Predictions about photography and video for 2019.

Cameras in the wilderness. 

Seems like we always end up the year with a blog post of predictions for the next year. Some of them actually pan out. Some are the stuff of hopeful fantasy. Most predictions are obvious because most of us can't imagine things that don't exist yet. But with that said, here we go: 

The business of photography. 

The world will enter a recession in the first quarter of 2019 which will drive down sales of cameras, lenses and accessories and delay or kill some (unannounced) new product introductions. Stuff that's already in the pipeline will get to the market but overall sales of dedicated photography equipment will decline. This means camera makers will emphasize the products they already have in place in lieu of investing in upgrades. Expect to see Nikon advertise how easy it is to adapt F mount AF lenses to the new mirrorless cameras; they'll need continuing sales of their current lens line to prevent a sharp decline in their bottom line. Look to companies like Fuji, Canon and Sony, all of whom have deep pockets, to try to increase or consolidate market share at the expense of the other players in the camera industry. Coincident with these trends I think we'll see price drops on more luxe products in order for each company to try and cement the loyalty of current customer and to try and effect trial by new customers. The price drop on a camera like the Panasonic G9, and the aggressive pricing of some Sony products shows the way...

The new and improved video and photographic quality available on cellphones like the Apple iPhone 10 XS will erode more and more sales from the bottom tier of dedicated camera makers product lines. More importantly, the capabilities and ubiquity of the phones coupled with the lowered bar for production value on YouTube will make video crew less important for marcom departments nearly everywhere. I predict 2019 will see a decimation of even the idea of an in-house video crew; at most, companies will keep bright young staff as editors and group source most non-critical content from a bevy of phone P.O.V.s. Editing is the one position that's currently safe because good editing counts on lots and lots of work, good decision making and, at least, a modicum of good taste and education. This contraction of professional positions and expansion of corporate "citizen" content creation has been going on for years and will only accelerate, especially when one
considers that software companies are concentrating full tilt on making automated video editing software that incorporates A.I. and machine learning to create finished, corrected programs that need marginal participation from end users.

The same basic trajectory is true for commercial photography. Even seemingly small feature additions to cameras, like focus stacking, drive practiced professional engagement down. It used to be quite an undertaking to create product photographs of 3D objects against a nice, white background. Now all that needs to happen is to have someone place an object on a white sweep in a white tent, turn on the included LED strip light and set the closest and furthest points that need to be in focus on a camera like the Panasonic G9, or similar Olympus camera, and then engage focus stacking. In seconds the camera assembles and blends the stack and delivers a finished photo that (usually) meets the parameters required by the end users. No more camera movements (tilts and swings) and no more big post production. Voila. 

So does this sound the death knell for professional image making. Naw. It just guts the lower end of the market and means that the "low hanging fruit" gets repositioned to a higher branch. Clients will still want dedicated images makers if for no other reason than the fact that most photography and videography is done by corporations whose marketing and advertising employees, and strategists, are all in demand, have four year college degrees and cost the company real dollars to have on staff. Logic would dictate that their regular, 40 hour per week pursuits return  good value to the company and having to divert them into producing photos or videos is as costly (and perhaps less efficient) than just hiring a contract person to do those jobs. It's the staffing version of "just in time delivery." 

As requirements get more specific and more defined the projects move up the ladder from "commodity" to "long term mission critical" and that's the space in which real professional photographers and video makers need to aim for. This includes imagery that requires special skills, special talents, a unique point of view, a front-to-back process efficiency and consistency as well as educated insight into the client's goals and visions. 

Photographers who understand their corporate clients and/or the culture of advertising and marketing agencies, and who have a vision coupled with the right skill sets, will continue to get work and be able to demand good fees. As in most other fields, the least skilled and least educated people will not have access to the valuable work. Or the valuable fees.

Just as the 2008 recession cleared out a generation of "old school" professionals by eliminating both the old styles and the old methods, the 2019 recession will require people who want to stay relevant to adopt popular styles and adapt to the new range of tools with which to produce them. We're hitting an inflection point at which 4K video, as a desired feature, trumps still photography's "frames per second." Where things like built in HDR, focus stacking and eye recognition are much, much more valuable than a 45+ megapixel raw file. Did anybody notice that magazines and other print continue to decline while the viewer-share of the web grows insatiably? And while you were noticing that did you also note that most (58+ %) of engagement with the web is done on phones? So, yes, in camera production tools rock while megapixel engorgement heads off toward the sunset. No matter what you've read on that photo web site.

Okay. So that's all about the business, but what about the cool stuff? The cameras? The lenses? The lights?

I don't think the enthusiasm for full frame (35mm frame) will abate. Nikon and Canon will take a note from the long running Sony A7 and re-badge and re-introduce older cameras like the Canon 6D and the Nikon D610 and market them as exciting, new full frame bodies for well under $999, brand new!!! They will also keep a wide range of other existing full frame bodies in the marketplace in order to help amortize their investments in the previous lens families (EF and F). These will appeal to traditionalists and bargain hunters but will look less like auspicious purchases as more and more of the now "legacy" lenses are not renewed and either explicitly or silently removed from the market to make room for the mirrorless systems. 

Canon, Nikon and Sony will continue introducing new mirrorless bodies with a range of capabilities. Most of the bodies will revolve around the 24 megapixel sensors that are widely popular and, with greater demand from multiple manufacturers, becoming cheaper by the day. At some point, if they are successful in convincing otherwise rational people of the "overwhelming" superiority of the that sensor size then the cost per unit might drop low enough to achieve $$$ parity with the cost of new generation (26 megapixel BSI) APS-C sensors. 

Nikon will likely drop a new, top of the line, professional mirrorless body into the mix late in 2019. It will leverage the best of the mirrorless technologies but do so in a body with rugged reliability and nearly endless battery life. This will be their halo product for the 2020 Olympics. Expect to also see a group of long, fast lenses that will complement that purpose built professional body. The new economics, which will be required by the system switchover from DSLR to mirror-free cameras, will necessitate charging a premium for the new mirror-free flagship and I expect to see prices in the (old standard)  price range of around $8.000, body only. 

And, of course Canon will have a similar product with which to compete. But Canon will up the overall loyalty ante by also launching their final DSLR for pros, with a moving mirror. One last camera that will take the full range of EOS/EF lenses without an adapter. Their one-two punch at the Olympics will be great marketing but after the warm glow subsides we'll see the product line form up around a new family of mirror-free products that, if they are successful, will usher the older tech off the stage. 

Look for Canon to deliver at least one and probably two or more APS-C mirror-free camera bodies styled after the long running Rebel series and then a second tier styled after the 7D and 60D cameras. They, at least, have continued to grow and support their APS-C lens line and there's no reason to think that they won't provide an APS-C system quickly in order to dominate that market and to provide a future feeder market to whatever professional, full frame mirrorless cameras they bring to market. 

Sony is well positioned in the full frame sector and I think they'll pull a fast one and let their APS-C line and their Alpha/DSLR lines die off. The original A7 camera is still a full framer, a 24 megapixel sensor machine with all the benefits thereof, and, at $699 or $799 a good competitor at the bottom end of the full frame market. To be frank, many of us could use the original A7 for most of the projects we undertake. If Sony took a page from Fuji and upgraded that body with a nice range of firmware upgrades to improve the file colors, focusing speed, etc. it would make it an incredibly profitable camera to sell and a bulwark against competitors who don't have a fully depreciated body to toss out as a (non) loss leader.

Sony is doing a lot of stuff right and we'll probably see a new video-centric body come into the market from them this year. Something with which to replace the very much loved (by videographers) A7SII body. I think the body will ship with 32 megapixels of sensor resolution in order for Sony to brag about having 8K video. But the 8K video will only be available in HDMI output to a fast digital recorder. If it is available in body it will be in a some codec based in the H.265 or HEVC. Sony recently announced the launch of such a codec which would enable it to be highly compressed in camera and then beat the living crap out of your hapless computer in order to use the transcoded files in editing. The launch with 8K will pretty much be a "bragging rights" only adventure as there are tiny-to-no commercial 8K monitors, and the bandwidth necessary to share a finished 8K piece would be mind boggling. I'm sure this is a codec that was destined for movie productions with dedicated SSD based recorders attached to high end cameras but someone in marketing just could not resist adding it to this consumer camera to win a specsmanship war against other makers of consumer cameras. 

But the positive thing a move like this would indicate is that Sony has a new, full frame sensor ready to go and that they've introduced, or sourced, a new generation of imaging processing sensors that can keep up with the huge amounts of data flowing from that sensor in movie mode. With the right software the processing units could deliver big improvements in on-the-fly color processing, in camera sharpening elegance, and highly adaptive noise reduction. Or they can just blow all that good stuff off and increase the frames-per-second specs. That would probably be the easiest and least creative choice so I'm sure that's what the project managers will go for. I hope, for Sony users, that they surprise us. 

Now Sony will just need to continue to fill out their lens selection in order to go head to head with C&N. They've seem to have all achieved parity on image quality (at least for artists if not for reviewers...). One thing I will say after handling all the current top of line full frame, mirror-free bodies is that Nikon has the best feel and ergonomics to date. Sony, and to a lesser extent, Canon, could work on that this year.

Fuji will build on the success of their X-T3 with the release of another X-Pro, rangefinderesque camera launching with the same imaging pipeline. In this new model they will put the optical viewfinder to death and depend on a really nice EVF to do the same work. People will convince themselves that the optical viewfinder was somehow superior but they'll quickly find the good EVF much preferable. 

Fuji has done so much to make the X-T3 a really effective video/still hybrid camera that one can easily see them introduce a version in the X-H1 body with image stabilization. I'd call it an X-HZ body but what I think I would do in addition to incorporating all the imaging improvements of the X-T3 would be to do what Olympus used to do with their E-10, E-20 and E-30 all-in-one cameras and make an enormous and powerful dedicated battery for the accessory grip. Something in the realm of an 80 or 90 Watt/Hours. This would enable the camera to shoot stabilized video for a long time; at least a full day of heavy production and would signal their move into the professional video markets. I love those bigger batteries, they make the entire camera more stable and can make them much quicker in operation. 

I would also love to see Fuji fine tune their lens line in order to make me a happier portrait photographer. I'd love to see a short range (say 40-80mm) short telephoto zoom with an f2.0 aperture and built in image stabilization. I guess that's less of a predication and more of a suggestions but nevertheless that's what I'd like. It would give me a 60 to 120mm range in 35mm-speak and the short range should make the faster aperture a possibility... And while they're at it Fuji might consider that it's time to redesign their 60mm macro by putting in a faster focusing motor. 

I had a chance to shoot the Fuji X-H1 on a very short video project with the Eterna color setting as my profile and I have to say that I think it's the Holy Grail for video producers who are looking for great files straight out of camera that can be easily tweaked and moved on to clients without the drudgery and compromises of using a Log profile. I like the system. It needs tweaks but more market share will help. Hope it happens. 

In the medium format arena I'm thinking Fuji's plan is to relentlessly fill out the selection of dedicated lenses for the existing cameras, always with an eye to denser and denser sensors (I just like the way that sounded when I said it out loud...). Being Fuji they'll likely flesh out the wides and ultra-wides first and then get around to the telephoto end. Wide angle + Architectural work is a natural. Longer lenses seem better suited for the smaller formats.

I'm predicting that Panasonic's new 24 megapixel, full frame, mirrorless entry will hit the market by March and become an instant classic; a cult hit. I don't know why, other than my happy use of the GH and G series camera,  I've come to believe this but I think film directors, artists, video guys and high end shooters will hold the camera in their hands, realize that they are experiencing an "ultimate" in industrial design and never let the camera out of their hands again. It will come to define Ming Thien's idea of (eternal) sufficiency, many blogger's idea of "the last camera I'll ever need," and even satisfy basic pragmatists. 

Here are the selling points of the new Panasonic SR1 as they came to my mind via a thought time machine: Best body ever designed to be hand held for photography. Rock solid video implementation with a bevy of new color and Log profiles that will make the "color science" of Sony and Canon seem like television sets from the early 1970s. The first ever perfect EVF. The first ever really effective full frame image stabilization. The first camera in which CD-AF surpasses the speed and accuracy of all other focusing methods for mirror free cameras. A section of lenses that's not necessarily extensive but instead perfectly thought out and able to give someone like me the tools to do everything under the sun very well with no more than two zooms. 24-200mm in total, but amazingly good. 

I rushed to buy the GH5S. It's a great camera and a gateway drug to the SR1. I have already come to think of the GH5S as the only true cult camera in my stash. It's just.......perfect. And, if you can live with 10 megapixels, it's all the camera most of us would ever need. But it's never going to be mainstream (and maybe that's part of its appeal). 

I'm not predicting many changes to the micro four thirds camera and lenses from Panasonic. Their current products are great and I want them to take their time with the introduction of the GH6. I can't imagine how it would be better than the GH5 but it's Panasonic and I'm sure they'll add something new to the mix. I'm starting to suspect that the m4:3 contingent will be the ones to get into A.I. picture file augmentation and machine learning before everyone else. Being able to program the look of your images; say portraits with very narrow depth of field, and have the camera do the computational work to get the best results will be the future of most photography. Computation image augmentation, done correctly, could wipe out most of the benefits attributable to large sensor formats. With the last two cameras added (the GH5S and the G9) Panasonic has finally (for me) nailed down their color and tonality. They are quickly becoming dominant in the minimalist video market and they seem to be gaining share in the still photography arena. 

The Panasonic parent company has something Nikon and Olympus don't: Deep pockets. They seem to be playing the long game and seem to better understand the potential of super fast processing camera guts better than their competitors. Maybe that or they're just more willing to drop the cash to increase the performance quality of their cameras. Performance improvements aren't always obvious and don't have a popular set of metrics that (faux) experts can argue about convincingly on the web so marketing departments don't really care. Maybe at Panasonic the engineers care enough to spec the better stuff in order to have their cameras stand out to serious users instead. 

I can't wait to get my hands on the new Panasonic 10-25mm f1.7 zoom lens. It's the kind of sneaky optical superiority that helps the smaller format remain competitive with almost any camera out there this side of medium format. 

Then there's Olympus: I'm not interested in predicting what will happen in their less expensive line up of cameras but it's almost certain that there is a new EM-1X coming out in 2019 and it's bound to be filled with amazing tech. My crystal ball sees them going all in on video. You'll need to buy a "system" to maximize the performance ( a la Fuji X-H1) because you'll want to keep the bulk of the batteries out of the actual camera body and in a grip. I think the engineers will be smart enough to incorporate thermal sensors which will allow for the camera to cycle through the batteries in a non-linear fashion so that no one spot in the assembly is a permanent nexus for high heat. This could allow for bigger bandwidth in video. But the shining star in the Olympus universe will continue to be their image stabilization; especially the dual I.S. that incorporates the best of lens I.S. and body I.S. 

My friend, James Webb, and I produced a video for a restaurant called, Cantine, back in 2016 using two Olympus EM-5.2 cameras. We chose those cameras over other stuff in our inventories because we could move so quickly and fluidly and not once, during the entire production, did we feel the need to set up a tripod and all the operational grief that comes with it. We were able to work around chefs and line cooks and prep people without being too much of a burden to them. And we were able to get great footage. Back then the throughput was something like 80 Mbs in an All-I file but it worked and worked well. Having even better image stabilization coupled with a 200 or 300 Mbs through put (probably offering a selection between H.264 and H.265) would be even more awesome! 

Reviewers tend to fixate on one or two specifications, or about the way a piece of gear works in a contrived and optimized situation but I'd almost always trade "ultimate" quality trade for better handling and intuitive operation any day of the week. 

But, the primary reason to own Olympus product is to buy their lenses. I'm hoping we see one or two additions to the Pro zoom line up in the same conceptual space as Sigma's Art lenses. By that I mean I'd love to see stuff like the Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 for full frame only interpreted by Olympus for the smaller frame. Something like a 12-60mm f1.8. Wide enough, long enough and super sharp wide open. Maybe they could get really inventive and take the aperture to f1.4. That would make more than a few small format professionals salivate...

I understand that Olympus is smaller and less well funded than a company like Panasonic or Canon but I don't think they are going to vanish in the near future. They've got too much good tech to sell. But that brings up a problem that all the camera companies share. But I'll get to that at the end....

Onward. What's the deal with Pentax? Pull the plug already. It's getting embarrassing to watch. This might be the year the people in the corner office decide that they've ridden down the escalator with Pentax for too long. It's always been a fine camera manufacturer but they got too far behind in the early days of digital and spent too long depending on a line of older lenses made for full frame film cameras to catch up. If I was the CEO I'd pull the plug on everything but the medium format cameras and even there I would give the marketing team about two years to make that product very popular and very profitable. With a laser like focus on medium format they might be able to channel what resources they have into making and selling a stand out product line but as it is they are next to last place in most people's consideration for new cameras and, from what I've researched, the lens line up for smaller format cameras is all over the map. Yes, they are rugged and weather sealed but there's got to be a better unique selling proposition than: "But when you drop it our is less likely to break!"

If you are a Pentax owner and this upsets you then I'm sorry, but you'll be more upset if you keep investing in bodies and lenses and then the game of manufacturing musical chair stops and you wind up with another one of those orphaned systems. I know that can suck. I was a Canon FD user in my early film days. One new product announcement and BOOM the resale value of my camera and  lenses dropped like a new lens on a concrete floor. And I was also a Samsung user until they launched a near perfect camera and then, a few months later, exited the game entirely. If you love the stuff just use it till it falls apart in your hands. That's what my wife did with her Olympus OM-1. And her 15 year old Toyota Corolla. But if you work professionally and need specific types of stuff it may not be the dependable choice. 

Yes, the Pentax lenses can be wonderful. If you love them just adapt them to your new Nikon, Canon, Sony or Pentax full frame, mirror-free body and use them till the end of time. The problem with digital is that all change is inevitable. The deeper the pockets of the parent company the better and faster the change.

So, what's up with Hasselblad, Leica and the obscure larger format digital cameras? Damned if I know. Where medium format imaging is concerned there are so few people with the actual need for the product that they probably number in the low thousands in a world with billions of people. A very, very small percentage. 

Some users of medium format systems are big museums and art collections and they have specific uses for perfect reproduction and perfect color. They have the budgets to buy the best and they has specific end uses that are a perfect match for 100+ megapixel cameras. I'm thinking that Hasselblad and Phase One know pretty much everyone in these markets personally and an ad is more like, "Let me take you out for a nice dinner at a nice restaurant with some great bottles of wine and tell you all about our new technology."  It's the kind of sales situation where they rep drops by and hands you the latest camera and asks, "would you like to test this one? Keep it for a week and let me know what you think." I don't think the makers of these cameras are going to WPPI to meet with wedding photographers or buying double-truck ads in Rangefinder Magazine. 

If you need the tech you'll know where to go to find it. Your first stop will be a research jaunt across the B&H website followed by direct contact with the companies you identified. But for the purposes of this post I'm even willing to believe that they don't exist. Everyone I know who is just now considering moving up from full frame (35mm) to medium format is considering a "fuller frame" camera from Fuji and only Fuji. Why? Because the firmware inside works, the lenses are affordable and the bodies even more so. In an age when a fast (but so-so) camera like the Sony A9 is $4500 and you can get a new medium format digital for less money it seems you have to have a pretty severe and constricted use case (you only shoot sports!!!) to make the choice in the direction of the smaller sensor camera. For most users the two Fuji MF cameras are sensible, and use the same sensor as many of their competitors, but are easier to use (H-blad H1D has all electronic shutter and won't work with flash or non-H1D lenses) and are about half the price. It's a price sensitive market. Especially if you like the Fuji color better....

Leica makes nice lenses. That's always been their strength. That, and the M series rangefinders. But the issue for me with Leica these days is the opportunity cost of investing in their products. A five thousand dollar normal lens for anyone on any sort of realistic budget means a working pro has to choose between one lens that might be the best of its kind in a format and six or seven really good lenses from another camera system that cover a wide range of focal lengths and may be more than good enough for a particular format. I think the reason the Leicas have become hobby cameras and are no longer the sought after shining stars of photo gear for most working professionals is that hobbyists (well heeled ones) can decide: "Oh, I'm a 50mm shooter. I just use that one lens because of my formalist beliefs and it's all I ever need. That's the focal length I see the world in..." 

I get the idea. In fact, if I made a living writing blockbuster novels or sloshing around with hedge funds I'd think the same way (only I'd make that three lenses that fit my wider vision of the world) but the reality is....clients. Sometimes a scene is wide, sometimes a detail needs to be tight. Sometimes there's no room to back up. Sometimes there no room to get closer and.....no.....cropping isn't always (rarely!) the answer. The answer is a stash of carefully selected lenses that get you what you need for 99 % of the stuff you shoot for clients. You can cradle your favorite lens in your arms in your off hours but if you are on the clock I'm sure going to recommend that you show up prepared. And that's where the sheer cost of Leica stuff brings most of us up short. It's now fashion; they used to be working tools. Digital changed all that. 

If you have the budget get whatever in the world you want. If you have to work within typical budgets then you need to get what you can afford. My prediction is that we'll all settle on one of  three basic formats, m4:3, APS-C and full frame, and we'll all have our rationales for whichever we prefer. But within each format there are good, better, best options that won't break most bank accounts and which will deliver sellable, brag-worthy results; if you use this stuff correctly. Hence, no new Leica for me. 

And that brings up to lighting. I predict that expensive "studio" flash will go away almost entirely in 2019 and beyond. The few remaining photography businesses that must have big and complex electronic flash will be served by an ever smaller circle of makers. I'd guess that Broncolor and Elinchrom will exit the market entirely. Profoto will be the last high end supplier of any size to survive and their only reason to exist will be to provide the power packs and heads that can deliver 2,000 to 4,000 watt seconds in a single pop from a single head.  There's really no other reason to consider them anymore. 

I know I'll get hate mail for this but the Chinese manufacturers of flash equipment have done such a great job getting their engineering up to snuff and providing such an incredible value proposition that there's little argument left for pricier choices. Unless you just enjoy tossing way cash. One argument for the luxe, European brands has always been reliability but in speaking to several repair people in the industry I hear that the overwhelming majority of flashes breaking down are victims of dramatic drop damage and not anything having to do with design or part failure. A good fall onto concrete from five to ten feet up in the air will break even the best made lights. I travelled extensively with Profoto monolights and then, for a while, with cheap-ass Alien Bees flashes and I saw less damage to the smaller and cheaper Bees. It just made sense; they had less mass, less stuff to stop and start as baggage handlers tossed their container cases around on the countless airport tarmacs. 

You can tell me till you are blue in the face that your "cast iron" such and such Swiss light will never break and that my Godox or Neewer monolights aren't built for the road but the flip side is that when tragedy strikes I can replace a Neewer 300 watt second, lithium battery powered monolight for a whopping $200 or less. About the retail price of a nice Profoto......umbrella. 

As their market share falls off the cliff there's only going to be enough space for one big supplier of high end electronic flash lighting. The rest are destined to be toast. 

This (2019) might be the year that people learn you can't do everything with an LED panel. I've been shooting environmental portraits on outside locations almost non-stop for the last three months. What I know is that filling in a face with light and battling full sun you'll need flash power. Short, happy flash power. If you have an LED panel with enough power to match prevailing sunlight you'll have a model or portrait subject in full squint any time you point that light at them. A flash is nearly instantaneous and you can use shutter speed, aperture and FP to control the balance; the ratio. 

The flip side of this is the fact that you just can't do videos with flash and it's stupid to try. In video projects you'll need a selection LEDs and you'll need them to be capable of really good color. I think we can kiss tungsten fixtures goodbye; at least the ones used for big fill in lights. LEDs have invaded my studio, most locations and even the live theater I work in. 

The bad news is that a 2019 content producer will need both flash and LED to handle all the jobs that should becoming your way but the good news is that LEDs have gotten so much better than they were when I wrote the book about them in 2010 while flashes have gotten cheaper and easier to use year by year. 

What is the single biggest impediment to success that most (all?) camera companies face in 2019 and beyond? They are uniformly bad at marketing. Not just from time to time but pretty much all the time. Example: The biggest negative I've read about Fuji camera with X-trans sensor is the idea that Adobe products do a bad job post processing Fuji raw files and since Adobe owns 80% of the image processing market this make it......a ....deal killer. Sorry guys, but I've post processed a couple thousand (more like 5,000+) X-T3 and X-E3 raw files and the current Adobe raw converter does a great job. Okay, the Capture One sharpens Fuji files more, but guess what? You can add sharpening and even do a custom sharpening routine in PhotoShop that matches the look you get from Capture One. To my mind, if a processing issue did, at one time, exist it's gone now and Fuji should have touted that to the heavens. I've been a Capture One user on and off since 2009 and it's got it's own issues but when I compare the newest Fuji dedicated version of Capture One with Lightroom or anything else with the latest ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) processor I can match them up pretty closely. This should be a daily talking point from Fuji. 

Fuji is also trying to make in roads with videographers. They now talk about having both a mic jack and a headphone jack. Big deal. Everyone in that competitive space should or does have those features too. You know what Sony and Panasonic don't have? The ability to go into a menu and select a linear throw to the focus ring of their focus-by-wire lenses. It's a tremendous feature for videographers who are struggling to use lenses that don't have mechanical focusing helicoids. 
You select "linear" and now your lens settings can be repeatable. You can do a focus pull!!!! It's a unique feature. Where's the advertising? Where's the talking point discipline? 

On the Sony A7XX cameras you can go into the menu that controls color profiles and make an insane amount of custom tweaks to your color or even black and white capture. You can basically exactly control your own color science and file tonality. Have you ever heard about this from Sony? Wouldn't total color and tonal control be sweet? I'm thinking that maybe they should talk about that. It's interesting, it's unique, it's already in the cameras...

Loving the night vision settings on the Panasonic cameras. Haven't heard about this? Hmmm. it's a way of setting up your rear screen and/or your EVF to show orange against black in order to preserve your night vision. And, if you have to use the rear screen to do menu work or review your shots it presents a much less distracting image to the people around and behind you. I thought it was really, really useful when I discovered it. Wish Panasonic would market some of their good features like this. 

I only recently discovered that there's a similar feature on the latest Fuji. When were they going to get around to telling us about it?

If these guys want to sell cameras they might want to think about their marketing. It's not enough to just invite a group of bloggers and reviewers to Bali and set up bullshit displays for them to photograph with the products and then write about. The camera makers might also take a bit of control and, I don't know, maybe SHOWCASE SMART AND UNIQUE CAMERA FEATURES IN THEIR ADVERTISING.  We can only hope they get after it in 2019. It's going to be a tough year in which to sell cameras and I'd like to see my favorite companies make it through. That way I'm guaranteed of getting new product I like from them down the road. 

My gut feeling? It's a shrinking market in the U.S. Cameras are quickly and thoroughly being replaced by phones and their immediacy. We're never going back. The goal is to preserve enough of a market for good photographers to live well. And the goal of camera makers should be to sell enough cameras and accessories to be profitable so they can continue innovating. Eventually the world market will be so large that the photography companiesl win by default. Part of what we're seeing right now is the transfer of the importance of geographic markets from entrenched and faltering first world economies to emerging nations/regions/continents and their millions and millions of new, middle class consumers. Let's see if they want what we always said we wanted.

I'm beginning to see that computational imaging is more or less the future 
of photography for almost everyone. There will be exceptions but 
it's a good time to get comfy with technical progress.

That archival monochrome print isn't as interesting to this generation
as the immediacy of the sharing experience. 


Kirk Tuck said...

Added: Best selling specialty camera of the year will be the DJI Osmo Pocket 4K video camera. $349 for an image stabilized, gimbal mounted 4K video camera you can put in your pocket. This will change so much. Amazing.

Edward Richards said...

Computation imaging is a major factor in reducing expectations - the goal seems to be to have all images look the same. Different - smoothed - faces but the same fake bokeh and synthetic DOF.

crsantin said...

I'll agree with most of your post. Good luck to camera makers in the future. I don't see the current crop of high school students rushing out to by cameras and lenses in about 10 years time when they finally have some disposable income to play with. It will be whatever the smart phone is in a decade. They are only going to continue to get better and better.

Michael Matthews said...

Give that look into the future a greater than 95% probability of accuracy on all issues. Toss in an extra serving of praise for the comments on marketing. That brings up an interesting question: where does advertising per se fit into camera marketing these days? I never see it. Maybe I’m just estranged from the media where it exists, but except for an online push for Nikon’s mirrorless product introduction I’ve been unaware of any direct, in your face advertising for cameras. The major marketing push seems to be influencing editorial content of hardware review sites, bloggers, and Youtubers.

pixtorial said...

A lot to agree with in your post Kirk. The business of photography and videography will continue to morph, though I am interested in seeing if we're nearing an era where corporations will start to wander back to what I call "true" professionals, seasoned creatives, experienced technologists, and those with enough business acumen to keep the companies (and their ownership) from tying their shoes together.

In the camera space, I'm only interested in Fuji, Panasonic, and somewhat Olympus. Nikon will continue to slide, they are not agile enough in mindset or culture to catch up. Its a shame, as today they still make some of the best DSLRs on the planet. I'm just not interested in shooting DSLRs anymore. Sony is of course relevant, but I simply don't like their products and still find sadness in what became of the old Konica-Minolta DNA. Canon is relevant as well, but again I've never connected with their products, both from an ergonomic standpoint as well as their color science.

For me, as much as I like the "look" that larger sensors can provide, the Fuji X series is all the camera I need today and likely will need for some time. They make me smile every time I use them, and that connection alone will keep me in the system for some time. Mix in their color science, the way they have caught up in video, and some of my favorite lenses today (the little f2 primes) and what isn't to love? This despite how much I admire Panasonic and all that wonderful m4/3 glass out there.

PacNW said...

"I'm beginning to see that computational imaging is more or less the future of photography for almost everyone."

If one of the camera companies teams up with Google on this it will be vastly ahead of the competition. The computational photography in my Pixel is beyond amazing. No one can get close to what Google is doing. The camera companies should be banging on Google's door.

One example: Night Mode on the Pixel is truly shocking. See here:


and here:


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Larry to be King said...

In the last two weeks I have gone to two elementary school performances with approximately 200-300 parents and grandparents. Of those people probably 30 % took pictures and or video. I was the only one using a conventional camera, the rest were cell phones. Not a good sign if you are in the camera business.

David said...

Very interesting article and enjoyable to read. I also think that if Canon, Nikon, and other mfgs are not looking at the computational capabilities in smart phone cameras they missing what could be huge selling features, especially at the consumer/prosumer product levels.

Frank Grygier said...

Olympus should look to Google. Their ability to extract that much information from such a small sensor would give the M43 sensor a chance to compete with full frame. Filmic PRO is offering log and raw video on smartphones claiming 12 stops of dynamic range. If camera manufacturers would open up their camera OS to 3rd parties who knows what the future would bring.

JereK said...

Interesting predictions, which I can agree upon. Though I really, really hope there wont a recession so soon. We are still barely recovering from the last one, as our economy in Finland has been slow to recover. IT is a bit scary that when walking with the camera in hand, I get comments like "oh someone still uses one of those".. Still have not been able to test the new Z nikons. The Eos R felt pretty nice in hand, will hopefully be able to borrow and test one in January.

Dano said...

I agree with you mostly especially on smaller sensors. Most of the really good R&D in the last 5 years has been in the 4/3 cameras. Thus don’t write this format off.....yet. The real unanswered question is the next economic downturn, how severe it is, and who is around when the economy recovers.

Kodachromeguy said...

Kirk, very interesting comments. Another trend I am seeing: film cameras on the big auction site are creeping up in price quickly. I especially see this in the fixed lens rangefinders from the 1970s and 1980s (the metal ones, not the plastic autofocus things). Decent Rolleiflexes are $1000, and clean Hasselblads V bodies are heading up, also. I realize that film will always be a niche product for a limited number of photographers, but someone is buying these cameras. Only a few film cameras are still available new, the existing stock is aging, and demand appears to be rising. Interesting times....

scott kirkpatrick said...

I've become a Leica user. Just one customer, myself and an extended family, and I buy about one lens per year, upgrading bodies when new ones appear. It's the lens inventory that stays; bodies go on eBay from time to time. And it is the lens inventory the keeps me working with Leica. When Leica introduced an APS-C line (their CL) with the L mount that, with adapters, had about 80 or 90 lenses available for it, it could be a body-only purchase. Of course the fact that the lenses that Leica designed only for APS-C coverage and the CL body were on a price curve approximately half of the FF Leica products didn't hurt. The zooms are Japanese collaborations, like the Pana-Leica gear that you use on M43, but resolve well down to the 24 MPx resolution now standard in APS-C. And they are small. A bonus was that for a year or two, when the only evident use for the Leica TL lenses (other than the gimmicky TL camera) was 4K video on the Leica SL, all of these lenses could be picked up used or new for a further 50% discount. Finally, each full frame lens now has two effective values. For example, a 50 mm on the M or SL is a 75 mm on the CL, each still giving 24 MPx.

Leica has embarked on a weird experiment with the M10-D. Under the covers, it is the same image pipeline and identical firmware to their latest M10-P camera, but the exterior of the camera is clean -- just four controls plus a shutter button. All menu-diving and instant mage retrieval is done over wifi on your phone (there is also an attached EVF if you want to see a histogram). It seems to be driven by two contingents inside their engineering establishment. One (the boss of all product direction) wants to recreate the feeling of the last, most loved film Leicas, but with final output to an SD card. The other contingent apparently feels that computational photography on the powerful iPhone and Android platforms, with someone else writing the bulk of the almost disposable software, is the way to go. The existing WiFi link to this brave new world is still pretty clumsy, but it is an interesting experiment. And they sell every one of these that they choose to produce, so it can't be costing them much.