I've read a lot of articles over the last few years about why fewer people buy cameras. This one, which I read today, seems the most concise: "Real reasons why the camera market is shrinking" by Robin Wong. His takes affirm my own inferences: the market for cameras stagnated with their affordability and ubiquity, and they lost their purpose to the everyday user. Wong writes,
Look at the legends Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Martin Parr and Ansel Adams, they redefined what photography was during their age. They reshaped the history of photography. They challenged the norm, they dared to push boundaries, they went the distance and provoked what was deemed right. They were visionaries and they successfully made photography truly meaningful. In stark contrast, today all we do are merely imitating what has been done before over and over again, a million times. What's new today? Look at the Instagram feed - sunrise, sunsets, long exposure photography, portraits of beautiful lady, more model shots, these are good photography yes, but they have been done to death and there is nothing new anymore. I don't see anything truly thought provoking and revolutionary from the work of today's photographers.
Fair enough. Photography can;t go much further than it already has. Photographers can make any image we want with older equipment. The market for new equipment no longer needs to exist.
I'm not a professional photographer. I like my cameras and I like shooting film, but I'm not being paid for it; I'm a hobbyist and I don't know if I'd want to pursue the craft beyond the level of hobby. However, last week a trade publication approached me to do a local shoot. Although I didn't "get" the shoot, it lead me down the rabbit-hole to upgrade my DSLR for times when I'm approached for gigs like that. In my search for an upgrade, it became abundantly clear almost immediately that I didn't need to get a super-duper, brand-new camera; there were plenty of people selling decade-old cameras with more features than I would ever need, and more megapixels than I'd ever need. The newest cameras seemed redundant and unnecessarily expensive.
For my casual hobby-work, I enjoy using older cameras. That's part of the joy of it for me. Lately, I've found joy in buying a cheap used camera, shooting a roll or two with it, and then selling the camera again. If I've been asked to do something slightly more professional, I have a couple cameras that I can use on a more trustworthy basis, but I've never had to use a really-fast shutter speed, so what I already own has always been enough. If I need crisp medium format photos, I have the Mamiya C3 and the Kowa Six; if I need crisp 35mm photos, I have the Konica T3 and T4 and a slew of lenses for them; if I need something more lo-fi, I have the classic Lomography cameras, or the Konica S2, and a bunch of other little cameras; I have a bunch of Cokin filters for added fun and effects. And for my purposes, that's ok.
But I do find it a little sad, even though it doesn't affect me, that the camera market has diminished as much as it has. As a fan of photography, I want people taking photos. And yet, admittedly, there isn't much "new" that photographers can do with the medium. Myself included.
A couple days ago, my girlfriend posted a professional portrait that she had done for her. It was a really excellent photo. In the photo, I could see the lighting setup in the reflection on her cornea: two softboxes, much like a school photo. And I was a little envious of this. But then again, if I didn't have all these pros to compare with, I'd probably be very happy with what I'm doing. I have enough as it is and I'm still improving.
And I guess that's a good place to be, no matter what's happening to the "industry."
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