Monday, January 13, 2020

What Happens Now?

What Happens Now?
January 2020, Carl Garrard

As the camera market settles down to court only the remaining pro's and shutterbugs; as it was during the film era, I've been inclined to wonder what will happen after sales and profits finally level out. There's no denying the power of the larger portion of the market that targets smartphone users. Only a pro, or dedicated shutterbug will want to use cameras for still or video work going forward. I do believe we are already at that point in time.As such, I believe that camera companies will have to start changing designs of cameras dramatically to cater to the specific needs of shutterbugs simply because they outnumber the pro's handily- and sales matter. Example: one only has to look to Fujifilm to see what making throwback design has done for the growth of its camera division. In less than 10 years time since the X mount came to the market, Fujifilm has become a major player in digital.

This is because they tugged at the heart strings of dedicated shutter bugs with camera designs that harken to yesteryear.  Yet, their cameras are growing increasingly complicated and now are catering to the tech crowd more and more. They, in my opinion, cannot abandon the motivated shutterbug who still loves to make still images.

A bold thought is that sooner than later we'll start to see even more simplified digital still camera designs come to the market. These will be to back-to-basics kind of designs, (perhaps even from a kickstarter company) showing that the popularity of simple design still reigns in the hearts and minds of many still shooters. Cameras designed around a concept of "just the basics"- no video, bloated menus, or gimmicky features, I believe will start popping up once again. I believe this is because camera companies are running out of choices, and either will have to change what they bring to the market, or die.

Just the other day I saw a photographer using a Canon AE1 film camera, a camera used as the primary tool for learning in a university level photography class- and it doesn't get any more simple than that. Understanding exposure, is huge when you are student to the art. Many of todays cameras have way too many features or gimmicks that only aren't necessary, but actually get in the way of the photographic process of MAKING AN EXPOSURE. Too many external controls, menus that read like books, and cameras so capable they take away the joy of having to earn a good shot. They simply aren't providing the joyful challenging experience that cameras with a less is more design will provide. When you are talking art, it has to be earned. Instant gratis provides no challenge, and the challenge is one of the greatest pleasures of art.

Sunlight in trees, #1.

To earn something through hard work, slowly acquiring skill, and having a talent for creating, is what shutterbugs really love most about photography. Many of us are (mostly silently) hoping for products that are made to compliment these desires, which is why many older simpler cameras still have value in the used market (film, and its equipment is still moving quite well). There are several examples of this, but a prime example is in the instant camera market (which sales dwarf the entire digital camera industry in sales and money earned alone). If digital is going to survive its going to have to adapt two ways.

More capable hi-tech cameras (with better video and wifi features) to appease the tech crowd, and back to basic simple cameras for the minimalist who doesn't seek instant gratification. Just imagine for a second how shocked the community would be if Canon produced a simple DSLR without an LCD screen that say... only shot raw images, including just the very basic controls and needs in the design. There would be outrage by the high tech types, equaled by a triumphant cheering from shutterbugs. The market is vast, and right now the shutterbug has been wanting a legitimately simple product that does stills extremely well. One only has to look at the debate that the new XPRO3 created, polarized opposite arguments for and against its design. This is a hint of an untapped market I speak of.

Sunlight in Trees, #2.

With some creativity and some courage, camera manufacturers can find new markets to court if only they want too. As sales decline, more options will be put on the table in private boardroom meetings. The question is, will they find the courage and imagination to release designs that capture the hearts and minds of the artful soul, or not? I can tell you this much, they should. There's no one way to design a camera that pleases all, but there can be many designs that please all.

I have cameras of all types, but when I want to wander or just be creative- I don't go for my most advanced camera. I pick up my Leica M8, or a very old DSLR, and get back to fundamentals. It's such a refreshing change and vigorous challenge of the mind and skill that it makes me want to abandon all of my other cameras. I don't of course because sometimes you need hi-tech cameras in demanding situations to get the job done. But if we're just talking pure pleasure of experience, back to basic designs have it nailed down.

Stay focused.


(Neil Peart, you will live in my heart until I die. I've thanked you and "the boys" many times before, but thank you again. You contributed more to this world than you ever could have known.)

Sunlight in Trees, #3.


  1. This is something I been thinking a lot too.

    Young people are more interested in creating video content for social media than still images and that is reflected in most new camera releases. For them, creating a TikTok or a YouTube video is more exciting than posting a picture on Flickr and manufactures react to that.

    Fuji XT4 now comes with a big record button instead of an exposure compensation dial and they dropped the stills-friendly tilt-screen and go with a fully articulated one. The new Sony RX100 eliminates the EVF to leave space for a better microphone... Stills-only cameras would become a ver tiny and expensive niche. Which is sad.

  2. Hi Ricardo! :)

    I'm not so sure that it's such a tiny niche, more than it comes down to a simple camera being a good design. Camera companies are being blinded by their own making really. As sales continue to decline though, they will get more desperate to try anything to sell cameras, and I think under that rock they will find the silent majority waiting for something wonderful to be designed and brought to market :).