9.19.2012

My thoughts on the recent silly-ness at Photokina involving Sony and Hasselblad.

Remember that company that made really, really good medium format cameras?

By now I'm going to assume that most people who read my stuff have looked at the announcement going around the web about the upcoming joint ventures between Hasselblad and Sony. If you haven't been paying attention you can read the facts here on DPReview.  And here.

The people who wrote the release could be excused for not filling in with very many facts and details of plans but almost certainly there aren't many facts to fill in at this point.  Hasselblad will most probably "re-badge" some of the cooler Sony cameras like the Nex-7 (which is cooler than the Nex-6 if only by dint of not having built in wi-fi), the a99 and the a77. But I'd love to meet the mastermind who decided to go ahead and release the Jetson's age illustration of what the future Hassel-Nex camera may look like. I'm anticipating a mini-Jihad among the Hasselblad faithful for the blasphemous mediocrity of either the artist's rendering or the actual spaz design of the camera.

The sketchy sketch made the camera look like a 1950's duck's ass hairdo. But the real problem with the announcement in general is that it made Hasselblad seem--------desperate.

Let me tell you what I think Hasselblad did wrong over the last decade and then let me tell you how I think they could fix it and get back a bit of both the prestige and market share they once enjoyed in the old days of film.

The Hasselblad that professional photographers and well heeled photography lovers came to trust and enjoy using wasn't based solely on the resolution it brought to the table but was based on a melange of parameters that included the bigger frame with its attendant different look from all things 35mm. The other factors were both the modularity of the system and its backward compatibility. 

The New Coke of Hasselblad saw a race to offer more and more megapixels and to supply features that no one really wanted and no one outside the development even asked for. The biggest "feature" being the mediocre and not very accurate autofocus.  Had they not deluded themselves into believing that working pros were pining for even so-so autofocus they could have taken a different path and preserved a backward compatibility to their enormous installed base. And that would have given upgraders and new recruits a rich selection of legacy glass to use while building their systems.

Where Hasselblad stumbled (and stumbled badly) was in trying to make a completely new and completely closed system when in fact they should have concentrated on just the opposite.  With their interchangeable back set up they could have been  in the cat bird seat when it came to adding cool digital backs to the existing system. Rather than figure out how to construct artificial barriers by making a proprietary system and shunning competing products they should have pressed all of their engineering staff and the staffs of their technology suppliers into the effort to make all future Hasselblad V series bodies and lenses fully compatible with the widest range of digital backs possible.  At most it would have required the addition of some contacts and connectors on the back tied the sync of the leaf shutter on the CF, CFi, CFe and C lenses.

Since the allure (at least to me) of shooting with medium format cameras is the way the depth of field looks when shooting from five to eight or ten feet away with a 150mm or 180mm lens on film the brain trust should have looked for a way to emulate this otherwise unattainable look that combines high sharpness with shallow depth of field by making (or having made) imaging sensors bigger rather than focusing on making the sensors more heavily populated with pixels (and, by extension, more expensive).  Imagine if they had pushed to make a 20 megapixel sensor that was a square geometry and which totally filled the 6 by 6 cm space that graces every 120mm A12 back. It would have been glorious.

Even now there are millions of Hasselblad 500C/M's and other variants floating around just waiting for someone to make a cost effective back with a large sensor that will restore them as a primary working tool. It's easy to say that the market is tiny if you've priced all of your products in a way that ensures that your market will be tiny. Had they concentrated on making stand alone backs more and more useable and affordable Hasselblad could have potentially sold to hundreds of thousands of people in their previously embedded base while continuing to churn out 500 series variants ad infinitum.

I think Hasselblad believed the usual drivel from the optimistic-new-age-the-digital-revolution-is-different gurus and decided that they'd never be able to compete in a large market scenario and could only succeed if they "upped their game" and aimed solely at the people with the deepest pockets. But those people had a notoriously short attention span and no real buy-in to the products. Not in the way a working pro or obsessed hobbyist is bought-in.  Which makes sense. After all, the current digital backs sourced from one company, new (incompatible with legacy) bodies are made by Hasselbad and the lenses sourced from a third company.  Had they aimed like a laser at their core existing market of real professional photographers they could have captured the story and defined their own trajectory and the trajectory of the markets. Instead they let their market be defined by the vagaries of focus groups and faith in new and different technology. Technology that's too expensive and too fraught with the usual dead end peril of all closed systems. If you invest and they die then it's all over and you lose...

Even now, if they came out with an affordable back that could be coupled to a V system camera and sold for around $5000 I think they would see tremendous interest and increased sales.  Even if the product was a re-issue of their own previous 16 megapixel style back with maybe 28 million big, fat 
pixels I am convinced that used 500's, 501's and 503's would go flying off the shelves and into the hands of people who desperately want and need to differentiate their offerings from the legions of rectangular small frame shooters.

Were I the CEO of Hblad I would relaunch my Classic Coke. I would have my team re-introduce the 501 C/M, update the holy trinity  of lenses (50, 80 and 150) with appropriate com-links between shutter and backs and put it on the market with a 24 megapixel back (square sensor, of course) of bigger, juicier 9nm pixels, couple it with a digital optimized 80mm Planar lens and package the whole thing at a street price of $9999. Then step back and watch it toast all the smaller format pretenders to the crown.

While the big sensor/big lens paradigm would be the primary seller the secondary consideration would be that, with a growing market, new backs would become available and instead of the entire camera becoming disposable users would get an infinite sensor upgrade path with no impingement or loss of their investment in all the surrounding hardware. 

If you were a Nikon shooter and you bought a Nikon D3x you might have gotten three years of market life before you started pining for a D800e. And two or three years down the road the same thing will happen with the next market churn. But in my scenario all you'd need to do is to upgrade the back.  

I'm keenly aware that none of this will happen and that the horse is out of the barn. They've burned away too much good will and dissipated way too much of the perceived market dominance they clearly enjoyed at the beginning of the digital age. 

But what pro wouldn't want to have a great, scalable system, with great glass, that looks, feels and works like a real production camera? 

Instead we get the feeling that we're watching a once noble camera company putting its logo and stamp onto products that don't need them and doing it in a way that's irrational. If you re-badge a product there's supposed to be a "value add" not a value subtract. The Nex 7 is a beautifully designed and very useable camera. It looks as though Hasselblad is pulling a Cadillac Cimarron.  Putting a cosmetic shell over the top of a J-class Chevy Cavalier chassis and trying to sell it at an insane premium.  It almost killed an entire GM division and it will most certainly not work well for Hasselblad. No matter how different we think the Chinese and Russian luxury markets are. Even people gauche enough to buy a $1500 purse would have more sense than to buy such a perverse camera design as has been presented in the sketches.

So sad to watch a company get lost further and further into a labyrinth. And to know that once their products (and potential) seemed unbeatable.

Kudos to Rollei for having the balls to introduce another potentially incredible medium format camera. Film only and right in line with 60 years of design.  An elegant response to a market that's running too fast and producing too little.

Next day edit:  I shouldn't use the term "re-badge" because clearly the folks at Hasselblad are intending to do much more that just change the logo on a Sony camera. They insist that they are replacing all sorts of stuff with better materials and different physical (not technical) design inferences. But their statements and interviews have been very clear, the imaging path is all Sony from front end to back. Sensor, electronics, software; the works.

I guess the real issue for buyers is whether or not you feel that Hasselblad is adding $3000 to $4000 in value by upgrading the knobs and putting the guts of an already very good to handle camera into a new frame.  To use a car analogy, if the engine, tires, suspension and transmission are all the same have you really built your own car or are you a bespoke body shop?

32 comments:

Bruce Rubenstein said...

The current H4D-60 only uses a 40 x 54mm sensor. I have no idea what it wold cost to get into production a 60 x 60mm sensor,let alone what it would have to sell for. Maybe that sensor is what they should be asking Sony to make for them.

aurele said...

In a way, Pentax did get your idea (with a bit of Pentax DNA in the mix). They did a 645D (ok, with a smaller sensor that gives a 1.3x crop), fully compatible with the lens from film era, for $ 9,999 at its lunch. According to the brand it did work very well.

Pentax do rely on its film base user( for the 645 and usual APS-C system), and that is keeping the brand alive.

Hassy should do the same, they would have lot more succes with your idea ! You should be hired, it could be good for them. At least, help them by sending them this article :)

Always a pleasure to read your articles ! take care, cheers !

Craig said...

The Hasselblad announcement was truly strange, and the camera itself, or at least the illustration of it, is hideous. What I think gave an indication of what Hasselblad is trying to do was their use of the word "luxury". It suggests to me that Hasselblad is not trying to be the real pro's camera, as they used to; instead they want to be the Rolex of cameras, producing a ridiculously expensive fashion-statement product that isn't really any better in real terms than more ordinary products that cost 1/10 the price. Not only is this a sad change for Hasselblad, but it also seems destined for failure because a Rolex will at least last you a lifetime, whereas any digital camera will be useless as a "look how ultra-cool I am" statement within a few years as sensors continue to improve.

yoda2 said...

Great post. But then Hasselblad might be going for the dead cat bunce. Chinese and russians will buy anything. Look were excessive cars are sold now!

MartinP said...

I do get the impression (and not just for Hasselblad) that once the older executives/workers of a successful professional-product company retire then the culture is often lost. The newer people hired-in only seem to know what they learnt on their bullsh!t, everything-is-the-same, marketing courses which are barely adequate for generic white-goods (made-in-China toasters anyone?), certainly not for specialised products.

Hasselblad were never competing with mass-produced 35mm style cameras, but the usual digital-hysteria, and entropy, obscured the strengths of their products. One of the biggest of which was the modularity and adaptability of the system - which in turn would lead to a steady sale of base-units with relatively frequent upgrades to the rapidly-evolving parts, exactly as per your post.

I do wonder if some sort of crop-factor is/was essential though, due to the production costs for a 56mm square (about 3000 sq/mm) sensor compared to a 30x45mm one (having roughly 1300 sq/mm). For sure there are ways to deal with dead pixels in software, or via new production techniques to increase the sensor-size over a few iterations, but these require investment in research from the parent company and external-partners while these days the payback-period apparently has to be no longer than a tv-series (according to the new generations of management, see above).

Carlo Santin said...

I saw that sketch and it looked so silly that I didn't bother exploring any further. It was a very weird announcement and I'm not sure why Sony would need this partnership, they seem to be on the cutting edge of current camera technology.

Neal said...

couldn't agree more Kirk.

C. Kurt Holter said...

Hasselblad has successfully out-butt-uglied the Sigma Limited Edition SD1 Wood Encased DSLR of 2010, which is no small achievement.

I spent almost 15 years shooting a significant percentage of my commercial work with Hasselblad equipment. Most of this work was in a regional market.

I can say that my ownership of a pretty extensive system definitely helped me get some work, as sad a comment as that may be. In a few instances, it amounted to instant credibility as an emerging freelance photographer coming off of a staff job.

I've tended to look at Hasselblad equipment the way I look at Leica stuff though. Having shot Nikon as my primary system since the mid-1970's, I can say that both European brands required far more repairs.

Really, as far as I'm concerned, the quality of the optics is the only thing to recommend Hasselblad; especially in 2012. The film backs sucked, the bodies locked up if you weren't really careful, and heaven forbid you put a slight bend in a dark slide.

As a photographer who went 100% digital in 2001, currently shooting with Nikon D800's and top shelf glass, I can say that the only thing I miss about my old Hasselblad system is that incredibly sweet SMC/M. It was a special purpose camera, but it did what it did better than anything on the planet to this day.

Kevin Purcell said...

Kirk you couldn't make a 60x60 sensor today for a camera that retails for $10K.

You get fewer sensors per wafer because they're bigger but the cost to fab the wafer is a constant. That's a linear increase.

The yield goes down dramatically as sensor area goes up. Defects happen. That goes by the area

The photolithography becomes a problem as you can't mask the chip layout in one mask. You have to mask a part of it then add another mask next to that and align it to a lot less than a feature width (I guess that's why MF still uses CCDs on old processes -- they're easier to make). A modern full frame ("35mm" 24mm x 36mm) needs at least four masking steps per layer (i.e. 4 times more than an APS-C). You might need 80ish on a 6x6 sensor. Yikes.

We haven't seen a commercial CMOS 645 sensor yet. I think there's a good reason for that. But can have made a 8" x 8" sensor (when money is no object!).

Hasselblad should have gone with the 645 when it was available and tried not to screw over the people they really depended on to make digital backs for their cameras.

And yes the Hasselblad Looney is a dumb idea that does smack of desperation. But then again so does the Leica Hermes and it seems to work for Leica.

Mel said...

Scalability - that feels like the golden goose. I'm also am tired of chasing the technology rabbit down the hole. Computers, software, bodies, printers - yada, yada, yada. Shooting film I guess I'm spoiled by the mature, existing (for now) base of processing and printing that changes glacially. I can spend my time shooting and educating myself on how the images turn out. With digital I can't keep up with learning what the updates provide, much less perfect a craft that is more and more becoming captive to gee-whiz technologists chasing the monthly news burst.

Yeah, give me a modular system that holds the best parts constant (glass, body, shutters) and lets the add-on "image collector" be incrementally refined as real advances of technology provide truly better results. At this point I almost don't care whether it's analog or digital or quantum.

Kirk Tuck said...

There's got to be a way to do it. Someone needs to call Moore and get him to revise the law...

Bruce Rubenstein said...

Moore's Law depends to making geometries smaller in IC's. For a Hasselblad that fits in your pocket with a 6 x 6mm sensor, it's the right thing. There's no silver bullet for a $10k, FF, Blad back.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I agree. Sad, but Hasselblad may beocme the next dodo of digital cameras

Lensrentals has a Looney designed by Cicala to compete with the Lunar

http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/09/product-announcement-lensrentals-looney

Michael Reed

Alex said...

Even a 4x4cm sensor would smoke anything on the market.
I remember my analogue past when I was loaned a two-lens-Rolleiflex for several years from a friend of my father. A 6x6 negative in the enlarger was a dream come true. And today a digital sensor with not too many pixel for its big size? Maybe I should try to get a used Hasselblad with a"standard lens" and hope for it before I kick the bucket?

Anonymous said...

"a 1950's duck's ass hairdo" made my day. That was hilarious on an otherwise dull and rainy day. Cheers, Kirk

steve said...

LOL you put "facts" and "dpreview" in the same sentence!

aurèle said...

Sony probably see the Hassy idea as a free marketing : our product is the best, to prove it, a high end company is rebadging our product ! And they pay us for that !

dario dasar said...

I am still laughing about this ... Habbelsad (or AssBlad).
Enjoy
http://bit.ly/SD9qu6

Padd C said...

I can't blame you for dreaming Kirk. But I think the problem for Hasselblad was greater than what you outlined.

Hasselblad has never been a lens-maker, never a capture medium maker (formerly film), and never an electronics maker. Basically, they made boxes.

You can't really be a box maker in a digital era. And I think that's the problem.

Keep in mind that you're talking about the past and, as others have mentioned, even now you couldn't make a 6x6 sensor and get it into a complete package for $10K. 6 years ago even that dream would've been thought insane.

So I think Hasselblad was in a tough spot right from the start no matter how smart they went about it. Moot for me because although I love MF film for the reasons you mentioned, I'm not, and never will be, in the MF digital market.

jason gold said...

FWIW at the intended price of many Nex-7, The Hasselblad "Lunar"is dead right for their intended victims, sorry suckers, sorry consumers.
The internet will dub such users and owners as a "Lunatic".

Craig said...

I think Sony is is looking for respect. Despite the honorable Minolta heritage of their camera line, people still think of Sony as a newcomer to photography; Canon and Nikon, even Pentax and Olympus, get more respect than Sony or Panasonic. Allying themselves with Hasselblad could be a way of trying to say, "Look, we deserve to be taken seriously," just as when Minolta partnered with Leica long ago.

Gingerbaker said...

You are all selling the Lunar short.

I don't think I have ever seen such a cacophony of misinformed group-think in all my years on the net. How ugly the camera is! What a stupid idea! And Kirk (and many others): "This is a rebadge of a NEX!" Wrong.

Perhaps you did not take the trouble to read the interview with one of the top brass of Hasselblad about what this camera is? Yes- this pareticular version currently has some NEX guts, and is certainly based on its design. But is has a one-piece body machined from a solid block of aluminum. It has its own firmware, lens mounts, etc. It's a cool concept, really - hotrodding a camera like a car. Except you are transforming a go-cart into a Bentley or a Lotus.

I think many of the designs are pretty gorgeous, and I find it fascinating that I appear to be about the only person or two on the intertubes who is willing to say so. That's three vs at least one thousand commenters or so. And there are 40 different mock ups on display. Do the math - that's statistically unbelievable. You are all cattle, mooing in unison because you see something very different, something which challenges some part of your subconscious identity, and you are reacting - not thinking. These cameras are ugly?? Seriously??? They are pretty damned expensive - certainly out of my grasp - but ugly? All of them???

But I truly do not see *why* this is an ugly camera because no one here has explained why it is an ugly camera. I think the lines of the grips are beautiful. I happen to love rich wood burl on a lot of things - knife handles, stereo equipment, rifle stocks...car interiors. So what, exactly, is aesthetically ugly here - besides the fact that it is shockingly different? And expensive as hell.

But what if this was $200.00 option? What if it were basically free? What if this was the start of a neat new idea - that you can pay a bit more to upgrade the guts and aesthetics and have a camera for a long time, and have it look the way you want it to look, instead of having the same camera that 30 million other people have? What - a camera is just a tool? Then why do some people pay $300.00 for a garden spade which is made to last? Why do people pay $2,000 for a fountain pen, or $25,000 for an electric guitar that will never leave their desk or den?

There is quite an accessories aftermarket in the auto industry, and it appeals to more than a few psychological profiles. There are those who want to hot-rod their 'rides', others who like the idea of replacing some sterile interior plastic surfaces with the sensuality of rich wood burl. British-Bavarian automaker Mini owes a lot of their success to their decision to market individual customizations of interior and exterior options as a 'cool' exercise in expressing ones individuality. Materials options include many which echo those shown in the Hasselbad prototypes.

Assuming these options do not reduce the ergonomics of a camera significantly - exactly what is the problem here, guys?

We have a *55 billion dollar* camera industry with almost zero marketing of this individualization concept. Yes, there are some customizations available, but most of them are utilitarian, not aesthetic. About all we see marketed by manufacturers are a few cameras with a choice of exterior colors.

Given today's computer-assisted 3-D scanning and 3-D sculpting technology, I am curious how successful a business model built around these ideas would be. $55 billion is a gigantic market.

Kevin Purcell said...

From the BJP. Worth a read.

Hasselblad defends Lunar's concept and pricing

http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/2206781/hasselblad-were-not-robbing-people-off-with-lunar-camera

"We realise it's difficult to explain what we're trying to do when we launch something for the first time," Hasselblad's new business development manager, Luca Alessandrini.

You can almost hear the "you idiots" at the end of that line.

Actually, Luca, that is your job. If you failed to communicate it clearly it's your problem. You're the marketing guy.

As Padd C saiid "Basically, they made boxes" and in the BJP Luca is going on about nice and expensive the box is.

The underlying camera is still a NEX 7. Luca never quite explains why it isn't an NEX7 (looks like an NEX7 even down to the control positions ... they're using the same PCBs. It's a rebadge with a fancy box).

Future cameras may have more Hasselblad input but if they don't "add value" (and a CNCed box covered in snakeskin is not value for 99.99% of the photogs out there) then we are still going to laugh at them.

Kirk Tuck said...

The press releases clearly say that the cameras use NEX and A mounts. The images may be someone's idea of beauty. We are hardly cows. More likely we are a group of experienced people who can understand the word "boondoggle."

People bought Chrysler LeBarons. That didn't make it right.

Kirk Tuck said...

I know that everyone is right. It's not economically possible to do a big, single sensor that would fill the frame. But there should be some way to stich sensors and make something that's big enough. Even if it's 40 by 40mm. My main point it that the product was fine, the only thing Hblad really needed to do back in the primitive days of digital was figure out how to put a good sensor into the mix and keep everything else the same. They lost it when they corrupted their core design. And it speaks to my point. They could have kept improving the backs and the integration and held on to a much bigger market segment.

Kirk Tuck said...

Gingerbaker, here's the lead quote from the BJP interview with Hasselblad directly, "Hasselblad unveiled Lunar yesterday, an interchangeable lens camera that is strongly reminiscent of the Sony NEX 7 and uses the Japanese firm's technology – from its sensor, to its image processor and lens mount." Tell me again how I don't get it.

Read more: http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/2206781/hasselblad-were-not-robbing-people-off-with-lunar-camera#ixzz271bBHlfw
Subscribe to BJP and save money. Click here to save 29% today.

Gingerbaker said...

Kirk, the entire, article is a defense by Hasselblad against the charge that this is merely a rebranded NEX-7. Did you read it beyond the first sentence?

These cam bodies are machined from a solid block of aluminum for starters. They intend to have three camera classes - compact, mirrorless, and DSLR. They intend to use the highest quality materials, and while they will be will be developing more and more components in house, they make no apologies about currently using components from other manufacturers that they consider up to the task.

But all this misses the point. Lets say this WAS a stock NEX-7. It still is wicked cool. And somewhere, in the 40 different versions displayed, there is not a single one that appeals to one thousand commenters? C'mon - that doesn't make any sense.

These cameras are not aesthetically ugly, and the fact that only three out a thousand commenters recognize this should tell you something about the reaction to the product line. There is some powerful group-think going on here.So, yeah.... Mooo! ;D

What sucks is that this resounding "No!" from the peanut gallery can only stymie the concept of aesthetic variety down the road. Granted, 5 large for what appears superficially to be only cosmetic improvements is way steep, but how cool would it be to at least have the option of (hopefully much lower cost) customizations?

Kirk Tuck said...

Gingerbaker, if you keep asking me if I read beyond the first sentence when you know perfectly well I did I'll start tossing out your comments. The quote is quite clear in the interview at BJP: "Hasselblad unveiled Lunar yesterday, an interchangeable lens camera that is strongly reminiscent of the Sony NEX 7 and uses the Japanese firm's technology – from its sensor, to its image processor and lens mount."

Read more: http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/2206781/hasselblad-were-not-robbing-people-off-with-lunar-camera#ixzz271bBHlfw
Subscribe to BJP and save money. Click here to save 29% today.

Yes, the outerwear is different. The subframe is different. But the entire imaging pipeline, from one end to the other is all Sony. All Sony. No mention of HB firmware, etc.

People can buy whatever they like. And many people bought tremendously ugly cars, refrigerators and even cameras over the last 50 years. Having the cash to buy something doesn't make the product design good.

Customization for the sake of customization is strictly a retail affectation. Especially when the thing you are trying to improve is already-----improved.

Three people out of 1000 equals margin of error. Of course there will always be group think or evolutionary, species wide consensus where aesthetics are concerned, that's why fashion models don't weigh 400 pounds and have complexion problems. There are some things that "group think" gets right.

What sucks is a another camera company defaulting to the "Leica Syndrome" and running for the ostriche leather wrapper instead of giving the market a better mousetrap.

Be very clear. Read the BJP interview I've included. These are "only cosmetic improvements" at this time. While Hblad might spin off something good and technically innovative on this frame in the future that's not what they are writing and talking about today. Reading comprehension------priceless.

Kirk Tuck said...

Gingerbaker, if you felt the camera was more than just a Nex7 why did you write this on Luminous Landscape's forum:

" Yes, very few of us this side of the pond will want a $5000 NEX-7" ???

stefano60 said...

never mind the cost; there are always suckers out there with more money than common sense.

the bottom line is that, IN MY OPINION, this is a sad marketing gimmick that reeks of desperation.

if they GAVE me one of those things, i would not want it. i think that sums up what i think about it.

Gingerbaker said...

"Gingerbaker, if you felt the camera was more than just a Nex7 why did you write this on Luminous Landscape's forum:

" Yes, very few of us this side of the pond will want a $5000 NEX-7" ???"


I wrote that before the interview with the Hassleblad guy was available, if I remember correctly. At that point, everyone thought that this was indeed merely a pure NEX-7 tricked out with some customization. I think we know it is a little bit more than that now.

But I liked the idea of customization a few days ago, and I still like it now. And I am still fascinated by the phenomena of the overwhelming rejection of same by folks who frequent photo blogs. Folks who, some of them, wax poetic about the marriage of old craftsman materials when it comes to hand-made medium or large format cameras, but who reject it completely and disparagingly when it comes to smaller cameras.

Why such vitriolic dismissal of having a tool that has aesthetic qualities that go beyond the mass-produced minimum? Individualism is a trait found in almost every marketed product line. There is even a pretty darned healthy industry catering to fulfilling the desires of proud owners to show their personal expression via customized covers for their i-phones, iPads, and notebook computers. Heck, for many people, their i-phone IS their camera!

Yesterday, I saw at my local camera store that their newest products are i-phone covers customized with one's very one pictures. The ad copy showed one version where the picture on the i-phone was the i-phone's owner! :D

So, it's cool to decorate your phone, which has a camera in it, but when it comes to your camera - which you you will likely own for much longer then your phone, the talk is all about ascetic form and function; "bling" is the descriptor for a handsome wood grip. Strange times.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks for explaining your position. There is a very rich tradition in photography of decorating your own camera. I have painting cameras white, red and sky blue for various reasons and many of my friends have their serious work tools covered with "smiley faces" and other decals. Pentax used to supply a "carve your own" handgrip for their 6x7 camera. I think what the market is saying is that it is cool to decorate your own camera. I think the market is also saying the form follows function. And when people (myself included) looked at the decoration that Hasselblad pursued it seem to engorge the basic product and diminish it's utility. I say, "Bravo" to anyone who wants to customize their own tools. There is a rich tradition there. But to pay $4000 to have someone else add some fatty grips and rhinestones reminds me too much of the time Susan Dell opened a dress shop, added some rivets to the legs of some generic blue jeans and started charging $1400 a piece for them.

I get what you are saying. Your thoughts about glorifying cameras are well grounded. But I think what Hasselblad has done is cynical and exploitive instead of being fresh and personalized.