Forecasting the Future of Digital Photography

Photograph of the mirrorless Fujifilm X-30, the latest iteration to the Fuji X-10 series. Credit: Fujifilm Inc.

A group of representatives of the major players in the photography industry met with a moderator from The Digital Photography School to brainstorm about the future of the industry.  It was one of the most interesting events I’ve viewed since I started involving myself with photography.

Present at the event were the following major digital camera manufacturers:

  1. Olympus
  2. Panasonic
  3. Canon
  4. Fujifilm
  5. Lytro
  6. Nikon
  7. Sony
  8. Samsung
  9. Sigma
  10. Pentax/Ricoh

Among the many topics discussed during the interviews were:  mirrorless systems, electronic rangefinder’s designs, social photography, specialized photography niches, computational photography, four thirds format systems, connectivity (Wi-Fi), EVFs (electronic view finders), intuitive use of cameras, and the impact of smartphones on photography.  In a nutshell, they all agreed that we are experiencing a revolutionary trend of smaller more powerful cameras with bigger sensors.  We are presently experiencing an inflexion point in the photography industry that will define who will stay on the field and who will follow the way of the Dodo. The DSLR format which migrated from old film analog cameras are sliding backwards and a new generation of smaller, lighter, easy to use cameras are coming to the surface.  Innovation of the core building blocks of today’s cutting edge of cameras are gravitating towards novice and professional photographers alike.

Is the DSLR dead?  I don’t think so.  They will remain in the future probably used by specialized niches such as high end sports photography to mention only one.  No, I don’t think their days are over.  They will still coexist with the knife edge cameras of the future based on different technologies and formats.  The four thirds and 4K video formats are only two of them.

The camera manufacturers’ executives said that people are demanding lighter compact cameras easy to carry with you all the time.  They want to enjoy the personal experience with their subjects who are often intimidated by large, bulky cameras which get in the way between the subject and the photographer interrupting the flow of communication between them.  The explosive entrance of smartphones with powerful cameras are influencing the future of the industry.  Consumers demand smaller, lighter, easy-to-use cameras, equipped with Wi-Fi—sharing images immediately with others—, high quality photographs, and a high level of performance.  The camera of the future not only must be small—but better—competing head to head with DSLR cameras.

The digital photography industry has undergone huge change over the past 2-3 years. Sony, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympic are passionate about pushing the technological envelope of mirrorless cameras.  While DSLRs ruled the roost just a few years ago, in recent years we’ve seen the rise of smaller mirrorless interchangeable lens systems as well as the huge rise in use of cameras in smart phones.  A rapidly growing section of the audience is grasping the idea of mirrorless cameras.

What caught my full attention during the interviews, was the breathtaking innovation taking place among manufacturers like Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus in the mirrorless segment; and that Canon and Nikon both take the position that they are ‘monitoring’ that market.  The latter are still clinging to the aging DSLR cameras.  In my opinion, they will be left behind as the technology becomes less and less attractive to both novice and experienced photographers.  In the consumer electronics arena, “small, light and portable is beautiful”.

If you have developed a passion for photography I strongly urge you to spend about 150 minutes of your time to view ten interviews made to the major digital camera manufacturers’ representatives.  It’s a magnificent view into the future of the industry.  I was strongly impressed on the views of Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Fujifilm.  In fact, if you have followed my posts, you probably know that my next camera will be the Fujifilm X-30.  I’m absolutely convinced that the bulky, unattractive, heavy, and boring DSLR will be confined to a specialized niche of traditional professional photographers.  Mainstream photography will evolve into mirrorless cameras, connected to the Web with Wi-Fi features, easy to use, light, small and able to take high quality pictures.

As I viewed the photography experts sitting in a table full of odd-looking-black boxes, I noticed that there was no beauty, nor preference for good taste in those cameras.  High quality and aesthetic industrial design should go hand in hand in the cameras of the future.  Maybe, Apple is already designing this camera.  They already know how to manufacture smartphones and have built a state-of-the-art technological ecosystem where all their gadgets are synchronized.  It’s highly possible that Apple could become the next big player in photography. Time will tell.  Good Day.

Source:  The Future of Digital Photography:  Interviews With Major Digital Camera Manufacturers – Digital Photography School (DFS)


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