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.