#947. Monday Post (30 Dec 2019) – Last post! (for the year)

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Dec 30

So, 2019 is soon to be over. What has it changed to our (photographic) world over the course of this year? Are the doom and gloom forecasts coming true? Are we the Last Dinosaurs?

Hope springs eternal. Jonathan, a.k.a Laowa 100 f:2.8

The roll call of the departed, or soon to be departing. Posts summarizing events over a year start with such a roll call. Because our ongoing challenge is to match images and music, this roll call is, of course, matched with Chopin’s Sonata N°2 Funeral March. So, what do we mourn? The DSLR for sure. Just look at the low number of new DSLR camera bodies, vs mirrorless, and the low count of new DSLR lenses Vs mirrorless lenses… not dead yet, but we are talking pure legacy in this space from now on. Photokina, the German giant photo show, is on its way out as we knew it. Of the 7 major camera body manufacturers, only 3 will exhibit: Sony, Canon, Panasonic. Game over. How about the whole camera industry? By the looks of it, only Canon and Sony are making any money, with Fuji a mebbe. How long will others willfully keep a losing business? And it is not like there is any hope at the end of the tunnel, either. No reason why the market should recover any time soon, as there is nothing on the roadmap that would impress masses of people enough to change their aging cameras… Finally, the original, innovative, class-leading, Pascal-infuriating Sony A7 has now been discontinued. But to see Canon, Nikon and Panasonic follow in its footsteps to try and slow down Sony’s progress shows it was truly a landmark camera.

State of the camera market…

This leads me to the umpteenth iteration of the inevitable discussion: is photography dying? Ravel’s Bolero. My take is this, simply. Images are more numerous than ever before, as are people who take them. But we, the Photo Establishment, do not take them seriously ’cause “it is only smartphones, and IQ sucks”. Let’s go back some twenty plus years ago, as digital photography broke through the 1Mp mark. It meant more images than ever before, but the Photo Establishment did not take it seriously ’cause “it is only digital, and IQ sucks”…. But, make no mistake, smartphone IQ is getting better by leaps and bounds. I was already quite impressed with the output from my iPhone Xr, and that of the XI is supposed to be quite a bit better yet, so….

Audrey, a.k.a. Zeiss ZM 35 f:1.4

So where is the gear market headed, beyond its 7th straight year of sharp drop in volume? The clear and present trend is a flight to the upper end of the market, as far aways as possible from the market-share eating monster at the lower end. To wit, Sony have released their 64Mp A7R IV before a more affordable A7 IV… Other releases for 2019: The Hasselblad X1D II, the Leica SLII, the Fuji GFX 100… And the rumour mill has it that Canon will soon fight back on the resolution front, with a record-setting FF 80Mp camera body, in its EOS-R (mirrorless) line.


Similarly, lenses have been getting ever more sophisticated (faster, with now quite a few lenses faster than f:1.0 (!!), APO, etc… whether from camera manufacturers or third-party. Which, by the way, also makes them heavier, not exactly in sync with the shift from DSLR to mirrorless. On of the more intriguing products to be announced is the Rumiere 75mm f:0.95 APO. Both super-fast and APO, mouth-watering…. But price and weight might change drool into tears…

Modern gear striving for old looks… Beep-beep, a.k.a. Voigtlander 50mm f:1.2

I cannot fail to indicate that ambitious specifications do not always guarantee upscale performance, let alone upscale images. One of the most unexpected product announcements of 2019 is the Zenit M. Seemingly a re-housed, re-badged Leica M of 2012 vintage, but with full-Leica-of-today prices ($10K+ for the camera and lens kit!). And complemented with a mouth-watering 35mm f:1.0 Zenitar. Tempting lens, until you read the review of the Zenitar 50mm f:0.95….

On a totally different level, the market for photography (not photo gear) is not suffering in sync with the gear market. Evidence of that, among many, is that the Paris Photo exhibition is now expanding overseas with a New-York spring version. So how do a solid maket for pictures, a sea of home-made, smartphone-based images, and a decreasing number of camera-sourced, quality images jive?


My take is that, just as overtourism (novel word) overruns famous spots, there is now a serious case of photoverload. There are no major places worth discovering any more, only new photo takes of existing super-spots. Which leads to one of two directions.

Either one just gives up, because there is so much free good stuff out there, so easy to reach over the Net, that one loses the will and drive to contribute, so one just uses a smartphone. That way we keep memories, and we put in minimal effort into getting minimal results, because, in any case, our images won’t make the grade in the face of what everyone else sees on a daily basis, which has become incredibly good. Don’t we all know people who have just “given up serious cameras in favor of smartphones” ? What if it weren’t about the impractical gear (and that, it is), but about the images, and the very real challenge of creating worthy images in a world awash with them?

Christmas lighting, soon to be taken down. Like the camera market?

Or we strive to blaze our own trail, to be excellent, to be different, to stand out, to turn out masterpieces. There is some evidence of that, not only in the solid sales of top-end gear, but also in the expectations of many workshop attendees, who won’t pay so much for improving their skills, as was offered by the Layer Cake DS proposal, but demand straight strings of Wow! shots, guaranteed to shock and awe one’s friends. Just look at images submitted for photo competitions, and popular images on sites like 500px. It is all about more. More spectacular, more exotic, more…. Just like more pixels, more DR, more…

Designed by Eiffel, no less…

Which is why, is this photo-feeding frenzy, DearSusan feels a bit like le village d’Astérix. A place where better matters, and sometimes less is more. Where un-destinations trump destination shoots. Where un-postcards are preferred to glowing, seen-’em-a-million-times postcards. Where slow photography lets images blossom. Where quality ignores quantity. Where gear is the tool and not the fully-automatic-magic-wand-replete-with-masterpiece-guaranteeing-AI. So, yes, just like valiant Gauls, we may be surrounded and outnumbered, but our head druid, Pascal, is busy concocting the 2020 brew of his famous potion magique!

If that is not un-destination cum un-postcard, then I don’t know what is…

That is what I wish you all, my friends, in 2020, on behalf of all of us at DearSusan. That photography be your potion magique!

What is the story here, the clean geometry, or the very un-clean weld? Or both?

PS: it is, or has been just days ago, the time for gifts. Let me tell you what has been mine. A free piece of software called Pxlr X. Editing software. I don’t use it for RAW, but when I need to edit JPEGs. It is very intuitive and easy to learn, and results are excellent. For free! I call that excellent value. And did I tell you that it is free? Enjoy!

No, that isn’t the left wing of my new private plane…

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  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Thanks, Philippe
    You perfectly resumed why I find DS so precious!

    And nice pics… and hem, I like the aesthetics of the Laowa, damn!

    Happy new year to all 🙂

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I think I’ll buy a Jonathon to go with my Nikons. I don’t suppose that will help Nikon’s sales much, but there you are. Anyway, I did buy their 105mm Macro and thought it was bloody awful – way too ‘soft’ to be any possible interest to me, for the macro work I was doing at the time.

    I do accept the fact that sales for digital cameras have peaked and gone into sharp decline. I don’t however believe that they are going to disappear, like stage coaches did after trams, cars, trains etc replaced them.

    What might happen – and it happened before, long before digital anything was invented (let alone cellphones which take photographs, control your smart home and cook dinner for you!) – is that some manufacturers will close. Kodak and Ilford and Agfa and Rollei and Bronica and Zeiss and Voigtlander stand out in my memory – but the list of camera manufacturers who folded, or who went on to do other things, even during my own lifetime, is long – and includes dozens of other well known companies.

    Someone once told me that the only constant in life is change – and that if you can’t adapt to change, you might as well be dead, because in a sense, you have ceased to live.

    And what I am seeing is not the death of the “camera” – but a shift, a restructure, in the market for cameras. I am fairly familiar with the cameras of the 1930s and 1940s – and even the cameras of the early 20th century – because my father was a keen photographer, and anyway I used to buy second hand gear when I was young, because it was more affordable than new stuff. And by the 1950s I was a keen photographer myself.

    We did not buy cameras every time we went into the city, like some people seemed to in the past couple of decades – we bought them and expected them to last for decades. Anyway, they were mechanical, not electrical – which meant they kept working for a very much longer time, and if anything did go wrong, it was generally easy enough to have it repaired. Now of course, failure of components in the electrical systems inside digital cameras can bring their lives to a sudden and abrupt end – like the built in obsolescence of so many consumer goods these days.

    So until the digital revolution started, the sheer number of cameras sold was low, compared with the splurge on cameras which has taken us forward, out of the 20th century and into this one. It was like a tidal wave. And suddenly there was a huge range of gear on the shelf in camera stores.

    Now, apparently, the wave has receded.

    But not gone.

    Because humans are fascinated by image creation. Have been, ever since cavemen started drawing on the walls of their caves.

    We are facing a period of consolidation, and it could very well seem some of the camera makers we are familiar with disappear.

    The 99% (or is it 99.9%?) are happy with their images, and those images live and die in a digital world, never coming out into the real world, and never hanging in galleries or on the walls of your house, never turning up in books or photo albums – content to be sent to others by text message or email.

    Behind the splurge on cellphones that creates such a digital noise, there is still a world of 1%-ers, using cameras they hang round their necks or place on tripods. And like the world of the 99%-ers, this shows signs of growing. The growth may be small – but it’s there. People are still fascinated by the way cameras can create images, and they want to try it. I’ve no figures to prove it, it’s anecdotal and based on my own [limited] experiences, bumping into people who have taken to doing it, during the past 20 years. In most cases, it has startled me – because they show every sign of being quite dedicated to their new “hobby”, and producing quite remarkably good “photographs”. Not just “digital images”.

    The sales figures for cameras between – say – 2000 and 2014 were actually quite astonishing. Those sales figures have receded. But sales are still occurring. The question is when will they bottom, and what will the sales figures be at that point. Not “is the camera dead?”

  • A classic finish to 2019, Now to 2020

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    First, Philippe,
    and also to Pascal J.
    and to Everyone
    A Happy New Year!
    And a Merry New Photo Year!
    – * –

    Now O.T.:

    ( For each day of the summer and winter holidays Swedish Radio invites well-known people to hold a 90 min. talk show mixed with music.)

    Today it was Johan Rockström,
    Professor in Environmental science
    at Stockholm University,
    who made a significant talk on the still open possibility to keep climate change within limits.

    For once there is also an English version of his talk in ”Vinter i P1” :
    Download :
    Listen online :
    – – –

    Also several talks of his on YouTube,
    especially :
    “5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world”
    ( TED Talk,
    12 min., one year ago )
    “Beyond the Anthropocene”
    ( World Economic Forum,
    21 min., two years ago)
    – – –

    [ Johan Rockström :
    ” After 12 years as director of Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), he became 2018 joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), based in Germany, together with PIK’s current deputy director Professor Ottmar Edenhofer. Rockström and Edenhofer replace PIK director Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. He has recently joined climate change charity Cool Earth as a trustee.”

    “‘ Rockström is internationally recognized on global sustainability issues. In 2009, he led the team which developed the Planetary Boundaries framework, a proposed precondition for facilitating human development at a time when the planet is undergoing rapid change.”

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Kristian, I think the secret service will be knocking on my door after I listen to that.

      We have a delusional madman running this country. He has publicly stated that he believes it was God that got him elected as Prime Minister, in the last elections. It was a “miracle”, he says.

      Well I think it was a bloody miracle too, but for quite different reasons than the ones he thinks of.

      He doesn’t believe in “climate change”. He things Greta Thunberg is a bratty little girl who should be kept in after school, because she talks too much. He wrecked the recent Madrid conference and walked out at the end of day 2, flying back here with his Minister responsible for issues like this – which of course don’t exist. Then went on to Hawaii on holidays, with his wife and kids – during the hottest driest summer Australia has ever had – with bushfires raging from one end of the country to the other.

      So you see, if I do anything like trying to “keep informed”, it’ll be like the time when I protested the Vietnam War, back in the 1960s – only to find my “mugshot” posted on the wall of a police station I went to some years later, on a license enquiry. ASIO NEVER destroys their files, not even when you’ve been dead for a hundred years, so they’ll still have their file on me. And if I rage about the “climate crisis”, then I guess my days will be numbered!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        reports about him are also heard in Sweden… I suppose he’s afraid of the coal miners union and of loosing coal export income? (And neighbor China is still, I believe, building coal power stations.)

        And he’s, sadly, not alone…

        Jean Pierre, you’d better listen to Malvina Reynolds occasionally – it’ll do you good:

        We can hope (with Johan Rockström) that Greta Thunberg’s efforts to have that grass irrigated will give results before it’s too late.

        Otherwise our planet will be sure to get rid of enough of us to allow other life to go on, and, by the way, that would make room for the development of the – hopefully wiser – successors of humans.

        I sometimes think that’s what’s really needed.

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