#945. Wishing y’all a very Happy Christmas

By pascaljappy | News

Dec 25

The streets may be Snowy White, but no Rudolf stories from me tonite. Only a biased and unsubstantiated – but optimistic – analysis of where the market’s at at the end of 2019. It appears Santa ain’t been too generous with the photo industry this year. Presents and good surprises have been few. True innovation is melting like our glaciers. And financial results are looking more and more like a big ship heading for a drifting iceberg carrying doomed polar teddies.


Empty handed

Tragic for the bears. Photo-wise, I prefer to see things differently.

My view on the world, business, hobbies, the universe … is governed by cycles. And we’re reaching the end of one cycle. One governed by technical performance, which picked up when Sony sank its teeth deep into the sensor business, and is now long past its diminishing returns sell-by date.

At the start of this cycle, most manufacturers started playing me too catch up games instead of finding their own positioning on the side of this arms race. Instead of pushing variety, they followed. Inevitably, they stayed behind, in the slipstream. And while there was enough aspiration for all followers to breathe, all was well. But now that buyers no longer care about extra pixels, fps, ISOs … well … you know.

Balls and satin

Ironically, the most interesting failure of the whole industry was its half-assed adoption of digital! Turning halides into electrons proved enough for most manufacturers. To them, digitisation of files was sufficient to build a strategy on. Turned out to be a very flimsy one for most.

Because, in the opposite corner of the ring, tiny Tim the phone camera undertood that the real game was being played in digitalisation (not digitisation). Phone manufacturers understood that producing files was 2% of the story. Storing, sharing, editing, posting, preseting … is where the fun was for the majority of the market.

This gave them the early wins and impetus for the most recent driving force in this trend, computational photography, which is only driving the nail harder by contesting the technical suppremacy of “real” cameras in more and more shooting scenarios. I used my X1D alongside my daughter’s latest gen HTC during a beach sunset 2 days ago, and the results are scary scary scary …

Crowning glory

So, the photo market is crimble-crumbling faster than democracy in this mad world. Is that so bad?

It’s certainly very sad for those whose professional life those shoddy strategies are now threatening. My guess, though, is that they number far less than people benefiting from the Rise of the Smartphone.

But, mostly, my hope is the end of this most cynical market cycle can lead to something ultimately far more positive. Car performance never made us better pilots. Only less connected to the car. Camera performance never made us better photographers. Only more lazy, wasteful ones, in many – not all – cases.

Beware Christmas sirens

Dinosaurs must have been uber-miffed at the sight of that mighty roid burning up their atmosphere. But, ultimately, we humans are kind of happy this allowed us to emerge, right?

Horror vacui. Entropy and energy lead to higher complexity. So my hope is that there’s enough energy left in the photo world (that’s us, our desires, our drives, and out finances) to power the emergence of something far more interesting, varied and fun, than the 100Mp camera. Something fun for each of us thoroughly.

All of this is highly speculative and 2020 might just be more of the same sinking race to nowhere. Heck, maybe I’m Mad as a hatter. But it’s my sincere wish that Santa dropped a big parcel of fun and adventure down your chimney last night. Be it technological or not, a book, an idea, a destination, … my wish is that it brings you a lost of lasting pleasure.

Christmas lights. Bright lights.

So here’s wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a very fullfilling photographic future. To cycles.


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  • Adam Bonn says:

    Merry Christmas everyone

  • Frank Field says:

    Pascal – A very Merry Christmas to you and your family. May 2020 be healthy and happy. Thanks for all your continuing efforts and fine results with DS. Frank

  • Pascal O. says:

    Thank you Pascal (by the way, great pics yet again, I really like your crowning glory)!!

    As you so rightly say, what is important about photography remains the fun it generates. May it be by means of a regular camera or a smartphone.

    But is the fun around easily exposing oneself, sharing, etc., the quality of the picture ranking a (sometimes distant) second etc. or is it about trying to reach an IQ that genuinely pleases the person behind the lens? Or a combination of the above?

    That is, in my humble opinion, one interesting question that got a paper only answer from Zeiss for instance, with their never appearing ZX1… trying a 2019 vintage iPhone generated the same concern you mention above.

    So I see us left, for the moment, in a quandary for 2020.
    But what an enjoyable one with the DS crew. Merry Xmas, everyone!!!!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Pascal πŸ™‚

      A great topic to explore in 2020. My take on this is that superficial fun is anything that makes us giggle or feel good (like praise) in the short run but that deep fun comes from fullfilment, and higher purpose. And, to me, no amount or variety of gear can achieve that, quite the opposite. But enough pedantics from me on this funnest of days.

      I hope you had a great Christmas with your family today πŸ™‚

  • PaulB says:

    Merry Christmas to all my friends at DS. May your photo efforts be enjoyable and the images memorable.

  • Dallas says:

    Pascal , many thanks for the time and effort you put into DS. Merry Christmas I hope we can shoot again soon.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Cameras in cellphones might make it “possible” to capture images, but they don’t make it “interesting”.

    While it’s inevitable that sooner or later we’ll see some manufacturers come and go, I don’t think we’re going to see “photography” based around cameras disappear off the face of the earth. I think it’s more likely to be like Zeiss, Kodak, Agfa etc – moving on to other things and no longer making cameras. I’ve taken “insurance” – I’ll likely never be able to afford to re-equip completely and I’m heavily into Nikon gear, so I’m kind of stuck there forever – but I still have over 350,000 unused shutter clicks on my Nikons, and even if one of them dies, well over 180,000 left on whichever camera survives – so while I’m trying for a replacement for the “dead” one on eBay, I’ll still be able to keep taking photographs.

    What puzzles me is this. I see the declining sales figures – I can’t argue that it’s no happening – I keep cursing cellphone junkies who get in the way and have no “photography manners” whatsoever. But while all that’s going on, I keep bumping into more and more people who are abandoning cellphones in favour of “cameras”. That smells as though there’s a state of equilibrium in all of this, somewhere.

    Anyway – that’s a “future problem” – this is the season when we finally stop arguing, and we all gather around and wish each other a very merry Christmas, and tag onto that our wishes to each other, to have a happy New Year. It does humans good, to be reminded of these things, and to behave a little better for a day or two – or even a week or two.

    And the Scots have a saying – whoever you are with at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is the person you will spend most time with during the whole of the following year. Don’t worry about the drink you have in hand at the time – make sure you are with the right person before the clock starts striking twelve, next Tuesday evening!

  • Sean says:

    Do have a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for your respectful photographic inputs, outputs and responses – on levels creative, editorial an intellectual. It makes, for me, DS being so much worth it both as a visitor and infrequent contributor. This association is sure to continue.

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