First of all this is something that I would love MR to write up properly for one of his articles, no doubt he would get tarred and feathered for it as usual but his predictions along the way have been pretty damn accurate. I came across the idea while looking through some of the old articles here on LL and while making some serious decisions vis a vis film for the future.
As far as my predictions go, I used to manage a high street lab up until the year 2003 when digital was becoming a serious consideration. At that time we had to make some major decisions about what the future held, oh and then I left!
Anyone who wants to add to it, please feel free. Studying history has always been the best way to predict the future, the history of digital photography is very recent though it feels longer, but it is still enlightening.
In the year 2001 the D30, the first 'affordable' digital SLR hit the market. (A bit before but let's not quibble!) If you had been told then that by five years from that point......
(not in any order, just as they came to mind)
#Digital cameras would be the majority sold worldwide by a large margin,
#Most professionals would use digital cameras for at least some if not all of their work,
#The resolution of many DSLR's would pretty much outstrip 35mm film and seriously contend with medium format,
#A FF chip of 13 megapixels would be availible in a camera the price of the D30,
#Camera phones would be among the most popular P&S cameras in the modern market,
#The canon 1V would be the last film flagship model canon made and would have almost stagnant sales,
#Nikon would bring out only on more flagship film camera while discontinuing every other film camera,
#Agfa, the first to market colour film would have disappeared,
#Ilford, the highly respected maker of B&W materials would have died only to be painfully resurrected and whose reps still walk about pessimistically and long faced,
#Kodak would be axing tens of thousands of jobs a year in the film industry while closing down film production lines,
#Kodak would have stopped making B&W paper,
#Entire darkrooms would be sold on ebay for a pittance as chemical printing becomes 'passe'
#Most labs have become entirely digital working with digital minilabs and scanners, labs printing traditional B&W are pretty rare,
#Great film cameras, especially medium format, would be sold for a fraction of their worth on ebay and so many of them reach the end of the auction without a single bid.
#Only one company would still be making an affordable film scanner (Nikon) and looks unlikely to bring out a new model or even continue the present one for much longer,
#Contax, one of the greatest names in photography would die,
#Minolta after a merger with Konica would be sold off to Sony after failing to keep ahead,
#Pentax would be hoding on by its fingertips to the medium format market,
#Mamiya so long one of the biggest names in medium format photography, would be all but completely dead,
#The modern photographer would be extremely computer workflow orientated from capture to presentation,
#Inkjet printing would come of age though still be rather fiddly and expensive,
#Kiosk printing would be the modern way to have snapshots printed with C-41 processing machines lying pretty unused in most highstreet labs,
#Professionals and amatuers would pay many times over what their film cameras cost for the digital equivelent and upgrade to the latest model with the resultant loss as digital creeps up and conquers the advantages of film one by one. Professionals are doing the math and ofsetting the cost of the digital age against tax and film costs whereas amatuers are spending a fortune for their hobbies unforseen in the film days,
#Many working professional photographers have not shot a roll of film in 2 years or more,
#The great Leica would also be hanging on by its fingertips awaiting a digital M which would revive the fortunes of the company as too many people abandon their film cameras along with film.
#That digital cameras would get so good that the lenses would be the factor holding back resolution and not the sensor or technology,
#That many lenses once considered 'good' would be consigned to an unopened drawer due to the ruthlessness of digital sensors emphasising errors that film grain long hid,
#Many people shooting with DSLR's will never have shot a roll of film in an SLR camera before in their lives including some talented professionals who have never seen a darkroom,
#That even the bastions of the 4X5 neg/slide would be challenged (note the word challenged) by medium format back for resolution, albeit at a fortune,
#Photography in general would have a huge revival compariable to the post war years due to the ease, low cost and sheer fun of the digital camera, especially when coupled with the sharing aspects of the internet,
#The litmust test of survival in the modern photographic world would be the innovation, marketing and fast production of competitive digital products without which the economics dictate that big companies cannot survive,
#Even well known small dealers and stores in the photographic world would disappear due to the globalization of the digital camera market via the internet, even large stores such as Jessops in the UK would be in trouble competing while digital camera stock seemingly changes by the month,
#35mm DSLR camera bodies would replace medium format film cameras in a huge number of studios across the world,
#A 1.5 year cycle would be 'normal' for new DSLR bodies and far from thinking it's crazy, people would be panting for the next model,
#The interchangeable backs that everyone thought would become the norm back then in 2001 would only appear, late, for a manual Leica SLR and but no other camera
I could go on for a while, just read the review of the D30 to see what the mindset was back then, remember what you were shooting and how far away the present day's realities would have seemed then, read through the 'whats new' from 2001 and see how fast and how drastically the photographic world has changed in such a seriously tight amount of time.
As for my predictions for the future, for the next 5 years time and I believe them to be true if slightly conservative based on the past 5 years.
#Digital sensors will mature to the point where they have the latitude in the highlights of film but with the latitude in the shadows of digital. At that point film really will hold no more advantage in either latitude, DR or tonality and will very rapidly decline even among discerning protrait/wedding/street shooters who have stayed with film for just that reason.
#Once those sensors appear in DSLR's the entire crop of current DSLR's will drop very heavily in price, will be almost obsoleted by a camera that doesn't need to compress the DR to fit the sensor.
#DSLR's will have reached peak resolution at approx 22 megapixels, lenses may be improved to match but as the 35mm user rarely needs or even wants more megapixels this may not be as important for the companies as some discerning customers may wish.
#At that point the advantages that will sell new cameras will be better noise, better tonality, better DR and the aforementioned latitude in the highlights and possibly the migration to more widespread FF sensors. To keep the present upgrade cycle the companies have to offer something if not megapixels and sensor size is a good selling point if marketed well to the newer generation of photographers who have never shot film.
#I don't know enough about medium format in the digital world to predict but I assume that the megapixel upgrade cycle will peak at the same as DSLR's and the same enhancements to other aspects will carry over. I would hope for their to be at least one main competitor to Hasselblad, an industry with no competition is an extremely unhealthy one.
#I sincerely believe that 5 years hence C-41 processing of 35mm film will not be availible in regular highstreet labs, it will be sent out as B&W is at present to a pro lab on contract and will be pretty expensive. Only a very small range of films will be offered for sale, just as APS is sold now.
#The new generation of the incredibly popular frontier minilab will be offered in 2 versions, one with a neg scanner for pro labs and a smaller, faster and cheaper machine with no neg scanner at all for the high street.
#Kiosks including the 24 hour kiosks taking credit card being trialed here in the UK similar to a cash point, will be the norm in all malls, in restuarants, etc high street labs will suffer to the point of having to specialise in sales of cameras and such items as photo mugs, etc. This is happening already but will become far worse. Internet printing at cheap prices may take over the high street lab entirely, kiosks, internet and pro labs, no other choices!
#iPod/phone/internet/computer/camera, all in one, as cheap as the ones they give my wife for free every 6 months and very much the norm, all in one package. The digital p&s market shrinks to a normal pace and is superceded by the phone for the casual user.
#Ilford will not survive that long, I live in Manchester home of their factory and offices and the reps do not sound at all optomistic. All the film companies will cut down their selection, perhaps drastically. Pro film is funded by consumer film, if as I presume that no one will be buying consumer film any more in 2011 then pro film will either become very very expensive or cease to exist, at least in 35mm though not in medium format or large format.
#The plan to sell film to the 3rd world and developing countries floated recently collapses as even they realise how cheap a lower end digital p&s is, especially in comparison to film and processing. They may not have computers but they needed a lab anyway for the film...
#Only the higher end film scanners such as Imacon are sold and they are expensive, out of the reach of the regular consumer. Flatbed scanners scan film though not to the same standard, the need not being enough to drive the added research.
I really should get to bed, feel free to add if you've survived this long....