#331. The end of stuff

By Paul Perton | Opinion

Mar 02

OK, I’m done. I’m done listening to photography’s wonks telling me what wonders are coming, who from and then guessing when they’ll arrive.


Done and it’s time for our suppliers to get smart and deliver. Properly.


Here’s what I think. Disruption has now arrived in photography. Just as the reprographic business, the bookshops, record stores, telephones, music players, GPS makers and more recently, the watch industry got the wake-up call, now it’s photography’s turn. All of those sectors have been hammered by technology change, because they refused to believe it could ever happen and now, it’s time for Canon, Nikon et al to wake up and smell the coffee. RFN*, because if they don’t, tomorrow isn’t coming. Don’t believe me? Read Theodore Levitt’s seminal Marketing Myopia. It’s all there.


I’ve been caught a bit, too. Inter alia, us Aperture users have been shrugged-off by Apple because their focus is now firmly on the iPhone and iPad – there are billions of users out there needing entry-level tools and it’s ridiculous of us users to expect them to continue to develop a software product for just a (relatively) few pro photographers. I’ve known that Aperture was dead for about six months, but hoped Photos.app that will replace it might just be OK and mature into a great product. Nope. Not happening – I just wish it didn’t mean a move to Lightroom.


In hardware terms, we’ve seen sensor technology change and offer 6, 8, 16, 30 and more megapixels. That was in reduced sizes and the dozy compromises like M43 and APS-C. Then, it was in response to a market that wanted more and yet has still to really materialise from the manufacturers. So, buyers continue to drink the CoolAid and most are still trying to convince the rest of us that it was all such a good idea.


Read it like this: marketing compromise. Translation; buy this now and you can replace everything you have, then when we have a better idea, you can buy yet more stuff. Just don’t expect anything that might cause us to break a sweat. OK?


Yeah, right. Buy more stuff. I got it.


So, I’ve decided to stop buying stuff. My last major purchase was a Fuji X100T in November last year because the Sony NEX-7 replacement with a FF sensor has simply failed to materialise and I had a major street project to shoot. Prior to that, the aforementioned NEX-7 was my last purchase. It’s performed admirably, but still isn’t the FF camera I want. Those of you that feel like chirping about the A7 are just CoolAid drinkers too. Street does not contemplate a shutter that would wake the dead.


But, don’t take my word for it, go look on the Interwebs. This week, Nikon rolls out the D5XXX, D6XXX or D7XXX and a New Coolpix XXX – who cares? Substitute your own numerals for the Xs to see how (un)momentous these announcements really are. Canon are no different, or Sony, Fuji or anyone else. They just want to sell you the latest stuff. No-one said anything about new developments, lightness, small size? That’s way too hard, it seems.


And, if you don’t get that and missed their knock-me-on-the-head marketing stupidity, this week instead of fixing the (apparently) myriad of user complaints about the M, Leica has announced a new version of their top-of-the-range camera with the paint worn off. What a stunning piece of marketing that is. And a great way to kill off a once-admired brand name.


I won’t speak for you, but as I’ve been writing this, I’ve become more and more angry. Konost announced a funding drive this week to help build a Leica M look-alike. It’s been in almost every newspaper and on just about all of the photo-blogger site around the planet. The interest has been huge and I’m quite sure their financial needs are now well satisfied.


Still think we’re getting what we want Mr Nikon, Mr Canon and your pals in Japan?


Just in case you still don’t get it, I want:

• A sensible sized camera that weighs less than a photocopier
• A body that is long lasting and impervious to wear and tear. Carbon fibre would be nice
• Ability to use new and legacy lenses on MY choice of mount – adaptors are OK, preferably supplied with the camera
• FF sensor of around 25-30mp
• 14 stops DR as a minimum
• Water resistance
• A common flash system
• A common and reliable wireless remote system
• On board GPS

Until that happens, I’m not sure I will be buying anything new.


Fifty-odd years ago, we put men on the moon. A camera to fulfil these specs can’t be that hard in comparison?


* Right Fucking Now – done for emphasis as I’m sure you understand


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  • Amos says:

    and it not cost $10,000.00!

  • Bob Hamilton says:

    Excellent Paul.
    The technology is there to give photographers what they want right now. Unfortunately, that doesn’t suit the corporate boardrooms and the need to continue churning out this month’s “nearly there” new model which is just a little bit better and more advanced than last month’s “nearly there” model – to do anything else would be corporate suicide the way their one track business minds think. Unfortunately, the ultimate conclusion to be drawn from the constant drip feed of new and marginally improved cameras is that we’ll never get what we want as that would be the end of the line with the inevitable initial spike in sales as demand is met followed by a trough as demand dies – the sort of volatility which public companies and stock exchanges abhor. And, just as unfortunately, that, in an ironic, perverse way, suits many amateur photographers with GAS who enjoy playing with the toys more than seeing the final result the toys can bring and are always keen to line the pockets of the corporate suits to be able to have “the latest and greatest”.
    I would only disagree to an extent with one comment you make: although Leica appear to have lost their way with the M which, in this day and age of on-sensor autofocus, digital designed telecentric lenses and high resolution EVF’s, is beginning to look more and more like a dinosaur camera, part of their marketing logic of bringing out “special”, limited edition platinum and Dodo skin versions of the marque (and even a scuffed paint version) makes perfect economic sense and allows them to cream in margin they otherwise wouldn’t have to help fund the research and development they need to survive. If some “investor” with more money than sense wants to spend €20k on something which will never see the light of day (and whose packaging seals will probably never be broken) and will more than likely be sold at auction in 10 years time, I say good luck to them.
    Great article.

  • Steve Mallett says:

    Paul, I have been mentally composing a similar rant for the last 24 hours. Like you, I’ve finally had to bite the bullet and ditch Aperture and move to Lightroom. I’ve spent the last week watching endless hours of video, reading blogs and generally reading the runes in an attempt to make the transition as painless as possible. Like I don’t have better things to do with my life. And don’t get me started on on Adobe’s laughable plug-in for migrating an Aperture library that doesn’t bring the adjustments! FFS.

    A year ago, after the debacle with my Nikon D600 which was incapable of taking pictures without spraying oil all over the sensor even after the shutter mech had been replaced, I was persuaded to upgrade to the D610, for a small fee. It fixed the oil problem but I could not keep the sensor clean from dust, try as I might. I was told it was caused by the action of the 300mm zoom mechanism sucking air in. WTF?

    As you know, in a fit of peek, I sold all my Nikon gear and moved to the Olympus E-M1. I love this camera and all my gear goes in one bag that I can carry up mountains without needing a Sherpa. Is it perfect? Nope. Ultimately the sensor is too small. The buttons on the arrow pad aren’t in the right place for my thumb and it has no IF remote (the iPhone app works – sometimes). However, it’s weatherproof and I have yet to see dirt on the sensor (tempting fate I know) and I have taken some shots I am pleased with!

    In response to Morag’s FB post about the new Cannon uber pixel nonsense I wrote the following:

    “Whatcha gonna do with all those pixels? Print on the side of office blocks? Call me an iconoclast, but really isn’t it about time they chucked away the the bloody prism and all that mechanical guff and delivered state of the art EVF cameras of the same quality? Remember how Nokia used to rule the world of cell phones. These are dinosaurs! Not that I’m in any way biased or opinionated!”

    I’m amazed the Canon/Nikon edifice is still standing apparently unconcerned with what their customers might actually want. I’ll sign up for your outline spec. Let me know if any of the manufacturers comes close!


    BTW, for anyone else doing the Aperture to LR dance ApertureExporter is a great little app that works and cost £8.

  • William says:

    Film is looking good. Complete systems are “cheap”. I have added to my Hassy system with mint lens to increase a beautifuuly made, bomb proof, mechanical reliable setup. Digital increasingly is a trade up proposition that increasingly lacks even comon sense. All “new” digital products are just throw aways by design. Chips (minnie computers) have invaded all new products and the life span has decreased and repair is impracticable if not impossible.

    Good article.

    • paulperton says:


      I bought an ancient C500(?) in Cape Town some years ago. It has an 80mm Zeiss (I think) lens, a poroprism and several backs. I paid the equivalent of €300 for the whole thing.

      I love it and would use it more, but I just cannot get the hang of loading the film and have wasted several rolls trying. It’s in the cupboard until I find someone to teach me how.

      BTW, sorry if I sound a bit uncertain. It’s 23:30 and I am currently sitting at Changi airport, waiting for a plane home after ten days shooting InSight: Singapore. And eating great food, drinking Tiger beer 😉

  • Luca says:

    Just not made of carbon fiber. Maybe is my cycling experience, but just search for “carbon bike crashes” or something similar, and think what would happen the first time you drop the camera. Hint: not something nice 🙂

  • Christian says:

    Paul, perhaps your title should be rejigged to say, “The End of Stuffing About With Camera Gear”! Personally, I reckon we are incredibly well served as it is. Perfect gear? No. But pretty clever nonetheless. We can create to our hearts content with what’s already available. Frustrated by obsolescence and deliberately incomplete designs? Me too. Get irritated by camera model updates that niggle at your satisfaction? Yes, we all enjoy completeness. That’s why makers play these games and why we need to boost our self-awareness. I just want to say: you are enough. Pretty much most cameras now will do incredible things in your artful hands. Of course, it’s fun to have better, smarter gear. But deeply satisfying experience comes first and foremost from creating, regardless what machinery we possess. The ‘end of stuff’ only fully makes sense when we see ourselves as creators and accept our consuming as not much more than a byproduct of the process. We have the most brilliantly focused mind’s eye imaginable to make great shots. While the stuff – as imperfect and clunky as it is – is already enough.

  • Dan Hawk says:


    I’ve consumed the Kool-Aid and moved from the NEX 7 to the A7 and am really happy with it. I did have to replace a couple lenses, but they’re nicer anyway. I agree that it would be nice if it were weather sealed, had faster AF and either a better app connection protocol or a bluetooth remote.

    I feel like we’ll see some of this stuff happen soon. In some ways, it probably makes sense to look at the life cycle of DSLRs to make sense of it. They have solved many of these problems by just making it big. There are some good remotes, fast AF, weather sealing and a broad range of glass.

    Now they need to figure out how to put that stuff in a smaller body. They’ve figured out the IQ part already. AF is close and will probably be caught up on the next version of the A7. Weather sealing is a little trickier as it seems that the A7 is right at the limit of how small they can make the body and still fit everything in. The RX-1 is smaller, but I want the EVF and the Grip (and the battery that fits in the grip). Remote is totally doable. Just put a bluetooth radio in there.

    You can find most of these things on Olympus cameras, but they have more room to work with. Almost the same size as an A7, but with a sensor that’s almost half the size.

    Patience is your friend with all this stuff. The lens compatibility though? That’s a pipe dream that will never happen. They make systems and want you to buy their lenses. Great adaptors are already out there and not that spendy.

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