Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The two camps of iPhone photography delusion

I love my iPhone.

I frequently shoot family, personal and fun pics with it.

I subscribe to view that the best camera is the one you have with you and I believe there are some really great shot's taken with it and other smart phone's.

Truly the democratisation of photography.

So why the hardcore title of this post?

I had been hired to shoot a low light live performance for a corporate client.

Shooting alongside me was a member of the agency who was shooting stills with an iPhone 4 (not even a 4S)

He also had a Canon DSLR on his shoulder which he wasn't using.

No big deal.

Then another member of the agency came along and asked him why he was shooting it on his iPhone.

'Oh, this gives better quality than the big camera'

His superior accepted his answer without question.

This, is not the only time I have heard this either.

I'm currently working on a project where the client holds similar opinions.

The latest iPhone 5 gives some really great quality images.

For a 'device'.

But, to think for one moment it gives better quality than DSLR is delusional.

What they really mean, but are not saying, it that it is easier.

Easier for them to shoot pics without faffing about with f-stops, I mean it's good enough...right?

Well, it may well be.

Or it may not.

But crucially easier to post images to the web.

No cables, no card reader required.

Ok, the pic's may not be as good as a DSLR but they can post them there and then.

That is powerful beyond anything else.

So the first camp are the users who delude themselves that the quality is better.

But the second camp are in my eyes much more culpable of delusion are the camera manufacturers.

I have no scientific evidence on this but everything points to the bottom falling out of the market for mid range and bottom range camera's, which on mass must bring considerable profits.

The only point and shoot I see being used regularly is a smart phone.

One does not have to look very far to find evidence of deluded camera manufacturers.

Back in July Reuters reported that Canon, one of the most profitable companies in Japan had trimmed its profit forecasts for the year.

Analysts  (I know I should not take too much notice of them as they seem to be the tech/media world equivalent of a 'bloke in the pub' who professes to be a smart cookie but in-fact they don't know very much about the wider world because they are always down the pub...) gave  reasons such as the Tsunami, earthquakes, the Euro crisis and the high Yen.

Nowhere, but nowhere in the story was a smart phone mentioned, which by my reckoning is pretty seismic in their sales going down the toilet.

Those pesky analysts also say that Canon has retained a high profit margin cite 'aggressive cost cutting' as a strong suit of the company.

Cost cutting will not turn camera sales around but innovation will.

The kind of innovation I'm referring to is a WiFi card.

Yes, folks that unusual gadget which you may have heard of but camera manufacturers seem to only have a limited understanding of.

Yes, I know they have released a number of compact models and the 6D which is WiFi capable.

A good first step, but the truth is EVERY still camera they make should have Wifi capability.

Expensive WFT modules should become a thing of the past.

If the client had a WiFi capable camera I dare say he would have used that and not his iPhone.

Camera manufacturers need to wake up to the fact that many young kids don't see a camera when they are growing up, so why should they break the habit when they finally get to chose their own camera.

It's about making relevant camera's for a market that exists, not one that used to.


Ben said...

You're completely right that "easier" has become synonymous with "better". For most people, sharing RIGHT NOW is going be more important than factors like noise, dynamic range, sharpness, distortion control, depth of field, etc. I think some of the recent android based cameras are a step in the right direction: giving users a built in platform to edit and share right from the camera itself. For DSLR's I'd love to see a Bluetooth or WiFi connection that I can link with my phone so I can import a jpeg, apply any quick edits that I need to, and then send an image through my data connection.

Unknown said...

Hey Ben,

Android camera's are a step in the right direction.

I did not mention them...but wanted to tilt at the 'big boys of photography' Canon who have moved way too slowly in my opinion.

As you elude, it is about much more than just Wifi cards, but a user friendly user interface which would allow users to share and upload images from the camera.

Canon will (fully) wake up I think, just when?

Then there is the matter of Apple.

Apple's interest in Photography has endured for decades, in my opinion the evolution of the iPhone as a camera will continue at break neck speed until it has capabilities way beyond the device we currently use.



Libby said...

@Ben - easier/better - you said it. It's one of the main desires of today's users. While the built in wifi cameras are in my mind mostly feeble, it's what customers want.

Oddly, even though the bottom is falling rapidly out of the point & shoot market, at CES a plethora of them were announced, not all of them Wifi. CP+ is on in Yokohama, and I believe I saw somewhere that Canon is announcing 3 more point & shoots. Why?

I love my point & shoots, even the little pink Canon Elph. They have their place. Would a wifi enabled point & shoot or a smartphone be first choice for a job? No. Would I use it as an additional device if I covered breaking news? Absolutely, because of the immediacy. It's what today's news market demands.

What I fail to understand the reasoning for a company today to have a dozen point & shoots in their lineup when they lack the main feature people want today and that is the ability to immediately upload and annoy their friends. Make 2 - one idiotproof good camera and one "much better" with Wifi. Ok, and maybe a "tough" camera like the ones from Olympus. Unfortunately, both Canon and Nikon are both working off of marketing memos drafted in 1985 in some respects.

Hey Drew, will yo be keeping your present Fuji or will you do the upgrade? Just curious here for my own selfish reasons ;-) Keep me posted.

Libby said...

And here you go, the Canon cameras


From the release:

"After an initial one-time set-up, the camera can connect to both iOS® or Android™ smartphones and tabletsi for quick and easy sharing. "

What is so quick and easy about having to screw with two devices?? "Screw the camera, I'll buy the phone" is what most will say.

Unknown said...

Hi Libby,

Good to hear from you.

Really good point regarding the excessively wide range of camera's, as you say why the wide model range of point and shoots? Surely better to give the public what they want than make loads of models which often just serve to confuse.

Smart phone for news? it seems like a good solution but time how long it takes to get one up and running and then adjusting the AF/AE lock.

It takes much longer than you think.

A few years ago I came across a news event which I still can't talk about (a crime in progress)

Reading the EXIF data on the sequence the whole thing was over in 11 seconds.

I used a 5D mkII and I got the shot(s)

A good friend of mine said you could have done it on a smart phone.

The truth is I could not have, the fumble factor would have meant I would have missed it.

If it was an unfolding scene which went on for a while a smart phone could have done it but this was 'spot news'

Will keep you updated regarding the Fuji X100 :)


Good old Clive said...

The future and fast pace of change worry me, I sit here feeling quite vulnerable. Jessops and Jacobs both fell victim to the smartphone's rapid market growth, along with competition from the inter web. Point and shoot cameras are dying, no doubt about it and yet, as you point out, the big boys continue to spew them out at an alarming rate.
Wifi? Yes please, keep up Canon, no upgrade here the 5d mkll stays.

Libby said...

You said "Surely better to give the public what they want than make loads of models which often just serve to confuse."

The truth is, the public at large has no clue as to what they want, and in continuing with a perplexing array of cameras full of stuff that people will never use, they are ignoring a huge market segment. That is the people who don't want to get sucked into rigid smartphone contracts and who just want a simple camera that just takes good pictures. Read aging baby boomers, senior citizens.

I was in one of the big box discount stores awhile back and a woman walked in. She wanted a "simple camera" with no junk on it that just took pictures. She stated that she already had one camera that perplexed her. The boy clerk got hold of her, was almost belligerent in trying to upsell her to a Nikon 1. She wound up leaving with no purchase. She knew what she wanted, she just couldn't get it.

My own parents make me crazy. In their early 80s, they went through 3 digital cameras. On one, there was a PASM dial that flipped sometimes to manual when taking it out of the case. On another, the flash was firing when it really was not needed and of course they could not figure out how to turn it off. And on the third that my brother bought for him, it was just too small for hands starting to suffer from arthritis. The buttons were stupid, and on one outing they mistakenly recorded a half hour of video and didn't know it.When hey want to snap a picture, they couldn't because their card was full - of video. They have gone back to an old 35mm film point & shoot that they had laying in the drawer. The camera makers want to lay in smaller, sleeker, fancier, yet they are ignoring a huge market segment who needs a camera you can hold with a big button.

On news, I definitely hear you on the Canon. The smartphone will work for the one or two frame grabs, but if you have a situation unfolding, nothing will beat the DSLR. In the case of professional journalism, they (are supposed to ) get paid to exercise proper judgment in using the right tool. If they miss the shots, it's on them. Citizen journalism - of course a different story, ad don't get me started there. Whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Well enough babbling. We are dark and murky here in NY, springlike temps but we will have snow and high winds tomorrow.

Anders C. Madsen said...

I don't think it is easy to be a camera maker these days - almost regardless of what they do right now, most of it is only rehashing an existing formula with a few minor changes and that can't good for compact sales, partly because smartphones have reached the level they are at now, partly because the exiting compact cameras are already very capable.

At the other end of the market they are facing the cold truth that DSLR cameras have reached a level where the real world usage improvements over the last couple of generations mainly has been beneficial to sports and event photographers - if you shoot portraits, products, landscapes and most types of commercial work, the improvement brought by a new camera is extremely limited.

For the last year or so I have been gravitating towards portrait and beauty and whenever I get a severe case of GAS it only takes a few minutes to realize that the difference between a brand new Canon 5D MKIII and my ancient Canon 1Ds MKII will be almost non-existing for my use (I'm not yet bitten by the video bug). Sure, I'm an amateur, but if a camera that old can make a convincing stand against the latest and greatest in terms of image quality, I bet there is a lot of pros out there with 1Ds MKIII and 5D MKII cameras that are waiting for something better before they part with their money. In a market that is no longer growing leaps and bounds it means that recouping research and development is becoming increasingly difficult.

To be honest the only product that I see as a game changer in the professional photography world over the last couple of years is the Nikon D800 - for once a resolution that could rival Drew's Phase One MF became available at a price point where most professional photographers had a fighting chance.

I'm not saying that it could rival a medium format in any way, but at least it was a camera that could deliver something that no other DSLR is capable of to this day: Resolution in spades for those that need it. That is more than can be said for the 18-22 MP that has become the underwhelming standard for the current crop of Canon DSLRs.

Unknown said...

Hey Clive

Jessops and Jacobs bit the dust because they simply were not relevant to their customers.

We have to embrace change, not be fearful of it, no matter how challenging that might be.

On paper the difference between the 5d mkII and mkIII does not seem to be significant but in the real world the gap is bigger than you might imagine.

Wireless or not.



Unknown said...

Hi Libby

Camera manufactures have done well for a long time by offering endless choices for customers.

I do also agree that many do not often know what they actually want, but the camera makers need to be much more aware of where the market is right now and importantly where it is likely to go.

There is much more I could say on this......

Ultimately it is down to a disconnect between the consumer and the manufacturer that needs to be fixed pronto.

Enjoy the warm weather before,the cold hits, I so miss the east coast......



Unknown said...

Hi Anders

Good to hear from you.

Your comprehensive comment is spot on in every way...almost.

The D800 is not as close to Phase One as you might imagine, a D800 fan shot with a Phase One IQ140 and a D800 side by side and he could not believe how far ahead the Phase was.......my words not his.

But no matter it in my opinion the D800 is still not a game changer as it is a matter of more pixels and does not chance the manner of delivery.

Card readers...wires....not really very 21st century.



Libby said...

Just a few more small tidbits for you - Point & Shoot Death predicted


And while I really tend not to read gear threads like this anymore, I did open this one and found the initial post and a few of the replies interesting. NY Fashion week photogs are feeling the heat


And this short interview from a Canon exec is telling - it's going to be more full frame mania and more goofy cameras I guess (Powershot N where I said WTF??)


Anyway just some FYI for your info arsenal.

Iden Pierce Ford said...

The D800e camera I own, produces amazing shots, landscapes are amazing. But, given that you cannot use Leaf Shutter lenses with it, and that the dynamic range is not the same as the Phase One backs, it is safe to assume that any DSLR whether it be Canon or Nikon, will never offer the range of possibility for controlling ambient light and detail in the highlights or shadows when shooting on location. I really believe the best camera is the one you are using in any given situation, as long as what you can produce with that camera is your exact vision and hopefully beyond. When you feel your ability to produce is limited by the tools you have, that is the time to think about expanding the kit imo. I've yet to shoot with an MF system and am keen to try it out because from what I understand, MF offers way more potential to the knowledgeable photographer. Not meaning to sound arrogant at all but for me, it's just another tool designed to help create a result, which always comes down to what lies between the ears and in your heart.....