Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wednesday Commentary: Innovation or Stagnation?

In recent years camera companies have talked, almost endlessly, about the initiative feature's the newest cameras offer, but have they really improve the cameras abilities or just added more junk?

Since the dawn of the digital age we've seen cameras arrive in all shapes and sizes. Each generation of new cameras offers what the camera makers would have use believe to be "must have" features. They tout cross type AF points, larger rear LCD's, fast auto focus, high resolution, metal bodies, WIFI or GPS. Digital cameras themselves were a revolution, opening the door of photography to more people than ever. These digital bodies offer flexibility film never had or could offer. Just look at the range of ISO's we can use today. Beyond that, what has the introduction of digital photography done? Not much if you really think about it. There is no doubt that improvements, mostly incremental, have been made in recent years, but have any of them revolutionized what a camera is?

From my point of view, the answer is no, none of the camera makers have revolutionized the camera, or photography. There are several reasons for this, a) Camera makers all want to protect the systems that they have created, b) they want to keep users locked into those systems long term, so they will buy more accessories (lenses, remotes, GPS units etc), which are the real money makers. Finally, and most importantly, c) only photographers can revolution photography, not camera makers. From this standpoint it is in the camera makers best interest to keep the things relatively stagnant, and slowly add new features to keep users upgrading on a regular basis. Okay, so only photographers can revolutionize photography, but what about cameras?  

I think the most important question to ask is, do we need to revolutionize the camera? If the answer is no, that ends the discussion right now. If the answer is yes we do, then what should this new camera look like? Would it be made with interchangeable sensors and lenses? Should DSLR's and mirrorless cameras be made so that you can swap out the back as time goes on rather than buying a whole new camera? Did Ricoh get it right with the interchangeable senor/lens modal system? Maybe we need a new camera maker to step up to the plate with a whole new system?

So I leave it up to you, are the camera makers being initiative, or stagnant? And does the camera, as we know it, need to be re-invented?