Prepare yourselves for a new landscape

Started Nov 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Predicting revolution is not revolutionary.
In reply to meland, Nov 10, 2013

meland wrote:

May I make a prediction? Many of you are not going to like it, but before you throw your toys out of the pram please hear me out.

In ten or fifteen years (the exact time span is not the main point of this prediction) mainstream enthusiast photography may have gone small format. Forget full frame. Forget APS-C. Forget M4/3. These may all be then regarded as medium format and as such only the province of a few professionals and quality fetishists.

All you must do to get a feel for the future is look to the past. When photography was first developed it was inconvenient and the sole province of artists and professionals who could afford the equipment and had the expertise to use it.

Since then there have been many, many advancements that have made photography much more accessible, much cheaper, and much easier for everyone to use. Polaroid, self-winding automatic film cameras, the Brownie, digital cameras, one hour developing, color film, not to mention the smaller formats or the simple fact that film chemistry advanced to allow much faster exposures instead of many seconds.

And with each of these advancements people predicted the demise of anything that wasn't as cheap or easy or fast or convenient. We are so impressed with new technology, especially the photography types, that we forget how useful the old ways were. We also forget that so many people have zero interest in being excited and surprised by new cameras and simply want what they want. Artists want a wide variety of attributes, regular people want convenience or quality or something cool or a mix of all that, and photographers who want to keep striving to improve their skills don't always want whatever is the most convenient or trendy....and some do.

The manufacturers are already come to the realisation that tinkering at the edges with the formats we have today no longer produces sufficient sales to support the market. The debate about mirrorless v DSLR will have long gone.

Things that work don't cease to exist just because they've been around forever. Most people don't know how a DSLR or an ILC camera works they just care what it does. And DSLRs still work, still perform the tasks many people want with great proficiency, and are becoming higher quality at lower costs because established technology is cheaper to produce and has already been refined over many, many years.

They (the manufacturers) will have realised that what the markets really want is not ultimate image quality but small and convenient products. Using small sensors (which will have improved a bit, although not as much as many here hope or expect) it will be possible to create small systems that have tremendous mass appeal. While we accept the size of current products the new customer simply will not. The market for people who will accept cameras the size of,say, a 6D or 700D (and I only mention those as roughly representative of the breed of DSLRs we have today) and huge lenses such as a 70-200/2.8, or even a 24-105/4 will be over once consumers are offered something much smaller and lighter. In fact the whole interchangeable lens market will probably have shrunk considerably. If you can have a good quality 20x; 50x; or even 100x zoom that is about the same size as say a current 24-70/4, and with a reasonably fast aperture, only the geeks are going to be able to justify what we currently regard as normal. Why bother with interchangeable lenses at all for most purposes?

The markets are much more varied than you give them credit for. A new market has emerged in the form of cameras built into smartphones and now everybody thinks that is converting people from one segment to another rather than converting a few and creating a whole new market segment of its own with its own new adopters. True, touchscreen technology and wireless data will surely be incorporated into digital cameras as it becomes cost efficient and more demanded by people, but small size is never going to be the only thing people care about. There will always be people who will only bother with photography if it is very convenient and cheap, and that is a legitimate market segment that the camera makers couldn't really access until smartphone cameras brought those people out of the woodwork.

I think all those superzooms and small sensor cameras are beyond the people you think will want them already. Most people have a tipping point where size or quality are either very important or can be sacrificed for the other. For smartphone users image quality and flexibility is much less important than convenience and sharing on social media. For someone who want the best image quality, size can only be meaningful within a very large range where something only becomes too large if there isn't a significant enough increase in image quality or price becomes too high. Some people really do need a combination of both and that's where the G1 X or RX100 really struck a chord. The G1 X was the perfect balance of performance, size, image quality, and price that I personally needed for a convenient carry-about camera. For many if it's not already in their pocket (smartphone) they don't care.

As for interchangeable lenses and superzooms, optics will still evolve much more slowly than digital technology and, therefore, will be the gateway to truly superior image quality. Many people will be introduced to photography through their lazy, lousy smartphones and then realize that they can have great pictures with a little more money and effort. Conversion of market segments will go both ways.

The high enthusiasts we have today that would resist such a change will not really be a factor. Because of their current demographic many will need help in having a glass of milk and will no longer be overly concerned about anything, let alone the performance at 100%.

Polaroid, 35mm, 110, and disposable cameras never did what you suggest and digital photography will be the same way.

The sports and photo journalist professional market is already moving away from printed images. Old timers in those professions may hate this too but the future for those markets is probably video and with any still image requirement (increasingly rare) being provided for by an individual frame taken from that.

As mobile consumption of data increases it will still be important to avoid super high definition video for every single occasion where it is possible, whereas very high quality images will require much less data and load times and will look amazing on tablets and phones. Internet speeds are not increasing as fast as you might think and the inconsistent wireless data networks are still fairly slow and bogged down by increasing traffic. Cell data also eats up battery life we don't have and most of our content is so compressed to reduce file sizes that video isn't all that impressive. No doubt it will improve. What new technology will come about to throw tablets on their noses?

There will still be a tiny market for formats like FF but these formats will be considered rather esoteric and more like Medium Format is today. And of course this means the cost of products in this domain will be much, much higher and the choice (and rate of replacement) far less.

Perhaps they didn't quite get it right (the lenses are too big for example) but the Nikon V1/J1 is possibly a precursor to what the manufacturers are thinking long term and what we have in store for the future.


Sorry for what? Sorry because you're that convinced you're right and we won't like it? ILC camera sales have been low and flat for two years, which have been arguably the two most exciting years of their evolution into usefulness. DSLR have been high and in most quarters growing. I think there certainly will be new market segments, new consumers in each, and a greater fragmentation in general. However, your conclusions are based more on the initial trends in some new developments and less on very similar developments that have occurred in the past and only enriched the field of photography rather than being so revolutionary they've made all other technologies obsolete.

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