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How to save the consumer camera: DON'T!


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As i'm the camera nerd of my group of friends, I often get asked advice from people who want something better than their phone for holidays, family pictures/video etc.

The features that we might think are gimmicks are always the most requested specs they want.... How do I get it on facebook, how do i get it on instagram, can I send images to dropbox... can i add filters... can it autofocus like my camcorder did.... how do i get that blurred look etc etc

The consumer market has irreversibly shrunk, but it is still a multi billion $ industry. I think the fact that these companies are trying to tap into the mobile mindset is a good thing. It means we are a step closer to getting an app market for cams.

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I don't understand the video and don't understand why it is being given as a good example of cinema. This is mainly a cinematography forum, about cameras and shooting images. It isn't a cont

Damn so close to the end of the article. One day you will bother to read the last 1%. Had you done that, you'd have read that I described Canon as "boring", that they will in future struggle to s

Thanks Andrew, this is a good article.  I think consumers will be perfectly happy with their smartphones. They will get better, and consumers will have no need for another camera - it's not perfe

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On 11/19/2016 at 11:49 AM, Andrew Reid said:

All these things are nice. USB charging, wireless file transfer, etc. However they will not save the consumer market one jot....

Northrup's point is the tortoise-like advance of dedicated cameras have been bypassed by smartphones, leaving cameras that feel clunky and archaic, esp from a consumer UI and ease-of-use standpoint.

However he did NOT address that this was likely an unavoidable development, rather he implied it was poor decision making by the camera manufacturers. 

Apple is on track to spend $10 billion per year on R&D -- Nikon spends $550 million. Apple spends more on R&D than every camera company on earth combined (unless if you consider Samsung a camera company, who spends even more than Apple -- $14 billion). For many people the cost of their smart phone is subsidized by the cellular carrier. This produces a mobile device that is unusually powerful, very refined and artificially cheap relative to a consumer camera.

It is not just limited to cameras. I have the highest-end automotive Garmin GPS. It is OK but the UI is nowhere near as responsive as a 2016-model smartphone. Garmin's annual revenue is 1/100th that of Apple or Samsung -- they can't spend the R&D of those companies, and there's no cellular carrier to subsidize their product.

Of all the companies making cameras, Samsung might have the highest annual revenues. It's further interesting that the NX1 was probably closer to Northrup's ideal camera than most others.

My point is there is a lot more to implementing Northrup's vision than the *idea*. Implementing that at a polished level and a consumer-affordable price requires an *immense* and ongoing R&D investment. Admittedly there are also the corporate cultural issues of a camera/instrument hardware manufacturer in a software, UI-centric world, but I question whether Canon and Nikon could have delivered Northrup's ideal consumer camera in a timeframe to make any difference -- even *IF* they had the vision.

Like you, I am not sure if it would have made much difference anyway. This is a tidal wave of change sweeping across the photographic landscape. The idea that consumer cameras could somehow "carve out" a protected little enclave by adopting a  few more consumer-friendly features is questionable.

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Thanks Andrew, this is a good article. 

I think consumers will be perfectly happy with their smartphones. They will get better, and consumers will have no need for another camera - it's not perfect, gorgeous, well composed shots they are bothered about. 

This reflects through platforms Instagram and what content is popular.  Long gone are the days when Instagram was a creative photo sharing network..... you get FAR more likes on Instagram for a noisy, badly lit selfie of yourself eating a takeaway pizza, rather than a magnificent, beautifully lit, well composed shot you'll never match again. 

Again, because of the consumer onslaught of constant videos and photos being uploaded and shared online, there's some great stuff out there which isn't getting a look in. Actually getting anyone to give a crap about your latest masterpiece is much harder. A video of a drunk fat man dancing is widely far more interesting. 

Coming to cameras - we are that the point where they actually matter less. Models are getting replaced within months, users are on and endless buy-sell cycle to have the latest, and many people are not really learning their craft properly because they can't keep hold a camera for long enough. Lenses, lighting and camera movement have a FAR FAR greater impact then your camera. There's really no point in constantly changing, swapping , upgrading. It's a waste of time. 

Recently, I got an FS5 and soon an external recorder. I can grade the Slog footage well. I have everything I need - LOG, HFR, ergonomics, audio, blah blah. Man I can now do 200fps RAW!! But since having the camera, my videos haven't improved at all. I have more bells and whistles.. but it all comes back to what the hell I am actually filming with it. 

Sometimes, something does arrive which will dramatically improve your work, or will heighten creativity or make your life easier. However this camera race is far too distracting for many of us, and for a large bunch I think some people have took the eye off the ball as to why they are using cameras in the first place. 

I'm sticking to what I've got, and will be spending time on throughly improving my skill set, rather than my camera arsenal. 

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12 hours ago, Tiago Rosa-Rosso said:

Maybe not so soon. But we are definitely heading that way. Check this out.

Hmmm... That is interesting.  Personally, I'd like a digital camera that behaves like a 35mm motion picture camera, or at least as closely as possible, for under $2000.  I'm thinking it's ten years away or less.

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Novim and Arihkam, excellent opinions that complement one another. Very well thought, and nice analogy.

I just felt that a "like" wasn't enough.

Also, you saved me time to reply to something so obvious, since the palm painting in pre-historic caves (I take your book analogy, and put it half a dozen thousands of years back)!

Cheers.

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The camera's in smartphones are getting better and better, but so do "traditional" camera's

And you cant beat physics. for example a f2 lens on a 1/2" sensor (~30mm2) wont cut it to a larger aps-c(370mm2) camera with even a kitlens.remember f2 on such small sensor its equivalent to  f11 (full frame)  due to the 5.41 crop factor.

Until flat lenses become available, the camera and lenses will be limited due to the lack of space in a smartphone. (nobody likes a big protrusion on their phone) you want more quality? get a bigger camera

Many consumer compact camera's like the ixus are spec wise not better than a smartphone, maybe except the zoom function. they usually offer the same sensor size, smaller screen, also lack many direct controls for setting iso shutter speed etc.

Prosumer/enthousiast camera's are becoming the only reasonable step up from a smartphone. although the definition of "prosumer" is kind of vague.  I think entry level dslr's  are under that group too. most users wont care much about taking control, they just want better pictures. as for enthusiasts the newer camera's seems to differentiate more and more towards a high end, including a higher price point. here is a list of introduction prices:

a6000: 650€
a6300: 1250€
a6500: 1700€

sony a7: 1500€
sony a7II: 1700€

Sony A7s: 2400€
Sony a7sII: 3400€

RX100 Mk1: 650€
RX100 Mk2: 750€
RX100 Mk3: 850€
RX100 Mk4: 1100€
RX100 Mk5: 1200€

And that worries me. enthousiast that are serious about  photography (not the Instagram kind) a camera should still be at a acceptable price.

I dont think apps are the best way. the way i see it, its a way of asking money for something they shoud be in the camera in the first place. Like the intervalometer in the sony a7.


 

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It's all about content and striking the right note:

A very successful German viral video (poor filmmaking quality but very emotional yet...): 

5,6 Mllion views (for German language only and NON-advert, quite impressive), 46.978 likes,1.240 comments, 179.495 shares...The camera? I'm pretty sure, it wasn't an Arri or RED... ;-)

I think, if you are an artist or an ambitious filmmaker, you want people to watch your work. If you want this, you must provide some beautiful,interesting, informative or emotional content. And therefore, you mostly don't need a perfect or even very expensive camera. For people wanting to sell their filmmaker capabilities for paid work, it might be fine to present a maximum of technical capabilities (though mostly useless for potential customers...) - but it has nothing to do with filmmaking, but just selfmarketing of technical skills.

As said, I am 17 years old, scholar and shoot with Canon, NX1 and some Pana gear. In the last 2 years I assisted some filmmaker people shooting with RED, Sony, Canon C100/C300...85% of the work of these firms was for web, 15% for German film theater or trade show films. By far the most part of the work was from technical point of view well done...but abortive for the target audience. No views on internet, people just disapproving after watching. The filmmakers didn't struck the right cord with their film...People simply didn't understand the message or disagreed...and leaved without spreading...They didn't even say, it was beautiful...

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Content over hardware

people will literally hire you based off of how you brand yourself & quality of work. Cant tell you the last client I shot with that cared about what I was shooting on. Content is king and the pros will learn the hard way

The gear doesnt matter, the marketing does

 

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Content is king and the pros will learn the hard way

The gear doesnt matter, the marketing does

 

My experience: "Pro" means in fact 70% very good marketing and sales skills,,,Only 30% is about filmmaking skills. And marketing skills means, try to impress customers with technical assets, specifications and "spectacular" or expensive looking gear. Professional and successful work (from the point of view of the customer) has nothing to do with stellar expensive gear - but this is something, most customers don't know... ;-)

At the end of the day, the story is quite simple for filmmakers doing paid jobs: the result should be the most important criterion: acceptance, views, sales, reactions and impact of targeted audience...But after failing, many film providers try to perform lame excuses by pointing to technical criteria as excellent resolution, contrast, color and image quality...I never saw a RED shooter admitting, his work was worthless for the client... :-))

The gear doesn't tell any story - even an 8K RED is useless as storyteller. And it's all about a story and emotion...

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Really good points all around.

However, there's one aspect that everyone seems to have forgotten: ergonomics and haptics.

I absolutely love to take pictures through the visor with my Canon gear. It just feels right.

That same feeling is shared with all the Canon gear I've owned: T4i, 6D and now the 7D mark II. 

I can't say the same about my iPhone. I hate taping on the screen, placing it away from my eyes to focus, etc, juts to snap a pic.

The final quality of the pic may be superior on the iPhone, but the experience just ain't there.

Now I teach various university courses to people in their early 20. The subjects I teach are media studies, journalism and media theory.

These kids can not live without their phone. Their level of media consumption with their phone is insane, round the clock, 24/7.

But the same can not be said of their level of media production. The consume a lot, but they do not produce in the same quantity. 

When I place them in front of any kind of camera, video camera or NLE most of the are completely dumbfounded. 

Our profesional tools are not relevant to the vast majority of them and they don't seem in the least interested. 

Also, when pressed, they seem to crack under technical pressure. I can squeeze good results from them, but they naturally gravitate towards their phones again. 

So yes, the original post hit the nail on the head: cameras will become more expensive and feature rich, but the market is not massive.

Dedicated cameras and video cameras will be for purists only and the masses with get another iPhone and be content with it.

 

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3 hours ago, Arikhan said:

My experience: "Pro" means in fact 70% very good marketing and sales skills,,,Only 30% is about filmmaking skills. And marketing skills means, try to impress customers with technical assets, specifications and "spectacular" or expensive looking gear. Professional and successful work (from the point of view of the customer) has nothing to do with stellar expensive gear - but this is something, most customers don't know... ;-)

At the end of the day, the story is quite simple for filmmakers doing paid jobs: the result should be the most important criterion: acceptance, views, sales, reactions and impact of targeted audience...But after failing, many film providers try to perform lame excuses by pointing to technical criteria as excellent resolution, contrast, color and image quality...I never saw a RED shooter admitting, his work was worthless for the client... :-))

The gear doesn't tell any story - even an 8K RED is useless as storyteller. And it's all about a story and emotion...

Most definitely ! I have a friend who rents a ridiculous amount of equipment just to justify the budget he's getting from the client. He can do the same job with a GH3 but it just looks cooler having all that equipment on set. I personally have done work assisting with other videographers and the images from my consumer camera looked better than the massive rigs they were using and I can get 10 shots off by the time they adjust their lighting etc.

now imagine the VINE & youtube video star is shooting with low tier equipment, cell phones etc. and still has a bigger market than some of the pros. It kinda forces you to adjust who we consider to be a professional and by what standard do we use to judge who's a pro and who's an amateur. Amateurs push the culture & creativity forward and now thanks to the gap in technology between cell phones and cameras closing people have less of a desire to buy cameras outside of niche reasons and manufacturers find that hard to understand.

im glad this shift in culture is happening. Look how stale hollywood is getting while indie filmmakers are doing more with less. Who cares about getting your film to the big screen when all the users are on instagram or on netflix ? The camera market dying is the revolution film needed !

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6 hours ago, berkenboom said:

as for enthusiasts the newer camera's seems to differentiate more and more towards a high end, including a higher price point. here is a list of introduction prices:

a6000: 650€
a6300: 1250€
a6500: 1700€

sony a7: 1500€
sony a7II: 1700€

Sony A7s: 2400€
Sony a7sII: 3400€

RX100 Mk1: 650€
RX100 Mk2: 750€
RX100 Mk3: 850€
RX100 Mk4: 1100€
RX100 Mk5: 1200€

And that worries me. enthousiast that are serious about  photography (not the Instagram kind) a camera should still be at a acceptable price.
 

That chart you made is quite a damning commentary about the direction cameras are going. 

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2 hours ago, IronFilm said:

That chart you made is quite a damning commentary about the direction cameras are going. 

Ah, but you see, you've missed the lurking variable.

Sony isn't replacing their previous cameras with newer models. They're selling them all concurrently!

Sony's strategy is to provide accessible price points for those who need to spend as little as possible (that's me right now ?) and higher price points for those who are willing and able to pay for extra features.

Just take a look at Sony's website. Every camera on that list is still in production and available for purchase from Sony authorized retailers.
www.sony.com/ilc

www.sony.com/electronics/compact-cameras

 

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The problem is a smartphone doesn't have to be the best.  It merely has to be "good enough".  Once it is "good enough" how many people are going to spend over $1,000 on a camera body and lens?  I used to upgrade my DSLR every two years.  I have been stuck on T3i forever now.  It is "good enough".

12 hours ago, joema said:

Apple is on track to spend $10 billion per year on R&D -- Nikon spends $550 million. Apple spends more on R&D than every camera company on earth combined (unless if you consider Samsung a camera company, who spends even more than Apple -- $14 billion).

It should also be noted Apple's gross margins have been shrinking for years.  The cost of making the iphone better and better keeps going up and consumers will not tolerate proportional prices increases.  Apple will eventually go the Canon way.  They will still be the biggest in a much smaller market.  With subsidized prices disappearing in the US people are upgrading the cell phones less and less.  When that day comes remeber you heard it hear first.

 

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 Americans now take an average of 29 months to upgrade their cell phone, up from 28 months at the end of last year, and an increase of 24 to 26 months that was typical just a couple of years ago, as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article. And just four years ago, the upgrade cycle was just 22 months

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/04/20/bad-news-for-apple-and-samsung-mobile-phone-upgrad.aspx

 

On 11/20/2016 at 6:09 PM, jonpais said:

First of all, I really had no idea young people weren't computer savvy. Secondly, your illustration is excellent. Thanks.

No, they aren't computer savvy.  They are iphone app savvy.  I know a number of kids who wouldn't be able to figure out how to set up nor trouble shoot a home network.

 

11 hours ago, berkenboom said:

The camera's in smartphones are getting better and better, but so do "traditional" camera's

And you cant beat physics. for example a f2 lens on a 1/2" sensor (~30mm2) wont cut it to a larger aps-c(370mm2) camera with even a kitlens.remember f2 on such small sensor its equivalent to  f11 (full frame)  due to the 5.41 crop factor.

The problem is a smartphone doesn't have to be the best.  It merely has to be "good enough".  Once it is "good enough" how many people are going to spend over $1,000 on a camera body and lens?  I used to upgrade my DSLR every two years.  I have been stuck on T3i forever now.  It is "good enough".

12 hours ago, joema said:

Apple is on track to spend $10 billion per year on R&D -- Nikon spends $550 million. Apple spends more on R&D than every camera company on earth combined (unless if you consider Samsung a camera company, who spends even more than Apple -- $14 billion).

It should also be noted Apple's gross margins have been shrinking for years.  The cost of making the iphone better and better keeps going up and consumers will not tolerate proportional prices increases.  Apple will eventually go the Canon way.  They will still be the biggest in a much smaller market.  With subsidized prices disappearing in the US people are upgrading the cell phones less and less.

 

Quote

 Americans now take an average of 29 months to upgrade their cell phone, up from 28 months at the end of last year, and an increase of 24 to 26 months that was typical just a couple of years ago, as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article. And just four years ago, the upgrade cycle was just 22 months. 

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/04/20/bad-news-for-apple-and-samsung-mobile-phone-upgrad.aspx

 

Sorry.  Forum software duplicated part of my last post.

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11 hours ago, Arikhan said:

It's all about content and striking the right note:

A very successful German viral video (poor filmmaking quality but very emotional yet...): 

5,6 Mllion views (for German language only and NON-advert, quite impressive), 46.978 likes,1.240 comments, 179.495 shares...The camera? I'm pretty sure, it wasn't an Arri or RED... ;-)

I think, if you are an artist or an ambitious filmmaker, you want people to watch your work. If you want this, you must provide some beautiful,interesting, informative or emotional content. And therefore, you mostly don't need a perfect or even very expensive camera. For people wanting to sell their filmmaker capabilities for paid work, it might be fine to present a maximum of technical capabilities (though mostly useless for potential customers...) - but it has nothing to do with filmmaking, but just selfmarketing of technical skills.

As said, I am 17 years old, scholar and shoot with Canon, NX1 and some Pana gear. In the last 2 years I assisted some filmmaker people shooting with RED, Sony, Canon C100/C300...85% of the work of these firms was for web, 15% for German film theater or trade show films. By far the most part of the work was from technical point of view well done...but abortive for the target audience. No views on internet, people just disapproving after watching. The filmmakers didn't struck the right cord with their film...People simply didn't understand the message or disagreed...and leaved without spreading...They didn't even say, it was beautiful...

I don't understand the video and don't understand why it is being given as a good example of cinema.

This is mainly a cinematography forum, about cameras and shooting images.

It isn't a content lab.

OK you get 5,674,515 people to endorse your message, you move some of them, you get 48,000 likes and 179,000 re-tweets. I am sure the content must have some merit. But I am equally sure that it won't be remembered in 30 years like the work of great cinematographers is.

There is poetry not just in faces, words, music, dialogue, messages, content, stories...

Images are poetry.

If you cannot grasp this point and think that images are meaningless without shoving some kid's story in front of the camera, then reconsider and go and see Koyannisquatsi immediately. Cinematography in the purist sense IS content and HAS a message. Incredible camera work, beautiful rendering, the lenses used - the medium is the message.

Cinematography can also elevate almost ANY kind of content so that it has more impact and is more memorable.

I am SICK TO DEATH of people saying that boringly shot content is all we should aspire to because hey... it works... of course it does... but it doesn't mean to say a cinematographer should stop speaking the language of cinema and go and become a writer or a one-man filmmaker instead.

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@Andrew Reid

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Incredible camera work, beautiful rendering, the lenses used - the medium is the message.

I disagree. The gear and technical skills is/are tools, not the message. It helps to express your idea, the kind of "atmosphere" the filmmaker wants to create and illustrates a special mood...

Quote

Cinematography in the purist sense IS content and HAS a message

With all due respect, NOPE. In my eyes cinematography (as YOU define it) is only a shell, trying to tune up / help express content / ideas / emotions / informations. Cinematography ending in itself with nose 10cm close to calibrated 4K screens is just useless and matters only for probably 0,0x percent of enthusiasts or gear freaks. Cinematography / film making for a relevant audience is the projection / illustration of a story, emotions, or even just some information....Gear is only an illustration tool. If films fail, and that's often the case in my eyes, you can not blame or insult the audience. Lack of an interesting story, of concept, of direction, of good actors, of adequate lightning and poor audio cause much more fails than imperfect camera gear or poor resolution or "smooth" footage.

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3 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

Images are poetry.

If you cannot grasp this point and think that images are meaningless without shoving some kid's story in front of the camera, then reconsider and go and see Koyannisquatsi immediately. Cinematography in the purist sense IS content and HAS a message. Incredible camera work, beautiful rendering, the lenses used - the medium is the message.

Cinematography can also elevate almost ANY kind of content so that it has more impact and is more memorable.

I am SICK TO DEATH of people saying that boringly shot content is all we should aspire to because hey... it works... of course it does... but it doesn't mean to say a cinematographer should stop speaking the language of cinema and go and become a writer or a one-man filmmaker instead.

I couldn't agree more.  The reason why we wring our hands over tech talk, specs, gear porn, etc. is because we are so tantalizingly close (or maybe we're already there) to having tools at our disposal to make the kinds of poetic images that once could only be made with 35mm motion picture cameras and all the support systems they required.      

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It's not an either / or situation - but the balance of good film making has to be in the mind of the film maker and not the gear. I am sure that Buddy Rich could have moved people more with just pots and pans at his disposal than I could ever have with a full Slingerland kit. Talent will always trump tools, but the right tools for expressing that talent will always trump inferior tools.

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