New Cameras

I will not rehash what is a very good piece of work but instead give a personal reflection on an article published at the end of March which basically posed the question “Does Anybody Really Want a New Camera ?” It is well worth a read: https://dslrbodies.com/newsviews/nikon-2019-news/april-2019-nikon-canon/does-anyone-really-want-a.html   

A Sea Change

For me at my age I find that I am acutely aware of how things are changing and I'm not looking back to the 1960/70s and my youth when I write this because I have more recent benchmarks such as 2004 when I moved down to Somerset, 2007 when Pops died or 2010 when my Mum passed away and various other “markers” due to the events in the lives of my own children or friends. Perhaps because I have tried to live my life with “my eyes wide open” as it were, each of these “markers” along the way has made me aware of change taking place beyond the obvious and immediate.

It was only about 3 years or so ago that looking at the racks in my office containing roughly 700 CDs that I realised “nobody young buys physical media any more, they stream the music they want.” In a similar time frame, who gets a DVD drive on their new laptop these days ? But it is not just such obvious physical changes that are important, it is the knock on effect such as the impact of people not buying physical newspapers must have on newsagents, how many of those have closed ? To my mind I suspect that major changes are/have already taken place and this era of high volume consumerism may be drawing to a close, this will become a very disruptive period of time.

The Camera Market

I think that there are major changes happening throughout the global economy and we are all in for a rough ride over the next decade or so but for my purposes, I will just concentrate on photography which is where this post started. The accepted wisdom is that smartphones have killed off the casual “shoot on auto” consumer market for cameras and that is correct. This is not just because “why carry another device” when your smartphone will do the job but as importantly, once taken your pictures are where you want them, on your phone and backed up to the Cloud no further processing required.

People who are into photography are a different breed, they are about making images as well as being prepared to tote the required kit with them on their photographic 'expeditions' however, these keen hobbyists have been heavily subsidised in the recent past by these very consumers that some of them would so despise. But the reality was that the past high volumes of consumer models formed a solid financial base for the camera companies to devote substantial R&D teams to advancing digital technology generally which meant that there was room in their ranges for “Halo Product” cameras, technically wonderful, likely sold in low volumes and very expensive too.

The problem for these camera companies is that without the volumes at the consumer end the so called “pro-summer” cameras aimed at keen amateurs and professionals will have to rise substantially in price if they are still to be offered for sale. There are certain to be casualties in the number of camera brands left just as there were back in the late 80/90s when SLR sales slumped because of the introduction of intelligent happy snappy compact cameras that produced great results for all but most incompetent consumers, this industry has been here before.

No Personal Need For Now

But of course this is where the problem of feature bloat over these past 5 years really comes into play, even good 5 year old cameras won't be lacking in features for a keen photographer and you can pick this sort of kit up, in good condition for a lot less money than brand new kit. Sure there may be some “specialist use” where only the most recent kit will do but despite the advertising hype, this will be a very rare case indeed for the vast majority of us.

My Canon 7D MkII and 5DS are both around 4/5 years old in design but in terms of the type of photography I currently do, they are fine and likely to remain so for the next 3/5 years possibly longer. Also which I have probably mentioned before, the handling characteristics of both these cameras are identical to the D30 I bought back in 2000 and this is important to me as a photographer because it means that I don't have to fuss, the camera is never a barrier between me and the image I'm trying to take. This is far more significant for me than any feature they may lack such as not shooting in 4K video which I wouldn't use anyway.

Also as my previous posts, I have over the past 6 months been using vintage 35mm and 120 film cameras alongside my digital kit which apart from being great fun also brings home just how basic and simple photography can be. Apart from the 120 roll film with its 60x60mm negatives, undoubtedly modern full and crop sensor cameras deliver sharper images than 35mm film does but that said, there is a certain “character” in wet film not present in the images from our digital age a feature you can set to exploit in deciding which technology to use for any particular shot.

Conclusion

Where will this leave the Camera companies ? I'm not too sure is the simple answer, there will probably be some brand consolidation, Canon the one with the biggest market share has been predicting for some time that the market in terms of volumes will halve again and has readjusted its profit predictions for this year in a downward direction. The other problem for them will also be that they are all likely to have new models in the pipeline which cannot now be stopped from emerging but they will launch into a pretty stagnant market, what will happen time will tell I guess.

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