Friday, July 24, 2015

The reality of photography today

Everybody is a photographer! Everybody has a camera - absolutely everybody. They're in your cell phones, in your tablet, in your laptop. Heavens, they practically fall out of cereal packets!

Somewhere it was written recently that over 90% of the photographs ever taken were taken in the last 5 years. That was predictable when wedding photographers began to take more than the standard couple of rolls of film. Time was when a busy wedding photographer would take 6 rolls of 36 exposure film at a wedding. That's 216 photographs. That would be whittled down to a dozen for the album and one for the mantelpiece. Now, wedding photographers take a few thousand photographs at a wedding. Then they have to spend the next few weekends ploughing through 99.5% garbage photos to find half a dozen good ones.

Amidst all this, peoples interest in photography is dying. Every great, technically challenging photograph that makes a photographer proud has been done many times by many others and published free for all to see via Flickr etc. The challenge has become pointless when it seems everybody else has already done it.

Zoom compacts were all the rage then when cellphones began to carry good quality cameras, zoom compacts dropped off the market. The ability to zoom was nice but not a priority. That's pretty interesting because I argued on a camera forum that a digital SLR was overkill. It's bulky, heavy, over priced and does not connect well to anything. In fact, digital SLRs are clunky old school devices that belong in museums. All that pulling memory cards out to put them in readers to upload to a computer and then upload to online storage is for the birds! A cellphone uploads a picture as soon as its taken. No waiting, no cables, no card to fuss about with!

As can be seen from the cellpohone\tablet rise (Flickrs top 10 cameras are phones), people just don't find SLRs a good choice. I'll agree to that myself. I had a load of digital photography gear. I sold most of it and use a cellphone now.

Thirty years ago, my dad looked at me and announced he didn't think much of my investment in camera gear. His opinion was it was wasted money, given the poor income cameras produced. Roll on a few years and the income from cameras has reduced yet further. Another thing has happened too.

In the past, a secondhand lense would not depreciate. A secondhand camera would not depreciate either. In fact I remember buying a Nikon FM that was 20 years old, worked perfectly and which up until digital would have sold for what I paid. Now, digital cameras plummet in value as soon as they're purchased. New models come out more often than most people change their underwear!

As an example, the Panasonic gf3 was $500 new in 2011. Now they're $70 secondhand after just 4 years. Similarly, lenses plummet in value though perhaps not quite as fast.

Why I was looking at the gf3 is because I want to take photos of the milky way. Now I know that's been done by everybody and their dog umpteen times but I'd like to do it for myself. I was looking for something small and cheap. I'm pretty much of the opinion that I should sell off all my remaining camera gear. I know I wouldn't get much but it never gets used largely because of the bulk.

A few weeks ago, I went to the zoo with some other photographers. In fact it was April - about 3 months ago.

During that visit, I chatted with the group leader and he had sold all his DSLR gear and bought an Olympus mirrorless camera. His analysis was that image quality was the same despite the smaller sensor. The bug bonus was that instead of having to carry a big bag of gear, all he needed was what he could carry in his pockets. That had two advantages - ease of use and his gear was easier to conceal from villains.

That had me thinking more along the line of selling my stuff to buy something more suitable for what I do. I like my 17-85 lens and rarely use my 70-300 though neither has a ready equivalent in the micro four thirds format.

As I've probably said many times before, I'm not one for buying gear that doesn't get used. It's too common in photography for people to have multiple gizmos to cover every conceivable situation. That's garbage - such people are not photographers. They are gadget freaks. My philosophy is that if a shot gets away because I don't own item x then its not a calamity. I just make the most of the least.

Neither of my digital SLRs have had great amounts of use. To be frank, its just too much of a nuisance to carry them and as for the great bug heavy tripod... For me the question is whether to get a micro four thirds camera or a 1 inch sensor camera. The digital SLRs are for the birds!

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