Editorial: The rise of the iPhone, more predictions of the future

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/07/what-the-iphone-has-done-to-cameras-is-completely-insane/

What’s this, a chart that shows just how many consumers have abandoned digital cameras for smart phones?  Well, whaddaya know.  Next you’ll tell me people will abandon the smart phone and start taking pictures on their tablets!  Oh…

Probably something that hasn’t been thought about at least in terms of the lens sales is that some people are abandoning new autofocus plastic lenses in favor of used manual focus lenses with real glass in them.  Another thing I was thinking was that, just looking at that graph of camera sales, is that we really can see planned obselescence (and digital rot!) at work here, and the implication of so much waste.  Has it really been worth it?  Digital camera makers have had a feeding frenzy for the past 10 years or so, but the fat years are over.

But really, what the graph shows is that camera sales are achieving equilibrium after a spike in sales.  Or will they?  Can selling 5 million cameras keep the digital camera makers afloat after they’ve become accustomed to such large sales volume?  I wonder what the profit margins are like now compared to say, the 1970s and ’80s.  Do they make more money now, or less per camera?

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http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/in-the-future-we-will-photograph-everything-and-look-at-nothing

Actually, streaming music on Spotify is very bad.  Tech companies and online platforms are trying to take the place of record labels without having to do any of the work associated with a traditional label, like advances, tour support, distribution, promotion, plus the royalties paid out are so atrocious that musicians can’t make any money off it.  And the average know-nothing consumer thinks that musicians are being treated better since the digital revolution.  Nope, sorry.

And if musicians that have supported themselves in the past using their art can’t make a living making music anymore, they aren’t likely to continue doing it; the same can be said of the photography world as well.  I know several people who are or used to be professional photographers.  One of them said this about it: “I’ve been replaced by a selfie stick.”  I’m quite aware of the writings of David Brin and his assertion that we are moving away from the culture of the professional toward that of the talented amateur.  I see it all around me, with an ongoing homogenization that plays up to the lowest common denominator.  As much as scarcity creates value, In the future everything will be bland, but there will be more than enough for everyone.  In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, but I doubt anyone will be remembered.

So besides the writer being mildly aware that this change will be massive and disruptive, as much as it already has been, what new insight is given?  The “purists” will be those using desktop computers and old software to make the shots from digital cameras look more like film (and what does that make me)?  The doom and gloom is in between the lines, but I’m pretty sure the downfall of civilization is held in the idea that digital photographers would consider themselves purists.  So you might as well buy the latest smart phone, pay your monthly subscriptions to gatekeeper companies for continued access to things that used to be owned, and stay in the middle of the flock where it’s safest.  Just don’t bother my Pentax Spotmatic and me.

Ha, this made me chuckle…

https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/features/please-stop-taking-pictures-with-your-tablet

There is a hierarchy in digital photography, and firmly at the bottom, it seems, are people who take pictures with their tablets.  I get it; too many people don’t really experience concerts, speeches, artist talks, anything that they go to, they miss real life because they’re too busy looking at it behind a screen.  Like the screen on your iPhone, right?  Like the screen on the back of every DSLR, perhaps?

It’s quite entertaining how concerned the author gets over things like the tablet’s battery life, quality of the tablet’s camera compared to a smart phone, and how ridiculous tablet photographers look (a point made several times).  Best quote: “To make matters worse, Apple keeps improving the iPad’s camera. With the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the company had the audacity to add a camera flash and 12-megapixel sensor to the tablet…”  The author also jokingly reflects on a dystopian future where lenses are obsolete, but I don’t see that as all that far-fetched.  I can see the end for DSLR technology; it might be closer than one thinks, if the majority of the consumer base moves away from “real” cameras.  It should be mentioned that what the average consumer considers good enough is quite underwhelming, one of the reasons digital photography became popular in the first place.  Convenience will trump quality, so why carry a bulky DSLR and zoom lens around when you can pull a thin tablet out of one’s shoulder bag?  Or a smart phone from one’s pocket. 

The comments are wonderfully entertaining as well, and it seems emotions run high over this subject.  At least there’s one badass on there who still shoots with single-use cameras; that guy is my hero.

I do wonder, with the larger size of the tablet, does that give increased room for larger and better sensors over a smart phone?  Will the tablet actually overtake the smart phone as the user camera of choice for the unwashed masses?  Will people frantically scramble to get extra sensors for their favorite DSLR and mirrorless cameras, will they cry when they give up the ghost after a decade?  Will they shell out huge amounts of money for the few remaining models, or scour thrift stores hoping for something a little nicer than an early ’00s 1MP point-and-shoot?  Will they bemoan the death of photography?

As time marches on and professional digital cameras are abandoned in favor of tablets with lenses on them, I will watch and cackle like a crazy person.  Me and all the others kooks still hung up on our light-sensitive little pieces of plastic…

Digital technology could be the best thing ever to happen to film

I saw a post not too long ago that tried the list all the ways in which digital photography beats out film photography, because digital photography is really on the ropes now, is in danger of being put out of business, and needs to be defended against that overwhelming majority of film shooters out there.  I think digital cameras will pretty soon reach their last generation, because most people are happy just using their phones and don’t need the specialization of a DSLR; he should have been talking about that!  But I get it.  My beloved 160GB ipod became a casualty of what the majority of people need just a year or two ago; I’ve been meaning to buy a backup just in case the one I have fails, because I really value being able to carry my 900+ CD collection around with me wherever I go.  Sadly, I’m in the minority now, and a really beneficial technology has been axed in favor of the phone and streaming radio (don’t get me started on it).  If you’ve read any David Brin, there’s something he talks about in a few of his books about the rise of the talented amateur eclipsing the professional.  It’s something we’ve already begun to see with events like the Chicago Sun-Times firing their entire photography staff a few years back.

Now, I will say that digital cameras can potentially outperform film cameras in some crucial ways, but I can’t think of one that has anything to do with real photography.  Expedience is the one area that comes most readily to mind, with technology like Wi-fi connectivity being a good example.  Going back to David Brin for a minute, this is really something I think he would like.  For a hypothetical situation (and admittedly it’s not nearly as frequent as the media would have you believe), let’s say you’ve encountered a police officer who is neglecting his duty in some crucial way.  He doesn’t like you filming him and confiscates your camera, maybe your footage is “lost.”  It’s a situation that I’ve read about in the past, but thankfully becoming rarer, as people have found new ways to provide oversight of their government, and has resulted even recently in some police officers being imprisoned on felony charges; as a rule, civil service departments take their oaths to the Constitution extremely seriously.  If you’re ever in doubt about what is permitted for you to photograph, the ACLU has a great overview here.

For real photography applications however (and many not-so-real ones), film is still as relevant as ever thanks to a piece of technology called the film scanner.  I’ve had a few discussions with classmates who’ve never touched a camera that wasn’t digital, and there seems to be some ignorance/misinformation out there that needs clearing up.  There exists a device, wherein a photographer takes a strip of film negative and converts it into binary code on a computer, therefore rendering it a digital photograph.  Shoot a roll of film, get it developed, scan it; that’s really as far as you need to go (optical printing is just the icing on the cake).  From there, you can do whatever you want with it, and all the advantages of digital technology become open to film users.  I regularly post pictures of friends and relatives on Facebook, I do this blog, I’m writing weekly blog post assignments for class, I have cloud backup, all thanks to the marriage of digital technology and chemical imaging.

But who really wants to go back to 1995 when film was King?  Not me.  In fact, I doubt many do.  How many people would know about Vivian Maier without digital technology?  How many people would know your own work?  Really, digital technology has given film shooters the opportunity to show everyone just how good film is!  I guess I’m just still amazed by how adaptable film is to new technology.  It has never been eclipsed.

The cost of shooting film

This is the kind of thing that comes out when you decide to prowl around the Japan Camera Hunter website at 3:30 in the morning.  I thought it had some merit, so I’m posting it here. 

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Anyone who doesn’t shoot film because it’s “too expensive” isn’t going to be enticed by having cheaper film to shoot.  Even if it were $1.00 a roll they wouldn’t do it, not only because of the price of developing/scanning, but also because they’re constantly being reminded of the cost every time they want new pictures.  Never mind that there are people out there GIVING away film cameras (I know because I’ve had several given to me) and that the entry cost for film photography is so incredibly low, compared to spending thousands of dollars for a DSLR.  

These people forget how much they spent on digital equipment because they pay it all up front, so paying $10.00 to take 36 pictures doesn’t seem like a deal to them.  Never mind that they’d have to shoot maybe 200-300 rolls before it equals the cost of that digital camera they bought.  

By comparison, since I took up photography in 2009, I’ve shot around 60 rolls of film.  For about $12.00 per roll (say $4.00 for film and $8.00 for processing and scanning) that comes out to $720.00 in 5 years.  That’s an average of $144.00 per year, at the equivalent of a roll of film per month.  Now compare that to the cost of going to Starbucks…  Let’s say $5.00 per visit once per week (quite a conservative estimate, really; some people do that shit daily) for a year would be $260.00.

For the first 3 years I shot Fuji Superia (which I really love) or expired film wherever I could find it, to keep my costs as low as possible.  I bought a 4-pack of Superia 800 from Wal-Mart early this year for $12.00 and one could easily keep the costs as cheap on the b&w side with Kentmere and Arista.  

So shooting film is expensive?  Hardly.