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Wednesday, 21 April 2010


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Good marketing joke by Nokia.

While it is always fascinating to read these ruminations from the crowded feed lot that is modern criticism, I know that somewhere there are photographers blissfully unaware of their irrelevance who are producing creative works that will be soberly discussed and dissected twenty five years from now, even though today they apparently toil in vain.

I use the feedlot metaphor because it is always striking to me how the 'smart' crowd in criticism always seems to crowd around each other ingesting identical material at one end and excreting it out the other.

I think the bigger "problem" is that photography corresponded more or less exactly to the 19th and 20th century view of "reality". As any philosophy student will tell you, reality is not absolute.
I think the "reality" of young people is much different from the reality of the last gasp of the industrial/scientific revolution.
The information age has a reality that looks nothing like the last two centuries and so if photography is to be a part of that, it must evolve. I think that means much more creative freedom to manipulate. Kids are random.

You're a fast reader. You read all the panelists' comments already?


Well, painting has been declared "dead" for at least a century, so photography should be around for long after we're all gone!

You're a fast reader. You read all the panelists' comments already?


ch doesn't need to read those particular comments because the smart crowd always seems to crowd around each other, etc.

Just as synthesizers killed most of what was good about pop music in the 1980s, digital photography has now killed most of what was good about photography. Good or bad? That's for each and every one to decide for themselves, but I don't have to like it. I don't care if digital technology can make images look closer to reality than pure photography can. What I like is photography that looks like photography. If one has to become philosophical about things, separating reality from truth can be a worthwhile exercise. I like photographs to speak the truth, not necessarily mirror reality. Pure photography is probably dying and I guess fans of traditional unmanipulated, unretouched and unsaturated photography will become a small group of enthusiasts among fans of veteran cars, vintage aircraft, antiques etc.

"It's not the question that's important, however—it's the answers"

Oh great sage, what, what is your answer? I've tried telling people that they should make peace with their own face but they don't seem to like it.

"Oh great sage, what, what is your answer?"

My trick in elementary school was to sit directly in back of some other guy named Mike, so that when the teacher tried to call on me, he'd think she was talking about him and he'd answer.

It worked more often than you'd think, too.

So therefore my answer is, you mean that OTHER Mike, don't you?


"So therefore my answer is, you mean that OTHER Mike, don't you?"

Man, If I'd have used that line at school I'd not have spent so much time on report

You can't see my photography here

Of course camera phones will kill off DSLRs. Just like point n'shoots did.

And a timely reminder of today's survey by the American Life Project, that shows texting to be more important to American teens than talking. If they're texting, they ain't snapping, unless it's to record for posterity their buff-pouting in bathroom mirrors.

Once again the debate over what is "real photography" is peripherally sparked (I'm talking about medium here, and not about manipulation).

The death of pure photography was discussed as far back as the early/mid 1800's when the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company introduced nitrocellulose film. It made photography more easily accessible to many people. It evolved into modern day film, what many today call traditional, real photography.

Our lives are short, and often times so is our vantage point.

Mike, I actually did read most of them. I had a early morning bout of insomnia that they miraculously cured. I have to admit to getting some brain freezes midway through a few of them and then reverting to scan mode. I couldn't get an A on a test for comprehension of the essays, but hey, who could?

I agree with Paul's comment. The future of photography is the future of reality. As the parent of a 7-year old girl, I'm endlessly worried after learning about the effects of technology on society, particularly on kids who embrace it. Cyber-bullying on facebook; all manner of ridiculous and harmful behavior shown in public on youtube, kids texting on cell phones all day long, not not only preferring phones to face-to-face discussion, but preferring texting to any discussion. Half the toys my daughter owns are supposedly 'enhanced' if you get online with them. Reality is changing, for the worse I'd suggest in a curmudgeonly way, and photography is just along for the ride.

On a more optimistic note, all the gadget freaks who took up photography because digital cameras are so fascinating ought to move onto video soon.

I really liked Walead Beshty's text. The style might trick you into thinking "here's some more postmodern blah, blah", but if you actually pay attention to what he is trying to say, the natural reaction would be "Duh, of course curators and critics have to make a living somehow, and it is only reasonable that they found a way to defend what they consider their own". Even if it means coming up with something like the 'Essence of Photography', or whatever. I think that if there is indeed some 'core value' in art it has little or nothing to do with any of those things --or even the distinction among different media--. Not that we should neglect to make such distinctions, but we must certainly remember that, even among artists devoted to highly specifical activities, such categorizations are never taken too seriously.
Anyway, sorry for the 'blah, blah' of my own, and thank you for an interesting reading advice.(I actually did read all the other texts, and found quite sharp insights in most of them, it's just that in my opinion Beshty's stands out from the crowd.)

OK, I was a philosophy major in college, so maybe I can be forgiven for asking the question, "What is photography?" Is it restricted to tintypes, only? probably not; platinum prints only? that would be tough to argue. How about using film as the recording medium? I like that answer, but I know objectively that digital sensors have been used with some success. :)

How about straight vs. manipulation? My real peeve with the current state of landscape photography is as obvious as what is presented as the norm on photonet or Outdoor Photographer magazine. Over manipulated, over saturated, "artistic constructs" rather than recording what we see. It's a long way from a 6x9 inch tri-x print with a thin black line around the picture.

How about B&W vs. color? Taking the real world and rendering it in shades of gray is certainly manipulative. Looking at Peter Turnley's Spanish pictures the other day, my reaction was that they were too colorful, vivid, and real. He'd have been better off using Tri-x, but then, I'm just dating myself in terms of the type of photography that was the norm when I was learning and forming my "values".

If photography is Over, what has it been replaced with? As long as people continue to record their 1/125 of a second snippets of life observed and share those with others, that's photography.

I don't know what the answer here is, but I do have a bone to pick with people who are shedding nostalgic tears over the "death" of "traditional" photography.

Traditional photography is not *by its inherent nature* any more pure or interesting or meaningful than digital. It's all on the people who practice the art and craft.

Saying that digital cameras have destroyed photography is like saying that non-stick pans destroyed cooking. Or that word processors have destroyed "real writing". Or ...

It's true that digital pictures look different, and you might or might not enjoy that difference But don't let this confuse you into thinking that the traditional technology was somehow more pure. It just looks different.

I used a cheap camera phone as a mirror the other day, which I hear the younger generation does as well. The wife was trying on some frames at the optician, but due to severe myopia she couldn't see herself in the mirror. Snapped pictures of her in the different frames, then put her glasses back on to look through the gallery.

I rarely use my dumbphone's camera as it's slow, fixed focus, and low resolution, but will be getting joining the smartphone crowd this later this year. Need more features such as variable-sized panos? Download an App or two. After 2 years, the contract will be up, and at least 2 generations of camera smartphones will have been introduced. Given the pace of innovation, it will be very tempting to upgrade for the $200 or so.

So, why bother getting a P&S camera (or Flip-alike) if a smartphone has most of the features? Just to make things worse: as SLR owners are "locked" into lens collections, smartphone users are going to be similarly locked into their app library - Apple, Android, etc.

Is photography over? Hell no, it's barely begun. The film era was its childhood and what we're entering now is its adolescence, with all the turmoil that entails.

I have recently been reading a variety of responses to a similar and related question that Paul Graham recently took a stab at.. This topic focuses on "pure" or "straight" photography's relative lack of popularity in the art world at large, overshadowed by other arts that utilize photography but expand beyond its limitations in its pure form. (The discussion also covers possible merits/shortcomings of an artist's capacity for highly-intellectualized descriptions, either in their artist's statement or when planning/marketing a project)

While reading people's responses on this topic I've come across at least one response to the SFMOMA query (specifically Vince Aletti's). I think that's interesting. Everyone seems concerned with photography's status as an art form. "Is it dead?" "Does the medium now require manipulation for the sake of manipulation coupled with obtusely worded artists' statements?"

I have read the responses to the SFMOMA question and they're really interesting. I absolutely do not intellectualize things to the degree that these people do (I lack the formal education, to start) and I think some viewpoints contain bits that are pretty far removed from reality (or maybe that's just indicating limits my own ability to perceive some of the more obscure depths of the substance of reality - which is probable).

But from my perspective I can only answer "no." It's not over, or dead. Well maybe it is and no-one got around to telling the photographers who seem to be toiling away merrily regardless of this ivory-tower debate. (Or maybe we were told and chose to not listen).

I think a the lowest level of all these debates is the audience's experience. Is it still possible to create a photograph that has the composition, lighting, palette, substance, and je ne sais quois to move the viewer in unfathomable ways? Absolutely. Will audiences continue to seek out that experience? Absolutely.

Look at Amazon's top 25 dSLR/EVIL cameras and ask yourself, "what percentage of these cameras will be used to take what are essentially family snapshots and rushed vacation photos?" Remove the gadget freaks and that's the market that phones will replace.

Also, very little is said about the phone's major advantage over the dSLR - connectivity and the ability to send and retrieve images from the cloud. The idea of a realtime virtual persona is coming - Twitter is just the start. For tomorrow's photographers, this will be a requirement, not a nice to have.

Will dSLRs die? Probably not. But 10 years hence will they be as big a market as they are now? Most likely no.

"Photography dead! Film at 11!"

How amusing!
Tech companies making outrageous claims fall prey to "the level of hype is directly proportional to the level of desperation felt by the company."
And the SFMOMA question and comments reminds me what my high school art/photography teacher said 50 years ago - Ask any artist and they will tell you "What I do is art, what he does is crap!"
Perhaps SFMOMA has become confused because photography has become a ubiquitous form of visual communications for many people who would never consider what they do art, any more than someone writing a letter would claim to be producing literature!

If cell phones displace DSLRs by offering better quality, so what? Phone users still won't replace photographers. And, even then, it still raises a question: if in the future you will be able to make a phone with the image quality of today's DSLRs, then what will the image quality of tomorrow's DSLRs be? It is only limited by what we are able to see, and no camera has come near to approaching the richness of reality.

Dan Burkholder writes a pretty decent article about the iPhone and photography in the March/April Photo Technique. I'm not ready to climb on board, but I'm getting there.
The idea that cameraphones will kill off DSLRs is a little silly. I recall statements from the last century that film point and shoots would kill the SLR.

The only thing dead about photography are the ways that it made money.

Why are they going to put 8 mpix sensors in camera phones?

Much of contemporary photography has become distant, irrelevant and obtuse, often requiring a lengthy explanation for even a basic understanding. If photography IS dying, it's because the image itself has taken a backseat to concept and gimmickry.

I find it interesting that all but one of the SFMOMA panelists are the very people who have brought contemporary photography, as an art, to the very place it is today. Curators and professors, with their undue influence over both what is taught and what is given venue, are largely responsible for what many see as photography's demise.

Lemme know when you're getting great shots of the kid's soccer game with that N95. Also, lemme know when that "5 Mpix" camera in your phone has more than 2 (let alone 8) Mpix of actual usable resolution.


To vaporize any doubts about the survival and validity of photography, just visit NASA Earth Observatory online. Amazing, beautiful pix, many of which are concrete and abstract at once.

I will get around to reading all that, honest. For now the questions I ask myself:

Why does photography just have to be one thing?

I thought video was going to kill DSLRs? Or will that be their shield against the cameraphone onslaught?

How long before gadgeteers speak of bionic implants killing external devices? Will we all assimilate like the Borg?

DSLRs won't die, they will just displace video cameras for TV shows!

ah, photography dead once more? I'm all in crocodile tears.

Thom wrote: digital replaced film, what replaces the current digitals? If it's cell phones, the camera companies lose.

I think it's clear what camera companies have to do: Partner up with phone companies. Imagine a BlackBerry with a Nikon camera, a HTC with a Canon, etc. Somebody has to manufacture those tiny cameras, and having a known camera company to do it will give the phone some prestige...and the camera company some dough.

The 8MP Samsung T929 Leica was released in late 2008.

Nokia released an 8MP camera phone with a Carl Zeiss lens over a year ago: the N86.

Expect Panasonic cell phones to start using Leica lenses soon. Now that Samsung is taking its photography business seriously, I also expect their cell phones to inherit advanced camera technology.

Will the big camera companies get the memo about partnering up with phone manufacturers...or will this be seen as an affront and an insult, too degrading and humiliating to even consider? If so, then let Canikontaxonypus die with honour.

The future isn't now—it was last year.

No comment on camera phones/DSLRs except to say the more people buy and carry around all that heavy DSLR equipment, the more they may turn to "other photographic gear" including much improved cell phones. Fine, more power to them, and it is still a camera.

But I did read the link you posted about Thom Hogan and "The State of Camera Design 2010." What crap! No wonder he is not predicting the demise of DSLRs; he wants his to be a server, high speed modem; part iphone, part ipad, part ireadyourmind, part ieverything. What is a amusing is that none of these "features" helps a photographer improve the form/content of the images they capture. Isn't image content - not camera technology - what photography is all about?

Phone camera would not kill dSLR as repeated by everyone.

I think my iphone camera is very good as a scratch pad. It help me to determine the lens to mount on my Pentax 67 and 8x10, document even the GPS location, ... etc. The issue raised by Thom is why your dSLR cannot be as smart as your iphone and integrate itself into the overall workflow.

The other issue to dSLR manufacturer is how to handle the micro 3/4 type.

I tend to agree with Thom Hogan on this one. Most of my peers(I'm 38 and work in Hi-Tech) have point and shoots and only use their phone cameras when they have no alternative.

IMHO Digital has actually revived photography by making it accessible and fun for the "unwashed masses"!

Perhaps this is why some of the old film "elite" are bitter nowadays.

I started off with my Dad's old K1000 SLR in my teens. I took some decent photos but became bored after a few years and traded it in(with my dad's blessing) for a Canon p&s film camera.

My interest in photography reignited when I bought my first Digital at 28. I went through 3 "upgrades" in 4 years until I decided what I really wanted was a D70 DSLR.

Now I shoot with a D300 and plan family vacations around photo ops.

When my daughter was 2.5 she started off playing pretend with an old Mamiya. She quickly wanted to use Daddy's camera so we got her a digital for kids. Now at 3.5 she naturally loves to take photos of everything and gets excited when she see's her results on the LCD.

Doesn't the fact that toddlers can now participate in taking photos mean photography has a great future?

Would you have given a loaded film camera to a child and told them to take as many photos as they like?

Don't worry though, she won't be taking better photographs than any of you old film dogs until at least sometime in her Tweens!

The basic question confuses art and technology. Art photography isn't over, and the art photography that's done probably won't be done with a cell phone. I really can't see a wildlife guy bouncing over the veld trying to shoot running lions chasing down a zebra with something as light and hard to see as a cell phone.

Photojournalism isn't quite over, because media outlets will always need photos of certain people at certain events, shot professionally, but much of it is over -- when camera phones are good and ubiquitous, it means that any real-time breaking news event will be shot as it happens, and probably uploaded (and maybe paid for and even copyrighted) before a media organization could even assign a photographer. Still, there will be "assignments." Eventually, however, we will get shots from the inside of a crashing airliner as it goes down, either because the cell phones survive, or because somebody inside sent them to his/her web page via the cell phone.

I think the Nokia guy tends to ignores physics. I also ignore physics because I don't know much about it, but I understand that pixels can't get smaller and smaller because of some inherent problems with registering certain wavelengths of light. Perhaps Ctein could comment.

I read the comments from leading photographers and found most of them obtuse and uninteresting.


I like David Dyer-Bennet's remark the best.

I found it quite ironic that it came out of Nokia, who is probably going to be killed by Apple before cameraphone kill off DSLR. :)

Non-stick pans destroyed cooking. Those little bits of Teflon don't taste good and aren't good for you. An old-fashioned pan with a splash of olive oil or a dab of butter makes for tastier food.

And I still find film-based photography more flavourful. Algorithmic mediation of edges and smooth areas can leave an acrid, artificial aftertaste.

The path of technology is bifurcated -- it leads toward consolidation and specialization simultaneously. In other words, you have an explosion of devices that do everything -- the smartphone -- even as you have an explosion in the variety of specialized devices that do one thing (DSLR's). This trend will probably continue, not because of technological factors but human ones.

The market for the bulky DSLR is driven by two things over and above image quality: ergonomics (the need for a dedicated device that fits the hand well) and consumerism -- people (mostly men) want a device that says something about them ("I'm a serious photographer").

Very few people "need" DSLR's, lenses and all the feature-laden gear that people salivate over on blogs like this one. Most photographers (myself included) would take far better photographs if they exclusively used a cellphone over a DSLR, simply because cellphones are less conspicuous to the photographic subject and they encourage the photographer to focus on the image and not the camera and its performance.

Nonetheless, people buy and use cameras in large part because of what they represent symbolically: they are a physical representation of one's seriousness as a photographer, i.e. a totem. These totems have always been around in human society, and camera makers will keep manufacturing them for us.

I guess you're in a can-opening mood lately, Mike. [grin-wink]

I think I agree most with Walead Beshty. The question "Is photography over?" is a red herring, a pointless rorschach, a non-issue, useful primarily as an expression of institutional anxiety and a means for institutional navel-gazing (not that that's a bad thing, necessarily). In fact, further down the page, Jennifer Blessing of the Guggenheim illustrates his point.

But I agree, Mike: some of the answers do transcend the question and are worth reading.

And I think the commenters here on TOP have done an excellent job of putting the cell/DSLR question in its place.

Dennis, please. You don't really believe that kids didn't bully or fight or do really stupid, horrible things out of curiosity or to impress and shock each other before video and the internet came along, do you? Or that discussion is impossible via text or phone? Or that there aren't a hundred other means available to kids and adults to avoid discussion, even face-to-face?

Maybe, just maybe, you're merely anxious, like most parents, and technology is a convenient scapegoat? Buck up and be the best parent you can be, and be open to learning from your daughter what you may not understand or have forgotten about being a kid, and she'll turn out OK. How do I know? Because you care, and from what I've observed, that's 90% of it.

The mobile phone makers are vulnerable to outsiders building phone functionality int something else - iPhone for instance and Android from Google.

If nikon or sony were to build a camera that also happened to be a phone/network device running Android/Linux , they would sell a ton of them.

Thanks for the link to Thom Hogan's essay. I don't remember to read his site often enough as I'm not a Nikon shooter, though obviously his perspectives on all topics related to photography seem quite worth the read. I am bookmarking his site.

Hyperbole aside, I do agree there is sense in the Nokia exec's (self serving) statement about cameraphones taking over. But only in the sense that I think by volume the vast majority of photos aren't taken with image quality an overriding concern, but in capturing the moment. I have no problem with that BTW, though I wish camera phones would get better WRT responsiveness etc and become more useful as snapshot cameras.


" I don't care if digital technology can make images look closer to reality than pure photography can. What I like is photography that looks like photography."
An engineering mind would say: digiphoto removes the noise floor and other "defects" that were present with film systems; The aesthete would counter that it's the defects that give photography whatever modest amount of artistic charm it ever had.
I'm with the aesthetes.

5 BILLION phone contracts? so how many with cameras? Reminds me of that one about 'Give a thousand monkeys typewriters, and they MIGHT end up writing Shakespeare. GOOD pictures start in the minds of creative people, whatever the camera!

I think Micro 4/3s and cameras like the Samsung NX10 will kill the DSLR. The cell phone cameras will take out the low end, the "EVIL" cameras will take out the high end. Which of them gets the mid-range remains to be seen.

Oh dear! These same old controversies yet again?

And everybody seems to be mushing things together in not very useful ways although perhaps that’s just the state of my brain this morning.

The SFMOMA talks were interesting though I admit to red flags waving violently in my vision whenever I see the word “ontology” used outside the geographical confines of Oxford or Heidelberg. I do think that photography is now largely dead for galleries and museums. They’ve been ambivalent about it since its inception because it’s difficult to sell or place a special value on something that is repeatable. They are now really ambivalent because digital photography is hugely repeatable. Ten thousand dollars gets you a camera and printer that can match the very best professional labs and you can make the exact same big print thousands of times with the press of a button. Hard to sell that to a collector or museum. That’s why they like Andreas Gurski and callotypes and daguerrotypes. Rare, you see.

Here’s a thought experiment for you: Your neighbor, George, a retiring sort, loves photography and one day comes to you excitedly and shyly shoves his laptop forward. “Look!” And you look and see a simply unbelievable image—colossal dynamic range, perfectly composed, deeply pleasing colors, a deeply humane and sympathetic view of its subjects, surprising. “I put it up on Flickr and let the printer run all night!” he says. Will a gallery be interested in selling George’s print? Will SFMOMA add the five copies (out of hundreds) he sent to them to their permanent collection?


Will cell phones replace DSLR’s? Er, no. But they sure will get you great 8 x 10’s of your baby’s first steps.


Thom Hogan’s piece was interesting, too, but what seized my attention was the picture of the “prototype” iPad with telephoto lens. I simply haven’t been able to understand the lack of innovation in the camera companies. That amusing prototype is sure getting close. There is no reason why a “camera” couldn’t be a lens with a sensor (think a cylinder) and a wifi transmitter. The only controls you have on the tube are f-stop, exposure, and ISO, and everything else is done on the iPad (or your light, thin, large-screen tablet du jour) that’s slung comfortably at your side. Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture handle the bazillion settings of the modern pro camera ten times better and more easily than the pokey mini-image editor in the cameras.


Is pure photography and its audience fading? Let’s check in ten years.


Generation X will eventually use cell phones for everything. I'm getting there also, one step at a time.
My cell phone contract is with Verizon. I explored what Verizon had available these days to see if I could upgrade my current cell phone for one with a better built-in digital camera . Well...I found it. I renewed my subscription for another two years and got a new phone for free. I also signed for unlimited internet for just $39.95. The cell phone I chose is a Samsung Omnia II. It is similar to the iPhone technology but uses Windows Mobile 6.5. It's like a mini laptop and I can get all my emails wherever I go. I can surf the internet, post on Facebook and even on my blog, which I eventually will.

The 5.0 megapixels camera (The iPhone has a 3 megapixels camera) combined with a 3.7" WVGA AMOLED display screen, is what impressed me the most. Here are some of the camera features: 5.0 megapixels, Autofocus, Scene mode, single and continuous shooting, auto-panorama, auto and adjustable white balance, Face recognition, Special Effects, Sensitivity of ISO 50 to 800, Contrast-Saturation-Sharpness adjustment, Flash on - Auto or off, Brightness adjustment, Anti-shake, Matrix - Center Weighted and Spot metering, and more. It even has WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) which is a form of HDR (High Dynamic Range on DSLRs) Oh yes...it also has the capability of storing images in the phone's 8 gig internal memory, or use a mini SDHC card up to 16gig, or upload your pictures to places like Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, YouTube, etc, on the internet, right from the phone. Grant you...the sensor is smaller than a DSLR, but look at how much progress that has been made in the last five years with cell phone technology. Will the cell phone cameras of tomorrow be as good as Today's DSLRs? Will Cell phones replace the cameras and computers as a media tool? Perhaps they will.

A few more attributes, my cell runs microsoft Word, Excel, Power point and all of the standard Microsoft Office applications. It can be used as a voice recorder and even has GPS. I plays video movies, TV programs, stores and play thousands of songs, podcasts, e-books, etc. My Pentax e-books can be uploaded in Word format including all of the images or in PDF without the images. Oh yeah! Did I mention that it also has video capabilities?

Ain't technology grand? Maybe Pentax will someday team-up with a cell phone manufacturer and offer Pentax Technology for the camera part. Pentax has always been know for the small footprint of their cameras.

I suspect that the high end pro SLR market is pretty much going to stay where it is.

Hybrid cameras (Micro Four Thirds and competitors) will probably take over both the consumer/prosumer DSLR market and the high end compact market, leaving cameraphones to demolish the rest of the compact market.

I suspect the next generations will feature GPS tagging as standard, and automatic uploading. You may even get a DSLR with a phone in it just so it can upload your pictures to flickr when you take them...

Actually, what we need is a camera with a phone in it, that way you could shoot and send. Reverse engineering at it's best. GB.

psu: It was typewriters that destroyed real writing. Or maybe the printing press?

People will take pictures. Some will buy equipment with features that they may not use to full advantage. Some will be content with utility alone. Some of these people will feel the need to sort the mass of photographs into current categories of art or non-art. Others will then use these selections to illustrate the current decline or superiority of the same arbitrarily defined categories.

People don't change, so it's a good be that things tomorrow will be pretty much like they are today, and like they were yesterday.

Is Photography over? A better question might be "Is Art over?"

Compared to the many other areas of rapid advance (think science and technology) art, including photography, seems to be off playing in a corner, making up fun little games that seem so important to those gathered round but which have little effect and little relevance to anyone else.

One visitor to the recent PhotoFest in Houston came back that all the reviewers were talking about need for "narrative" in the images. Implied narrative? Are we still playing that one or did we circle back?

I just started to read through the comments and I was startled to see one of the texts was written by the editor of October magazine. (The magazine is named, as I recall, after the month of the Bolshevik Revolution.) I was a faithful subscriber once upon a time--seems like eons ago! Can you still find the words "Marx," "Freud," or "The Other" on every other page?

Photography isn't so much over as it is being suffocated.


The sort of advances which would allow a camera phone to even start to compete with current DSLRs on image quality would also be applicable to larger lenses and sensors, but with the other advantages you always get from larger imaging areas still in force too.

On the other hand, the cheap end of the compact point-and-shoot market is going to be in a world of pain in the not-too-distant future.

"Will cameraphones kill off DSLRs?"

For me they already have. I see little scope for something that falls between the immediacy of an iPhone and the qualities (note the plural) of medium/large format film. But I shoot for pleasure/expression ... not weddings, sports etc.

The SFMoMA contributions will have to wait for a second or third reading, but it's timely that the question is being raised.

As far as I can see, all that mr. Hogan is talking about for the near future is called Ricoh GXR.

So we have actually leapfrogged the time curve, somehow.

Modular, communicative, specific built for each system and requirement, yet with a good interface and expandability and communication upgrades.

It might be true that the crazy Ricoh ninjas are not that crazy, after all.

Dear John,

Well, I'd been planning to stay out of this one, since almost every imaginable viewpoint was well-represented in comments, but since you asked...

The "laws of physics" are largely irrelevant to current camera performance. Cameras aren't anywhere near operating at the theoretical physical information limits permitted by the universe. They'll probably get there. But at the present time, arguing that the fundamental laws of physics prevent camera makers from building substantially better cameras is like arguing that the laws of physics prevent automotive engineers from building substantially faster race cars. it's true that the physical universe sets the ultimate limits on how fast the cars can go, but I haven't heard of too many designers losing sleep over that 300,000 km/s barrier.

I keep toying with the idea of sitting down and calculating the true physical limits on camera performance, starting from basic information theory. The problem is that I don't much really care and it would be about one Ph.D. thesis worth of work -- in other words, a solid month of my time. Besides, someone else is probably done it already, if I only cared enough to do the proper library search.

As far as pixels being too small to capture light, not a problem. Single atoms can do that. What imposes limits are the imaging optics and the number of photons captured. But I can see plausible development paths, using already existing technologies, that could produce useful pixels down in the quarter micron range. I'm not saying anyone will do that... or that it will stop there if they do. Just that I can see how to get to there, and that gets you 15 megapixels on a 1 mm square chip.

I don't see any fundamental problems that prevent developing a cell phone camera that's comparable to good-quality 35mm film photography. Which was enough to satisfy 99+ percent of the photographic world.

None of which has anything to do with killing off the DSLR in the near future. It's an apples versus oranges comparison withn near-term engineering. And long-term predictions in this business are invariably going to turn out to be wrong.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

What!!?? Pop music's dead?! Somebody clearly forgot to tell the 21st century. The is an amazing amount of creative and wonderful pop music rolling around the soundscape these days (note I'm 52 this past week and predate the mostly execrable '80s so i know a bit about pop)

Video Killed The Radio Star

I've heard all this before, in the 1970's when Japanese SLRs made photography more affordable, the development of the AF SLR and then compact zoom in the 1980's. It's all so boring and all so predictable.

Photography supposedly killed off painting and drawing in the nineteenth century, well I've got news for you in the 21st century both are having a renaissance. Film photography is supposedly dead, but all I know is I'm having more enquiries from people wanting to learn about the darkroom than I've ever had before. I've been teaching adult education classes on basic digital photography for a while in a small country town. When I first started everyone had compacts, the last class everyone had SLRs. Photography as an activity is in a very healthy state, more people are taking it up, most high schools are offering some sort of programe and thanks to some of the major consumer electronics companies getting involved there are more retail outlets selling equipment.

Now if we are talking about photography as an art form, well that's somewhat of an exaggeration. But I would say that the art market is in a state of flux. Record prices are being set at auction because we have reached a watershed in the medium. A lot of the greats have passed away and there has been the arrival of digital, which is a new process in its infancy. Galleries and curators are nervous because they don't know what to make of digital, and they are generally dismissive of it citing that one only has to look at Flickr to see the supposedly awful excesses there to prove that digital and, therefore, anyone who uses it is crap. They fail to acknowledge the democratisation that has taken place in the digital world, not just in photography but in music, video, mixed media and multi media. Now we have deconstructed art forms in the post modern era we will have to accept that everyone is an artist and no one is. There is very little pure art now, everything is referencing everything else and boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. Consequently you see that photography is moving into forms of digital illustration at one extreme, and at another being combined with text and moving into a form of literature.

I recently attended FotoFreo, a large biennial photo festival held in Western Australia, and attended a discussion on this involving Jack Pam (film maker, photographer, designer and publisher from Melbourne), Aaron Rose (film director, art show curator and writer from New York), and Kapil Das (publisher of Bindiboys.org in Bangalore). Basically what they talked about was just getting on and producing material. Forget funding, galleries, editors and publishers just get out and make art in whatever medium you favour. The really inspiring part of the presentation was a screening of Aaron Rose's film Beautiful Losers which while not specifically about photography placed the emphasis that just doing art is the most important thing. It really made me want to grab my camera and get out there making pictures.

The wife was trying on some frames at the optician, but due to severe myopia she couldn't see herself in the mirror.

My father only had sight in one eye and that one eye was extremely myopic. He was once in the opticians trying on frames and looking in the mirror, commented to my mother "these will be o.k.". She pointed out that it wasn't a mirror he was looking at but a photograph of a blonde woman in glasses (as part of an advert).

Here's what I want ...

I've been shooting a fair amount of film recently using a Nikon F301 (N2000 in N. America) and I've been enjoying the experience.

I want a stripped-down DSLR of about the same size and weight with a limited set of options. Basically 3 modes M, A and S plus easily adjustable ISO with a range 100-3200. Full format sensor. A nice bright viewfinder with split-screen focusing so that manual focusing is quick and easy. No live view, no video, no idiot modes.

One thing that rarely gets mentioned in these discussions on the future of cameras (which invariably involve ever-increasing levels of functionality bolted on, be it embedded GPS, WiFi/cellular access, or, at the extreme, even a full-blown computer) is battery technology. I'm no expert, but I've not read of any major advances in battery technology - certainly nothing on the level of the advances in the imaging or computing technology of our cameras. Until the battery technology advances to a similar degree, I'll always be a bit skeptical when I read about all the great fantastic functions and capabilities future cameras will supposedly have - I just don't see it happening, not when, today, photographers already carry multiple sets of batteries for their single-purpose cameras – imagine how many batteries they'd need to carry to keep that always-on GPS signal, or maintain that WiFi/cellular connection!

"What is a amusing is that none of these "features" helps a photographer improve the form/content of the images they capture. Isn't image content - not camera technology - what photography is all about?"

My essay would be about ten times longer if I included all the examples and pursued all of the implications of programmability/modularity/communicating.

But I'll tackle this question with one example. Part of my presentation to Nikon was an image quality issue that impacts all Nikon shooters who use long shutter speeds. I pointed out how, if we had access to the EXPEED APIs in the camera, a better job could be done. A much better job, actually. The point I was making at that point in the presentation is that it is silly to expect that EVERY camera company can keep up with and be state of the art with EVERY imaging concept. It is much better to crowdsource solutions to some problems than it is to try to invent the answer yourself.

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments in response to the "teaser" and much of the linked material. Thom Hogan's exposition was certainly informative and interesting, but left me feeling discouraged -- by the end, I felt his vision of so many integrated technologies for cameras was like too much of a good thing. Some sort of behemoth inside an attractive package that would appear to serve working pros, but may botch up the enjoyment of shooting.

Photography is an enjoyable experience for most of us which, in my case, doesn't depend on that much technology. I like the idea of a handy, compact package that I can use effortlessly like the old film cameras but now can take advantage of the camera's "brain" to deal with some of the tricky variables. There are, only very recently, a few cameras that seem to meet my desires after 10 years of trying as many digital cameras of all varieties. Too many of them just seemed to get in the way.

I am concerned, that when I need a replacement, the products will have diverged (evolved?) into such foreign forms that there will be even less for a traditionalist to consider.

Why would cell phones with cameras kill off P&S cameras? It's not like cell phone cameras are an exciting new technology. I was taking cell-phone pictures with a cheapie cell phone I got in 2003, before I ever purchased a digital camera.

I currently live in China, where everybody already has a cell-phone camera, people's salaries are lower and people are correspondingly more price-conscious, and camera prices are higher. Still, digital cameras are extremely popular.

Thom Hogan's breakdown was fundamentally off. Whatever happens with 4/3rds, DSLRs, or cameraphones, people are going to want a camera that's digital, fits in a pocket, can take decent pictures, and zooms. P&S digital cameras are currently the only game in town.

Without having read everything here (sorry guys) i'll just point out
that photography is splitting into sereral different mediums, each
with it's own strengths and virtues. "Lo-fi' digital(iPhones) Lo-fi
analog (Holga,pinhole cams etc.) and "hi-fi" digital, and "hi-fi" analog,i.e. those shooters still using film and high-quality cameras.The same way that acrylics didn't kill off oil paint,markers didn't kill off watercolor.

Saying that phone cams will kill off DSLRS is just being provocative. It's like that theologian who announced "God is Dead' theology back inthe early 1960's..He sure stirred up some controversy,and made some good points but I don't think he meant it to be taken literally.

And as to "lo-fi" photography take a look at this:


Apparently the world's first iphone photo gallery exhibition.
I ended up going to it three times.
The last time i was there the owner told me they're working on a photo book...

It certainly seems to me that digital is trying very hard to kill photography. Not that digital isn't "real" photography: of course it is. But why must photography become a sub-dicipline of computer science? Why have we come to the point that people don't believe pictures any more, and always think it's Photoshopped if it's any good?

I haven't used my DSLR in nearly a year. Not because of camera phones, though -- because I've upgraded back to film. I have a digital point-n-shoot for snapshots when I want the picture right away. So in a way, point-n-shoot has killed the DSLR for me. And film has killed digital for me.

(Until shooting film becomes impractical, of course.)

I think many of the gripes about the end of "true photography" are actually laments about the end of exclusivity. The barriers to entry are gone and anyone can join the club. In the last 3 years, I've lost 90% of my local newspaper freelance work to user submitted photos. It blows but as the cliche goes, it's a "paradigm shift". Get used to it.

"But why must photography become a sub-dicipline of computer science?"

The same reason film photography is a sub-discipline of chemistry. Those are the tools we are using.

Automatic film processing and printing has had over a century to work out the bugs and become almost goof proof. Don't worry, digital will be there soon, and the masses can go back to "You press the button - We do the rest." Once again no understanding of processing and printing will be required to be a photographer.

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