The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 56: Considering a Second Camera?

With the holidays and Black Friday sales upon us, this is the time that photographers can often get good deals on equipment. In this episode, Kirk and Jeff ponder the reasons you might consider buying a second camera. Perhaps you want a backup for your regular camera, or maybe you want a smaller go-anywhere camera that might encourage you to take photos more often.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 55: Photos App in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina

Now that iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina are out, Jeff and Kirk have some strong opinions on the changes made to the Photos app for each platform. It’s time to rant a little.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 54: Product Photography with Dan Bracaglia

How do you make product photos look fresh and interesting? Do you need a well-equipped studio? Dan Bracaglia shoots thousands of images of cameras and other accessories in his job as photo editor at DPReview. Dan joins Kirk and Jeff to answer those questions and more.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 52: iPhones 11 and Semantic Rendering

Kirk and Jeff both bought the latest models of Apple’s digital camera – sorry, we mean the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. Does adding a third camera make a difference? Is the ultra-wide camera just a gimmick? And what is “semantic rendering” anyway? We explain why nothing is really real, and yet these might be the best-looking photos people create.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 51: Questions, Answers, and Geotagged Flowers

We solicited photography questions from the great folks in the PhotoActive Facebook group, and now we have answers! All the answers. Or maybe just the most interesting ones. But definitely some answers. Panoramas, shooting photos in public places, revealing edits, and more.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Are Camera Sales Really Falling Off a Cliff?

Analyst Om Malik recently published an article saying Camera sales are falling sharply (or, as his first sentence says, “falling off a cliff”). He has charts to prove it. For example:

Chart1

This chart shows the sales of cameras with built-in lenses versus those with interchangeable lenses. The former category is being eaten up by smartphones, which, when you think about it, is normal. If you have a smartphone with a good enough camera, then a fixed-lens camera won’t do much more for you (unless you want a good zoom lens). This said, there are very good fixed lens cameras, such as the Fujifilm X100F, a number of Ricoh cameras, and full-sized bridge cameras; I’m not sure in which category they are included.

Even interchangeable camera sales are seeing a drop, from a peak in 2012 at 20 million units to only 11 million last year. However, in another chart in the article, which takes a longer view, it doesn’t look quite so bad.

Chart2

Interchangeable camera sales plummeted in the early 1990s, but took off in the mid-2000s, when digital cameras started having good enough resolution at affordable prices. If you look at the rise from 2003 to 2012, this is a phenomenal level of growth, one that would be hard to sustain. Yet interchangeable camera sales are still much higher than they were at their previous peak in 1981. It actually looks a lot like a chart of music sales showing the introduction of CDs, to replace vinyl records, then the falloff as people had replaced their music libraries. (I know, it’s not exactly the same, but looking at a short-lived peak thinking it is normal is always a mistake.)

But also look at lens sales in the above chart. They rose steadily in the mid-2000s, and haven’t dropped much since 2012. This suggests that there is still a core group of camera buyers who continue to buy additional lenses, as camera companies improve the quality of their optics.

There are two ways to look at this landscape, and I think it’s pretty similar to the music business. Let’s say that 80% of people just listen to music as wallpaper; and that 20% of people provide the real music sales revenue. With cameras, it’s 80% of people (perhaps even 90%) that just take photos now and then, shooting selfies, photographing meals, and posting to Instagram. They are well served by smartphones. But the other 10 or 20%, either pros or enthusiasts, continue to buy cameras, and especially lenses, and will continue to do so.

There are a few points to consider, however. The first is the fact that camera technology is plateauing as it confronts the laws of physics. You can’t easily but a larger sensor in a camera without needing different lenses. And even then, new features in cameras are incremental, with improvements in, perhaps, auto-focus, video capture, etc., but many of these features are not enough to get people to replace their existing cameras.

When people do replace cameras, the second-hand market is thriving, so it’s relatively easy to buy a used unit of last year’s model at a deep discount. There are many companies that specialize in buying and selling used camera gear, and you can generally trust that what you buy is in good condition.

Of course, the well known malady known as gear-acquisition syndrome (GAS) is prevalent in the photo world, and this is keeping camera companies afloat. If enthusiast photographers all decided to not buy any new gear for a year, the industry would probably fail, so it’s important for these companies to continue to cater to a market where a lot of their income is derived from people buying gear they don’t use very much. That’s probably why lens sales remain so high.

It’s obvious that no smartphone will ever replace a good DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. But they’re not intended to. I think the market is going to shake itself out soon, with perhaps some of the smaller companies giving up on camera sales. But you also need to remember that hardly any of these companies only make cameras. The big four – Sony, Fuji, Canon, and Nikon – all make many other products, notably high-end optical gear, among others. Canon has about $32 billion in sales, Fujifilm has dozens of subsidiaries making everything from cameras to medical imaging equipment. And Sony is, well, Sony; they sell pretty much everything that uses electricity. So none of these companies are necessarily dependent on selling these cameras.

If anything, it’s Leica, the company that makes the camera that Om Malik loves so much, that is teetering on the brink. While Leica’s are excellent cameras – and I still lust after the Leica M Monochrom – they are status symbols. The company caters to collectors, issuing limited editions of their camera regularly. With revenue of only about $400 million, they are a luxury brand, not a real camera brand. But Leica is making a lot of money through their partnerships with other companies, supplying lenses to Huawei, Panasonic, and others. And the company’s biggest growth market is China, which makes their future somewhat risky, given the fickleness of the Chinese toward foreign brands, especially after the company released this ad.

So, as often, it’s not easy to say that a specific market is “falling off a cliff,” but it is interesting to look deeper into statistics. There is a downward trend from an artificial peak, but it may be leveling off.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 50 – Creative Black and White Photography with Harold Davis

Artist, photographer, and writer Harold Davis joins us to discuss his new book Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, and we talk about the photographer as artist, and how to see the world in monochrome.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 49: Creating Panoramas

You want to capture a wide-angle shot, but what if your widest lens isn’t wide enough? In this episode, Jeff and Kirk talk about creating panoramas, from the ingenious Pano mode in the iPhone’s Camera app to stitching many images from traditional cameras or drones.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Photo: My New Shakuhachi

I got a new shakuhachi this week. This one is made by Kodama Hiroyuki, who is a true master of both making and playing the instrument. You can learn more over at my shakuhachi website, where I have been chronicling my experience learning this Japanese flute.

This is the “root end” of the instrument. The bamboo is pulled out of the ground and cut, leaving some of the roots on while it dries, then the roots are cut off, leaving this attractive pattern around the bottom edge.

Link to full-size version.

See more of my photos, and follow me on Instagram.