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January 05, 2014

Two more Wake Up Calls for the Digital Camera Industry

I hate to start the year with a Debbie Downer topic, but we are here to deliver hard truths, Davos style, not be cheerleaders ;-) We have two more wake up calls for the digital camera industry. While Canon leaders were huddled around a high-powered microscope squabbling over the differences between the upcoming D-Rebel T3i and T4i and T5i DSLRs, the world of technology changed underneath them. (Canon is used as an example, other manufacturers in varying degrees can easily be substituted; it's just that the D-Rebels are a great example of this).

Now before we go on, please put these in perspective. Cameras are used by many people in many situations. I don't know if there are any reliable public data on how many of the sales (units, money) and profits come from "professional/real" photographers and how many of the sales come from the general population. Sometimes one can't even agree with his own previous definition of what "professional" means, so I don't know if there can be reliable data on this. Regardless, a significant portion of the sales (at least in terms of camera units) are by the general population which includes the techies/geeks and the population at large.

Wake Up Call #1: Paul Thurrott
The first wake up call came last month, and it was unintended and of a personal nature, but it is a great example of a signal that has been ignored or not prioritized properly by the camera industry. If you are not a Windows superfan or power user, you may not be familiar with Paul Thurrott. He has been running a website covering Windows long before most people knew what the internet was (or owned a computer). And he has written plenty of technology books. So plenty of tech/geek cred there. In December 2013 he published the latest edition of his "What I Use" series. This is the equipment he uses for his work and his household. They are not intended to be a buyer's guide for all situations and circumstances. So keep this in mind. Under "Cameras", it delivers an unintended and yet very stark wake-up call for the camera industry...

"Thanks to the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520, we no longer need or use a digital camera."

If the techies, geeks and nerds are losing interest in and not finding enough reasons to buy/own/use stand-alone digital cameras...

Wake Up Call #2: Craig Mod
The second wake-up call came from Craig Mod, in a post at The New Yorker entitled "Goodbye Cameras". Craig Mod, if the name sounds familiar, posted a lot about his experience using the Panasonic GF1 way back when it came out. For example, here is his "GF1 Field Test: 16 Days in the Himalayas" post. Fast forward to now, and he wrote, among many others things, in the The New Yorker post:

"After two and a half years, the GF1 was replaced by the slightly improved Panasonic GX1, which I brought on the six-day Kumano Kodo hike in October. During the trip, I alternated between shooting with it and an iPhone 5. After importing the results into Lightroom, Adobe’s photo-development software, it was difficult to distinguish the GX1’s photos from the iPhone 5’s."

Again, please take this in context. The audience are New Yorker readers, not professional photographers. This also does not apply to every application of photography and there are many situations where a high-powered professional dedicated tool and system is a must (eg high-speed sports, professional weddings, etc, etc, etc). Also factor in the choice of a buzz/viral topic/headline which is not uncommon among websites driven by page-views, banner ads and controversies. Still, with all that factored in, he delivers some hard truths for the digital camera industry that must not and should not be ignored!

Wake Up Call #2 UPDATE [NEW!]
Craig Mod wrote a follow-up to his New Yorker "Goodbye Cameras" post, the new article, posted on his own website, is entitled "Photography, Hello". Thanks to @thewsreviews for the alert! [NEW!]

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