Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Great War Between Camera Makers

Here's some history straight from Wikipedia "The first permanent photograph was an image produced in 1826 by the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce". It's been quite a while since then and some companies have turned this picture taking affair into quite a business. Today we all have web cameras, camera phones, small cameras, dSLR's, underwater cameras and what not devices that let us capture the moment. We are producing and sharing huge amounts of images every day... and most people do not even know why.
The time we spend looking at photos is now down to a few seconds per image (clicking the "Like" button included). This is disturbing!
What's really striking however is how little things have changed in photography over the past 30 years in terms of what we buy. I'm not saying that my dSLR is not better than what I could have bought at the dawn of digital but still, come to think of it, photography hasn't changed that much. Let's see what the similarities between the old and new cameras are:

  • We still have the shutter.
  • We still have the lens.
  • We still need to focus.
  • We still have the grip.
  • We still have the viewfinder.
As the list goes on I start feeling sad for people who keep buying the latest models before the old camera breaks completely from shooting. Cameras have turned into a simple commodity. We no longer think about the photo. Instead, we are looking at the megapixels, the new options on the menu and what not. Well guess what, Andy Warhol didn't have the latest camera from 2012 with a bunch of megapixels and expensive flashes. He had ideas. And those ideas he turned into art.
Let's get back to 'cameras now and then' before I start yapping too much.
Every year the big companies in the camera business are presenting us with their latest and most powerful offspring. Cameras that outperform the previous year models. They fight for survival on the market and are making lots of money on what they call "latest", "best", "fastest", "most megapixels", "highest resolution", "best dynamic range" and this gets repeated year after year without any significant advancements. Just think about it:

  • Look at a cool professional photo on the web. Can you really tell the camera brand and model?
  • How about the lens and the settings? I recently saw 2 photos uploaded by a big camera company asking their fans on a social network which one had been taken with a prime lens. 95% of the people were wrong!
  • Can you guess the original megapixel count by looking at a photo that's been photoshopped and sized down for web use or if it was already printed?
  • How much has been touched and altered? You can never tell.
The great war between camera makers is about sales and making money. It's not about providing a revolutionary product that could change the business. Big companies already have the formula for making money and I think it's something like this:

A + B + C = X
A is megapixels
B is features
C is accessories 
X is money


Innovation (if it were in the equation) would be a part of all 3 values. Let's say it is something like a faster processor for video, microphone jack, battery that can take 50 more photos with one charge, touch screen, higher ISO etc.
Some might say that these are rather significant. I think this is bollocks. You know why? Because there are smaller companies like Lytro Inc. that produced a small pocket camera which you can re-focus after the photo has been taken. How about that? This is the real point and shoot! This is innovation. I'm not saying that professionals will start using this camera soon. I am just making a point that new stuff is just around the corner and we've been going the same old way for too long agreeing that what we've been offered year after year is the best and greatest because of A, B and C which inevitably leads to more X for the big companies.

So let me sum this up. I am simply getting rather annoyed by this 'latest and best' battle for money which has made us, more or less, forget what is enough to take a great photo. Will you be a great photographer because you bought the latest camera every year? Allow me to let you in on a little secret. Great photographers get the latest cameras almost for free. All they have to do is write a review and submit the images to the company. This is how we get all the reviews and professional comments before the camera is even out. 
Think more about the photo, the composition, the light, the pose, the general idea and what you want to say with the picture, show the emotion and beauty and leave "the-biggest-and-the-best" mania for someone who really pleases their ego with it. After all, nobody asked Leonardo da Vinci what he painted with. Everybody is still enjoying the results.

All the best,

Kamen Kunchev