First the good news: there is an unprecedented interest in photography right now. More digital photos are being taken and shared on the Internet than ever before.
Now the bad news: the camera makers have never had such tough times. The consumer camera market has virtually disappeared – sales are down about 80% from the peak in 2012. About the only things that are selling are DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses.
Canon is concentrating on its health science and printing business. Nikon is shrinking in size, hoping to increase profitability while its Coolpix sales go away.
The reason for this dichotomy is the smartphone of course. Smartphone cameras have steadily improved to the point where they are good enough for most snapshots – and in fact, sharing photos on two of the most popular sites is difficult if you don’t use a smartphone app.
If your workflow is like mine – use a “real” camera, remove the SD card and upload to a PC with a card reader, touch up the photos with some sort of photo studio program, share on a blog – then you are so 2005 it isn’t funny.
Just as the SLR replaced the vintage 30s and 40s twin lens reflex Rolleis above, the smartphone camera has taken over the once massive fixed lens digital market. This was quite noticeable to me on our recent holiday. The ship’s photography area used to have a large and varied selection of point and shoot cameras for sale. Now they have maybe 3-4 modestly featured units. I noticed that the ship’s pros were still using Nikons, and there were a few enthusiasts carting around heavyweight Canons (they must have driven to the port.) But I was one of the very few who had a “travel camera.” Another guy from the stone age, apparently.
When I came home, I noticed that our local Walmart’s camera section has disappeared from the store. Not even DSLRs are being sold there anymore.
So you tell me. How would I get an image like this with a smartphone? How could I go wide enough, have a lens that is sharp enough, a camera sensitive enough, with a shutter fast enough to catch the pounding surf at just the right point? I admit that I was lucky to be there at the right time, and it isn’t all just equipment – but give me a break.
My travel camera is small and lightweight but it has a Leica branded lens, can go from wide angle to ridiculous telephoto, works in just about any lighting. It’s capable of manual control or totally automatic operation. There has to be a market for a camera like that.
And what about the really great cameras like my Nikon D5500?
Will I not be able to take something like this –
or this – in the future?
Well yes, I will as long as my current stuff keeps working. My uncle continued to use his ancient Kodak rangefinder long after the average photographer would have replaced it with a new Canon AE-1. He got the same great images.
But I wonder if the future of photography will ever be reconciled with its past. I have a wonderful Nikon film SLR and a good collection of glass to go with it. I’m keeping it for my grandson. Maybe he’ll like to try out film photography when he hits his teens. But I fear he will not. Maybe he’ll just be happy with his smartphone.