Thursday, April 3, 2014

Current Digital Cameras are Garbage, Don't Waste Your Money

The latest numbers from CIPA are just out and disturbing as they show a 35% decline in worldwide digital camera sales compared to this time in 2013. What's worse? The Americas have seen sales drop about 50%.

According to CIPA's own numbers, production of digital cameras peaked way back in 2010, an eternity ago in the world of modern electronic technology. Back then, all of the manufacturers' current flagship models were still on the drawing board and are now at least a generation descended from 2010's best gear. So, with so much time elapsed and technology evolved, why aren't people buying?

My take: lame products.

I hate to say it, but the cameras of 2013/14 aren't much better than those of 2010. Being a Nikonian, let's look at Nikon's flagship models of these respective times: the D3s and D4s. So, what advantages does the D4s have over the D3s?

16 vs 12Mp (only a 25% resolution boost)
ISO 409,600 vs 102,400 (both are insanely high and make crappy pictures)
+/- 5 steps AE bracketing vs. 3 (that actually may matter)
1080p vs 720p video (never mind these aren't designed to be video cameras, anyway)

Everything else? Pretty much the same (and only 1 of these 4 changes really matters, to boot), which means that the D3s of 2010 is about 98% the D4s of 2014. Oh yes, then there's the price. You can snag a D3s, which is 98% of a D4s, for somewhere in the $3000s. The D4s? Expect to pay about double at $6500.

Gee, and I wonder why people aren't buying new cameras in the numbers they were 4 years ago.

The fact is that the cameras of 2014 aren't all that much different from those of 2010. Back in 2010, the image quality race was going strong, with giant leaps in picture quality still being possible. Come 2014, sensor technology seems to have reached a plateau. Yes, today's cameras may have more pixels, but aside from resolution, the pictures of today don't look appreciably better than those of 2010.

Picture quality being apparently stuck, manufacturers have been forced to look to other features to sell their products. Problem: instead of going for things like weather-sealing, more direct access controls, faster burst speed, faster processing, more aspect ratios, more custom functions, longer battery life, and better AF systems (which make the picture taking experience better), companies have gone for stupid stuff like GPS, wi-fi connectivity, face detect AF, art filters, faster video capture, touch screens, and more scene modes than you can fit on an aircraft carrier.

My message: if anyone from the manufacturers is reading this, we want more photo-friendly features that make for a better pictures/picture taking experience, not toys that we can use to try and impress techno geek friends with.

Implication: for anyone who's interest is actually taking pictures, there's no reason to buy a new camera as today's models offer no real improvement over 2010's.

End result: people with old cameras see no reason to upgrade and are holding onto their old cameras longer than ever before. Heck, until money starts growing on trees, why dump something that's a bit old but is perfectly functional for something new that costs twice as much and offers no real improvement other than a brand new shiny paint job?

No, photography isn't a dying hobby, the manufacturers just aren't giving us any good reason to spend our money.

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