analyst (which it should be obvious that I am not), I'd put my money on the immediate survival of companies that also have robust non-consumer imaging businesses (e.g. medical imaging, lithography, satellite imaging (?), printing, photocopying) -- call 'em non-art imaging applications. This would be Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji, maybe Ricoh. (dunno). Leica has been a different beast for years -- and I say that with a certain amount of love for the brand. But those guys basically tripled their over-the-counter retail asking price when they went all digital and they still seem to have customers. I think they could double their asking price again without losing their current target customers (among whose sad, shuffling, be-glamoured lot I count myself). [He types as a lightly brassed M9 sits on the desk in front of him, taunting him with photons as-yet unfixed in time. . .]

There are almost thirty parties involved in Micro Four Thirds alone!
http://www.four-thirds.org/en/common/pdf/catalog2017_en.pdf

Don't be too pessimistic Mike. Even in case we all end up with the same camera we can be sure it's the best one money can buy.

Greetings
I disagree about digital equals film, positive film is still better than digital. As for the F6 (a great camera) it really never had a chance. Film was on it's way out by the time the F6 got here and there were a lot of other film cameras out there. I do agree that in the near future there will be only 3 major camera companies (not sure about Nikon), but I believe Sigma/Foveon and Leica will survive as very very high end niche companies. I believe before to long cell phones will be the norm for pictures/photography. I also see a future where the masses use cell phones and "Pros" shoot film, the old way or a niche camera with excellent/high high IQ with a very different sensor/look. I still haven't seen any evidence that Mirco 4/3 is as good a FF. One thing I do see is that all the images look the same, smooth and creamy and people shoot their new still cameras like a video, you know 10 FPS pray and spray. No quality just large amounts.
I do agree we have reached the, "law of diminishing returns."

I see two parallel developments:
a)phones for the "mass" photography like documenting children, travel, celebrations etc. Increasingly photojournalism is done using phone!
b)Advanced photography by professionals and not least hobbyists/enthusiasts. For the b-group image quality in it self is a goal. Cameras as the Sony A7R2, Canon 5Ds and Fujifilm GFX sell a lot as do lenses at that quality level. On a smaller budget? Plenty of options in different price levels for you anyway. With screens up to 8K (= A7R2 42mpix) and better than Adobe RGB color gamut we have a new media for presentation of HQ photography that even surpasses best possible print!
My conclusion is that image beauty, creation of art, is what many will want to achieve with their photography. A none-rational desire, yes, but must we always be rational?

Mike,
Your right on in your evaluation of the market trends currently, only I would add there are probably a few more who will bite the dust in the time frame. It's analogous to whats going on in the tech industry out here in silicon valley. Everything is moving to Software as a Service, everyone want's a subscription for a re-occuring revenue stream. Look at the consolidation in Hardware manfacturing, there are simply no margins left, without profit and no diversification companies simply can not survive. In my opnion camera manfactures who only build cameras are finished.. all the money nowdays is in software.

My prediction:

Sony becomes #1, Canon takes the second spot. Fujifilm buys Nikon and becomes #3. Panasonic buys Olympus and 50% of Leica. Sigma leaves the camera market (but not lens). Hasselblad changes hands - again, and buys Phase One+Leaf. Ricoh-Pentax becomes a zombie.

Looking toward retirement and what comes next I find that the lure of a FF camera upgrade is just gone. APS-C is lighter, cheaper, and more than meets my standards for IQ. Maybe I am an outlier in all of this. Still shooting an antique D70 and if I upgrade it will probably be to a lightly used D7100, can't justify more and really don't want more.
I also find myself shooting with my iPhone a lot more than I expected. Interesting times we live in.
I'm looking at a 20x30 print my son did of a train in a blizzard and at any distance it looks terrific. He shot it with a D200 and an 18-70 he bummed from me.
Digital cameras have been very good for some time. Nice for us, perhaps not so nice for the camera companies.

There is no doubt you are accurately describing a general trend.
There is also no doubt that small sensors / multiple sensors are improving faster than large single sensors.
Also telling is the degree to which the quality and features of smart phone cameras are major differentiators in the advertising and feature sets of phones & tablets. Apple & Samsung are Pouring money into R&D for cameras. I would guess it might surpass all Camera manufacturers in aggregate.
Add to that the pace of change in technology, once it has begun, accelerates quickly.
On the other hand I believe there will be continued demand for higher end cameras, but what gets murky is the economics of producing them.
Re Not enough payoff for spending more, that's true of a lot of folks, especially so for Top & many Top Readers. It is less true for other groups.
However the size of the group for whom it's true is growing.
If this continues,there will be a tipping point where the cost of production of high end cameras, exceeds the expected return.
I surely don't know if, or how fast that time will come, but this is a sea change.
If you look at the equipment choices in the Doug Mills photograph you could conclude that no change has occurred, reading TOP it seems as though the change already happened.
Both groups are comprised of credible , talented people.
The most likely outcome will be somewhere between the two.
In the meantime we are enjoying the best cameras the world has ever seen. So for me, I'll focus on making pictures and not worry too much about what cameras I will be using in 2020

I can only say you've got a far firmer grasp of the obvious than most. Said not to be belittling but to applaud truth-telling. I love my Nikon D7200 but like most DSLRs, it's SUV-like. The little Fuji X100T I bought last fall replaced it on Sunday photo walks and joined a Nikon FE in the bag. We're all just lazing around on a technological plateau now, despite the makers' furtive efforts to pass off incremental improvements as breakthroughs. Planning on shooting my Fuji and Nikon till they break. By then, the future should pony up something shiny and(hopefully)better than my soon-to-be relics.

I used the Fuji X-Pro 1 for several years because I was tired of heavy cameras (Contax 645). It was light and made gorgeous photographs but didn't fit my hands well and I couldn't get used to using the Fuji manual focus. So it was back to my Nikon F6 and a new Nikon D810. They're bulkier but more comfortable for me to use, which is quite important. When I need a lightweight kit I bring my Zeiss ZM rangefinder. Strangely, although the Zeiss is about the same size as the Fuji, it fits my hands well.

Marcus

I was surprised to see a piece in our Sunday paper about this: https://www.kodakphones.com/us/?gclid=CjwKEAjw9_jJBRCXycSarr3csWcSJABthk07m60bIz2-S64Ne_Nz_V7z483xetGqY0vWpzGuLqQRIRoCJVLw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
if the link doesn't work you can google Kodak Ektar camera phone

2006? Hmmm, Nikon wasn't so good on the market research or the technological vision, Mike. I was a late adopter of digital, but I have to say by 2006 I was seriously considering my future despite the fact that I was welded to film by the lovely Tokina f4 17mm UWA I was using on Pentax at the time.

I think you are right about the contraction of producers -- the future is going to be bloody. They either have to get into phones or figure out some way of making themselves indispensable. One thing I would say is for certain -- they need to improve their communications. I was taking family photos with my Panasonic GX7 and G85 over the weekend, and the situation just cried out for me to be able to downsample my full size m43 images in camera and dump them over to the relos phones using bluetooth. No bluetooth.

But while they need something like this, they need to avoid getting bigger and heavier.

Your other point about how the cameras can get better, well, that is always moot, isn't it? I remember the thrill of unpacking the Olympus OM1, screwing on the accessory shoe, fitting the lens, and taking my first picture with it. A great moment in my photographic life and the end of its dominance by medium format.

Right now, I hold my Panasonic G85 in my hand and think it is probably the premier ILC camera of any format or type, mirrored or mirrorless, in the middle range and speculate whether I will ever be able to exploit all its capabilities.

But it is big enough! It is slightly larger and weighs 20% more than the G6 it replaces, and compensates for that by doing a lot more. But I won't be going any bigger.

So what could be the next in development? In the lower middle range, the Olympus E-M10 III is on the way…

crosses fingers
Please don't be Pentax,
Please don't be Pentax,
Please don't be Pentax.

Like many proles, I started with Canon film cameras and moved to Canon digital. My first realization that another company could do better than Canon was the introduction of the Fujifilm F-series compacts, which led to my wandering completely off the ranch over the next few years -- Ricoh compacts, Pentax DSLRs, m4/3, Sigma Foveon. I try a Canon every three years or so to see if I feel any love, but the answer so far has been, No. Tried Nikon and Sony -- same feeling of meh. Not sure why, either. All I know is, if we're left only with Canon, Nikon and Sony in a few years, it won't be my fault.

One issue that might be worth further discussion is the one of "what will make users think upgrading is worth the expense"?.

The camera makers are betting on more pixels.

In my opinion the real break through would be in usability. Thom Hogan has been a proponent of this for years. The big question is whether the smart phone will reach DSLR/Mirrorless IQ before camera manufacturers figure out how to make their products as useable as smartphone cameras.

The camera businesses of Ricoh/Pentax and Panasonic (National in other parts of the world) are sort of vanity projects for much bigger companies, so it would make sense to shut them down or sell them to one of the other players but on the other hand they can lose money indefinitely.
Medium format seems like a natural duopoly where Hasselblad / Fujifilm / and maybe Pentax ( the Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile of cameras or the Jaguar and Daimler for the UK readers) competes with a merger of what's left of Mamiya, Leaf, Phase One, Sinar, Rollie, and Jenoptic, Or for simplicity Dalsa vs. Sony.

The real story is that advances in optics, computation, and sensors are such that some company that doesn't exist now may dominate photography in ten years.

Lenses as we know them are the last bit* of photographic legacy technology to go to away, and lensless optics are the next big thing.

When optics are manufactured like electronic chips and Moore's law takes over, all the camera companies as we know them will be as commercially relevant as film companies are today.**

*The little dark room between the optics and the sensor AKA the camera for Latin speakers will go away about the same time as the lens I guess. Will we still call our visual capturing tools cameras then ?

**Vinyl record sales are going up so fast that there is a shortage of pressing equipment so who knows?

I just looked it up and apparently Panasonic has dropped the National brand name but still cameras are probably a tiny tiny part of their business compared to batteries for Tesla, refrigerators or rice cookers even.

The word "sufficiency" has appeared a few times already, and I think it's crucial to understanding what’s going on. A couple nights ago I read a review of the Sigma SD Quattro H over at dpReview. I’m not interested in the camera -- just curious about the technology. They provided full sized sample images using that camera and a Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens. Here’s the photo I spent the evening with: https://www.dpreview.com/sample-galleries/4388344015/sigma-sd-quattro-h-real-world-samples-gallery/9396290221 This is the Drumheller fountain on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. I’ve never been but thank you Google Maps. I guessed it was a university and knew the photographer was from Seattle. Anyway, the far building in the centre is about 1000 feet away from where the photographer was standing. If you load the full sized photograph in your image viewer and zoom in to 300%, you might be able to guess what the logo is on the tall guy with the purple shirt who just came down the steps of that building 1,000 feet away.

This is a file with resolution of 6,192x4,128 pixels – a measly 25.6 MP. Just imaging the detail that will be available in 10 years. You’ll be able to tell if purple shirt guy shaved that morning and brushed his teeth. The whole concept of a photograph as a record of what the lens you had on your camera was pointing at will probably be out the window. Instead, of boxes with lenses on them, people will be using “multi-lens universal sensing devices” that seamlessly record a vast swath of the surroundings and you’ll decide later whether you want to zoom in on something, make a panorama, use a high viewpoint or low, or whatever. Forget about actually making a photograph based on the idea you had in the moment, what you saw, and what you wanted the final image to look like. (If this sounds familiar it’s because I’m parroting something Ming Thein wrote earlier this year!) I wouldn’t be surprised if all the companies that are making boxes you point at things to record a scene (we call them “cameras” today) will be gone, replaced by the company that invents and sells multi-lens universal sensing devices.

I think my version of the future explains film today. People who never stopped shooting film, or who went back to film, are simply doing what those of us who are digital now and like the idea of a box you point to make an image are going to do in the “multi-lens universal sensing device” future. They checked out already. I think I’m starting to check out too. I “downgraded” to a Fuji X-T2 from a full frame Sony A7R, and my Fuji lenses seem “too sharp”, so I’ve stocked up on Olympus OM Zuiko lenses from the film era! Ten years from now I’m going to be quaint.

Mike, I really like Sony. I had a Sony computer once and probably would have bought another but sadly they don't make computers anymore. I had a Sony TV and liked it, but they don't make TVs anymore. Big diverse companies like Sony all live by ROIs ( return on Investment). Sony seems to have a bad habit of leaving an industry when things become too competitive. Not saying that Sony will be gone but with all their development costs to introduce a new camera so frequently the ROIs may not be what the share holders expect. With that said I agree with you, I believe there will be consoladition within the industry. Fuji/Nikon type of consolidation. It may be good for the photographers in the end.

Mike, I agree with much of what you said. While we can go back to the tools or methods of years past, most people have been radically changed by globalization and technology. Both on a business and personal level. That's much of our challenge on one hand. Just keeping up. And it also overwhelms us as we get caught in the whirlwind.

On the other side is being careful to be true to our real, personal objectives. We need to know what we're trying to accomplish with photograpy. With life, too, but here it's photography.

My only thought in using a phone camera is what if you captured the best photo of your life with it. If you are content with the phone screen or the internet, great. But what if you wanted to make a 13 x 19 print? Would it work? It's the best scene you've captured.... but it depends on what you want to accomplish. If we know this going into each day then we pick our tools accordingly.
Small cameras, large cameras, does't matter if that's our tool of choice.

An artist chooses his/her tools and can produce art, even with a camera phone. I won't say it's not art. An artist deserves that respect. But it's very difficult to drive a 3 inch nail thru a 2x4 with a 6 ounce plastic hammer unless you have the force of a tornado inside you. I'm not so lucky. I try to match my tools to my vision and overcome the limitations.

Sorry to ramble on.

I am not sure Olympus can hang in there. I love their products but always one step behind in popularity it seems. I don't know how Pentax survives and Fuji can probably stay in the game if they so desire. For me Nikon is the "home team" but I worry about them as well.

As for the film thing? I still shoot some and I'll tell you properly exposed, developed 35mm Tmax 100 when scanned is not far off digital in usable practical terms at all. Quite impressive.

Yeah, Mike;

Carry it a bit further and it will be one bank, one media outlet, one oil Co., one medical group ...

And the camera company will be SonyCanNiko. NikoSonyCan??

Leica still manufactures THREE film bodies: The M7, the MP, and the M-A. You can buy them all new - Not just "new-old stock."

After reading the comments, it is evident that photographers, as a group, suffer from a mega dose of recency bias! The fact to keep in mind is that if a manufacturer gets taken over by another for whatever reason, the branding might change, but the technology will survive. All we should be really bothered about is forced obsolescence, and nothing else. Nikon is nowhere near bankruptcy, at least according to their balance sheet, and I cannot believe that someone or the other will leave that huge installed base rudderless by not servicing it. In fact it should then be a prime candidate for private equity to step in, like Blackstone did at Leica. If you look at corporate culture over the last 20 years, and how companies dealt with bad times in this period, it seems to me that Sony is the one most at risk to close down their camera line. Their total dependence on share prices does not allow them the luxury of building up a proper product line, brick by brick, as can be seen with their inability to really put a proper professional range of lenses in place.

Funnily enough, I predict a bright future for the market as a whole, but not all the players. Phones will never match larger sensors, and people still buy Porsches, even if they could make do with a hatchback. There is a market, and it is still much larger than the film SLR market.

The emerging markets are now making up the slack in the traditional markets. Sales have bottomed out and are even making a small comeback. Sony and Fuji are experiencing growth in volume and market share.

The problem is investment/legacy risk, market perception, and profitability.

Mirrorless cameras in particular are based on a number of off-the-shelf or custom supplier parts. Sensors, processors, memory, batteries, shutter mechanisms, LCDs, EVFs etc. are not made in-house. Technology risk is very low. The main development cost is packaging and firmware. Everything else is just gradual refinement.

In other words, small-ish volume production of luxury 'enthusiast' mirrorless models is entirely feasible at a profit, and parts sharing can support the production of cheaper, feeder models. The big risks are to companies that don't take steps to rationalise production (ie utilise common parts and firmware on multiple models).

DSLR manufacturers rely on a very fragile supply chain of cottage industries who make small volume one-off parts for mirror assemblies, prisms, etc, and they were decimated by the tsunami. Nikon was badly affected (as D600 problems testify to).

The other technology risk for DSLR companies is legacy. How do you break into a growing market (mirrorless) without risking your legacy market? Canon can probably afford the hit, and are already upgrading their mirrorless offerings, though lens support is still pitiful (as it is for APSC DSLRs). Sony have also taken the hit and now have mirrorless solutions in every key segment (1", APSC, FF).

Nikon have lost their mojo, and I am not sure the enthusiast DSLR market is sustainable long-term without a healthy professional presence to carry the investment cost of new models. DSLRs are very expensive to make by comparison with mirrorless. In the smaller sensor market, they need a killer APSC mirrorless solution yesterday, but that will be a big investment in new lenses. Something Nikon seem reluctant to countenance. Supporting three lens mounts will prove expensive, and they risk alienating their legacy base.

I also think Olympus and Panasonic are hamstrung by the choice of 4/3" sensors, not because it is technically a bad solution, but because the market doesn't get it. The technical justification for it no longer exists. With both competing for the same market, they are both struggling with perception, and they don't have any simple way to push into the more profitable upmarket large-sensor sector, which would lend them credibility as a serious player. 4/3" doe not really cut it for professional video (not enough DR). If Sony make a global shutter A7S, it will take over the market.

And whether their parent companies can continue to indulge their oddballness is questionable. Panasonic seem to be wavering and Olympus are dependent on their deal with Sony.

Fuji are unlikely to abandon the camera market, if only because they are heavily invested in the photography business and there is a lot of synergy with other parts of their operation. They also have a presence in the MF market, so they are the de-facto 'quirky alternative' for anyone who does not want a DSLR, or a mainstream Sony. They are filling in the gaps in the mainstream market. Also use APSC sensors, so no long-term supply issues.

So in the vulnerability stakes I would say:

Canon, Sony and Fuji are a safe bet.

Nikon are in a legacy trap, and seem to have lost direction. Parent company issues are well documented so investment will be limited and risk taking seems to be entirely off the cards. However, they still have the brand name.

Panasonic and Olympus are uncertain because they have no way to break into the high-profit sectors, and the position of the parent companies in terms of long-term support for their camera business is questionable. Supply and development of 4/3 sensors may also be an issue long term since the volume will never match APSC or 1".

Pentax are entirely dependent on the indulgence of the Ricoh board and shareholders.

Sigma? They seem to carry on regardless. I think it is more of a hobby project for the CEO.

Almost two centuries ago, the discussion was about photography killing painting. And it mostly did. Painting and drawing for information purposes is mostly dead, or survives in quaint niches like courtroom drawings. But still, lots of people paint or draw.
Possibly, the developments in "image generation" in the years to come will involve lots of artificial intelligence, and the degree of human involvement will diminish to a degree comparable to the step from watercolours to a Kodak box camera. The photograph will lose ist status as the best provider of visual information and follow painting into the world of art and leisure.
If it goes this way, one major element of the continued attractiveness of photography will be the amount of pleasure the activity provides. As long as cameras make the act of taking pictures more pleasurable than other devices, they will be around. Like sable-hair brushes. At the end of many iterations of things produced to do one thing well, in this case taking two-dimensional represenations for viewing.
Cell phones, as strange as this sounds, might be more at risk from the next step in technological development: "Siri/Cortana/Bixby/whatever, virtualize environment from implant readings and transmit to x".

I like using cameras and lenses, especially lenses. That's it. No need to explain or apologize. So long as there are enough people like me around, there will still be cameras and lenses to buy and use. Yes, some imaging companies are increasingly charging beyond or even way beyond what their products are really worth. Most will vanish. A few like poor Pentax, perhaps, will be handed to the embalmers and continue in a kind of strange half-life, at least for a while, neither alive nor dead, new nor old. Fuji and Canon look pretty good. I'd guess my final berth will be with them.

[Comment 2] - In general, I am not much of a "hater" -- but I know I am out of step with the main stream when I say that no "phone" in existence is the tool I need for my picture making. Ugh. I get phone snapshots from friends all the time via e-mail or via links to social media sites, and I have never . . ._ne-ver_ . . . seen a picture made with one that made me say, "wow, I have got to get me one of those." This is also true of the images I have made with my own phone, which represent the most prosaic, convenient uses of photography. Me? I am going the other way: I want the tank. If I had the money for the current Leica S system and a super computer to store and process images, and an extra room for my Reichmann-Grahm Nash size printer, and a staff of loyal assistants to shake my cartridges like maracas in order to keep my pigments suspended, I'd spend those shekels in a heartbeat. Ah, saved by penury once again . . .LOL.

All of this is to say that I am (and probably many TOP readers are) pretty far out of the main stream and I always take caution before using my predilections to may predictions. If wishes were horses, then beggars would shoot medium format digital . . .or something.

Dedicated cameras have the two massive advantages over any integrated, smartphone-like device: optics and sensor size.

Sensors have plateaued. ISO gains are plateauing and pixel counts (the best film comparison) already did. note that more pixels now means going to the "new" medium format sensors, something Fuji and Pentax understand.

But nothing is going to change the optical situation. As of yet, even with Lytro's very limited range and some software algorithms, there are no substitutes for glass optics and the sheer variety of perspectives and creative applications. The survivors will be the ones with the optics core to to the business model, with some amalgamation (Nikon?). Canon gets it as does Fuji for sure, with the Ricoh-Pentax and Olympus there as well.

I am not anonymous, I am a regular TOP reader! The point I was making was not that M4/3s sensors are as good as medium format sensors, but when you print up to a size of 17x22 you can't tell the difference (given that it is a good photograph with a good lens). I guess I should do more self-promotion on my blog, but I thought that the link to my photo site was sufficient, sigh.

I think we'll have cameras available for a long time to come. Leica is making good profits anyway (unlike Nikon, Canon, and Sony, never mind the rest), so I wouldn't put them onto the list of the endangered quite yet.

Also, the Leica M7 may be NOS or not, I don't know, but the MP is still in production and so is the M-A. Obviously small production runs, there isn't a huge demand but there is a steady demand. I don't know about the Nikon F6 ... last I heard, they make them in batches like they did with the F3 and run up another batch when stock gets low ... just like they did with the F3 up to 2004. I can't really think of much you could do to substantively improve any of these cameras beyond what they are today, so why spend money on development for them? Just make them in the small quantities that demand requires and you are done.

"Already, though, it's a little frustrating that there isn't a more obvious difference between modest sensors and modest lenses on the one hand, and big sensors and fancy lenses on the other. Yes, we can still detect that difference—pixel-peeping is a real thing—but even now it's not always obvious or readily apparent just from the results in the way that an 8x10 contact print always looked obviously different from a 35mm enlargement. For applied technology to continue to progress, there has to be a reason for people to spend their money on the better products."

I bolded your pixel-peeping. That term should be banned from the lexicon, in my not so humble opinion.

Who wants to look at pixels? Unfortunately, anyone who wants to look closely at details is often accused of being a pixel-peeper (which I do not think is what Michael Reichman had in mind when he used that term).

I like to look closely at details. I can photograph a landscape with both my m4/3 Panasonic GX8 and FF Sony A7Rii and see obvious differences in the resolution of detail at a distance.

So, I use the Sony (larger sensor) for that photography.

Others fall back on the "it's good enough for me" rationale, and there is nothing wrong with that. But for those who do see obvious differences in certain cases, the larger sensor is worth the money.

As for "fancy lenses," well, if you want grasses and other foliage at the edges of the frame to be sharp, then you invest in better lenses!

- Richard

Just some re-bop......

Film as a standard? Actually it is an acquired taste that shapes the way we see. It is hardly an absolute.

One can always go back to the F6 because it was the best? Was: see above.

After 6-8 weeks I ask my Intro to Pro Photo students if they want their phone cameras back. They chuckle and guffaw; professor, you crack me up.

I'm pretty sure that when Nikon brought the F6 onto the market, it wasn't aimed at pros who were looking to upgrade from the F5. Most of them had already switched to DSLRs, and the F6 was intended more for jaded enthusiasts (like me) who wanted a really good film body. They still make the camera, just like they do manual-focus versions of a half-dozen or so of their lenses. I've bought a couple of the latter because they're much more solid than the plastic AF versions, and work better for the occasional video I shot with a DSLR.

Hi Mike, I need OVF or an excellent EVF to shoot therefore I doubt my iPhone would ever replace my camera. Not a fan of micro 4/3rd either. A traditional camera guy - no need for videos either. Love using my Nikons especially for telephoto/zoom lenses. After my experience with my bricked A7R after a software update I am not moving to Sony. I don't see an alternative to Nikon for wildlife photography at the moment for me. Thanks & best regards,

If we're going to peer into the future, we need to look at competing technologies and see which one is advancing faster than the other, and if those trend lines have held for a decade or more.

Digital started out as still-capture of NTSC-quality video, and had horrible color and tonal range compared to the best films (in cinema and still photography). But film, while improving, was slowly but surely overtaken by digital. Not just in crude measures like resolution, but more subtle aspects like tonality and color fidelity, The cinematography community wanted every bit of quality compared to traditional methods, and over time they got what they wanted. It took 15 years, but it happened.

What concerns me is the very rapid advance in digital cinematography. 4K is already the professional standard, and 8K (32 megapixels!) is going to replace it in the next five to ten years, probably sooner rather than later. 8K might be the end of the line for movies, since higher resolutions aren't visible on even the largest movie screens.

Why is this a problem for still photography? Because it makes a dedicated still camera unnecessary. 32 megapixels, with a dynamic range that exceeds modern sensors, is sufficient for most photographic applications ... and it will be the default sensor for everything from smart phones up to Hollywood cameras. Take a short burst at 24, 60, or 240 fps, and pick the image you like the best. Or use simple software to average out movement and extend dynamic range and resolution even further. This is coming as soon as 8K becomes the dominant sensor for video and movies.

When I was making a living with my cameras I used Nikon gear. One of the problems for the F6 was that I didn't have to buy new Nikon film cameras. Even in the 90s, after more than 20+ years in the business, my newest camera was an F3. I still used several Nikon Fs for my underwater housings, and F2 and F3 bodies for normal assignments. They were built like tanks, and other a than replacing a shutter on one of the F3 bodies, I ever had any problems with any of the Nikons. As others have replied, digital is also reaching the point where we have to ask, "how much better image quality can digital cameras deliver?'" I have a Leica M9 and a Leica Monochrome, both with new sensors :-), and do not plan to replace them until they fail. I have printed images from digital Leicas up to 24x36 and certainly don't need a higher image quality. I just need my photographic eye to get better.

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