#1034. Next Generation of Digital Photography: What Will It Take to Get There?

By Frank Field | Opinion

Aug 30

In DearSusan #1032, Pascal provided a thought-provoking opinion piece on the future of photography (flavored with some wonderful images in DS’s fine tradition). In this opinion article, I’d like to provide a few observations about the nature of innovation in general and draw on my own professional experiences in data communications networks specifically for parallels that may provide insight to the future of digital photography.


Innovation. Clayton Christensen’s seminal work from 1997, The Innovator’s Dilemma, convincingly showed that across a wide range of industries (as diverse as steam shovels and data-center class disk drives), the technology leader in generation “n” is never the leader in generation “n+1.” Instead, the gen n leader tends to continually add features, complexity and cost to their product, in the hope of protecting its position, and exhibits extreme reluctance to invest in, let alone move to, gen n+1 out of fear for its gen n cash cow. Those trailing the gen n leader are much more willing to move ahead to the next generation, generally delivering improved price / performance frequently with a “good enough” feature set.

We can argue whether DSLRs and mirrorless ILCs represent two distinct generations of digital photography or whether mirrorless ILCs are simply a generation extension (much as the automatic transmission was to automobiles). I don’t think it matters. Just observe that Sony, the outsider in DSLRs, felt free to move into mirrorless while co-leaders in DSLRs, Canon and Nikon, sought to preserve cash cows to the peril of their leadership positions.

Fort Ross from Cemetery.

Proprietary Systems vs. Open Standards. The massive growth of the internet in the 1990s into the 2000s was fueled by the adoption of common, open technology standards.

While now ancient history, prior to the internet the data communications networks one built were determined by the computer vendor who supplied one’s data processing systems. IBM, DEC, Honeywell, Burroughs, . . ., all had proprietary network architectures and protocols, effectively locking-in the customer while limiting the pace of innovation to that the vendor could or would deliver. Interworking was best accomplished by “sneaker-net.” Spin a tape of the data and walk the tape to the other computer system. Each computer maker played the same game; see where that got them.

From its infancy, the internet has been defined by open standards. With them barriers to entry dropped, allowing ecosystems of vendors to develop and deliver products that tended to be complementary, expanding capabilities and expanding demand. Indeed, leading vendors in the industry actively encouraged the development of ecosystem partners who could bring complementary product to the market, enlarging the market for all to flourish in. Many won as the pie grew.

Sony has licensed its lens mount and lens interface to several lens makers. While not the same thing as open standards, their licensing activity enabled them to grow their ILC market share rapidly with lenses from licensees filling in what originally were large gaps in its own lens product line. Clearly there has been a win-win for Sony and for its licensees.

Fort Ross Chapel

The best example of open standards in digital photography is the Micro 4:3 initiative by Panasonic and Olympus. While Olympus is now exiting stage right and Panasonic is ogling full frame, I believe this is not a failure of open standards but rather an attempt to gain more space from the growing capabilities of smartphone cameras. Too, neither Panasonic nor Olympus were market leaders when they created M4:3 and thus may not have represented a large enough market segment to attract much of an ecosystem.

Pascal describes the world of high-fidelity audio with its myriad players, many frankly boutique vendors. Yet the list of vendors is quite lengthy and stable. High fidelity has long benefited from the use of de facto open interface standards. While not as technically demanding nor complex as those for computer networking, it is those common standards that allow the audiophile to mix and match from a range of vendors. Indeed, it is possible to assemble a system with turntable, CD deck, analog preamp, digital to analog converter, power amplifier and speakers all supplied by different vendors.

Ease of Use. A second major enabler of the growth of the internet was the development of the worldwide web and its associated browser by researchers at the University of Illinois, subsequently productized by Netscape. Suddenly, one did not have to be a computer geek to access remote resources.

As Thom Hogan correctly preaches, take a photo with your smartphone and it can be posted to your social media account while you compose the next photo. Take a photo with your DSLR or mirrorless camera and do not hold your breath while getting that image off the camera, developed and posted. Neither Sony, Canon nor Nikon have been interested in solving this problem. Open up the interface with standards, let an ecosystem develop, and watch the sale of camera gear start to grow.

Chapel Interior

Where We Find Ourselves. The market for interchangeable lens cameras continues to decline year after year. Each of the major players seem to be following the same general strategy: move to full-frame or larger sensors where it appears larger margins or larger unit profits can be had. All hope the larger sensor will create distance from the dread smartphone camera while increasing unit revenue as unit volume declines. Entry prices for the consumer to full frame cameras is around 1500 USD/EUR for a body and north of 2000 USD/EUR with a kit lens included. Double or triple these entry point prices for medium format. Each new incremental iteration is seemingly met with the yawns it deserves. Annual unit sales continue to shrink. Staying stuck at our current point would seem to guarantee the market will never again be large enough to sustain itself.

Carpenter’s Workshop

Motivating the Next Gen of Digital Photography. What will motivate development and adoption of the next gen of digital photography?
More pixels and more dynamic range? For most applications, a 24 MPix full-frame sensor with 14-stops of dynamic range is more than sufficient. Yes, there are some genres and some use cases where a 45 MPix (+/-) sensor is helpful and we already have those cameras. Scale these numbers linearly with increase in sensor area for medium format. Any more pixels and we do an impressive job of capturing lens diffraction. More dynamic range takes us further beyond the limits of our displays and printers to convey that added range in a natural looking way.

Solve the ease of use problem? Maybe. It certainly could expand the addressable market to include folks who want to move beyond the smartphone camera but don’t want to get wrapped up in the headache of moving the image from camera to social media.

Lower prices? Nikon’s volume leaders have always been in the D3xxx and D5xxx series (and their predecessors) of DSLRs, cameras that have sold for well under 1,000 USD/EUR and some models under 500 USD/EUR including kit lens. Ditto Canon. Today, vendors are trying to sustain and grow a market with entry product priced at 1500 – 2000 USD/EUR and up, sharply contracting the addressable market size. Lower prices that could grow volume, increase revenue to sustain an industry can, in the long run, only come through lower costs (which, in turn, are usually further aided be higher volumes).

Open Standards to Enable the Next Gen of Digital Photography.
With sensor technology mature, why not define open interface standards and let the sensor itself become a commodity, priced as such, enabling an expanded addressable market? The multi-billion USD/EUR capital cost of a semiconductor fabrication line is no longer a barrier. There are multiple fabs out there looking for companies with chip designs needing a fabricator. Even Intel is in the business of fabricating third party chips. The added volume helps to defray the enormous cost of building a modern fab and can extend the useful life of a prior gen fab for less demanding chips.
Ditto open standards for lens-mounts and lens-interfaces. Let an ecosystem develop that expands the growth rate of the market, much as Sony did by licensing its lens interface standards. Also, having multiple vendors using compatible lenses helps insure one’s expenses for a new lens set against withdrawal of any one vendor from the market.

Why not expand the market by reducing cost through product simplification? I am a still-image photographer. I do not need a camera that does 4k or 8k video at 60 or 120 frames per second. I’m not a spray and pray photographer; I don’t need a buffer of many dozens of images. A much simpler, lower-cost, data-bus and processing structure in the camera would do the job for me just as well while still providing me the same 24 or 45 MPix, high dynamic range images I want.

Where then might Sony, Canon, Nikon and any other existing players add value and make money? It takes more than a sensor and lens mount to make a camera. These companies are good to excellent at color science, at image development, at on-camera post-processing, at focusing and tracking focus and the integration of all of these. If the current camera purveyors could begin to think of themselves as software companies rather than hardware manufacturers, they might realize that capabilities that grow over-time can be monetized directly through sale of firmware rather than through sales of yet more camera bodies. Today, that growing feature set is frequently given away.

The vendors have generally been cutting their service organizations as part of their cost reduction efforts, some more notably than others. Yet demanding professional and advanced amateur photographers need readily accessible support after the sale and through a product’s useful life. I suspect there is a willingness to pay for service that earns that name.
Solve the ease of use problem. If Sony/Nikon/Canon don’t want to do this themselves, then partner with others who can add their own value while helping to expand the addressable market.

Olympus and Panasonic with M4:3 aside, none of the major players have shown a willingness to open interfaces fully and pursue growing an ecosystem of providers who just might provide complementary capabilities, enhancing everyone’s products and growing the market. Instead, it has been largely a “go it alone” strategy, leaving any third-party providers to the task of reverse engineering. All while hoping to maintain price premiums of larger format cameras to hold as much revenue as possible.

Time will tell if any of the current players are willing or able to transform themselves or if we see a new entrant willing and able to disrupt the status quo and pursue an open systems strategy.

The Images. In the best tradition of DearSusan, I have flavored this opinion piece with images from Fort Ross and its environs on the isolated coast of Sonoma County, California, about 80 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. In 1812, California was under Spanish control while Alaska was still a province of Russia. The Russian-American Company, responsible for Russia’s interests in Alaska, sent a party south to settle in California with the aim of supplying food to the Alaskan settlements. While the Russian-American Company’s presence in California lasted only until 1841, its influence on coastal Sonoma County is still seen today, especially through the preservation and re-creation of the settlement in Fort Ross State Historic Park. Too, Fort Ross in a sense was the high-water mark of Czarist Russia’s eastern expansion. In 1867, Russia sold its interests in Alaska to the United States in 1867 (for $7.2 million). Alaska became the 49th state in 1959.

Kitchen Teapot

Frank Field
The Sea Ranch, California
www.edgelightimages.com

 

​Never miss a post

​Like what you are reading? Subscribe below and receive all posts in your inbox as they are published. Join the conversation with thousands of other creative photographers.

  • Lad Sessions says:

    Frank,

    Thanks so much for this illuminating essay. It helped clarify a number of issues and makes good sense of a declining photographic market. I guess we need some upstart startup prepared to gamble on the future instead of monetizing the past. I too would welcome a new stills camera without all the video capabilities; it might fit my budget better than what Canisony currently demands. I am less enamored of the rapid broadcasting of my photos, as I like to meditate on them a while before sending them out. But, as Pascal has eloquently urged, why not multiple alternatives? Let a thousand flowers bloom!

    I should also thank you for the glowing photos, and the brief but instructive history lesson. May you escape any wildfires!

    Lad

    • Frank Field says:

      Thank-you for your kind comments, Lad.

      Clearly, we can not know the future. But, unless camera makers can find a way to grow volume and revenue, it’s hard to see how the industry sustains itself. I do see open systems as a possible path get a virtuous cycle of moving once again.

      We thus far have managed to stay clear of the wildfires though the fire season will be with us until we get our first meaningful rains, usually in late-October or November.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    LOL – you’re preaching to the choir, telling Pascal that, Frank. And you’re saying rather vehemently something that I’ve been saying ever since I started delving into digital – standardise & simplify.

    The main reason why a Lamborghini costs more than a 2CV is that it is a more complex, lower production run product.

    The main reason why such a magnificent machine sells in such small numbers is the price.

    The main reason why cellphones have replaced the DSLR is convenience.

    The main reason why the camera industry is such a mess is because its head is stuck so far into the sand that all we can see is its rear end.

    And none of this is rocket science. Everything goes in cycles. Humans seemingly can’t live without images, and creating images, and sharing images. More of the same only works for a while.

    Standardisation lowers costs, increases markets, gives potential buyers far less things to worry about. You mention that in the context of the internet and the computer industry. I was an early “uptaker” with office computers, and loved the NBI system – it ran rings around others, like Compaq and Microsoft – but eventually Microsoft dominated the market and regardless of how good they were for the task in hand, both NBI and Compaq simply died. And just forget the earlier MTST machines, or the range produced by the brilliant Dr Wang. Sadly, it wasn’t quality or innovation that killed off the rest.

    There’s a lot to be said – for some people – for in-camera AI processing. There’s a lot to be said – for others – against it. There’s a lot to be said for making these choices optional – not taking them at the level of the manufacturer, but allowing buyers to choose for themselves.

    I often wonder whether it might have been better for camera makers to give buyers choices, as to which options they want. Design a system that allows people to start with a basic model and add options along the way. And it’s in the nature of the beast that a lot of those options could be added later by simply purchasing a software upgrade.

    These and a lot of other thoughts along similar lines have been hurled around in the market place. But pride or arrogance has blocked the eyes and ears of the industry. And the outcome has been a sad one. Sadder for some, than it is for others.

    Aggravated by negative press and disinformation.

    Olympus, for example, has not “failed” – or “closed” – as some reports have suggested. It was simply no longer “interesting” to a group which is focused elsewhere – it was an appendage stuck onto a business which had expanded over the years into a completely different field. It was no longer a core business, it was a distraction from the main business, and it made commercial sense to pass it on to someone else.

    And then there are the real nasties. Smart tongued people who think it’s appropriate to say whatever they like – even if it’s all just negative crap, fuelled by the [undisclosed] fact that they are slamming the products of a company whose products they never use and have no interest in whatsoever, anyway. Just to make themselves look or sound more clever and knowledgeable than they actually are.

    Damaging other people’s businesses, by taking either of those roads, is unforgiveable. Yet some people seem incapable of restraining themselves, and keep doing it, over and over. With a kind of evil and malicious relish.

    We are going through an era of pain. And casualties are likely. We’ve seen that already, with giants like Kodak and Polaroid.

    Interestingly, those two examples were more similar to cellphones than to DSLRs. They sold “cheap” – they sold “convenient” – one at least sold “instant gratification”. They weren’t just large – they dominated the photography market. And although it’s taken a while, they are now completely gone.

    At my age, the thought that keeps recurring as I watch an endless parade of such situations is this – how on earth can humans continue to place so much store in their intelligence? – continue to believe that they are “the most intelligent of all animals”? Is it just simply a cover up, for their insecurities and inadequacies? – a way of papering over the cracks in the walls?

    • Frank Field says:

      Pete –

      Thanks for your comments. I always learn something from your words.

      You have an apt comparison with the Lamborghini vs 2CV example. But, we do not yet see it in digital photography. From a manufacturing perspective, mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras have reduced parts count compared to SLRs. We have yet to see that reduced manufacturing cost flow through to price. Vendors are trying to hold earnings from declining volume through higher profit per unit. The alternative is to grow volume through a larger addressable market that should come from reduced price.

      At some point, every camera vendor needs to make a decent return on investment. Should that not be the case, I don’t know how we are to see investment the in future development of digital photography. Were Olympus making a decent return on their photography business, I suspect they would have held on to that division.

      Frank

  • JackT says:

    Great, thought-provoking article. May take weeks to think through. Hope C/N/S and maybe even L appreciate this. But I doubt it. Here’s to the next gen of innovators.

    Nice images also.

  • Jean-Claude says:

    Frank,

    Your images are absolutely gorgeous !

    The camera market? Big yawn…

    Innovation ? Pipe dreams. Some new technologies are making their way in the smartphone area. But not a hint of that in the camera business. Camera makers are hyper conservative and paradigm shifts are unlikely to be pursued commercially or embraced by the general public. Smaller outfits have tried and all failed.

    Seriously, I don’t think that any “better” camera would improve your images. The haptics and customizability could and should be improved, but cameras remain just recording tools – and most of the current offerings are good at that. The important steps in making photographs obviously happen before and after one presses the shutter-release button. Just my point of view.

    And again, fabulous images.

    Cheers

    • Frank Field says:

      Jean-Claude –

      Thank you for your kind words.

      To your point, those images were actually shot a few years back with a Nikon D200 — several generations from where the industry is today. Yes, there is merit to the argument that we long ago reached a state of “sufficiency” in our digital cameras. Yes, these were stills only images, shot on a tripod at base ISO (to control noise) and we are only seeing them at monitor / tablet / phone size. While they work here, the D200 is not a camera that a pro would want to take to the next Olympic Games.

      An artifact of the passing years, I’d like to see “smaller and lighter” cameras plus lenses that maintain full-frame or larger sensors. The mirror-less ILCs I look at (largely from Nikon) have thus far failed to deliver smaller and lighter. Yes, the bodies are slightly smaller and slightly lighter than their DSLR counterparts but the lenses are almost uniformly larger and heavier, providing no net size or weight advantage.

      Such will happen only if the vendors can find a way to return to the virtuous cycle of reduced costs mean reduced prices which grow volume which in turn further reduce costs – all to help pay for the development of “smaller and lighter” or whatever it is that we individually want to see in the future.

      Best to you.

      Frank

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    I retired from marketing several years ago so I’m only going to address the photography in this post. Those images are beautiful with a clarity and sharpness that is often missing in images we are exposed to on a daily basis. That makes these images stand out even more. I shot the D200 for a couple of years and thought it was wonderful. Then I moved to the D300S; then the D800E; and now the D850. Each new camera brought an excitement of better quality images and made me eager to go out on each photography outing. I suppose this is following right along with the marketing essay in this post. Then I preordered the D850 and now I think I’m at the end of my search for better quality for the type of photography I’m doing. For one thing I’m about at the end of my string as far as age goes and most days I don’t feel like going out to photograph, even though I would very much like to. And, yes, a smaller and lighter rig without giving up any quality would help me tremendously, And another thing is that I am very satisfied with the quality of the images I’m getting from the D850. I’m not looking for anything any better now.
    I went through all those iterations of increasing format sizes with film. I know that each larger format size brings up greater size and weight as well as bulkier and more expensive lenses with shorter depth of field, etc, etc. Great for landscape and some commercial work but limited for photographing most types of activities such as sports or wildlife.
    I like the idea of the mirrorless cameras not making the loud “clack/blap” of the slapping mirror which sometimes scares away nervous subjects, but the EVF is a big drawback for shots of birds in flight.
    So…., there you have the marketing dilemma. I have reached a point where there is not a camera system better than the one I have for the work I do and I’m too old to care. I don’t know how the marketing moguls and the bean counters are going to overcome those obstacles, but I’m sure they will, someway, someday.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      I’m in a similar position.

      When I decided to ignore the Z-mirrorless range, it was because it was too late, for me. I need a range of gear – not just one introductory lens – and I’d already bought that range of glass for Nikon F mount. WAY to expensive to junk, and no way I could wait till suitable replacements exist for the Z-mirrorless range – by that time, I’ll likely be dead and buried.

      And I really don’t want anything “better” than me D850. Even the D500, which I use more for wildlife, pets etc, turns in brilliant quality images. So there”s no uptick, for me, in switching.

      And there’s a really serious downside, which all of these discussions overlook. NOBODY – not even the best of the professionals – can really got on top of a new camera, every few months. I have about 6,000 pages of manuals to digest & familiarise myself with, in relation to my two monsters. Imagine doing that, and still having time left to actually USE the cameras! So when I made the switch to these two, there was also a conscious decision to stick with them and NOT make any further changes or substitutions of camera bodies, for years and years into the future.

      That way I can polish my skills and hopefully get to be a better photographer. Rather than fooling around buying more and more new junk all the time, as so many others keep doing.

      • Frank Field says:

        Pete –

        There are many who label the D850 as the last DSLR one will ever need. It certainly embodies 20+ years of knowledge from DSLR development. It does take months to a couple of years before one fully understands a camera and the nuances of its shooting envelope. I have consistently had an identical pair of Nikon bodies, understanding I would get confused in switching from one model to another. I’ve been shooting a pair of D750 bodies since 2015 and still find things I did not know about the camera.

        Even tho we personally may not see a need for another camera, we all need ongoing support from the camera maker, even if just spare parts provided to one’s favorite repair shop. There are generations behind us that will see need for newer bodies in the future. To have either of these, we need a healthy industry that earns a fair return on its investment.

        Frank

      • Cliff Whittaker says:

        Pete, the upside for us might be that everything we buy now comes with an automatic lifetime warranty. :))

  • John W says:

    Frank – an interesting discussion on a perplexing subject. I do differ somewhat on some of you point and agree with you on others. To wit …

    Innovation: I think you are partially correct. Sony took a bite out of the Canikon hegemony but the big loser was Nikon. Nikon doesn’t have the industrial depth or the deep pockets that Canon has. For all intents and purposes, they are a one pony show with the major chunk of their revenue coming from the camera business. Their initial attempt at mirrorless was highly innovative – I own a Nikon V3 kit and still love it, warts and all – but it was tepid at best in commitment to the system and abysmal in marketing and support. Canon’s entry may not have seemed “serious” at the time, but in the end they outlived Nikon’s and carved out a market that has unquestionably contributed to Canon maintaining their place at the top of the market. Based on the most recent analysis Canon still has 45% of the market with a 2.4% increase and over twice the Sony share at just over 20%. Nikon trails Sony at 18.6% with a share loss of 1.6%. Nikon’s Z series is definitely upping their game, but it may be too late to recapture their place in the Canikon hegemony.

    Licensing mounts: As far back as the late 50’s and early 60’s both Canon and Nikon licensed their SLR mounts to third parties – Tamron and Tokina were the two biggest in that space; Sigma was the late comer in the late 60’s.

    Connectivity: I’m not convinced that DSLR/ILC connectivity is as much a saviour you think it may be. It would definitely be a step in the right direction, but I would posit that the cellphone is technically “good enough” for 90-95% of the people who use them. Add in portability and the fact that it’s an all-in-one device and I just can’t see a mad rush to buy bigger single use products that won’t fit in your pocket or purse and won’t look any better on your social media page. Certainly some buyers will be lured to the ILC arena, but I doubt it would be as many as you imagine.

    Open Standard: We are very much next-door neighbours on this point.

    First, I would modularization the camera into four pieces – the core with the sensor, screen and basic controls; the viewfinder; the handgrip and the booster pack. The only one of these that would require multiple options is the viewfinder – waist level, eyelevel, universal … etc. the V3 did that to some extent and the GFX offers two viewfinders. That could cut entry cost substantially and third parties could make alternative bits and bobs. For example, Mieke make battery grips for Canon, Nikon and Sony at a fraction of the cost of the brand names.

    Second, open up the software interface to use proprietary and third party apps for things such as multiple exposure, HDR, focus stacking, video …. Etc. there are a myriad of apps available for cellphones many of which I would love to have on my camera and/or computer. Canon tried something like this in the early 90s with the EOS 5 and a barcode system, but it was poorly executed and never really worked.

    Just sayin …

    • Frank Field says:

      John – Sometimes things are better done by partner companies than by the camera maker. I can speak knowledgeably only of Nikon and any of its attempts to deliver software have at best been half-hearted and performed accordingly. I think of the “wifi” interface on the D750 – what a kluge! This is in fact an area best served by others. An analogy to the auto industry. My wife recently bought a Honda CR-V. Honda was an early adopter of GPS navigation systems for their vehicles 20+ years ago. The user interface always left something to be desired though the system did manage to get you to your destination. For the latest models, Honda wisely partnered with Garmin, a leader in GPS navigation systems. What a difference: smooth, natural, intuitive user interface with features the automaker might never have thought to include. Thank you for taking the time to comment, John. Frank

    • Job Honig says:

      I was to make a similar comment as yours, wrt modularity. The PC world would not have become what it is had it not chosen for an open standard, allowing 3rd parties to build peripherals, both external and internal ones. Imagine each computer brand would stick to its own extension cards, disks, monitors etc etc! DSLR have inherited from a different era, but mirrorless should have learned a lesson from the personal computer world.

      And indeed, that also goes for software. 3rd parties could have developed even menu systems that could be used across brands. And all kinds of useful apps… But no, as you said they stuck their heads in the sand and we’re watching their — not so pretty — behinds.

  • Ian says:

    Adapt or Die indeed.

    Whilst your images are superb I am amused you chose such archaic subject matter in to support your argument of innovation. Was this a conscious choice ? If so I am interested in your reasoning.

    I would like to know the opinions of the all in the following matter. Much has been said about innovation and the cellphones ability to instantly upload pictures to digital platforms and about open sourcing and being backed by specialist technology companies. My question is , with a lot of these features built into their ICL cameras , and being a communications and interconnectabilty giant in the market place , why did the Samsung camera concept fail spectacularly ? If memory serves me correctly some of their point and models had these features and were even Android based as early as 2012 or am I mistaken ? I seem recall they also had quite an innovative interface to their cameras.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hello Ian, you make a very good point, and I cannot answer as I didn’t follow what Samsung did at that period. But there could be many reasons for Samsung pulling out :

      * Maybe it was camera that was too in advance for its time or for a market that had been educated in a monoculture ?
      * Maybe nobody wants a “proper” camera for social media photography ?
      * Maybe the camera was poorly executed ?
      * Maybe Samsung tested the water and found the pond too small or too unresponsive and pulled out before making bigger commitments ?

      M4/3 is another sad example of a great collaboration that didn’t succeed. My guess, though, is that M4/3 manufacturers actually fared better than they would without the open standard. They just found themselves handicaped by a very small sensor (while not being cheaper or smaller or more fun) in a market driven by numbers and tech. For the casual photographer, there isn’t a lot an M4/3 can do that a phone can’t. But the phone does a huge amount the camera doesn’t.

      • Jean-Claude Louis says:

        No reason was ever given by Samsung, but I suspect it was along the lines of your #1 and #4. Plus the fact that it was an APS-C camera, at a time (2015) when there was a strong push for “full”-frame (whatever that means…).

        I rented a Samsung NX-1 a few years ago. It was one of the very best digital SLR I’ve used: 28 Mp BSI sensor, great tracking autofocus, 802.11 ac wifi and Bluetooth that actually worked, a powerful processor derived from their smartphone line, and full integration/connectivity with their smartphones. The best of any APS-C cameras at the time (that was before Fujifilm got seriously into that game).

        The sales were poor. Samsung probably assessed that APS-C was a commercial dead-end and, wisely, pulled the plug before developing the complete ecosystem of lenses and accessories required to meet the needs of professionals (sports, news). Their innovative concepts wrt cameras have since been devoted to their smartphone line.

        I agree with Frank that the best path forward would be for manufacturers to offer cameras with the basic functions, plus optional modules – hardware and software – that would allow the user to customize according to their needs (ideally from third parties with demonstrated competence in their field). Will that ever happen?

    • Frank Field says:

      Ian —

      I think any photographer working for or freelancing for news and media would love to have the “smartphone auto-image transfer” capability on their DSLR. Editors demand sports photographers upload images while the game is in progress (thanks to the 24-hour news cycle). There are sports photographers who carry laptop computers with them to act as transfer agent in moving their timely images to their editors. If one wants to shoot sports, one needs very long telephoto lenses which rules out smartphones and probably limits your choices to Canon and Nikon.

      I suspect few DearSusan readers are sports photographers, those photographers have been a means for the major camera makers to show off their products to the world. Just look at the release cycles for top-end DSLRs: keyed to the Olympic games cycle. These are photographers that Canon/Nikon/Sony should want to cater to but have not been fully able to do so, it appears.

      No particular message in my choice of images from Fort Ross other than to illustrate an “undestination” in my corner of the world.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Frank

      • Ian says:

        Frank

        Do you see the canon EOS R5 and its automatic upload to cloud storage , regardless of its recent failure as being the path that sports photographers may take ?

        • Frank Field says:

          Ian –

          I’m not familiar enough with the R5 to say. I do know that sports photographers need to add captions to the image, surely add their copyright notices, and upload.

          Generally, these are the kinds of things the camera makers have not done well or have not be motivated to really do well. They might far better off enabling third parties, via open interfaces, to handle the transfers.

          The key, I do believe, are the open interfaces. Let an ecosystem develop that enables third parties to come along and develop attractive applications that help to grow demand for product from the camera companies. Without increasing demand, it’s hard to see a sufficient revenue to fund development that could keep the camera companies moving forward.

          Frank

  • NMc says:

    Frank
    I particularly liked the first photo, the cypress (or pines?) seemed to be telling us that it gets very windy at that location.

    Not sure about all your suggestions, only time will tell. The computer age was somewhat matured and past n+1 before cameras became viable for even nerdy enthusiasts, so perhaps digital cameras should be seen as one of the spin off side industries, and not a separate industry in the model you discussed. I will also add that there is one particular physical parameter in the analogies that is missing or in appropriate. Cameras are portable electronic devices and the demands of the miniaturisation are not comparable to domestic items like hifi. Even the more complex and heat sink filled hifi electronics are boxes that are mostly filled with air, and as such allow easier to manufacture in small numbers using off the shelf components. Portable digital gets very expensive for low turnover unique devices, think specialist medical and technical units.

    A more relevant issue is the instant uploading to SM argument, I do not buy that one. I am not sure that that instantaneous connection and posting is what anyone gets a ‘proper’ or ‘good’ camera for. The phone-cam photo only DS post were all carefully curated and usually involved some post processing, just like any other posts regardless of camera/s. The only people using enthusiast or professional gear for SM posting are celebs with publicists and they get a whole stylist team to make them look good for those oh so spontaneous moments. Sorry; sarcasm. Yes there are obvious exceptions and not just Flickr, however these are typically not curated and edited instantly, or using only phones.
    Regards Noel

    • Frank Field says:

      The trees in the first image do appear to be Monterey Cypress. While native to the Central California coast, they have been introduced to the North Coast and thrive here. Our near constant winds, especially in the Spring months, do shape these trees in very interesting ways. These particular trees appear to be stragglers. More frequently, the Monterey Cypress have been planted in long rows as wind breaks for coastal ranches. Those long rows of cypress, sculpted by the wind, are really quite attractive.

  • Dennis L Manning says:

    Gravity’s Rainbow…I enjoyed reading your well crafted words and fine art landscapes. Your breadth of topics and technical depth reminded me a bit of that title tome. I wanted to share a 2003 photo I took at the entrance to your driveway and Cal 1. I think it illustrates what an inspiring local you enjoy. Not comparable with your great captures though. I can’t see how to upload it here. If interested you can connect with: 2dlmann@gmail.com

  • >