Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 12   Go Down

Author Topic: Camera industry in the dumpster - article  (Read 33371 times)

Paulo Bizarro

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 4280
    • http://www.paulobizarro.com
Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« on: March 14, 2014, 12:19:52 PM »

Michael, thanks for another very interesting article. I think it raises very valid points, and perhaps it helps explaining some recent trends, such as :

1. Going retro: people are indeed fatigued with an overflow of gadgetry and features and so on, so they perceive retro designs as going back to the old days, where things were simple. However, with a very few exceptions, camera makers that undertook that path are not doing things right.

2. Have camera makers been the victims of their own success? By achieving such amazing technological feats in such a short time, they are now at a dead end, just spewing out iteration after iteration of the same camera.

3. Some of the big names, especially Canon, have pursued the cinema market, where things are still volatile. I am by no means specialist, but in my mind, a lot of progress is still possible?

4. As for lenses, indeed there is room to keep improving, and third party makers are capturing that market. Even, again, in the cinema business. You mention Zeiss lenses for DSLRs, these have been around for Canon and Nikon for quite a few years now, not only in the last year or so. Sigma are producing amazing Art lenses as well. One thing though, is that technology has evolved a lot in lens making also, but this too will eventually plateau. I mean, the Zeiss Otus for sure is not intended as a large number sales product?

5. Pressure in the companies must be terribly high, hence the mad release of cameras every six months or so, to feed the (already) saturated market. Until this cycle is broken, and decision makers just pause and really think about it, no new breakthrough will happen.

ErikKaffehr

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Online Online
  • Posts: 10730
    • Echophoto
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2014, 01:00:48 PM »

Hi,

Progress is very much possible. But, I guess the clondike is over. I guess we will see a lot of development in mirrorless. It is a new technology. We may see a new generation of lenses, personally I would like to see small medium aperture lenses with high quality. There are some indications that Sony may moving into that direction. Fully electronic shutters. Non line skipping video. Plenty of opportunity for development.

But, development needs to match perceived needs. Excellent technology that no one buys is a recipe for failure.

Best regards
Erik

Michael, thanks for another very interesting article. I think it raises very valid points, and perhaps it helps explaining some recent trends, such as :

1. Going retro: people are indeed fatigued with an overflow of gadgetry and features and so on, so they perceive retro designs as going back to the old days, where things were simple. However, with a very few exceptions, camera makers that undertook that path are not doing things right.

2. Have camera makers been the victims of their own success? By achieving such amazing technological feats in such a short time, they are now at a dead end, just spewing out iteration after iteration of the same camera.

3. Some of the big names, especially Canon, have pursued the cinema market, where things are still volatile. I am by no means specialist, but in my mind, a lot of progress is still possible?

4. As for lenses, indeed there is room to keep improving, and third party makers are capturing that market. Even, again, in the cinema business. You mention Zeiss lenses for DSLRs, these have been around for Canon and Nikon for quite a few years now, not only in the last year or so. Sigma are producing amazing Art lenses as well. One thing though, is that technology has evolved a lot in lens making also, but this too will eventually plateau. I mean, the Zeiss Otus for sure is not intended as a large number sales product?

5. Pressure in the companies must be terribly high, hence the mad release of cameras every six months or so, to feed the (already) saturated market. Until this cycle is broken, and decision makers just pause and really think about it, no new breakthrough will happen.

pflower

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 304
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2014, 01:05:00 PM »

I think all the points made in the article are valid but the main one to me is the question which can be summarised as "why should I buy another camera or lens if I am happy with what I already have?". I wonder if what we are seeing is nothing more than a slump in a market (digital cameras) which expanded dramatically over the past 10 years or so and has now reached saturation.  

Before digital photography became ubiquitous film cameras were mostly mechanical.  I am still happily using a 1985 Hasselblad 503 with lenses that probably date from the early 1990s and before that used a Nikon F1. Both are built like bricks and I have no doubt that the Hasselblad will continue to give good service for years to come.  Upgrades and new models offered added features and convenience but obviously did not affect image quality unless you were looking at esoteric and expensive lenses.  Having purchased a Hasselblad there was no real incentive to purchase another one the following year unless you thrashed it into the ground.  So how big was the camera industry prior to the introduction of digital cameras?  Did people other than hard working pros really change cameras and buy new models on a yearly or bi-annual basis?

The advent of digital cameras changed that and I suspect created a new market amongst people who otherwise would not have bought a film SLR.    During the past 10 years or so new models boasting improved performance and image quality apparently launch every few months.  For a while there were great improvements in quality in each new generation of cameras but that is simply less so now - even my "ancient" Nikon D2x produces stunningly good images.  I may be completely wrong but I suspect the size of the photographic market in 2014 is still significantly larger than it was in 1990 but the realisation has dawned on those who bought cameras during this period that buying the latest model isn't going to dramatically change either their lives or the quality of their work.  The last camera I bought was a Sigma DP2M following Michael's review here.  That did prove an eye opener and it is now the camera I use more than any other.  I will look with interest at the new DP Quattro but unless there is some spectacular improvement in image quality (hard to imagine) I can think of no compelling reason to even consider buying one.

Is it not the case that those who are serious about their photography now have the tools to satisfy their ambitions and those who just want something to post images of their friends and pets on the web have already bought a camera.  In both categories there is nothing compelling in the new releases to make them take out their credit cards.  The market may have reached saturation and from here on in first time buyers are fewer than previously and sales are thus dependent upon people replacing broken and stolen gear?

Logged

amolitor

  • Guest
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2014, 01:40:16 PM »

Most people don't want a camera. They want pictures. The digital revolution meant, for a couple of reasons, that for a time the way to obtain pictures was to buy an entry level DSLR with the kit lens. Now the right answer is your phone.

First DSLRs wrecked the market for low end portrait studios, and now phones are wrecking that same market - people who want pictures - again

The market is currently contracting to its pre-digital size, and we can expect it to be made up of  enthusiasts again. There are a bunch of implications. Some good, some bad.
Logged

BJL

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 5826

The market is currently contracting to its pre-digital size, and we can expect it to be made up of  enthusiasts again.
I wonder how much of this downturn (beyond recent economic fluctuations, most recently for the Chinese middle class) is just this: a return to the rate of camera buying and replacement that we had in the film era, where I am sure that many SLRs and compact film cameras saw several decades of life.  DSLR unit sales levels are currently comparable to those of film SLRs at their peak, but surely to a far smaller fraction of all camera buyers, with those fewer DSLR users upgrading far more frequently -- until recently.

The very modest improvements in Nikon's new flagship model, the D4s, and the sometimes delusional efforts of enthusiasts to argue for its great advantages over the D4, is a good sign of why it make sense for camera users to be slowing way down on camera upgrading, in favor of judicious lens acquisition and learning to use what we have.  (I will allow myself one main exception: for the next big steps in EVF performance and tracking AF in a small, light system.)
Logged

Telecaster

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2491
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2014, 03:29:57 PM »

IMO a spot-on article from Michael. I went on a bit of a camera/lens binge last year, but that was after more than 5 years of using the same gear. Now with one or two lens exceptions I'm all set for some time to come. I'd be thrilled if camera makers put more effort into ease-of-use and especially thrilled if they sought out feedback from a broader spectrum of photographers. Maybe declining revenues will help concentrate their minds in this regard.

-Dave-
Logged

bcooter

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1408
  • me
    • working

I wonder how much of this downturn.........

This is a lot of it.

The economy.  

People want to cite mobile phones and the web but honestly semi serious to professional photographers didn't care much for tiny cameras that would fit in your pocket and rarely carried a camera 16 waking hours.

Photographers that produced good work, didn't have any desire to throw it up on anything for the world to see for free.  That's what's new about the world of images, the free view syndrome.

Sure, digital let everyone have a semi professional result in capture and printing, but there is only so much wall space, so many things you really want to personally shoot and once again, shooting your cat on the sofa isn't usually that interesting, regardless of the camera.

In the professional world the lighting, the grip, the supports, the production is pretty much the way it was a decade ago, except we now shoot digital and view it that second and the overall numbers are squeezed down, i.e. less margin.

That's true in all industries, western world or emerging markets.  The real money for the average person is much lower than before and you can't have 1.6% growth in an established market and labor participation the lowest it's been in 36 years and in turn think people have extra money to spend on $2,000,  $4,000 to $25,000 camera systems.

I think the digital upgrade syndrome let the imaging equipment world ride high, but now it's leveled.    Now do you really need 40 million iso, or 80 million pixels?

Probably not.

Cameras don't make content, people do, cameras don't decide what is interesting, how to conceive or stage a shot, light it, place it, or even when to push the button.    

Talking equipment is fun, takes your mind of more pressing issues, but it's just that, talk.   Just like most content, commercial or artistic is just data with not that much originality.

It's out there, there is good work being produced every second, but there is also a lot of clutter that gets in the way.

My studio's business is good, but we work harder because we have a larger skill set, offer more and never stop pushing.  That's really the key to any endeavor.

I know the realities of our industry, but I also know that if your going to work, your really going to have to work.

As far as the other issues like Getty giving away stock photography, that's fine as I gave up on stock a long time ago.   So if Getty wants to proliferate the market with free imagery, it makes that imagery less unique, less valuable to a commercial client, which in turn makes commissioned projects more attractive.

The wheel always spins back.

IMO

BC



« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 05:20:17 PM by bcooter »
Logged

amolitor

  • Guest
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2014, 07:16:36 PM »

In the 1970s, Japan was shifting about 2.5 million SLRs a year. In 2012 they shifted 16 million DSLRs.

Figures approximate.

http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2013/10/pictures-and-cameras.html
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 07:22:39 PM by amolitor »
Logged

Tony Jay

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2863
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2014, 07:24:21 PM »

In the 1970s, Japan was shifting about 2.5 million SLRs a year. In 2012 they shifted 16 million DSLRs.

Figures approximate.

http://photothunk.blogspot.com/2013/10/pictures-and-cameras.html
Even with the burgeoning middle class in China and SE Asia that trajectory of sales is unsustainable.

Tony Jay
Logged

NancyP

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2220
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2014, 07:29:30 PM »

I think that the camera market is driven by many types of consumers:
The Nerd with G.A.S.
The Uber-wealthy Show-off wanting a status symbol (Lunar)
The less wealthy Show-off wanting a status symbol (amateur with 1DX)
The wealthy hobbyist who knows how to use the equipment effectively (bird photographer with 10K lens)
The Proud Parent wanting an easy-to-use camera
The average income hobbyist
The Tourist
The Outdoors Adventure Tourist  (those indestructible submersible compact cameras and the GoPros)
The Specialist-hobbyist (macrophotographers)
The Retro Hipster
The retro Film User (but this is applicable mainly to the used market)
The Wanna-be Pro

There aren't that many really new ideas out there. I will tell you that the local store can't keep the quad-copter/GoPro set in stock - there's one demo sitting by the front door, everyone walks right toward it and picks it up.
The genuine Pro
Logged

John Camp

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1337
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2014, 09:48:18 PM »

A lot of the huge spurt in sales was the replacement of film cameras, which were often used for decades, followed by replacement of those cameras with dramatically better digital cameras. But now digital cameras aren't getting dramatically better -- the current ones are good enough for almost all purposes, so why buy another? In terms of sales, if not tech, we're simply returning to the pre-2000 days.

Michael said, "All of this tells us that the smart people at the independant lenses makers also see that the bigger, better sensor bandwagon is slowing down, and that photographers who are interested in improving their image quality are now turning to quality lenses rather than hoping that the latest and greatest camera will do the job. Just saying."

That may well be true, but it's also probably hurting the main manufacturers on whom we really rely (Canon and Nikon, perhaps Olympus.) So is the advent of good cameras from Sony and Panasonic -- I suspect those makers jumped on the bandwagon because of the exploding sales rate, and I worry that as the market dramatically cools, they will jump back off. To continue really good innovation and competition in cameras, we need two or three really healthy businesses, not a whole bunch of marginal ones.
Logged

darr

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 142
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2014, 10:51:32 PM »

Thank you Michael for a very good article; I could not agree with you more. I am looking forward to the Schneider lenses as that is one of the reasons I shoot MF digital and hope I can one day tweak my mirrorless kit with Schneider glass.
Logged

Ray

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 9641
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2014, 12:12:22 AM »

There are a lot of valid points in Michael's article. I see an analogy in the HDTV scenario. Initially, large-screen HDTVs were very expensive. 65" models used to cost around $40,000, about the same price as the first cropped-format DSLRs.

As with all new technology, prices eventually come down as performance and features simultaneously increase.

Nowadays, just about everyone in developed countries, who's interested in watching TV, has an HDTV model of some description. Why is there any need or desire to upgrade, when all of the TV broadcasts are below the full HD standard that one's TV is capable of displaying?

I get the impression that the recent introduction of 4k Ultra HD sets is an attempt by the manufacturers to lure people into upgrading what is often a completely satisfactory product in relation to the current broadcast standards.
In other words, if one normally sits at a distance of 3 or 4 times the diagonal of one's current HDTV set, a new 4k Ulta HD set will offer no advantage, even if one is able to source 4k video or still images for display, unless one buys  a significantly bigger screen, or moves one's furniture much closer to the TV set.

The only size of 4K Ultra HDTV  screen that makes any sense to me is the 84" models, which are currently too expensive. I would love to display 20 MB images on an 84" 4K TV screen, even though it would mean I would have to reprocess hundreds of downsized jpeg images that I've already previously processed for slide shows on standard HDTV.

As I've already written, this is an analogy for the DSLR market. A long time ago I bought a professional Epson 7600 printer which takes 24" wide rolls. It's mainly because I sometimes want to make a large print, and am able to make a large print, that I'm interested in DSLRs with increased resolution.

The largest print I've made so far is a panorama about 4ft x 12 ft. It's a stitch of 4 shots I took with my Canon 5D about 7 years ago, of the Himalayan mountains at dawn. In order to print it, using my limited 24"-wide printer, I had to create a polyptych, ie, 6 vertical segments about 4 ft high, joined horizontally, and separated by a thin black line.

When I look at this image, close up, I can't help thinking, "If only I'd had a Nikon D800E at the time."

I recently revisited the place in Nepal where I took these shots 7 years ago, hoping to do a better job with my Nikon D800E. Alas! The weather was miserable, so I'm stuck with the print from the Canon 5D shots, which is  fantastic and magnificent from the appropriate viewing distance, but lacks a bit of realistic sharpness from close up.

I recall when Nikon overtook Canon in terms of DR at base ISO, there was a general assessment that Canon could not respond because it didn't have the manufacturing capability, the technology and the patents to compete in that respect with the Sony-manufactured sensors, which Nikon used.

A lot of photographers are still waiting for Canon, not only to catch up, but to overtake Nikon. Canon could do this by offering a 54 mp full-frame DSLR with higher DR and lower noise, at the pixel level, than the Nikon D7100. I'd buy such a camera in a flash, provided the price were reasonable. I'd be able to use all my Canon glass again, which leads to another point which I think Michael has not clarified.

Michael writes in his article, "A high quality lens will always trump the sensor when it comes to producing superior image quality." I don't believe this is true. Image quality is always a product of both lens quality and sensor quality. A high quality, high pixel-count sensor, used in conjunction with a mediocre lens, can produce even a better quality image than a first class lens used with a low pixel-count, low quality sensor.

ps. I should add, that when I wrote, higher DR and lower noise, at the pixel level, than the Nikon D7100, I meant significantly higher DR and lower noise, in the order of at least 1/2 a stop. Anything less than half a stop is nit-picking, and irrelevant.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 12:50:05 AM by Ray »
Logged

Alistair

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 244
    • https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AlistairOwensgooglePlus/posts
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2014, 12:14:33 AM »

Thanks for that article Michael - about the pithiest and most accurate assessment of the industry I have read. 
Logged

ablankertz

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 20
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2014, 11:11:24 AM »

Was that page of graphs supposed to be a joke? It's so horrible that I almost puked when I saw it. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but by including it you did make the article "meh" at best.
Logged

michael

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 5084
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2014, 11:33:18 AM »

Was that page of graphs supposed to be a joke? It's so horrible that I almost puked when I saw it. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but by including it you did make the article "meh" at best.

No it wasn't a joke. It was meant to specifically annoy you and make you nauseous.  I'm glad to see that it succeeded.  ::)

Michael
Logged

John Hollenberg

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 920
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2014, 02:02:41 PM »

No it wasn't a joke. It was meant to specifically annoy you and make you nauseous.  I'm glad to see that it succeeded.  ::)

Now that's what I call personalized content delivery!  ;)
Logged

ablankertz

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 20
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2014, 04:18:13 PM »

No it wasn't a joke. It was meant to specifically annoy you and make you nauseous.  I'm glad to see that it succeeded.  ::)

Michael



Wow, you're really good at _whatever_ you do!
Logged

uaiomex

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1190
    • http://www.eduardocervantes.com
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2014, 12:46:13 AM »

I still don't understand why camera manufacturers are in dire straits. In the 70's (as far as know) all companies were healthy or so. Now with fewer protagonists in the arena and more than double the earth's population they are struggling.  Cameras then, were like one  unit per household or less. Now, every western house has at least two real cameras plus 3 smartphoens (my estimate).                                                                                  These figures should  double at least in Asian power countries.  With the apparent exception of sensor development, all electronic technology should get half as cheap to develop every year.  Buyers fatigue? Ok, I buy  that but that is only a small part of it. The big remaining would be only speculation from my part.  Other than wild speculations like conspiracies and such, I have to agree with Michael that manufacturers know shit what to do next. For example, I've been suffering GaS since my first dslr, a Canon 10D. But somehow, i haven't been able to buy another real camera in years. They all are lacking at least one or more features that would move me or come with shocking new novelties.                                                            This reaches the ridiculous. For example, the new amazing Nikon V3 uses a micro sd card. C'mon guys! WTF?     Whatever it is, is beyond my intelligence. All I can affirm is that manufacturers btw almost all japanese, lost it. I don't want to sound irreverent but I have thoughts at times that Fukushima radiation had something to do with it. Laugh at your discretion. Like I said before, I still don't undestand why.   It's been said many times by major bloggers and photojournals that this is the gollden era of photography. It beats me, really!   Eduardo
« Last Edit: March 16, 2014, 12:50:15 AM by uaiomex »
Logged

daws

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 282
Re: Camera industry in the dumpster - article
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2014, 02:09:26 AM »

Thanks for that article Michael - about the pithiest and most accurate assessment of the industry I have read. 

Agreed. I'll bet it made some industry management types pith in their panth.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 12   Go Up