Tony Northrup: Death of Consumer Camera

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by robgendreau, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. robgendreau macrumors 68040

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    #1
    With Apple about to put another nail in the coffin of the consumer camera, this commentary is rather apt:

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  2. MCAsan macrumors 601

    MCAsan

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    #2
    I am ready to preorder the wife and I iPhone 7+ units tomorrow. Will they replace our M43 cameras....no. But they dang sure replace P&S. I will give Olympus big credit. They have made several major firmware releases for their cameras over the past few years that deliver amazing new features. They at least start to act like a software company.
     
  3. Nordichund macrumors 6502

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    #3
  4. robgendreau thread starter macrumors 68040

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    The issue he addresses isn't whether you're gonna replace an ILC with an iPhone camera. Or second pocket camera.

    It's a macro view; if Nikon, Pentax, Oly, Panny, Canon, Fuji etc can't make any money off consumer cameras there will be repercussions rippling through the ILC world. In some cases just because it's already forcing those companies into other areas, and whether they will continue to find ILC's worth doing in the future becomes a question. And a 12 year old might NEVER need an ILC; the tech could change as that kid ages so that DSLRs become as niche as film cameras or view cameras.

    They are making tiny six element 1.8 lenses, and Apple now has a dedicated DSP chip that would blow the doors off anything in an ILC. You get maybe a couple of new photo applications on desktop OSs, meanwhile there are tons of new photo apps every month. Even sales of hardware that runs a desktop OS are fading, and without a desktop an ILC is kinda useless. The curves of innovation couldn't be different. I've got an Oly, and love pixel shift, etc, but their interface is pure MS-DOS. Hideous, and they HAVE a touchscreen. They are not only behind, they seem to not know they're in a race.
     
  5. MCAsan macrumors 601

    MCAsan

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    #5
    There is no "the iPhone" just as there is no singular Nikon, Canon, or other model of camera. Every model has different pixel counts...etc. iPhone7+ doing raw puts serious heat on the companies that do cameras as a crucial part of their corporation. Like Tony I laughed that Canon finally put a touch screen on one model. At shoots over the past few years folks with 35mm DSLRs would walk to me or the wife and asked why we were touching the screens and not looking at the viewfinder. Even this week at a club meeting we had a presenter tell everyone about this neat new thing called live view. I had to tell him if went mirrorless he would always be in live view. :cool:
     
  6. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

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    Death of the mono-tasking consumer camera and deep injury to the consumer camera companies. Not death of the consumer camera; not when good cameras are such a desired feature of smart phones. It's just that those consumer cameras are built into multi-tasking products, made by different companies.

    As Tony himself notes, smart phone cameras have been great for photography.

    Point: Flip phone cameras sucked far worse than the original iPhone camera, and pre-dated iPhone by many years. People took all sorts of lousy pictures and posted them, because the camera you have is better than the one you left back home.

    Going forward, photography as a hobby and profession does not go away. Someone inspired to take the kind of photos their smart phones can't deliver turns to cameras that can.

    However, it may not be based on image quality alone. There has always been a major gap between a casual photographer's "more than good enough" and a serious photographer's professional/exhibition quality. However, today's casual photos are orders of magnitude better than what casual photographers got back in the days of the Brownie or Instamatic 104. That means it's less likely they'll think, "I need a better camera!"

    I like Tony's take on what camera manufacturers need to do to compete, but making them match the capabilities of smart phones/computers (open platforms/apps, touch screens, etc.) doesn't seem likely to increase market share by itself.

    To get consumer attention, they have to deliver consumer/p&s cameras that do amazing things that smart phones can't. I doubt it'd be in CPUs, GPUs, or software - a multitasking device sold in the hundreds of millions will likely always have better silicon and apps. It basically comes down to long focal lengths and imaging sensors, those areas that are limited by the form factors of smart phones. It'll come down to ergonomics/form factors that are clearly easier to use than holding an iPhone (or P&S) at arm's length (eye-level viewfinders, almost definitely electronic in order to match the WYSIWYG "viewfinders" of smart phones).

    It's likely that there will be fewer companies making enthusiast/pro cameras, and those cameras will cost much more than they do now. It may be that the hardware end of those camera businesses has to stabilize in order for the R&D and manufacturing investments to amortize (fewer new models, longer time periods and more software/firmware updates between new model releases). Maybe the Nikons of the world add the imaging sensor to the "system" - old camera body, user-upgradable sensor and accompanying software. Maybe sensor performance plateaus to the point that frequent upgrades won't be a consideration (how often did Kodak reformulate Tri-X and Kodachrome?).

    Old-line camera companies can't subsidize enthusiast and pro cameras on the back of the ever-shrinking market for P&S cameras. Those companies are already diversified - medical imaging, manufacturing equipment (like chip-making gear) that depend upon optics, copiers and printers, image sensor-making for smart phones... But if camera-making shrinks to 10% or less of a company's business, how long before that division is closed or sold to someone else?

    A point Tony missed is that Panasonic and Sony have both been in the camera business much longer than they get credit for - they started in pro video cameras in the 1960s, and, of course the consumer camcorder business by the 1970s. Video has always been electronic photography, and so, of course, is digital. Due to the nature of the rest of their business, it seems likely they'll be standing long after Nikon and Canon.
     
  7. jerwin macrumors 68000

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    #7
  8. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

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    Sure, that's the way they're currently built, because modularity of that sort has not been a factor. Yet digital cameras did not always have memory cards - storage was built in, and you had to connect the camera to transfer images. If a camera company determines that interchangeable sensor assemblies would be good for business, there's little on the technical end to prevent it from happening.
     
  9. The Bad Guy macrumors 65816

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    #9
    Watched it yesterday, spoke with the missus about it last night. The video is accurate and it's sad. Camera phones, Instagram, Snapchat...the appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    I get it, I just don't like it.
     
  10. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a

    TheDrift-

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    #10
    The flip side I suppose is that there are many more people who are taking photographs. Camera phones mean everybody always has a camera handy. This means we have seen some extraordinary moments we may never otherwise have seen.

    It also means its very difficult for a government to suppress any large event, in an instant it will be shared around the world.

    The potential is huge...Unfortunately as bad guy suggests it seems to be mostly used for taylor swift pictures and a lady known as Kendall Jenner (never heard of her before now?)

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technolo...agrams-of-2015-in-pictures.html?frame=3516748
     
  11. sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

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    #11
    This guy's premise is that consumer market feeds the enthusiast market which in turn acts as a feeder to the pro market - nothing controversial here. His argument becomes irrational when he states that upgrading firmware is a ‘nerdy thing to do and that ’an 18 year old that doesn’t know how to use computers doesn’t know how to do that’. When in fact this is exactly the sort of thing enthusiasts like to do. And, if software and Apps are the future ( hard to disagree) then instead of mixing chemistry or adjusting layers in PS the enthusiast will be mixing 1s and 0s, in other words they'll be more computer savvy, not less.
     
  12. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

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    Yeah, serious photography has always been "nerdy." Chemistry, physics, mechanics... A very long list of arts, crafts and technologies that must be mastered before the artist is in full control of the medium and can obtain the pre-visualized results. As we know, Ansel Adams couldn't have been a master artist without being a master technician as well.

    Still, most casual photographers need to be as far away from nerdy as possible. This goes all the way back to Kodak's original premise for mass-market photography. There are more "photographers" now than ever before, because camera makers (whether Nikon and Canon or Apple) make it ever easier to get great results. There's no better drug than easy success, with "success" defined as "photos you're happy to share."

    Northrop wasn't addressing the decline of enthusiast/pro photography, he was addressing the traditional camera-makers loss of the casual, P&S photography market. So I'd say he's right about things like firmware updates. That kind of end user follows the path of least resistance, so if it's easier to update iOS than it is to update NikonOS, then Nikon isn't going to make a dent in iPhone's P&S market share.

    This is little different than the adoption of smartphones/tablets vs. personal computers. They're all computers, but the less "nerdy" they are, the more likely the masses will embrace them.

    Further, the communications capabilities of a smart phone are a large part of what makes it such a compelling camera. It's about sharing, and so long as photos must be transferred from a camera to something else (whether to print or to place in a text message), then the freestanding camera is at a disadvantage. The phone is the communications hub, so everything that one wants to communicate is best accessed from that hub. What's needed is dead-simple pairing of a camera and smartphone, so that when you open the phone's Photos app, you can see and share everything that's on the camera. But since the smartphone makers are all in the business of selling cameras... I wouldn't bet on that happening anytime soon.
     
  13. JDDavis macrumors 65816

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    If I was a major camera manufacturer...I'd start looking at open source or partnering strategically with a company like Apple and developing products together. At least open SDKs between the two companies. I own 3 types of cameras. cell phone / action cam / prosumer DSLR. Today they all need software to run of some sort. I'd partner with Apple and let them do what they do best (OS / Apps / tight integration) and I'd bring what I do best to the fight (optics / RAW image processing / stabilization etc...). When I use my D750 I don't stand there behind it and snap photos with my iPhone. When my use case calls for me to use my iPhone camera I don't whip at the D750 and take the same shot. It would be interesting to have an excellent Nikon body with Nikon quality lenses that my iPhone became the brains of. The lightning port is probably fast enough to handle the on board processing (wireless may even be). You'd have multiple ways to customize or upgrade your kit. New apps, new body, new lens, new phone. The phone would naturally bring extra storage and extra battery to the DSLR.

    Just spitballing but I don't see a day where I wouldn't own both (an iPhone and a DSLR). I'd like to see tighter integration between the two.
     
  14. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

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    #14
    Good points. Being able to control my D750 from my iPhone at a decent range would be great. And I don't mean just the shutter, but being able to adjust settings and focus.
    There is a Nikon app WMU, but it's not half of what it could be.
     
  15. robgendreau thread starter macrumors 68040

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    #15
    I'm not sure what "it" you don't like, but if it's social media, that's a rather wide dislike. Instagram is HUGE. And filled with tons of excellent photographers; indeed, see this: https://fstoppers.com/business/if-y...ou-arent-instagram-youre-doing-it-wrong-96125. I follow lots of pros, and photojournalists, and galleries, and so on. Or this this to get you started: http://www.creativebloq.com/photography/instagram-2131996

    I can't see how that could be described as lowest common denominator, if you mean quality.

    Indeed, on sites like DPR I tend to see stale, boring, dull photos that while sharp, and sometimes technically perfect, are at the end of the day (or minute) far more forgettable than some of the innovative and interesting stuff on Instagram by some kid who knows little about photography except what content looks good.

    The next Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Steiglitz, etc is certainly hanging on Instagram and not posting about pixel density on some gearhead site.

    SO true. The software they give us on disks (huh?) or in the camera or for mobile use is junk. At least with Canon you can use even CHDK. Folks writing scripts have come up with some amazing stuff that outshines what Canon provides and extends the capabilities of the hardware. With some other manufacturers we can't even get decent intervalometer functions in their smartphone apps.
     
  16. sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

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    #16
    I agree w/more frequent firmware updates / opening up dev to third parties (Magic Lantern) as well, but he conflates 'the next level of photography' (whatever that is) with the publishing of said (low res) photography and he suggests that Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and the like are 'better off becoming software companies'. If his point is that there is no longer a point & shoot market it's a really dull one, but instead he spends all this time linking the three segments and then suggests on one hand that the pro market won't necessarily change as a result (really?) but on the other hand only a few will survive in a niche marketplace even if they do. At least that was my takeaway....It's like he dropped his crystal ball into already muddied waters...

    Totally would like to see greater symbiosis - I've wanted to use my iphone as a waist level finder for my DSLR for years now - would love RAW files on the DSRL and JPEG capture to iphone for upload.
     
  17. The Bad Guy macrumors 65816

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    #17
    I've got no beef with social media, I don't necessarily think it's all it's cracked up to be, but that's neither here or there. With few exceptions (my kid and a few friends), I only follow pros on Instagram too. I have a general rule when it comes to Facebook, Flickr and Instagram: I follow photographers that are better than me. Gives me something to aspire to. Gives me inspiration.

    But that's not my point and you'll never see me talking specs / being a 'gearhead' on forums. That type of conversation makes me giggle.

    All the pros that I do follow aren't taking their shots with their iPhone, they're taking their photos with 'proper' gear, processing it on a computer, emailing it to their phones and then putting it up on Instagram. Gee! That's convenient.

    They can't put it on SnapChat because from what I understand, that's phone only and it's massively popular with the tween community.

    Meanwhile Whatsherface Kardashian, Taylor Swift and countless other narcissists take a crap selfy in a mirror, a photo of their cat, their lunch or some other mundane subject, they press a button to upload to the world, put a bunch of hashtags on it and BOOM! instant gratification from millions of other dimwits.

    Where's the skill in that? Where's the imagination? The creativity? If this is where photography is at then yeah, I'd say it's pandering to the lowest common denominator. Just like most things that 'go viral'.

    Of course there are exceptions, but that's what makes them exceptions.

    Recent case in point: A model put up a photo I'd taken of her recently on her Instagram. She has something like 35k followers. The photo wasn't bad, technically it was more than competent. it got great traffic and some nice comments. Nice exposure for me right?

    Once the attention started to fade, she put up another photo. A selfy in her messy bedroom this time and not very well taken at all. It did considerably better traffic. Why? It was a lot more revealing. Should've seen the comments on that one.

    Lowest common denominator.
     
  18. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #18
    I understood his argument very differently from you: he argues that cameras should be platforms that are regularly — and more conveniently — updated. Upgrading the “firmware” should be as easy as upgrading from iOS 9 to iOS 10. Right now when you buy a camera, you tend to only receive a few firmware updates. E. g. I have no hope that my Nikon D7000 will ever receive another meaningful update. And that it is impossible to put apps on it that enhance the functionality of my camera. Fuji was better with their X-series cameras but certainly not up to par with what you are used to with iOS devices. Put another way: camera manufacturers don't treat their cameras as platforms where all cameras share the same software and can be enhanced with the same apps.
     
  19. sarge, Sep 10, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2016

    sarge macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    RED already offers camera sensor upgrades to their products - they were the vanguard of digital film making and are pretty much responsible for the tendency toward modular design among high end camera manufacturers like Arri and Panasonic- all of whom recognize that technology changes too quickly to have fixed hardware specs. As far as I know though only RED offers sensor upgrades...

    PS I found your analysis and prognostication way more useful than anything said in the posted video!
    --- Post Merged, Sep 10, 2016 ---
    Personally, I couldn't really get a fix on what he was saying - his argument seemed to jump around a lot. I'm not saying he didn't make valid points throughout but they were often disconnected. For such a grand 'drones eye view' of the history of photography he didn't really show me what's on the horizon.
     
  20. gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

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    #20
    You are very confused here. No camera in any iPhone implements that technology. "Patent" means that nobody else is allowed to use this patent without paying license fees to Apple (which should make you happy since apparently you don't want anyone to use it), it should mean that Apple _can_ build this technology, but it doesn't say they do it, and right now they don't.

    And some people work in sensitive places where right now they are not allowed to bring in any phone with a camera. If you had the choice: No phone with camera at all at your work place, or an iPhone where the camera is turned off, what would you prefer?
     
  21. robgendreau thread starter macrumors 68040

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    #21
    Well, yeah, that's true. But it's always been true that public taste is, um, fickle. Can't say I can lay that at the feet of Instagram or YouTube or anything else that isn't curated. And even curated galleries and news outlets have to pander a bit. And even wedding photographers, fashion shooters and yes, artists.

    OTOH Instagram and Twitter have done things with photos (both just as documentation and as artistic expression) that got huge traction and advanced political and social discourse. Rather like Ut's Vietnam photo, which is back in the news because of what Facebook did, which has pushed the message behind that image back into the forefront. So it has its good aspects as well.
     
  22. sarge, Sep 10, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2016

    sarge macrumors 6502a

    sarge

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    #22
    Just to be clear...you are also making the counter argument that the social media giant - I'm sorry the tech company Facebook has the potential to stymie opinion and dialogue too, right? Because half of what Edward Weston shot couldn't be posted to Facebook/Instagram nevermind politically charged images like those made of Kim Phuc
     
  23. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #23
    RED makes only professional cameras, so I don't see what that implies for the majority of the market. All other mainstream electronic devices have become less modular, less upgradable.
    It seems to me that you are jumping ahead, I was still discussing the diagnosis, not the part when Northrop extrapolated to the future. His point was that camera makers missed the opportunity when the iPhone and Instagram came out to significantly improve their camera's connectivity, make their cameras into platforms and adopt new UI paradigms (e. g. he mentioned that only the very latest incarnation of the Canon 5D has a touch screen). IMHO you can quibble with smaller points, but I think his overarching analysis is quite apt.
     
  24. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #24
    I wouldn't necessarily call it public taste, I think the majority can tell which photo is technically better. But photos showing more naked skin are better click bait.
    Well, in the world where everybody can publish, there are less quality filters in place. So the onus is on the consumer to pick who they follow carefully.
     
  25. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

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    #25
    In a world that craves likes and views, too much average or below average stuff gets circulated IMO. When there are a 1000 likes on something because people have a big social media presence on something most of us wouldn't even raised the camera for, somethings got to be wrong.
     

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