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Wednesday, 04 September 2019


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Fickle me just auctioned off all my (not worth a lot) digital equipment and a few lenses and with that money purchased a Sony A7ii with kit lens and a few accessories. $998 is a super deal for this camera much like the Fuji X-H1 deal. I really like this camera. We click.

Being a enthusiastic hack I just don't need the latest and greatest. 5 year old tech and 24mp works just fine for me. This is why I believe sales are slowing. It's just not the improved image quality of phones that hurt the market. It just might be things were already good enough for most?

I am worried as well, as while film is relatively easy to make, if somewhat harder to make profitably, as you said the pipeline of a digital camera is far more complicated. We'll have lenses and accessories for long after the bit rot sets in. My F2 is still purring along better than I have, and unlike me, hasn't had a CLA or work done yet(we're the same age) - but my Contax G series bodies had failing LCD panels, and several digital cameras have given up the ghost.

I think we're due to see a major player bow out, but it's hard to say whom. Nikon is at risk, with Photography so central to their business, Canon and Sony are likely the least likely to poof. I'm not sure how Pentax is a still around, and Olympus does not have a compelling case for much longer, it seems.

I'm fearful about Fuji - they have a history of being rather practical in their cutting off products - so I'm just going to shoot my X-H1 and be happy and come to terms with reality when it hits me in the face.

The question should be, is there a need (demand) for photographic pictures? If yes, then what is the device or suite of devices that will make the range (quality, size format etc.) of photographic pictures needed.

The picture is the product. First determine the product specifications (size, resolution, sensitivity, media) and customers (amateur, commercial) and then specify the tool (camera) needed. Will a phone do?

It may be that the still pictures and cameras will be replaced by videos and video recording devices. In the digital realm, which is growing faster, YouTube or Flickr? Over the last 10 years Canon has invested heavily in video products.

I'm not saying you're wrong to worry, but I'm not sure about one of your statements: "the recent en masse shift to full-frame mirrorless". Is that actually happening? I've tried to track down the figures (Thom Hogan does regular posts about the state of the market), but IIRC the interchangeable lens camera (ILC) market in 2018 was still dominated by Canon (though not as much as heretofore); and Canon don't have that many mirrorless cameras. Basically, they're still shifting a lot of digital Rebels and other, small, cheap DSLRs.

I know that the photographers we see on TOP are buying mirrorless, and even FF mirrorless, but your readership may not be typical of the ILC market as a whole. Which might be a good thing!

Let the few remaining professional photographers worry. For the rest of us, if they stopped making digital cameras tomorrow, we'd still have at least a few years of use out of our existing gear and computer software. By that point, there would be something else to catch the hobbyists' fancy. In my case, I'd probably go back to shooting film if film is still available at that point. Or maybe printing my existing photos (which I currently don't do) becomes my new hobby. And if not, well, I guess there is always time to learn how to paint watercolors.

Hi Mike

its natural to worry, but we probably shouldn't. Climate change not withstanding; check out


The world is getting better...

Worrying about something you can't change is a waste of energy. Better to direct that energy into something positive.

I don't think there is a strong cause to worry, if what you are interested in is photography. If what you are interested in is the gadgets involved in making photographs, and particularly that there should be endless new and better ones, then there is certainly cause to worry. There is nothing at all wrong with such an interest of course.

It's clear that the arms race in digital cameras is essentially over, because cameras are now so technically good that improvements are becoming undedectable by the human visual system.

A small number of people will drive the technical quality of cameras well beyond what is actually perceptable in the same way that has happened for other technologies. However this group will move out of the mainstream fairly quickly, as it becomes economically unviable to manufacture equipment which meet their requirements.

A good comparison is Hi-Fi: Hi-Fi nerds now focus on equipment which is objectively rather low in quality, because the cost of making equipment which is objectively very high in quality is so enormous, if it is to be made in small numbers: there's nothing strongly preventing anyone making a digital audio system which makes 96-bit samples at 100MHz (obviously most of the bits of each sample would be noise), but the engineering considerations mean that making such systems in tiny numbers gives an absurd unit cost. So instead people obsess about valve (tube) amplifiers and turntables which can be made for a relatively small unit cost, even in tiny numbers (I have made a valve amplifier, I probably could make a turntable, and certainly people have done that).

The situation is worse for digital cameras: making a sensor is a much more technically-demanding process than making a two-channel A-D converter suitable for Hi-Fi, say. So although there's probably nothing very much preventing the construction of sensors with billions of pixels, because the demand for them will be small they will remain out of reach of even very rich individuals. Very likely this means that the technical-quality-at-all-costs group will wander off into similar objectively strange places as they have for Hi-Fi. The obvious 'strange place' is, of course, film (or wet plates perhaps).

(An aside here: although it might seem that I am poking fun of these people I'm not, because I substantially am one: I have two valve Hi-Fi amplifiers, several valve Hi-Fi tuners, four valve guitar amplifiers, and a large-format film camera. I know people who do wet plate.)

So progress in the technical aspects of camera & lens design will tail off. With luck there will be progress on the ergonomics of camera design for rather longer although I am not very optimistic about that. We will use cameras for longer replacing them with rather similar models when they fail (and, being extremely complex electronic systems, they will eventually fail in ways which means they cannot be repaired in ways that film cameras did not). But these cameras will be more than adequate for any reasonable photographic purpose: they just won't change as much from year to year in the way that we've become used to. People who are interested largely in cameras-as-gadgets will move into some other area where the gadget development rate is higher. People who just want something for making snapshots will move to phones.

During this transition several major camera companies will die or leave the business. I have my opinions on which ones but they're probably wrong. But not all of them will go away: so long as enough people are interested in using non-phone cameras there will be companies who will service that demand. There's a small chance that the underlying demand is so low that it will become uneconomic to manufacture non-phone cameras but I think the chances of that happening are very small.

And I've written too much here already, but I think this is a good thing for people interested in cameras as machines for making photographs. It takes a long time to become fluent in using such machines, and if the pace of development is high enough you never do become really fluent, but rather are endlessly battered by learning how new and different machines behave. I have a Gibson ES-175: I've had it for more than twenty years, and I'm getting the hang of it now. In another ten years I might really be quite good. If something happened to it my first action would be to buy another identical one if I could. If Gibson made a souped-up-but-incompatible version of it (with seven strings, say, or five pickups, or a different layout of controls) I wouldn't even think about buying it instead. Cameras will, I hope, become something like this.

I've always been with you Mike!! When I was 15, I had fully caught the photo bug. I was also filled with despair upon learning that the world silver supply would soon be depleted and photography would no longer be viable. (Remember buying those kits to capture silver from spent hypo?) Then in the '80's when I had two Nikon FM2's, I was sorely tempted to buy a third because I just knew that good mechanical film cameras were going to be phased out and my only choice for replacement would be one of those new auto-focus, auto-exposure ones. And I just now checked B&H and I'm a bit stressed because they don't seem to be stocking any new Lumix GX8's !!

Why worry? If you are into photography because of the love for technology, then you will be excited to see what the future brings, even if it is limited to phone cameras.

If you are into photography because of the images, then everything you could possibly need to make good pictures already exists.

Om Malik has an interesting article on his blog here


Missy Mwac notwithstanding, (blog - These photos aren't for you) and sad as it is, his comment "no one on WhatsApp cares if you made a photo in 50 megapixels or 12 megapixels" seems salient.

I wonder who'll keep the software updated for the in-camera, software-corrected lens I just sold my first-born for.


And yet no one has made a successful ILPC (Interchangeable Lens Phone Camera) that has the technical abilities of a mirrorless system with the communication abilities of a smartphone.

I'd say more like 10 am around the summer soltice.

Don’t worry too much about what may occur. If it should come to pass that all cameras become tiny specs used only for surveillance, we will still be able to edit and imagine altered images using PS-SmartSense which will be surgically implanted between our cerebral hemispheres for the low, low cost of only 50 credits per lunar phase. :-)

The old tech always lingers on long enough to keep devotees and the nostalgic happy until something acceptable (6MP digital) comes along. I’ve been driving my trusty Tacoma for 18 years and its combo CD/Cassette player still works like a charm. Every few years I’ll get nostalgic, pull a 1990’s Maxell mix tape from the back of the closet, take up the slack with a pencil, and give it a spin. They always work perfect. That’s not bad considering how many dirt roads that cassette player’s been bounced down.

If the camera market, as we know it now, should get worse and worse until its spit out the bottom of the porn industry* we will survive. Artists will always find a way.

*Seinfeld reference

We're all familiar with the affliction whereby we hear a tune and cannot get it out of our head. I have a similar problem when it comes to pithy quotes. A week or so ago I came across a William Gibson line to the effect that "The future is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed". Each reference to the future immediately snaps me back to Gibson's line and provides some "interesting" ways of looking at it. I'm sure I'll get over it soon.

All technologies mature - film, digital photos, computers, aircraft, autos, trains, social media, microwave ovens, etc. Every mature technology inevitably becomes a commodity item. Most of us recall when '70s CB radio and the personal computers of the 80s and 90s were hobbyist crazes.

When a technology is mature, it's more than good enough for most needs and sufficiently easy for most people to use, most of the time. There's little practical reason to spend the time and hassle to upgrade constantly.

When that occurs, replacement cycles lengthen, the hobbyist cachet is gone, and the market contracts.

That's not really a bad thing - we can then concentrate on actually using a mature and facile technology for useful tasks like productivity and art.

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