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Interceptor121

Digital Camera Stagnation Good or Bad?

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I have been looking back to most popular cameras for underwater photography and also the top ones in each format during this lock down period

All top performing cameras are 2016/17 or a revamp of that vintage in a different shell. With few exceptions the new models coming out have no breakthrough features or performance. IQ has very much reached plateau and things are pretty stable

Frankly I think this is a good thing not a bad thing for UW photography. It stops the chase to new models and new housings and allows people to make the most of what they have.

Other technologies have also reached full maturity like strobes and video lights if there is one thing that is worrying is the lack of real entry level however the various seafrogs/meikon have now taken over from OEM for plastic housing

Perhaps the only sector that is still moving is water contact optics thanks to Nauticam latest development but really that is about it

There is of course the concern that some brands may go out of business as no new model means no new sales however cameras shutters do wear out eventually

I wonder if digital camera will become like the appliance market more of a replacement market with prices crashing down?

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Despite of all marketing campaign, camera market is in full and steady decline since several years. Profit margins are razor thin and the Corona dealt the final blow to an already compromise situation.

New advanced features require new LSI development with huge investment and right now few company have the expertise and money: Sony and Samsung. Sony have still great margin developing sensor for most of the brands out there. Even Canon has serious issue developing in house technology.

Low margin is the main reason we saw the FF race of the last two years. FF camera are perceived as pro gear with more margins. Unfortunately IMHO they just delayed the sad end. Yes I'm pessimistic. Looking at camera sales figure is clear that manufacturers fail to persuade people the they need a new camera every year.

As consumer I'm happy that the race to new models every year is stopping. 

 

Just to put some figure on the table:

Year to Date Sales compared to Jan-April 2019:

  • DSLR Units : 754K, -47% YTD
  • DSLR Shipped Value: ¥32.3 billion -45%
  • Mirrorless Units: 720K , -36%
  • Mirrorless Shipped Value: ¥50.4 billion -40%
  • Compact Units: 1.16m -47%
  • Compact Shipped Value: ¥22.9 billion -44%
  • Lenses for smaller than 35mm Units: 1.68 million, -41%
  • Lenses for smaller than 35mm Shipped Value: ¥23.9 billion, -40%
  • Lenses for 35mm and larger Units: 978K, -40%
  • Lenses for 35mm and larger Shipped Value: ¥48 billion, -39%

I hope it will never happen but:

http://www.personal-view.com/talks/discussion/22998/olympus-closure-is-near-can-happen-in-less-than-8-months/p3

Canon results:

3bb7b6627ef354b5b08052414cfa9d.jpg

The last two pages of this thread are very informative of the situation:

http://www.personal-view.com/talks/discussion/23470/industry-rumors-coronavirus-can-be-final-blow-for-camera-industry/p9

These are rumours:

  • Olympus leads sales fall in EU and US, it reached 97% in some areas
  • Pentax is close, in one area that had 98% fall, overall is is around 90%
  • Panasonic comes third, L mount FF bodies sales drop is staggering, some areas >85%
  • Nikon is next with 60-70% fall
  • Canon and Sony are best, in some areas they are even above 60% drop slightly.

 

 

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I guess it is good news for our bank balances - that we don’t have to face upgrade envy. And bad news for housing manufacturers - no new cameras - no demand for new housings.

I think we will get some new cameras this summer. Camera companies normally announce a lot in Olympic summers. Even more so when they are Japanese companies with a Japanese Olympics. While the Olympics are cancelled - these products will have been in development for years and will get announced in the coming months, I suspect.

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The rumor mill is rife with talk of new models, particularly from Canon and Nikon.

I think the much vaunted Canon camera releases are imminent:

"All of these products will apparently be announced “on or around” July 9th, in order to avoid any conflicts with the July 4th holiday in the US. On that day, expect to see the EOS R5, EOS R6, and six RF lenses: a 50mm f/1.8 IS STM, a 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, a 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM, a 100-500mm f/4-7.1L IS USM, a 600mm f/11 DO IS STM, and a 800mm f/11 DO IS STM. There will also be two new teleconverters, a 1.4x and 2x, for the RF mount."

I have heard rumors of a cropped sensor pro body SLR from Nikon (based around the Z50), a version of the D850 with the D6 AF and more pixels, along with a Z90 pro level mirrorless. Nikon are notoriously tight lipped about their upcoming models.

Apparently Sony are planning to release an a7s III low light video monster!

Panasonic: "The rumblings are that the GH6 will possess a 41MP sensor, improved image stabilization, 4K and 6K RAW, and a "new generation AF system" – which we can only hope means the end of Panny's contrast-based DFD autofocus. 

It seems that the GH6 was set to be revealed at this year's Photokina, which was obviously cancelled. It now appears that Panasonic will launch the camera at some point in August or September."

I would guess that research and production lead times will mean that cameras that are being released over the next few months were probably being designed well prior to the COVID outbreak. To some extent the market now relies on us all upgrading our cameras, so the manufacturers are forced to release new models to feed this demand. 

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With the exception of canon who has confirmed an 8k camera will definitely see the light all the other rumours are somehow old news and still going around the same technology
Sony has said they would produce a follow up to the S since last year must not be a priority
Panasonic GH6 rumours are the wildest. MFT can't exceed current megapixel count as otherwise lens would be limited at f/4 this is not practical and Panasonic doesn't have patents for on sensor phase difference AF.
My point is like olympus case new models mostly improve limited features or ergonomics but no revolution
IQ is as good as it can be and the segment is struggling something will need to change if company have to survive. Nikon has delayed their financial announcement it's so bad for them!

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Posted (edited)

I agree with Interceptor... maybe it's a good thing.

The cameras we have right now are awesome, and maybe chasing the latest/greatest is a fool's errand, especially given the cost of camera AND housing. Maybe money would be better spent elsewhere, especially post-Covid dollars?

I think Covid has taught us all greater patience and tolerance. Maybe "tolerating" what we have is a good thing, (unless your business is selling cameras and housings).

To me, the bigger question will be travel to photo destinations. Especially for the land-locked amongst us...

 

ian

 

 

Edited by ianmarsh

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I don't know if it a good thing or not. If you had told be back in 2002 that I would be shooting a 46MP SLR with amazing dynamic range, superb resolution and spectacular performance, I would have probably though you were nuts!

The fact is that the camera companies will continue to seek improvement and release new models. Some of these will not have huge performance advantages and some will. This is the nature of progress. 

Most camera manufacturers (with the notable exception of Nikon) tend to drop some hints about new models early in the development cycle in order to gauge reaction from the market. This is what @Interceptor121 describes as "old news." So the a7s project was deliberately leaked early last year to see whether it was worth continuing. This does not detract from the possibility that this camera may be a game changer for those shooting in low light. 

Most of these companies have to continue to create new models in order to produce revenue. If they stop designing and innovating new models they will fail. So new models will be continue to be released, even in these strange times. Nikon's poor financial position in many ways forces it to not only produce new models, but also to produce models with innovations that they can persuade people to buy! Survival is a powerful stimulus.

My experience with Nikon is that each model that I have upgraded to was better in terms of performance than its predecessor. Sometime these gains were small (i.e. the D810 basically fixed a lot of the problems with the D800), and sometimes they are huge (D5/D500/D850). Fact is, they were better cameras in each case.

If I had never shot a D850, would I be happy with a D810? Probably, until I started noticing that people were pulling off shots that I couldn't. At that point it becomes a simple benefit vs cost decision, which each of us will decide in different ways. 

I completely agree on the travel issue. Topic for another discussion perhaps?

 

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My initial consideration was that if the pace of development and improvement slows down the nature of the market changes. This has been the case for the appliance market and is not a coincidence panasonic sees this as appliance. I think this may as well become a replacement market with longer lifecycles the newer olympus has double the shutter life of the previous
This was my reflection how many of those traditional companies can adapt or otherwise die


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I would have upgraded camera bodies more often if manufactures kept the body physically compatible. ie. I can continue to use this year's body in last year's housing. But even with the smallest minor version upgrade they insist on moving a button a few mm and thus a camera body upgrade dictates a housing body upgrade and hence the cost of upgrading is prohibitive. The last time I managed to do that was a Nikon F801 to an F801s! (I still have them sitting in box somewhere if anyone wants to make me an offer)

Looking at it naively and simplistically, if manufacturers committed to a standard physical body across several models and just fitted different electronics into it, they could put the cash saved on tooling into the electronics and get more sales from us underwater photographers. But then we have been saying that forever and no manufacturer has listened to us.

That is all at a bit of a tangent. As per the original premise, I agree that once you have a camera that can see better than you can, focus faster than you can, and takes pictures technically good enough for what you want to do with them, why should you ever need more? The product becomes a commodity and has to compete on price and convenience rather than technical excellence. 

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Sadly, the underwater photography market is tiny, and the group that uses interchangeable lens camera is even smaller. I doubt that we are a consideration when they design camera and I really do not see this as ever changing. When Nikon released the 8-15 fisheye, I went to a Pro meetings and none of the Nikon staff had even considered it for underwater use. Considering how rarely fisheyes get used at the surface, this should perhaps put our "importance" in perspective.

While I agree that I have never had a camera that couldn't take better pictures than I could, things like improved high ISO performance make some shots possible, that were not previously. Being able to get these makes your images more commercial/win more prizes etc. 

Improved autofocus performance makes a huge difference to success rates. When I first used the D500, I had to modify my first cull on import, because there were so few out of focus :) 

It is true to say that many of the images that we look at now may have been possible with previous generations of camera. However, when I look back at published images (mine and others), there is no doubt that their quality has improved. My point is that the same shooters are getting better pictures thanks to improvements in technology. 

 

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The whole thing is a double edged sword, nice to not have a constant upgrade path but you need the camera companies to stay in business as well.  The upgrade cycle has gotten quite frenzied compared to the good old days it used to be that the top line models would be renewed on a 8-10 year cycle - now it's 3-4 years and more often for consumer stuff. and prices are amazingly consistent over the years, but I think you get a lot more camera for your $ now. 

Just for fun I put together this table of release year and release price for the top line Nikon models since the Nikon F.  the 2020 dollars come from and inflation website I found for $US.  All prices in $US.

image.png.9be6fd6333763be016628f089eda392c.png

After the F the pro models came up to a fairly consistent price in 2020 dollars - apart from the D1 the digital models are about a $1,000 to $1500 premium over the film models, but the feature set is unheard of when you compare to the old F series film models.  You have to believe their margin has eroded considerably over the years and it doesn't consider the fact that that the street price if often significantly discounted over the MSRP price which is the basis for the prices listed for earlier models - and the costs associated with the short refresh cycle must be higher.

The other thing that has happened is depreciation on even top line stuff is severe - I saw it explained the old F series are collectable - being largely mechanical they have a very long potential lifespan but once manufacturer support for electronic models ceases and spares inventory dries up your $5-6K top line DLSR can easily become an expensive paperweight.  When I started photography in the 80s pro level gear could demand 80% of the pre-tax price - those days are long gone so if you are on a budget these days buying second hand gets you some real bargains.

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The idea of my first post was about the pace of innovation and how those companies make money and if they make money at all
Phones demonstrate that you can supplement lack of sensor performance with processing but because cameras shoot RAW the innovation effort has been more on autofocus or noise reduction or readout speed
All those things are working very well and approaching a physical limitation of nanotechnology the last innovation of stacked BI sensor has been around over 10 years now and made it into full frame with Nikon and Sony since a few years. I look back on past images and in addition to operator technique the other features that a camera can give you and help improving your hit rate are autofocus and exposure control. Both are fairly mature now and hard to improve. So you don’t have anything exciting why would you bother coming out with new models? It is expensive to run development projects that fail to hit sales targets. I am pretty sure all those companies have been restructuring and the first thing you do to avoid laying off staff is to cancel investment so I don’t see the reason why companies would rush to develop new models right now.
We have seen much more and substantial firmware updates program lately.
Ultimately underwater photography is an insignificant slice of photography and one that is not at forefront of adopting new cameras. Usually you invest in a camera when you have a good chance someone will do a housing. If you look at aquatica for example their range is much smaller than nauticam because they can’t afford to launch 50 projects with the processes and costs they have.
And finally the size of our niche depends more on number of people shooting than existing people changing their rig and on average getting cameras in water has increased not decreased in price as the OEM have stopped making housings
So my view is that slow down of new models is not a threat to the niche but lack of new entry level options is.
Let’s face it the average age of the underwater photographer is increasing not decreasing with many people taking it up at later stage of their life as they have money to spend for it


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@Interceptor121 The reason for "more seasoned" people initially getting into U/W photography was because of the startup cost. Outside of a GoPro, why would someone who dives 10-20+ dives/year commit $ to capturing a few images of their dives? I don't think it's an age or experience thing, I think it's a lifestyle choice.

Having said this, both my teenage children now shoot underwater (one with a Sony A7III and the other with my backup D500, just recently upgraded from an Olympus). Their primary goal on most occasions is to capture images of the experience of diving so they can share with their friends on social media. They've expanded this from u/w shots of "diving" (where they started) to the "cool critters" they see, behavioral shots, and shots that they think can help educate their peer groups on the health of the oceans and the challenges we face.

My daughter is one of about 20 teen divers in an extended social group she belongs to - at least 3/4 of them take some kind of camera underwater a majority of their dives to help capture their experiences (again, mostly for sharing on social media). 

There are literally millions more (terrestrial) images taken today then even 10 years ago, the challenge is virtually all these images are taken by phones, not dedicated cameras. Underwater is no different - this same generation wants to capture their experiences while swimming, snorkeling, surfing, paddle boarding, and diving - and don't have the same requirements we have on image quality, capabilities, etc. There is a *huge* economic opportunity for the company that gets the casual, water-capable camera platform correct. Some think that a protective case is the answer, others think it will be a more environmentally robust phone platform, and even others think a new device category (waterproof wearables) that wirelessly tether to your phone (post dive) might be the answer.

None of this will help us keep our current u/w camera systems current, but I do think we are within 5 years (or less) of seeing capabilities from some of these other platforms that will challenge a number of us to figure out if we should keep shooting with these larger, more expensive, harder to maintain, u/w camera systems. 

I think the next generation will find ways to express themselves photographically that we can't even imagine at the moment. It just won't be with the limiting systems that we dive with today.





 

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1 hour ago, oneyellowtang said:


@Interceptor121 The reason for "more seasoned" people initially getting into U/W photography was because of the startup cost. Outside of a GoPro, why would someone who dives 10-20+ dives/year commit $ to capturing a few images of their dives? I don't think it's an age or experience thing, I think it's a lifestyle choice.

Having said this, both my teenage children now shoot underwater (one with a Sony A7III and the other with my backup D500, just recently upgraded from an Olympus). Their primary goal on most occasions is to capture images of the experience of diving so they can share with their friends on social media. They've expanded this from u/w shots of "diving" (where they started) to the "cool critters" they see, behavioral shots, and shots that they think can help educate their peer groups on the health of the oceans and the challenges we face.

My daughter is one of about 20 teen divers in an extended social group she belongs to - at least 3/4 of them take some kind of camera underwater a majority of their dives to help capture their experiences (again, mostly for sharing on social media). 

There are literally millions more (terrestrial) images taken today then even 10 years ago, the challenge is virtually all these images are taken by phones, not dedicated cameras. Underwater is no different - this same generation wants to capture their experiences while swimming, snorkeling, surfing, paddle boarding, and diving - and don't have the same requirements we have on image quality, capabilities, etc. There is a *huge* economic opportunity for the company that gets the casual, water-capable camera platform correct. Some think that a protective case is the answer, others think it will be a more environmentally robust phone platform, and even others think a new device category (waterproof wearables) that wirelessly tether to your phone (post dive) might be the answer.

None of this will help us keep our current u/w camera systems current, but I do think we are within 5 years (or less) of seeing capabilities from some of these other platforms that will challenge a number of us to figure out if we should keep shooting with these larger, more expensive, harder to maintain, u/w camera systems. 

I think the next generation will find ways to express themselves photographically that we can't even imagine at the moment. It just won't be with the limiting systems that we dive with today.





 

Those are two related but not identical issues. There are already some people shooting underwater with an iPhone 11 and two massive video lights. Smartphones have already killed compact cameras but are not the answer for certain type of shots not because they can't be but because they are not designed to be and the business opportunity is zero nobody will develop a smartphone thinking about underwater use or extensive manual use that is essential for any type of creativity. You can get some apps but at the end a phone has to produce snap NOT needing retouch. AI is ok to make it look good but the user is not expected to post process. This is the fundamental dividing line between a phone and a camera. Clearly there are many more people interested in getting a snap fast than there are wanting to take some type of more 'artistic' photo so the market for that segment which is where we sit

There will be always a market for a camera type of device but the casual user may not bother getting one if their phone is sufficient and combine with the fact that majority of people buying a camera shoot in some form of Auto now those have no reason to buy a camera frankly and the reason why the camera market is collapsing and moving towards more expensive models.

The issue is what do you learn using a phone to take pictures? Nothing

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As I was writing Olympus sold its camera business to a private equity...

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Nobody replied to my first post but I was right.

This won't be the last sad news on camera industry.

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9 hours ago, Davide DB said:

Nobody replied to my first post but I was right.

This won't be the last sad news on camera industry.

The camera market is shrinking and this will continue. I think camera will be limited to people that have genuine creative needs those just taking snapshots will use phones. This will make even more niche the technical ability to manage a camera as the base gets smaller.

Sony and Panasonic are diversified businesses and Sony makes sensor for them is a decision about exiting a segment for Nikon that makes 70% on camera it will mean transform or die. Smaller brands will depend on their ability to listen to customer needs

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@Interceptor121

You missed the point. There are 00's of young(er) travel-oriented individuals that are post-processing their images before posting them. Recently there was a survey published within the travel industry that showed that upwards of 85% of images posted to "influencer" instagram accounts were post-processed before posting.

In device and out of device processing is not going away - it will only grow... the challenge is the evolution of the devices that take the initial images will continue to move away from what we are used to (or likely want).

 

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, oneyellowtang said:

@Interceptor121

You missed the point. There are 00's of young(er) travel-oriented individuals that are post-processing their images before posting them. Recently there was a survey published within the travel industry that showed that upwards of 85% of images posted to "influencer" instagram accounts were post-processed before posting.

In device and out of device processing is not going away - it will only grow... the challenge is the evolution of the devices that take the initial images will continue to move away from what we are used to (or likely want).

 

Not sure what point I am missing. Smartphones will continue to grow processing or not. I would like to understand what post processing means most cases applications like instagram do that already. that is not the same as a raw image editors 

Edited by Interceptor121

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Hi all,

Behind the scenes, we have been hard at work creating a new YouTube Channel and a series of hard edged and focused short discussions called Wetpixel Live.

We are still working hard on generating content for it, but one of our episodes refers to and provides thoughts about this thread: 

The Wetpixel YouTube Channel is a place for sourcing inspiration, technical details and ideas. It will remain tightly focused on underwater image making (just like here on the forums!)

We will formally announce it shortly (when we have bit more content), so you are all getting a "sneak" preview!

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1 hour ago, adamhanlon said:

Hi all,

Behind the scenes, we have been hard at work creating a new YouTube Channel and a series of hard edged and focused short discussions called Wetpixel Live.

We are still working hard on generating content for it, but one of our episodes refers to and provides thoughts about this thread: 

The Wetpixel YouTube Channel is a place for sourcing inspiration, technical details and ideas. It will remain tightly focused on underwater image making (just like here on the forums!)

We will formally announce it shortly (when we have bit more content), so you are all getting a "sneak" preview!

I don't agree fully with the analysis you need new models to make more revenues. In fact what you need is more units to make more revenues. If those come from new model or not it does not matter and actually you can improve efficiency if you keep the same models which is where I was getting at. Longer lifecycle of device is what happens when the firmware of the camera is programmable and there is no hardware advance. I do agree that mirrorless are the way forward in virtue of the lack of efficiency having to make DSLR and mirrorless cameras but this process is not fast

What do you need to make more revenue is also more people taking underwater pictures which is an issue of entry price that is already present since a few years as compact cameras have been killed by phone. This is the primary reason for an ageing population of underwater photographers 

Higher entry price - > more disposable income required -> diver starts photography when is old enough to have money for the rig

Camera models do not enter into this mix as much if we are looking at underwater photography as long as there is a camera in fact many people start with second hand housing camera etc etc

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@Interceptor121 And that's where I believe your argument breaks down...

There are more young people trying to capture their experiences as they explore the world than any previous generation. That includes underwater... 

There will continue to be more people wanting to capture these experiences (using whatever can out innovate GoPros, phones, etc.) than not. One clear difference is that many will try to capture these experiences in video, as this medium translates better for casual viewers.

the world is changing... so is how people want to capture their experiences.



 

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[mention=34353]Interceptor121[/mention] And that's where I believe your argument breaks down...

There are more young people trying to capture their experiences as they explore the world than any previous generation. That includes underwater... 

There will continue to be more people wanting to capture these experiences (using whatever can out innovate GoPros, phones, etc.) than not. One clear difference is that many will try to capture these experiences in video, as this medium translates better for casual viewers.

the world is changing... so is how people want to capture their experiences.



 

You have a thing against me that is preventing you to read properly
There is no path from gopro to shooting underwater photos
Typically people stay there or go to another video rig usually MFT
As gopro teaches you the pain to edit video you pass this stage and no longer want to take any images
Underwater photography is becoming the old fella hobby


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@Interceptor121

I don't know you so why would I have something against you?

However I do know what is happening in the online influencer space, and specifically with travel, and I have seen first hand how this generation are capturing images (both terrestrial and u/w) and sharing them (while making $ doing it).

I think your view is both somewhat narrow and short-sighted, however I do agree that u/w photography (as we currently practice it) is becoming more reflective of how we see the hobby, whereas my teenage kids shoot much differently that we would (but with no with less impact in capturing the beauty underwater, and on many occasions with more of a focus on story telling and experience sharing).

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