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EOSHD opinion: smartphones are not killing DSLRs, apps and online services are

Andrew Reid

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What kind of apps?

If Nikon, Canon, Sony, Samsung etc etc all have their own OS, and all create bodge job apps that do a bit of instagram grading, that would push them ahead? No chance. That's without the UI nightmare of building a nice interface for a DSLR screen that works on each model. Imagine instagram on a BMPCC, haha.

Their best bet is to just keep building pro tools. We are probably already due a "full circle" where the insta-hipsters will shoot on DSLR because iphone is so passé

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I do suggest to watch http://youtu.be/bfCJDIf-NeA from Mayflower. Besides, imo Canon/Nikon will end up like Sony or even Kodak with their current attitude. Any cam needs WLAN, Touchscreen, EVF, NFC and 1 common OS/UI, most likely Android. Now tell that to a Canon idiot manager.

NIkon/Canon are running crap DOS on funny CPUs (bloody slow Digics), Sony is using Android 2.1 (their own Version), only Samsung is running Android 4 (again Samsung Android) on their Exynos CPU (NX1/NX500), thats why its a joke for them to read out 6K.

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I started making videos when I bought a Canon 7D and people liked the memories I presented from attending sports and cultural conventions. It was enormously satisfying and addictive, and I met others along the way doing the same thing with their DSLRs, particularly the 5D.


But then Canon neglected the potential from upgrading their firmwares and blocked Magic Lantern. In a parallel development, websites hosting many of these videos got more strict about the copyrighted music accompanying them, and politicians started threatening them with ACTA. I suggested alternative regimes in letters to MPs and MEPs, and wrote to Canon and others about their own shortsightedness, and never received a single satisfactory reply, not even a thank you for my interest.


I tried alternative hardware to overcome some performance issues that were bothering me, but found it frustrating to deal with different codecs, especially AVCHD, and then Apple replaced FCP7 with Final Cut X....


I still want to make videos, but only for a limited offline audience of family and friends, because the effort for me is still largely dependent on using the music I find most satisfying, rather than searching for a bland royalty-free substitute. As a consequence, I travel less often, upgrade less often, and still get frustrated when, for example, Sony say they can’t give any internal 4K recording on their A7S. I just don’t believe their excuses. This is not just my experience either, but also true for many of the imaginative and enthusiastic film-makers I met along the way, people who really presented durable videos, not just bite-sized posts on social media.


I’m still optimistic that some sense will prevail, because pluralising the skills, and social and economic benefits of people recording their own vignettes of life on this planet is a profoundly good thing.

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Their not moving into software and other current sharing technologies shows where their commitment has not been.

Whats maddening is Not just ML firmware but what Canon did in sending signals to others that turn out to be mixed signals ……


As far as video goes...

Canon early on by their participation in video signaled to third party venders they were committed to the market and cool accessories were developed and brought to market.

Now we realized based on their reaction to Magic Lantern and their lack of participation in new media, they were not committed at all.

Now as I search for a good little USB remote for my GH4, I find the cool affordable remotes were ONLY developed for Canon based on what those venders interpreted as Canon's commitment at the time.  Upon reaching out, I find one vender no longer has the resources to develop a new product for Panasonic or SONY.  The other is working on something - who knows how long that will take.

The result for uses has been not good at all.


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I agree with the article's sentiment.

What's even worse, is that modern cameras have all the necessary technologies built-in. We have NFC, WiFi, touchscreens and so on. The problem is that those technologies are not fully utilised. I'm not into social sharing at all. I don't need my camera to give me the same level of integration as a smartphone. Yet I still feel that my camera is not really a modern device. Sure, it has all the bells and whistles. Only it can't make proper use of them.

My camera has a touchscreen

Yet it's totally ridiculous how badly it makes use of it.

What can I do with it? I can focus or focus and shoot. Ok, that's impossible to get wrong. What else? I can magnify live view. That's nice. But once I have it magnified, I can't move it around using touchscreen. I have to use physical buttons for that. Anything else? Well, in one of the live view modes, I can tap on the parameter I want to change. But again, I have to use physical controls to actually change anything.

And that's about it. I can't even navigate menus using touch. Maybe that's for the better, as menus are a contrived mess that really need a manual to explain some of the entries. There's a built in RAW developer in my camera. Which would be nice, if not for the fact that it's so horribly designed. And of course it does not make use of touchscreen.

My camera has WiFi

Yet if I want my photos, I need to remove the memory card, place it in a card reader and manually copy the files to where I want them. Why can't I just press the "sync" button on the camera to offload the contents of the memory card to some cloud service that will automatically sync the collection on my PC, tablet, or whatever devices I want them on?

And I have another gripe with camera companies. If you can't deliver software solutions yourself, at least create a competent API for interacting with your cameras and let actual software developers do the work.

My camera still acts as if it was 19th century

If I want to take a 3 minute exposure, how do you think I go about doing it? I press the shutter button and hold it for 3 minutes. Or I press the shutter once and come back after 3 minutes to press it again. Or I buy a release cable with electronic timer that can do that for me. And I ask. Why can't I just set arbitrary exposure time in my camera? It's 21st century, I can remotely control my camera with my smartphone, yet I can't do such a simple thing.

So yeah, camera manufacturers are behind the technology curve in software so much, that it's not even funny.

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Camera makers are used to the "normal" food chain - pro bodies have all the bells and whistles and introduce new stuff to the public while prosumer and consumer cameras inherit only parts of it and only after some delay.

Now the attack comes from the side-lines / from the bottom of this chain. Smartphones which contain little cameras with small sensors bring stuff to the party which has not been thought of before. Everyone here and elsewhere agrees that it's the usability and connectivity which is missing in the traditional cameras. But of course this would not bring back the compact market again - that's gone for ever. Everything which has a small sensor will always be worse than state-of-the-art smartphones.

What they can do now, however, is to try to protect the high-end market. DSLRs or mirrorless which indeed massively improve on the above - but also excel in quality output. The only reason for people to buy big chunky cameras is quality and specialties you cannot achieve with a small sensor/optics combinations (think of ISO monsters like the A7s or lenses like the new 150-600mm zooms), A DSLR with all the skills of her smartphone would not convince my wife to use that one instead. But DSLRs - better usable and better connected, granted - with still a clear quality advantage over smartphones and over the last DSLR-generation might convince at least me to upgrade to the next level there...

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This is all similar to music making apps.

I have a few, they're great for fast creation, sharing ideas... Even creating full compositions. Certainly doesn't mean I want wifi and facebook on my piano though.

I hope the current state of affairs just focuses the manufacturers to make even better pro tools.... If they don't, someone else will. I wont begrudge some way of moving files into the cloud or onto devices... But I would hate to see them turn DSLRs into wannabe smartphones just to attract the insta-generation.

Maybe i'm just getting old

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There's no need for Canon, Nikon, Panny, Sony to try and compete with app builders and smartphone makers.
It's an absurd ratrace, where you need to put out something new every 2 months in this consumption driven society. 
Which does nothing but destroy this planet and leaves people constantly frustrated because they feel that not having the latest model somehow says something about your skills or selfvalue.

Let them focus on people who make a living out of photograph, or the serious hobbyist.
Just like they did in the past.  If they managed to have a healthy company by only releasing a new camera every few years, why would that be impossible today ?

Yashica made it's most famous and popular Electro 35 camera, the GSN for over 15 years, without any changes.
I still shoot with one.  Or the TLR 124G.  Same for Mamiya Sekor's DTL1000. 

The future is longevity : provide decent support/service centers and camera's that last almost a lifetime, and preferrably even work without a battery (like the Olympus Trip). 
Not a camera that has OS problems or a sensor malfunction 2 months out of warranty.
Get out of the stock exchange and run your company without stakeholders who want maximal profit in a very short time period.

Be a small but solid company instead of trying to be the biggest player who's constantly running the risk of going bankrupt.
We all praise the Sony A7S, but Sony itself is in trouble and could be completely over with next year.  Who's going to fix your digital camera or operating system when the manufacturer no longer exists ?
Meanwhile, I can still have my 40 year old analog camera fixed and shoot great pictures in the middle of nowhere without any batteries by using the Sunny 16 rule.


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Let them focus on people who make a living out of photograph, or the serious hobbyist.
Just like they did in the past.  If they managed to have a healthy company by only releasing a new camera every few years, why would that be impossible today ?


​This is pretty much the sentiment amongst a sizable number of photographers.  If you go on stills photography sites hardly anyone wants their Canon to be turned into an iphone.


A friend of mine has an iphone 3g that is basically a brick now.  It can't be updated to the latest iOS and all the apps are now incompatible with the iOS that is on his phone.  If my stills camera became completely useless after 3-5 years I wouldn't be too happy.  Some of the most timeless images have been produced with completely manual stills cameras.  Give me high quality Kodak black and white film, an 8x10 view camera and a handheld light meter and I can go toe to toe with any mass produced camera out there.


That is not to say I don't use digital cameras.  They are great for sports and casual pictures.  It just shocks me how well a camera with a 100 year old design still beats cutting edge technology.  For me the image is priority.  If you can't improve the image everything else is just window dressing.

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​I think it's a good thing, even if it means less sales for large sensor cameras. It's creating more of a separation between the mum & dad photographers (who were jumping on the DSLR bandwagon for a while there, but are now just using phones), and those of us who take things more seriously.

Essentially I believe it will mean more work for the professionals. In the past 10 years or so, I've seen people rely on a cousin or friend with DSLR to cover an important event, because they don't have to worry about paying them. But if that cousin or friend has made the switch to a smartphone for convenience, as I know a lot who have, then the only option will be to hire someone with a proper camera who knows what they're doing. Especially if the job involves video.

I'm sure all the big camera companies will adapt in their own way, usually through trial and error.

But at the same time, I've been seeing quite a few Instagrammers in recent times getting themselves mirrorless cameras. They become so passionate about their mobile photography, that they suddenly realise how crappy their iPhone, android or Lumia cameras really are.

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Bit silly really. Majority of those app purchases are not photo/video related (game apps). Of the ones that are, a very high percentage are from demographics who wouldn't be purchasing DSLRs anyway. Takes quite a bit of imagination to come up with a conclusion that instagram is killing 6D sales or whatever. I mean, if Canon DSLRs rocked iOS do you think people would flock to buy giant DSLRs all of the sudden? Like all the baby mammas and tweens who upload stuff 200x a day would be rocking DSLRs? No. Why would a casual user want to lug around a 800g body when you can have a tiny little phone that does everything? Has nothing to do with apps; everything to do with utility and form factor. Take away the apps and everyone still wants an iphone rather than a dslr...

As far as sales sucking, IDK what the data is; but around the time of the 7D, 5DmkII, T2i I would expect sales to have been humungous; the recession was coming to an end (ended?), DSLRs were rocking awesome new video, etc... I'm guessing the sluggish sales today are similar to what sales were like pre T2i/7D, ie: "normal".

As for sluggish technology... Well, I actually live in Silicon Valley. Yes it is bad in the sense that if you live in a poor neighborhood, your house is worth only 1 million. Or every asshole now has to drive an EV vehicle. Or you cannot eat at a restaurant without checking Yelp. Yeah, that all sucks. But on the flip side, most of the people are extremely intelligent/creative/hard working. So, for me it is shocking how archaic Canon is w/ respect to DSLRs. I mean wtf have they done in the last 5 years? Canon should have articulating screens on everything, purchase Magic Lantern and incorporate it, and develop a half way decent sensor. And after all that, figure out a way to load Android so that people can be more social with their DSLRs (like monitor live video/menus remotely, upload to instagram, etc..). I hope Tesla gets bored and starts making cameras.

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I disagree with FilmBrute as well, - it's not the iPhone people are addicted to, its SIMPLICITY. If DSLRs had built-in Facebook/Twitter/Instagram publishing features we'd see an increase in DSLR adoption. Social media is all about trends and vanity, - people would jump at the chance to show off their new gear to their social networks. People ALWAYS want better specs and gear, but the technical barrier of DSLRs is holding them back. 

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Most people don't like work.

They like to have fun (experimentation).

So having a simple, workless, work flow would help.

Like my parents, they like to carry a compact zoom, point and shoot, because in automatic the camera does all the thinking for them. (thinking = work).

The difficult part, like the Mayflower presentation said, is offloading and printing or viewing the photo's. - let alone editing them...

My dad recognises my cam's lens is better then his, but still is happy with his image quality of his point and shoot.

If I where to make a camera for my dad, it would have a few big buttons, and big touch focus screen, favourite button, nfc,wifi, big battery, sturdy easy to hold semi compact weather sealed design, with superzoom lens, m43 sensor like size. The camera would shoot raw, but has in camera processing to adjust exposure and apply instagram like filters, before uploading to TV/PC/print service.

Basically making a tool for kids, not for people who like to make a study out of it.

With such an accessible medium quality camera, they could keep funding the fully manually controllable camera's, for those who want 100% control, and the highest quality. Such enthusiast camera's could still benefit from a quick in camera raw processing ability, favourite button, and share button. With buttons arranged in such way that the main functions can be used without shifting the position of the hands and fingers. Because, repositioning them takes time.

About smart phones camera's taking over camera's, I still believe there is a partial truth to this, exposed through the intent of the photograph taken. When the intent is to record a simple memory of one in a certain situation, a smart phone level of camera is sufficient. It shows the Eifel tower, and the recognisable faces. Dedicated camera's are now only for those that care about image quality, more then just having a simple reminder of a moment. In the past dedicated camera's where the only available tool to have a reminding image, besides drawing. Now the the smart phone camera can do this easy, and it comes for free with the phone everyone has. Buying a dedicated camera is then for a different person. Why would a person owning a smart phone buy a dedicated camera? And why not?

We do not need to despair about photography going away, as according to the Mayflower lecture at least 1.500.000.000 people have now a camera on them all the time. A smart phone IS a camera! However the dedicated camera will go through chances to make them more accessible for people who do not like or do not want or cannot to think, thinking = work, but still want more ability then a smart phone camera provides. And then for the pro's, who love to have control over their image, and always work on their photo's in post, I think speed and quality is their basic need. Personally I would love to have a raw focussed camera, that shows me the flat high dynamic range raw picture to check for focus, clipping, framing. Then later in post I adjust may favourite photo's for things like exposure, contrast, saturation, clarity, sharpness, cropping, cloning, etc. Post processing in camera, or via an camera app on a bigger screen would be ideal during that coffee break, or flight.

I think this is a very good discussion, and we users should tell manufactures what we need and want.

I would thrilled to hear reps from the manufacturers would chime in and let us know they are taking notes, or even asking us, the more knowledgeable users specific questions.

Thanks yo Andrew for bringing the subject to the front!

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