I came back into town last night from an assignment and I reflexively checked the referrer stats for the VSL. I am always a bit worried and amused when a big clump of referrals come from one address on DP Review. I clicked on the link and found a discussion in the Nikon V1 forum entitled, "Kirk Tuck reports that the V1 has a one stop advantage over........" Following the original poster's synopsis of my long ramble about using six different cameras on one assignment, are nearly 100 responses that range to how it is theoretically impossible for the V1 to be: "good, sharp, have low noise, operate at 72 degrees, flush, focus, or make legible images because of the constraints of its microscopic sensor." And all these pronouncements are delivered as unassailable fact.
How am I involved? Only as a convenient target for the religious sect that believes only "full frame" cameras are the chosen tools of professionals and any person who likes any camera that is not full frame (or bigger) is, A. NOT a professional. B. Obviously needs glassed in order to see "smeared" detail. And, C. Must be on Nikon's payola roll. (I laughed so hard at that one that coffee almost came out of my nose.....). Doesn't matter that I can't seem to beat Nikon out of flash even for FULL PRICE.
But here's the deal. We're hearing only the rants of people who've never touched or used the camera in question. And that's usually the case. Across product categories. Do you remember all the "IT" and industry experts who predicted, very earnestly, that the iPad would never become a viable consumer product? They were legion. And every one of them has some sort of argument (based on the ancient days of desktop prominence) outlining why consumers would never embrace a pad that didn't run flash or play with Microsoft office. I think the jokes on them. I imagine them mournfully choking down mouthfuls of bitter pizza and Mountain Dew as they turn their attention toward another product category and pronounce it DOA. Maybe the Kindle Fire will be next....
All the targets we thought were so precious in the nascent days of digital imaging seem to be largely discounted these days. We don't really need five pound cameras. We don't need hyper complex menus. In fact, we don't need hyper complex anything. The truth of the matter is that the professional market as we knew it is almost completely gone and it's been replaced by a new way of shooting and doing business and the only people who haven't gotten the memo are the experts.
A camera, or a camera system, is only a method to communicate with. In most instances the message is much more important than the delivery system. Especially when we remember who our target markets are. Most people are not "old school" photographers or photography buffs and they haven't developed a taste for many of the techniques that old fart holdovers seem to think crucial. For example, a beautiful expression trumps massive resolution. The right moment trumps high accuracy. The right angle bitch slaps bit depth. And more and more the camera that provides the user with the most fluency and fluidity is the system that returns the best dividends.
No matter how far we've come with photography it's hard for me to escape using the car analogy to describe market changes. In the U.S. thirty years ago we worshipped big V-8 engines. Now the nod goes to reliability and economic good sense. Ten years ago people bought Hummers. Now the Hummer really only exists as a cruel joke that exemplifies the extremes of bad taste (unless you are in a desert and being shot at.....). Four cylinder cars are the norm. Sixes suffice for big human cattle movers like Ford Explorers and the like. V8's are specialty engines for people who like to go faster than everyone else or people who need to tow boats or trailers.
As we share more and more on the web we'll see the metrics of a previous generation of photographic experts wilt away and die. And we'll see an explosion of creativity unleashed by small, powerful new tools that are right sized. The medium is the message and the message seems to be that small is just right. Anecdotally, I'm seeing everyone embrace their favorite, new small camera. Some love the Olympus Pen cameras (and I hope the company fixes itself so we can continue to enjoy their groundbreaking design and feature engineering) while others love the Sony Nex cameras. I'm loving the Nikon V1 but I'm also anxious to get my hands on a new camera with an even smaller sensor, the Fuji X-10. They are all good enough for the way I like to shoot. Fun. Especially when the performance of all the cameras in a niche exceed my needs. That means I can buy and shoot the one I think has the coolest feature set for me. And, if I weave the files through the selections I give to my clients and they like them.......have we mutually redefined what it is to be a "professional" photographer?
I think we have. We just forgot to tell everyone who still thinks that the only way to make a good picture is to measure all the parameters of a camera first, then applied an outdated understanding of physics and, finally, grace it with cultish miracle lenses. Pah.
Errata and fun news: I talked to the Fuji rep today and he flat out stated that the company is re-emerging into the photo market with interchangeable lens cameras and a collection of lenses. He suggested that the cameras would be real game changers. Seem like Austin is a particular hot spot of the sale of X-100's and the early orders for X-10's are enormous. Kinda confirms what I've been seeing in the hands of friends lately. It's great when known innovators step back into the game after an absence. I have very fond memories of my Fuji S2's and S5's. Really great cameras for portraits.....
Delkin was showing off a laptop holder that fits onto any tripod and provides a firm base for your computer. For $85 I thought it was a good design.