I finally got it

Started 1 week ago | Discussions thread
sean000 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,637
Re: Back to the 90's!
3

Marty4650 wrote:

I am one of those grumpy old men who always said that smartphone photography was just a fad. Something that is only good enough for selfies and photos of your lunch to post on twitter or facebook. For anything else, you absolutely needed a real camera.

Well, it seems I was wrong.

I recently replaced my four year old Motorola Moto X Pure with a brand new Google Pixel 3a, and was shocked at how good the Pixel camera was. It seems there has been so much improvement in smartphone cameras, that they are now useful for more than just documenting where you parked your car.

The thing is that even your Moto X Pure was more than good enough for the masses. Camera manufacturers enjoyed a roughly 15 year boom that was unlike anything they'd probably ever enjoyed before. I'm 49 and I can't remember another time when it was so normal to see the masses dropping $1,000+ on an interchangeable lens camera or enthusiast compact/superzoom. Prior to the 2000's, the only people I knew who owned nice cameras were professionals and a couple of amateur enthusiasts. Disposable cameras were the rage in the 90's and early 2000's, APS-film and 35mm film compact cameras had decent sales in the 90's. Before that it was mostly about 110 film pocket cameras like the ones I grew up with, and disc film cameras.

Smartphone manufacturers could have quit improving cameras a few years ago and the camera manufacturers still would have found themselves back to the 90's, but smartphone makers have kept improving the cameras... not to drive another nail into the coffins of our favorite camera manufacturers, but to give people reasons to upgrade their smartphones.

I still don't think anyone will be using a smartphone to shoot a wedding, for commercial photography, for sports/action photography, or for fashion photography, but this device is now the ideal choice for travel photography, vacation photography, family photography, or for casual snapshots. And lets be honest, those subjects are around 90% of what amateur photographers shoot.

Last week I drove 600 miles to NYC to visit family for Thanksgiving. Since I has my car I could bring all the luggage I wanted. This meant I brought 3 cameras and 12 lenses. You know, "just in case." But none of them were actually used, as the smartphone was good enough and much more convenient.

I do use my smartphone to shoot video quite often, but I don't actually use my smartphone much for still photography for the following reasons:

  • I hate shooting without a viewfinder
  • I like manual controls
  • I often shoot in lighting conditions that challenge even the latest smartphones
  • I have young kids, so fast autofocus and fast shutter speeds are a big plus
  • I shoot a lot with ultrawide, long telephoto, and even quite a bit of fisheye.

Three weeks from now my wife and I are flying 3000 miles to Seattle to visit our newest grandson, and luggage restrictions being what they are today, I just might not bring any camera with me. If I do, then it will just be my Panasonic LX100.

Congratulations on the new grandson! For babies and family photos the LX100 will be great...but it depends on what else you want to photograph (if anything). I live North of Seattle. We just got back from a weekend in Vancouver, BC. I carried my E-M1 Mark II and used mostly my Olympus 9-18mm and 40-150mm f/2.8 zooms. I had my 12-40mm f/2.8 with me, but it wasn't wide enough or long enough for many of the shots I wanted. I probably could have left it behind and taken the 20mm f/1.7 instead to provide a faster option in the 20mm range.

I think the real "revolution" here is that people stopped buying more camera than they really needed once the smartphone camera became good enough for most everyday uses.

The dedicated camera has left the mass market and become a specialty device. And a very good one at that, but one that most people don't need very often. And that is a problem that the camera makers may never be able to solve. And this also explains why the overall market for dedicated cameras keeps shrinking, despite the fact that they keep getting better. In some ways.... quite a bit better.

People really didn't want better. They just wanted more convenient, with sufficient image quality for the task. So much so that they were willing to sacrifice versatility, best image quality and ergonomics to get it.

Exactly this. It's about convenience. Those of us who are willing to carry a bag or backpack full of fiddly camera gear (and fiddle with the images on a computer before sharing or printing) are the oddballs. It's just that for about 15 years we got to feel normal and blend in with the crowds at events and tourist spots. I think the revolution was the digital photography revolution that happened in the early 2000's. That briefly brought enthusiast camera gear into the spotlight and to the masses. Now we are just seeing a return to normalcy.

You may not agree, but the fact remains... a lot of people are perfectly happy with their smartphone cameras, and new camera sales are feeling the pressure of that.

Apple, Google, Samsung, Motorola, etc. are worried too. They know people aren't upgrading their smartphones as often as they used to, so they are scrambling to give people reasons. Photography has been the focus for several years now. Apple's event that announced the iPhone 11 was mostly about the camera system. I can't think of a single thing it offers that is actually new, other than the ultrawide lens and computational photography features (and even those were mostly attempts to catch-up to Google.)

The big wave of the digital photography revolution is over, but it did produce a multitude of new photography enthusiasts and professional photographers who will continue to buy camera gear... but many of us are also at the point where we don't really need a new model or more megapixels. I do think there is a bright side to this for camera manufacturers: Better smartphone cameras in the hands of the masses mean that more people will discover a passion for photography that may lead them towards purchasing dedicated photography gear... so while they may never see the likes of the last 15 years again, they might continue to do better than they were doing in the 80's and 90's.

 sean000's gear list:sean000's gear list
Olympus E-M1 II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Samyang 7.5mm F3.5 Fisheye Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Pro +6 more
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