Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kirk Tuck on the bubble bursting on DSLR and Mirrorless sales


The above is an excellent article by Kirk Tuck discussing the possible reasons camera sales (at least of DSLRs & Mirrorless cameras) have fallen off in the recent past. In truth I came to some of his conclusions in the past. What we have had for a long time has been “good enough.” The DSLR (and the Mirrorless design isn’t that different) is a mature system and all the manufacturers are producing DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras that are “good enough.” I recently engaged in a debate on a Pentax forum where a few were arguing that the Pentax K-5 was put to shame by the K-5ii and K-5iiS. Those making this argument had recently purchased a K-5ii or K5iiS, and I suspect they were presenting us with their rationalizations for their recent purchases.

I am something of a gear-head when it comes to photography I will admit. I’ve had a long-standing interest in it which began with my grandfather, Troy Matthews, who made a living developing film for photographers back in the 1920s & 1930s. I inherited his darkroom equipment after he died and learned how to use it. Years later I bought an Olympus Rangefinder that I took on hikes, managing to take better photos than a friend who had a Minolta SLR – as evidenced by the slide shows we held of hikes we went on. He would apologize for having set something wrong on his complicated camera followed by my shots of the same scenes nicely composed.

When I finally entered the DSLR world I started with Olympus, finding several cameras I was delighted in. The E-1 and E-500 produced shots with excellent and almost unique color. The E-420 produced very good quality photos; also it was very light weight and a nice DSLR to take along on a hike when weight was a consideration. I decided that I was always going to be happy with these three cameras regardless of “improvements” and “innovations” of the future & so bought backups in case I damaged one of them.

But I did read the reviews of new cameras and decided I would purchase a couple of them if the prices ever dropped low enough. The last camera I purchased in the Olympus line was the E-3, the replacement of the “pro” E-1. The E-3 had almost twice as many pixels, but that technical achievement seemed to be at the expense of artistic soul. I like the “build” of the E-3, but nothing I experienced in using it made me want to get rid of my E-1s. I still appreciated them. I would say the same thing about my E-500s and E-420s.

Olympus’ interest in the 4/3 DSLR waned after they came out with their much more successful mini-4/3 line. Olympus “fanboys” are hoping for something else, perhaps an E-7 or an E-50, but it is possible that Olympus will give it up and stop with the E-5 which still sells for very near its introductory price.

Since I am interested in taking photos on hikes, I couldn’t help but notice that Pentax had created a line that seemed more suitable for hikes than any recent DSLR Olympus made. I bought a refurbished Pentax K-20d and a few Pentax lenses to get my feet wet. I liked it quite a lot but couldn’t bring myself to buy another as backup. Instead I bought a K-7 new when the price dropped after the introduction of the K-5. Then later, after the introduction of the K-5ii and K-5iis I bought a new K-5 at a very good price.

Am I done purchasing cameras as Kirk Tuck suggests many DSLR owners are, not necessarily? If Pentax comes out with a K-3 and the price of the K-5ii gets low enough I may purchase one as backup for my K-5.

Kirk Tuck would see if he read this note that I am not the typical gear-head. I have no interest in buying the newest and latest. I agree with him that many DSLRs are “good enough,” but having said that, I want to make sure that I don’t run out of these “good enough” cameras. But perhaps I too am slowing down in my purchases of older but still “good enough” cameras. I am more interested at the present time in accumulating a few more lenses.

A great number of people commented on Tuck’s article, many of them pessimistic about the future of digital photography. I wonder if these pessimists aren’t for the most part gear-heads without finely developed artistic senses. There were a few comments by those who from the sound of their writings had “good eyes.” They weren’t pessimistic and I suspect were getting good results from their old but “good enough” cameras. I’d like to think I’m in this category. Even though I was employed as an engineer my education was largely in the arts – primarily poetry and literature, but I developed an interest in the great painters. I can’t paint myself, but I learned to appreciate those who could – up to a chronological point. I never managed to appreciate art or music after it became “modern,” i.e., bizarre and atonal. I appreciated art by painters who if they lived in these modern times might have appreciated what could be achieved with a well-constructed DSLR. In fact I wonder if such painters would have taken up their art if they could purchase a new K-5 for under $750. Tuck worries about the DSLR and Mirrorless bubbles having, perhaps, burst, but what about the “painting bubble.” I don’t have any statistics, but I’d be surprised if it hadn’t burst as well, and perhaps long ago in the days of the SLR.

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