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Friday, 01 February 2019


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It's not just photojournalism that's in danger, it's journalism itself- particularly local (bought up by conglomerates) and investigative (woefully underfunded). Add almost daily authoritarian attacks from on top concerning the veracity and even the necessity of a free press- and it's the very democratic process that's in danger.

This kind of talk makes me really wonder why companies like Panasonic and Olympus just released super-niche cameras. Panasonic's new Lumix is HUGE, and NEW, with very few lenses, unless you're a Leica SL fan with lots of cash. The new Olympus also suffers from size bloat despite its smallest viable ILC sensor. Can't recall now but believe I read that one of them, or maybe both, are actually larger/heavier than the Fuji GFX 50R medium format camera! Are these companies just flailing, or do they really think there's a significant market for these at least amongst still photographers. I neither care nor am interested in video. They are up against Sony, Nikon, Canon, and Fuji. How can they prevail or even survive?

Well, I finally have a current iPhone that can shoot raw (moved from the 6 to the Xs). Using an app like Halide to take the photo, which is very good at getting correct raw exposures in auto mode, and then editing in Lightroom on the phone, it's pretty easy to get somewhat high quality shots in at least OK light. If you can keep the iso at base 25 the raw file looks quite good. I'd say it's up to about the quality of my old Panasonic LX3, but without the nice handling and ability to add a better flash. That's good enough for a lot of the shooting I do, but it's still not my fun hobby camera.

For a more detailed, and nuanced, take, Thom Hogan has weighed in.

The continued market reduction is due to many factors in addition to smart phones.
1) The projections of a global recession will lead to less free money. This is coming on top of inflationary forces that have diminished available loose funds in the lower half of the economy.
2) The camera market is saturated. We passed the point of sufficiency a long time ago and very few folks need the additional capabilities being added to the latest cameras.
3) the camera manufacturers have shifted to large expensive cameras that fewer can afford.
Bottom line ... the market will collapse further.

Haven’t read the article, but I’m a long-term optimist when it comes to journalism (and as a former journalist, a short-term pessimist). Before journalism came into its own, newspapers were a platform for political hucksters and bogus information. As they matured, they created the basis for solid journalism, because real information has value and because advertisers need a trusted platform to present their ads on. It’s going to take a while though, I’m sure.

I would add another key question: Who is going to pay for it? Obviously, corporations etc. are willing, media more and more are not able to. So I fear we'll see much more photo PR and much less photojournalism.

Although you are clearly right about phone cameras, I think there may be another factor. There was a fairly long period from some time in the late 1990s to some time after 2010 when there were significant improvements in digital camera performance each year. During that period you could get a really noticeably better camera if you just scrapped the one you bought a year ago and bought a new one. This wasn't true in the film era: improvements happened much more slowly. And it's not true now: digital cameras are now so good that improvements are just not visible the way they once were.

The consequence of this is that the camera makers went through a golden era when they could sell a new camera to a large number of people every year or so. That golden era has overshot somewhat as people continue to buy new cameras even past the point that improvements actually mattered. But it's ending now: the replacement cycle will move back towards its historical average (five-ten years?), with resulting catastrophic effects for companies (sales dropping by factors of more than two).

Maybe vindicates the very cautious approach to investment shown by e.g. Pentax (Ricoh). It's the big boys with big mass-market share who will be most vulnerable.

The recent increase in camera prices is a sign that high volume sales are ending and the companies need to make some money per sale. Rather than loosing money per camera, hoping to make money on lens sales.
But camera sales may have just been too high anyways. People may have just switched fads. I think even phone sales will slow down, now that there is not much difference in model to model. We will have to see what the next fad is. Maybe electric or driverless cars.

I'm not sure photojournalism has 10 years, let alone 10 decades. The juggernaut of computational photography is going to wipe out any trust most people have in the idea that photographs show things that really happened. I don't think it's going to be long before photographs and paintings are seen as equally trustworthy representations of reality.

Crowd sourcing of images and motion will be the end of it.

Everything boils down to the bottom line; it always has, and today there are more options to save companies money, money that they may be finding increasingly difficult to raise via publication of news... 24/24 tv news stations also tend to get some material from the public these days, so the rot, if your living depends on supplying content, spreads ever wider.

Nobody shed a tear for the lost livelihoods of professional stock photographers, so why for the news guys? Joe Shamateur can make his piratical penny there, too. It's called freedom, baby, and if you don't declare that penny, it comes tax free!

As a society we have become totally desensitized to crime, violence, war and all the rest of it. Who cares any longer about watching people flee from falling bombs, refugees tramping through mud, marsh and desert and crossing mighty seas in rubber dinghies? Charity commercials pop up on the tv screen every day; do we really give a fig any more about kids walking miles with a pot of dirty water on their head, about babies trying to draw milk from dry breasts? No, we look silently and unthinkingly, or change channel. Emotional overload/overkill has done for pretty much most of the better instincts within the human creature.

Just this morning the tv was telling me about so-called ghost guns, that you can buy as kit parts and have delivered to your door via the mail, assemble yourself, and that have no identification numbers on them, all apparently perfectly legal, and making money for a chain of respectable firms. As with the existing US gun laws, if the government doesn't care enough about its citizens lives, cares excessively about its backers' money pots, then you have to accept that the rot is already too deeply into the timbers of that society to cure with a coat of preservative.

I don't think these are dire predictions for photography. Just bad news for establishments who are NOT adapting to the new forms of photography.
Look, photography isn't as much about equipment as so many think. It's about expressing a visual personal point of view. Nothing else. As long as we can still create an image, be it a phone camera or whatever machine the future holds for us everything will be OK.

“There are many reasons why the relationship between democracy and the press is less stable now, ...”
The main one being that what they call democracy isn’t.

The Canon CEO Mr. Fujio: "To combat the declining revenue from ILC sale Canon plans to shift its focus to corporate sales rather than consumer sales over the coming years.


What am I missing here?

[Not sure I see a contradiction...they just said "shift focus," not switch over lock, stock, and barrel. Right? --Mike]

Wow, 2 juicy topics in one post. On the first, I believe you have pointed out that we've been here before, early in the 20th century, then again mid-ish century. Here we are again---a boom in new camera tech that then levels off and then a period of declining sales (because the people who were going to buy, have bought, and a big percentage of them don't need anything more).

This one feels slightly more permanent to me, though. The cameras we have truly are exceptional, and those who truly need more than is currently available is vanishingly small, I think. The kit I have is absolutely as good as anything I need for work, and for my artwork only maybe one more upgrade on the medium format side if Pentax(since I am in Pentax DMF) does something significant.

Other aspects of photography are the roadblocks for me at work, such as file sizes, processing times, transfer and uploading rates and headaches, storage issues, etc, and on the art side of the coin the cost of huge prints AND their framing, and then storage of that.

On the photojournalism side of things...well, the journalism industry somewhat has itself to blame, as it has increasingly focused on celebrity and sports ephemera than on important events. But because all of that is ephemera, here in this nanosecond, gone the next, it's not like we need professionalism to the same degree---no knock on professionals who do that work, but what someone is wearing an some red carpet somewhere is hardly important to democracy.

My skeptic meter pegged when I read the Nikkei article. To what end would the CEO of the largest camera company announce that business is falling off a cliff? This smells like marketing speak to me.

Thom commented on this, here

Curious - does that mean Canikon & other outfits will be asking an arm and a leg for what's left of their market? Or will the phone competition force a price hit too?

Totally agree with D. Hufford (featured comment). For a while now I haven't been too bothered about the camera market. I've got what I need, and in any case I'm spending most of my useful photo time reviewing, editing and selecting from the photos I've already taken over the last 40 years.

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