The Camera Is Dead, Long Live the Camera!

Well, the consumer camera. Photokina this year? About two thirds the size two years ago, half the size four years ago. People take more and more pictures and use more cameras than ever before, yet the camera industry is in shatters. There’s hope though. There could be a “the best of all worlds”-camera. Why hasn’t any camera maker thought of it yet?

Let’s get real. Photography is a simple means to an end: to communicate.

Be it via Facebook, Snapchat et al., it’s about moving content online and sharing.

Take Instagram, the now world’s largest photo-sharing platform. Flickr? That’s the past. And Instagram, world’s largest photo-sharing online community, doesn’t even allow you to use a traditional camera. World’s most popular photo-sharing platform cuts out consumer cameras. Smartphones allowed only.

Same with Snapchat. Cameras and computers shut out.

Photography destroying the camera market. Who would have thought.

Creative minds change the industry and human behavior as a whole. Traditional camera makers are left in the rain.

It’s not the death of photography. Photography as a form of art, as a profession to illustrate magazines and newspapers and for commercial photography, this kind of photography is still the same as it always has been. Pro and high-end cameras are still doing alright and the market with third-party quality lenses is serious. But long-term it’s no less a dying species.

Photography on the other hand as a means to communicate instantly, anywhere and anytime, that’s new and huge.

It’s all about connectivity, stupid. Now even Apple moves photography pros away from traditional cameras and tools! Ever tried to insert an SD card into the latest MacBook Pro?

Apple sure did the proper research. People using storage cards are dinosaurs, but don’t we photographers love this old-style processes. With a smartphone? The click of an icon and everything’s done. Which is another reason for the demise of the consumer camera. Too cumbersome!

An iPhone or any other smart phone for that gives you everything. Even bokeh, one of the last, soon extinct dominions of standalone cameras. Next and last step is processing speed. We’ll sure get there, making standalone gear totally redundant.

Now the photography snobs and elite will say consumers don’t care about photography and never wanted to learn it. In fact, consumers know nothing about photography. What an arrogance. Browse some online platforms. So much inspiration and creativity out there. True, most photos are rubbish. But aren’t many of our own photographs rubbish.

But there is hope.

Camera makers, just make those cameras like phones.

Give us apps. Give us connectivity. Give us what mobile apps and connectivity give us.

Here is the thing. Who would mind a “pro” camera body with an snapped-in iPhone that’s “integrated.”

Such a body would deliver processing speeds and lens powers plus integrated smartphone apps, connectivity across all platforms and, yes, latest-gen touchscreen, delivering a proper touch UI. A smartphone DSLR or smartphone mirrorless if you want.

i9 concept for iPhone by Black DA
i9 concept for iPhone by Black DA

Maybe something along these lines:

The concept is not new, this dates back to 2011. Now imagine it’s combinable with nice glass, turning a smartphone into a “real camera.”

Camera makers are thinking of it, under pressure, behind the curve and times. Nikon’s SnapBridge for iOS and Android is a step in the right direction.

Canon, Nikon and the rest know all too well the next Ansel Adams are not using expensive gear right now, they’re on Snapchat and Instagram.

And give us simple USB charging and get rid of memory cards. Absurd that this process is still not seamless. Ridiculous.

And updates, firmware updates to constantly improve the camera. Gosh the last and only firmware update for my trusted Nikon Dƒ dates back to 2014…

And external third-party apps please, what’s so difficult to think of this. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram seem enough proof that developers know a bit more about photography than camera makers.

Photography is more and more about computational power, about software, not hardware. Face it. But old-style camera maker thinking wants you to buy a new body with each slight upgrade. That’s like a car company forcing you to buy a whole new car when upgrading tires. It’s insane.

The first camera maker who’ll provide such an integrated camera solution by providing the best of all worlds, this camera maker might get its act together after all again.

The camera is dead, long live the camera.

Inspired by Tony Northrup’s Death of the Consumer Camera.

  • Gus Hart

    What? seriously ? Agree with what the companies are doing, but, excuse me, I do have a brain, camera is dead? then I want to buy all the corpses!!! I will keep using my Minoltas (many of them) my Canon’s film, my G15 my ep3,e620 and my old e3! Please tell the companies about stop with mirrorless, almost forgot …Thank you!

  • You’re the vocal minority, don’t forget the silent majority.

    Those cameras you mention are good old traditional photo takers, but not connecters in the sense photography today is in demand.

  • Gus Hart

    I do not think there are an answer for ALL the questions about photography today, lot of different opinions can not be answered for just one point of view , may be youre right, I do not wont to argument about what cell phone cameras can do or not, but from my humble opinion, if, it will take time ’til the cameras are really dead and do not forget cameras are wi-fi and bluetooth today, I think who may be the cameras come with a cellphone before the cellphone kills the cameras, for me, just my point of view are 2 different universes, technology proves that, it’s awesome we can talk about! Thank you!!!! feeling happy!

  • tony

    I agree with everything you wrote. The photography community is highly gentrified today – it seems like the average age must be in the 40s. Contrast that to the Snapchat and Instagram universe, the average age is likely mid-20s. Dads go to dpreview and flickr and kids go to instagram and snapchat. If the camera makers don’t remove the friction required to post photos from a real camera (mirrorless or DSLR) to a social media channel, then they are going to die off as their customers do.

    The bright side is that people are still buying DSLRs and mirrorless cameras for travel photos – plenty of kids and young adults with their first rebel hanging off their necks. Image quality and the ability to move beyond one focal length is still appreciated but agree that the biggest pain point is workflow. I’m not sure you need to have the iPhone be the center of your camera but seamless sync between a camera’s default photos app and the camera is the way to go via bluetooth or something else that is less cumbersome than a bad app and having to disconnect your phone off of wifi.

  • There were rumors in the past Apple was getting into the camera industry, well they did, with their very own approach. Apple is very proprietary, but also open to the huge third-party market they create. Can you imagine how users would react if there’d be a serious camera integrating the iOS power? Or Android for that? Sales figures would shoot through the roof.

    Camera companies understand how to churn out hardware, they’re lost with the software part. They overload us with menus and functions no person will ever use instead of focusing on what matters, as you say: workflow, plus integration / connectivity.