Will Cell Phone Cameras Destroy The Big Camera Makers?
An interesting NBC news article was brought to my attention this evening. It’s all about how cell phone cameras are changing the photography market like nothing the camera makers have seen since the end of film. I saw a different news report a few days ago which was also mentioned in this NBC news article, where Nikon’s president, Makoto Kimura, was quoted in an interview with Bloomberg saying that the company might have to “change the concept of cameras” in order to survive. Wow, what a comment. Change is coming for Nikon. I guess it’s no different than what I’ve had to do these past five years but it’s never easy and I would certainly hate to see Nikon go the way of the dinosaurs.
I honestly believe that one direction for the large camera manufacturers to consider, would be to go ever deeper in to the realm of the mirrorless camera. Nikon has an entry in that division, the Nikon J1 & V1, but others such as Sony, Olympus and Panasonic are giving consumers a larger sensor for better image quality. I personally think there will always be a market for better quality if the size and features remain comparable.
As many know, I’ve been excited about the Micro Four Thirds category of cameras since 2008 or so. I was just plain tired of schlocking the same huge, heavy gear we professionals have had to carry for the past 50 years. Going some place to take pictures is no fun if it becomes painful, especially if you’re not being paid for it. My analogy for explaining my excitement with the lightweight, easy-to-use Micro Four Thirds cameras relates to the life of a professional, large truck mechanic. It goes something like this. If you were getting paid to fix commercial 18-wheelers you most likely would have one huge toolbox. Likewise, shooting for National Geographic and other professional publications, as a competent photographer, we’ve had to carry very large tool boxes. Boxes that include a lens like the Nikkor 600mm F/4 which weighs in at about ten pounds. The mechanic carries that large tool box to make sure he has the tools he needs to get the job done. If not he doesn’t get paid. Likewise, shooting for professional publications requires the same attention to detail. If we don’t have all those big lenses and come back without the shot, we don’t get paid. So when it comes time for people to pay me money for my work, I still consistently bring out the Nikons.
Today, many folks carry the same camera gear I did when I was exclusively earning my living selling pictures. They do so because they know that’s the equipment needed to get the images that pay the bills. The big difference is, those same folks aren’t doing it to pay the bills. They’re shooting to have fun. Often times, I’m seeing that after a sore back, shoulder or neck sets in, my students begin wondering what the heck they’re doing carrying so much heavy camera gear and if doing so is worth the pain. Photography is supposed to be enjoyable! For many, downsizing is bringing back the joy of photography. Some are now using cell phones and others are using the smaller mirrorless cameras. Either way, the photography becomes fun again and that’s the piece of the puzzle the large camera manufacturers have to come up with if they plan to survive. I’m confidant they will.
One last note. As I was typing these words to the screen, a good frined of mine emailed me a note with some photos he recently shot in Zurich, Switzerland. Take a guess what camera he took? You can see more of Mike”s photos and comments below.
My son and I went to Luzern and Zurich Switzerland in early July. I did not take one of my large DSLR cameras. Instead I took a Panasonic Lumix GX1, which is a Micro Four Thirds format camera that weights less than one third of one of my DSLR’s. Traveling light is great. Even better is getting great results while doing do. I took some night shots of the Chapel Bridge in Luzern and the fireworks during Zurich Fest. These, as well as the “better light” shots, came out great without a tripod. See the results in the “Luzern-Zurich” album on my photo web site. We had a great time. Too bad Zurich Fest only happens once every three years.