a place for sharing all things photographic and some things not

Do we really need more?

I just read an article that talks about a new form of compact camera which are equipped with dual shutter buttons! The extra one is located in the same spot as the one on the DSLR battery pack – in portrait position. The manufacturers have even thrown in an additional tripod screw mount on the side to account for photographers who might use the camera in such a position. I felt quite sad at the state of competition between camera companies nowadays in the domain of compact cameras.

It seems to me that more and more cameras these days are pushing novelty functions that nobody needs. Sure some people do us all 20 creative modes that come with a camera but I suspect only about 20% of consumers use even one of them. Most people I know just use the default setting that is available – that is more than sufficient for them. After all there are only so many ‘fish eye’ ’tilt shift’ ‘cross processed’ ‘pinhole’ photos that we can take (and no, you can’t combine all those into one). Furthermore, how many casual photographers would swap finger positions and readjust completely just to take a quick portrait photograph?

It feels to me like it’s the start of the megapixel war all over again as everyone starts to chuck more and more features into cameras not for the sake of the functionality but so that the camera can be marketed as being “Special! Only has ________ “. Consumers walk into a store wanting to buy a camera and they settle for the one with the neatest list of features (not based on what they think they might use).

Honestly I’m quite happy for all the new stuff that’s keeping the compact camera market alive with the surge of competition from smartphones. My bone of contention is this: can camera companies pause for a while and stop throwing features into cameras for the sake of numbers alone. Perhaps if they were to spend the money on development in other areas that photographers actually would care about – noise control, increased dynamic range and ease of use, would they really be able to steal back a good portion of the market that’s rightfully theirs as well as make consumers really happy. I don’t mind shooting in 12mp with no other new features for the next 10 years if the sensors dynamic range (the spectrum of exposures that it can see) increases steadily.

Still, such innovation means that there is still a desire by camera companies to build something better, I just hope that in the next few years they will pause for a while and wonder ‘how’.

New cameras should enable everyone to see the world and appreciate it better (whether in portrait or landscape) and not leave us confused in a pool full of new features. As Ansel Adams said – Image quality is not the product of a machine, but of the person who directs the machine, and there are no limits to imagination and expression. 

What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave comments below to keep my perspective in check (:

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