The digital camera revolution, in conjunction with the explosive growth of the internet has had profound changes on photography. Some changes have been dramatic, while others have been more subtle. In times of revolutionary technological changes, it is important to adjust your perspective to the new realities and contemplate just how far we have come. I will put the second part of this article online shortly.
1) Printing & Pioneers – A Little Perspective
If you asked to see someone’s family photos years ago, they would often reach for their wallet or purse, and proudly show you 2X3 photos stored in plastic coverings. Today when you ask the same question, people will almost always reach for their smartphones, and either pull up pictures stored on their mini SD cards or quickly navigate to a website such as flickr. Low cost digital picture frames have also become quite popular, enabling people with little in the way of technical know-how to store hundreds or thousands of photos on an LCD in an attractive picture frame, which cycle through every few seconds.
Todays’ kids are growing up dependent (overly?) upon smartphone technologies and when they think of photos, they think in purely digital terms. From their smartphones, to their iPads, to their computers, the younger generation’s photos never seem to make it onto paper. Printed photos are, for the most part, what their parents and grandparents relied on. High end quality photographic art and the obligatory high school portrait, family group photo, or wedding scene will undoubtedly continue to grace people’s walls, but printed photos are quickly losing their relevance. Those companies in the ink, photographic printing machines, paper, and retail printing businesses will have to continue to adjust to this rapidly changing trend.
Who would ever have imagined that the once mighty Kodak, a pioneering juggernaut whose very name was synonymous with the term “photography,” would exit the film business and declare bankruptcy earlier this year? George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, started the enterprise in 1880. Kodak’s intellectual property assets were recently estimated to be worth $2-$2.5 billion dollars, but the company needed a loan just shy of $1 billion to continue its operations. In 1980, Kodak employed over 128,000 around the globe, with approximately 60,000 of those employees based in the Rochester, NY area. Today, Kodak’s global workforce is closer to 17,000, with approximately 7,000 based in Rochester.
Contrast this development with the recent news for Instagram, a smartphone software company less than 2 years old with 13 employees (Yes – 13!). Instagram’s claim to fame? Software that enables users to make their smartphone pictures mimic the effect of Kodak’s 1950s/1960s era TRL (twin reflex lens) cameras and other similar looks, and share their creations with others around the globe. Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion dollars just a few months after Kodak’s bankruptcy announcement. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction…
2) Putting Off The Ritz
As Ritz Camera enters its second bout with bankruptcy (June 22, 2012), we are reminded once again that the traditional photography stores on the corner are nearly gone, and even larger camera store chains seem to be fighting a losing battle. Jessops, a large UK camera retailer founded in 1935, has also fallen on hard times over the last few years and its future seems far from certain. Factors such as low cost digital cameras with smaller profit margins, reduced need for printing services, fewer people relying on film, an increasingly wider array of camera models and more sophisticated technology, and cameras so cheap that it made little sense to repair them, combined to doom the traditional small camera shops that used to dot every city landscape.
In the popular movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” an interesting dynamic played out between Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), head of the book megastore, “Fox Books”, and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan), owner of “The Little Shop Around The Corner.” It involves the struggle between the small book store operator and the big box book store and discussions of folksy nostalgia and the hard-nosed facts associated with volume, profit margins, and changing consumer preferences and buying habits. Their discussions, although related to the book business, closely mirror many of debates and sentiments associated with those comparing traditional camera shops with the big box stores and mega online retailers such as B&H, Adorama, and Amazon.
People sometimes wistfully describe the demise of the full service camera shop, but the simple truth is that people didn’t support such stores because other retail establishments better met their evolving needs. Many of the services provided by these camera shops were simply obsoleted. Who was going to spend $100 to repair a $200 camera, which was likely replaced by a new model with more features and costing $175? And this assumes the camera shop could even maintain the expertise necessary to deal with the slew of models available. Rapidly falling camera prices also required significantly higher sales volumes in order for the stores to make a decent profit. There are still some top-notch camera shops that have carved out a unique niche by catering to the professional market place, but their numbers are dwindling and they face increasing pressures. And the wealth of product information available on the internet has supplanted much of the expertise that once was the domain of the camera store staff.
2) The Vanishing Big Box Store?
With the demise of the local camera shop, and the larger camera store retail chains on the ropes, one might think the traditional big box stores are safe, but even they face a rocky future. Circuit City? Gone. Best Buy? Not doing so well financially. More people are flocking to the internet for purchases of common electronics as well as higher end items. A few years ago, Amazon was all about books. Now, when people think of purchasing anything, Amazon is almost always on the list of first places to check.
The big box stores have massive overhead costs associated with physical stores, inventories, and personnel costs. Not necessarily bad if having them translates into some competitive advantage, but unfortunately, that is simply not the case. While I have bumped into some extremely sharp, knowledgeable staff at big box stores, more often than not, most sale personnel simply don’t have the in-depth product knowledge that would distinguish the buying experience at a big box store from any other potential retailer.
Given the big box wage scales, staff turnover, increasingly sophisticated high tech products, the tremendous rate of change of product models, and narrowing profit margins, it is exceedingly difficult for them to keep pace with all these changes. It is a rare big box sales representative that can assist customers distinguish the slew of camera models and their feature and make an informed decision. All too often, the discussion will quickly move toward the number of megapixels, since that is something easy to quantify and distinguish. And more megapixels are always better, right? ;)
Supported by massive sales volumes, B&H and Adorama can provide a degree of customer service not found at the big box stores or Ritz Camera. B&H has what I consider the state-of-the-art internet site when it comes to product selection, organization, friendly user interface, and ease of buying. Long before I began writing for Mansurovs, I was a huge fan of B&H, since I believe it was the model for how to run a successful, customer oriented, internet retail establishment. Amazon’s “recommended products” and statistics showing what other people purchased after looking at a given product, can also be helpful, although perhaps are not quite as relevant for DSLRs and lenses as they are for books.
3) The Tax Man Cometh
Many state governments in the USA don’t tax internet purchases. There is good reason to believe, however, that some of the previous opposition to taxation of internet sales by state governments is falling by the wayside, primarily due to the states facing tremendous budget shortfalls. Brick and mortar camera shops and big box outlets are happy with this potential change however, as they have long-blamed the tax free status of internet retailers as the main reason why people are abandoning their showrooms.
Some politicians claim that this is an issue of “fairness” and that it levels the so-called playing field between internet retailers and local brick and mortar stores. I believe this is a bogus argument. If you really want to put that to a test, walk into a big box retailer and stop by the camera section. Engage the sales person in a discussion regarding camera features and determine how much they know about the various models. Then ask yourself why you wouldn’t order one from the comfort of your living room from a website like B&H and save the gas money associated with driving to the store.
Sadly, the only thing that will be accomplished by taxing the internet will be to diminish people’s purchasing power. It will do little to change the fundamental shift of sales from local camera shops and big box retailers to the leading internet retailers. And it will do even less to curb the wasteful spending habits of our state and local governments. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. You can bet none of the politicians will go back after the tax laws change and measure how well the law delivered on the alleged benefits it was meant to provide. And good luck attempting to find anyone that will attest to the negative effects of the law.
4) Consumer, Educate Thyself
One of the driving forces behind many of the changes associated with the internet is the proliferation of vast amounts of detailed information and ability to share it with others around the globe nearly instantaneously. It seems simple enough, but this fact alone accounts for more of the changes taking place than most of us can comprehend. In years past, photographers would have to rely on a handful of photography magazines for product reviews. Due to the cost and time associated with assembling and distributing a magazine, it was a bit hit or miss with respect to finding a review of something you were interested in buying. And if the review of that item was in a previous magazine? You might be lucky to find that one if your fellow photographers happened to save that particular copy. If not, you would likely be buying a back copy from the magazine company – not exactly the fastest route to understanding how a given lens or SLR fared. Due to the fact that much of the magazine companies’ revenues were linked to advertising from the very companies’ whose products were being reviewed, one might reasonably question how objective the reviews were.
The other way to uncover product review information was word of mouth. If you belonged to a local photography club or attended some photography seminars, chances were that some of the discussions were centered on comparing notes regarding equipment. This worked out fairly well for relatively simple camera models with longer product life cycles, but such discussions were almost always limited to your particular geographic area, and chances for widespread collection of and dissemination of such information was nonexistent.
Fast forward to today. The digital camera era has ushered in a seemingly endless array of new camera models, with increasingly shorter product cycles. And each new model is more complicated and sophisticated than the previous generation. Camera companies are valiantly trying to make the devices easier to use, but the array of menu items associated with new features continues to grow. It is no surprise to find that staff members of big box stores and Ritz have a difficult time keeping up with the technologies and the myriad of models, features, and relative comparisons between them.
Thankfully, we witnessed an explosion of photography information available on the internet, to coincide with the rapid technological advances in digital cameras, photo processing software, and shorter product life cycles. There are probably a few dozen popular photography forums where people can find industry news, detailed product reviews, photography software tutorials, and general photography how-to information. A few sites even focus primarily on gossip and rumors. Beyond the more well-known forums, there are countless blogs put out by very talented individuals covering just about every aspect of photography you can imagine. Social media sites such as Facebook and twitter also enable people and the product companies to interact in real time. People can now exchange information with others from nearly every nation almost instantaneously, and review information dating back nearly a decade.
This is a real game changer relative to the industry. Why? Within the time that it might take for you to drive to Ritz or Best Buy, you can read a few dozen product reviews by reputable sources, watch videos, search the photography forums for comments related to the product you are considering buying. This significantly changes the nature of the relationship between you and the retailer. No longer do you have to rely on the knowledge of a store employee, which may or may not be as extensive as your own, or have to consider whether that advice is influenced by either what he/she is comfortable with or is incented to sell. When you can quickly and easily educate yourself on the various product offerings, the “value add” traditionally offered by the retailer diminishes significantly. At that point, selection, price, and service become the drivers. That is precisely why companies such as Amazon, B&H, and Adorama have been growing significantly while companies such as Jessops, Ritz, and Best Buy continue to struggle, and Circuit City closed its doors.
5) Out With The Old And In With The… Old!
I find it amusing to observe that long after a technology has been declared dead, it will magically reappear after nostalgic longing causes some to reintroduce it in some form. When I first got back into photography in 2007, I came across a fellow Pittsburgher who had concocted an interesting homemade device consisting of a heavy duty cardboard tube attached to an old, beat up Kodak Duaflex TLR (twin lens reflex) camera, which was quite popular in the 50s and 60s. He attached it to one of Canon’s top DSLR and lens combos. The resulting images were grainy, heavily vignetted, filled with a variety of textures produced by the old scratched lenses, and sported a rough black border. Of course, my first thought was, “So… you bought a high end Canon DSLR and some of the best lenses in order to take pictures while focusing through a 50 year old camera bought at a yard sale for $12?” Just when we thought all those yard sale Kodak TLRs were headed for the scrap heap, thousands of photographers brought them back to life by putting them in front of some of the best DSLRs and lenses of the world. All this to take retro looking photos, which they describe as “edgy.”
When it comes to styling, what goes around comes around again. Fuji’s X100 has been a huge hit, in part because of the classic rangefinder camera look, with sleek styling and a retro image. Olympus attempted to appeal to those same consumer urges with its new OM-D. While it is a modern DSLR under the covers, the OM-D has much sharper lines and an appearance similar to a traditional SLR, rather than the current crop of somewhat bulbous DSLR bodies that, apart from the manufacturers’ labels, are virtually indistinguishable.
As I mentioned earlier, Instagram has been a hit, in part because it enables people to quickly transform modern day photos into retro lookalikes and share them with others. I suspect we will continue to see designs from the past reappear in photography gear styling and software from time-to-time, as companies seek to differentiate their products from the competition and occasionally appeal to people’s sense of nostalgia.
6) Inspiration On Steroids
Before widespread access to the internet and the availability of sites such as Flickr, SmugMug, Pbase, Red Bubble, 500px, 1x, and the plethora of personal websites, how could you find and view the photos of others? Magazine publications were a major source. Of course, not everyone was fortunate enough to have their work published in popular magazines. Art galleries were another method. But again, many artists did not have their own galleries or opportunities to have their work featured in them. That left you with some books dedicated to photography, which you might purchase or perhaps borrow from the library. You had virtually no access to the work of the thousands of talented photographers around the globe. Today, you have it all at your fingertips.
We take it for granted that we can log onto the internet and immediately access the work of those that can inspire, guide, and teach us how to improve our photography in ways that would have previously been impossible. And we can often interact via email with many people we would never have had the opportunity to meet as well. I have been pleasantly surprised at how accessible some leading photographers are if you will simply send them a thoughtful, concise email. Thus the internet has greatly expanded our horizons and enabled us to explore the work of literally millions of artists from virtually every nation. And although impossible to measure, the enhanced opportunity to view the work of so many others has undoubtedly improved our collective creativity.
7) Build Your Own Photography Website? Nope…
In 2007, some photographers I knew were attempting to build their own websites or paying others do it for them – not the best way for a photographer to spend his/her time or money. Within a few years, however, we would see SmugMug and Pbase would expand their capabilities and customer base. Zenfolio, Red Bubble, and other template-based services would eventually come along and make it even easier to create customized websites and allowing photographers to focus on what they do best and get paid for – take photos. All that was necessary for you to be in business on the web was to pay a relatively low annual fee and select some easy-to-use templates. And Google Analytics can now provide you with a wealth of information regarding your site’s access and demographic information associated with your website visitors.
More recently, 500px.com and 1x.com have attracted more of the talented photographers seeking to escape the clutter that populates Flickr’s site. Flickr is seeking to revamp its site, however. It is offering more capabilities and changing its look and feel. Flickr has some amazing photos from very talented photographers, but unfortunately, it has also become a veritable “dumping ground” for just about anyone with any form of camera. The move by many from Flickr to 500px.com and 1x.com represents what I call, “the flight to quality.” Both sites seem to be growing quite rapidly.
WordPress, Blogger, and other blogging tools also have facilitated the development of custom photography sites, combining both photography and journalist commentary, and providing options for readers to leave feedback. We use WordPress for the Mansurov site. It is quite easy to use once you get the hang of some of the nuances associated with formatting posts. Improvements in blogging software now enable virtually anyone to create their own photography forum and compete with some of the more established photography sites.
With Adobe’s new Creative Cloud offering, we are seeing an expansion of the move to put more collaboration and file management capabilities onto industrial strength sites that have been customized specifically for such purposes. The reason is simple – Adobe wants to make it easier to focus on your profession, and less on the associated technology. Adobe recognizes that technology issues will continue to be an impediment to its growth and a threat to its revenue base. For now, it appears that Photoshop and other applications need to be downloaded to your PC or Mac, but I suspect with time, these applications will be fully accessible in the cloud as well. Adobe already provides some basic capabilities via www.photoshop.com. One might imagine someday having access to the full suite of Adobe products running in the cloud from a low cost tablet, and virtually no associated Adobe software footprint. I am just beginning to explore Adobe’s cloud offering and will cover it in more detail in future articles.
8) I Snark, Therefore I Am – It’s Not All Sunshine And Light Out There
I have had email since 1981 (shortly after I stopped using stone tablets and a crude iron chisel to communicate with others) and internet access since 1993. On the positive side, email and chat capabilities have provided so many opportunities to communicate in real time with others in ways previous generations could never have imagined. Many of these communications capabilities have improved the world (and photography) for good. Unfortunately, I have witnessed a seemingly endless number of ways for messages to be misinterpreted, communication problems to be exacerbated, and people to exhibit passive-aggressive behavior that they would never consider if they were sitting within 3 feet of the person they were communicating with. I refer to the way in which some use the internet to act out such behavioral problems as “Snarkism.”
Photography forums are certainly not immune from such behavior. On some forums (which shall remain nameless), many conversations often start out innocently enough, but quickly escalate into a series of biting commentary, name calling, and just plain rude, ignorant behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good debate and a bit of controversy as much as anyone. But I am not simply talking about some strong opinions, mild sarcasm or good-natured ribbing, but rather downright nasty personal attacks that make me wonder if some people may have skipped their daily medicine.
With the luxury (and safety) of relative anonymity and distance, some people naturally feel emboldened to stick out their chest and assert their superiority (at least what they perceive to be) on a variety of “life and death” topics such as: high ISO comparisons between Camera X and Camera Y, the value and usefulness of some the super zoom lenses, or whether Tripod ABC is really worth the 3X premium over its lower priced competitor. And woe unto him who posts a photo of anything shy of magazine cover quality – he/she might would likely fair better if cover themselves in blood and go swimming in shark infested waters! Rarely is a topic too insignificant to avoid a rapid descent into a series of insults covering other’s photography skills, lampooning the person for their “lack of posts,” boring photos, or perhaps suggesting that the person ate too many lead paint chips as a child. As entertaining as it can be to read some of these posts on occasion, it doesn’t take long to get your fill and wonder why you bothered logging onto the site. Sadly, this type of behavior certainly isn’t unique to photography forums, but rather endemic of the times we live in.
Despite the Snarkism that runs rampant on some sites, I have been very impressed by many people across numerous forums that have been very generous with their keen insights and helpful advice. I have learned quite a bit from them and have kept in touch with many people throughout the years. But to the extent Snarkism becomes characteristic of a given photography forum, it detracts from the otherwise useful aspects of it and likely dissuades people from participating and making it as valuable as it otherwise might be.
Not to worry though, as I have an answer for Snarkism. I am currently floating a reality TV program idea by some major networks. “Camera Wars” will feature 2 photography combatants who claim that their DSLR/lens combo is superior to that of the other. They will have a “shoot out” in the streets followed by a detailed comparison of their photos. If that doesn’t settle the argument, they will have the option to enter a sealed cage, and armed with nothing but 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, settle their disagreement once and for all – so the rest of us never again have to wade through 8 pages of personal insults on a photography forum, when all we were searching for were a few well-reasoned opinions regarding the various lens models! Think of the concept as, “Two photographers enter, one photographer leaves.”
9) Product Issues – Faster To Find, Quicker to Go Viral, And Harder To Hide
In 1995, if I had an issue with my Nikon SLR, chances are that my concern stayed relatively quiet. I might have written to a photography magazine if it had some type of “Ask The Pro” section. It might take some time for my question or comment to be published – if it was ever published. Since photography magazines were hardly incented to publish product defect information that reflected poorly on the very companies supplying their advertising revenues, there was little in the way of widespread, timely, or independent information related to potential product issues. And although I might have mentioned the issue to some of my fellow photographers in a casual setting or a photography club setting, the circle of people that I was able to share information with and influence was extremely limited. The implication for the camera manufacturers? They had quite a bit of leeway relative to sharing any details associated with a given defect, more time to consider their response, more flexibility regarding their response, and the opportunity to handle each defect on an individual basis.
Today? It’s a brave new world. Anyone with rudimentary typing skills can communicate with people around the globe on any of the internet forums or blogs within minutes to began better understanding the symptoms and nature of the alleged defect. This is huge change from the past.
What are the implications of the new reality?
Problem Identification – Customers can ascertain the level and extent of a product defect – perhaps better than the manufacturer can do on its own. Consider that hundreds, if not thousands, of people can collaborate regarding the process of identifying and isolating the details of a product defect, and gather voluminous amounts of information that can be used by the camera manufacturer to help resolve the issue. They can plot DSLR serial numbers, refine testing strategies, share detailed photos highlighting the effect of the defect, create polls, etc. That is a tremendous benefit to the camera manufacturers, as they could never afford to have thousands of field agents detailing the results of individual DSLR owners.
Speed – Such communications between those on photography forums can spread like wildfire. This can cut both ways. Legitimate issues can be identified and tested within minutes, hours, or weeks. Faster resolution of a product defect is clearly beneficial for both customers and the camera manufacturers. Of course, misinformation and false rumors can spread just as quickly.
Improved Products – Increased amount of information associated with a product defect coming from so many sources can help camera manufacturers make better and timelier decisions regarding the manufacturing process and quality assurance testing.
Transparency – Across the various photography forums, blogs and social media sites, it is literally impossible for an issue to be kept secret for any appreciable time. If one person knows – everyone knows. And of course, when the proverbial cat is out of the bag, a camera manufacturer’s silence may be deafening.
Are the camera manufacturers embracing the new reality?
I am not so sure – at least not to the extent they might. Historically, camera manufacturers have been a bit less than upfront in sharing information regarding product defects. When the world moved at a slower pace before the mid-late 90s, this strategy might have made sense. Why make waves, cause customers to have concerns, and give your competitors a sword on which to impale you? I am not justifying the mentality, but I understand that unless the situation involved a clear safety risk, a given product defect would be unlikely to warrant a recall or some form of press release by the camera manufacturer.
In 2012 however, in light of the new realities camera manufacturers face, perhaps this philosophy needs to change. Suppose by way of purely hypothetical example (any similarity between my example and any past, current, or future specific camera manufacturing defect situation is purely coincidental…), in a month or two after the initial wave of shipments of a new ground-breaking, high resolution DSLR arrive in the field, hundreds if not thousands of these units experience a serious issue associated with autofocus accuracy that negatively impact image sharpness. Innovators and Early Adopters of the new DSLR begin communicating, sharing notes, showcasing images, producing videos, etc. – all in an attempt to help one another and isolate the issue. Their collective efforts clearly identify that this issue is affecting quite a few DSLRs.
In light of the preponderance of evidence accumulated by it customers, how can the camera manufacturer justify remaining silent, particularly when the company is actively engaging in social media sites and attempting to solicit information, commentary, and ideas? When you call the manufacturer’s customer support line and ask if there is a way you can determine if your new DSLR is affected by this issue, and you essentially hear a rather robotic reply along the lines of, “Issue? We don’t know of any specific issue?” – well… that is pretty hard to rationalize.
I think it is safe to say that some of the camera manufacturers’ policies of the past simply haven’t kept pace with the realities of today’s online world. No one expects camera manufacturers to respond to every nonsensical rumor or treat an issue affecting a handful of DSLRs as a reason to issue a recall or hold a press conference. But when there is a serious defect affecting a significant volume of units, and it has been very well-documented by knowledgeable customers around the globe, it is inconceivable that the camera manufacturer can fail to acknowledge it. “See No Defect, Hear No Defect, Speak No Defect” isn’t exactly a winning strategy in such a case. Unfortunately, it may take a serious public relations debacle and a customer backlash to change this approach to dealing with issues.
I have highlighted but a few of the ways the internet has and continues to change the field of photography. While the basics of photography remain the same, the technology, business, and ability to interact with others have forever changed the profession. And the rate of change will only increase over time.
What do you think?
” It will do little to change the fundamental shift of sales from local camera shops and big box retailers to the leading internet retailers. And it will do even less to curb the wasteful spending habits of our state and local governments.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself! Spot on.
It is indeed the truth, isn’t it? :)
Bob, after reading the part I (which covered a lot), I was not really expecting much of a material in Part II, but it has taken me with pleasant surprise. The effects and changes have been well covered with adequate details – not only from the photographer point of view, but also from Makers, Media, and every entity involved.
One very positive take away for me is – I find myself lucky to be living in this era where we have so much technological advancements which make a Photographer’s life easy. I want to make most of it to create great pictures while spending less efforts, time [and money :) ] than my ancestor photographers did.
Thank you again for this amazing post!
PS: I just love humor embedded in your writings.
Thanks so much for the positive comments. Glad you enjoyed the post. Indeed, in 2012, we have much to be appreciative of in the phototgraphy field. Ansel Adams could only dream of what we currently have available to us! ;)
I wrote this two days ago for another web site. That Nikon Expert agreed with me:
I’ve been in Public Relations for 30 + years.
From the beginning, we were taught, “If there is a problem, admit it,
take your (short term) hits and go for the long term. You will ultimately survive.”
If you cover them up, they will ultimately come out and make you
look dishonest – or, at the least, a fool!
May I mention Penn State? Simply nail one guy as the person
acting on his own as a child molester, fire the guy, publicly state
the firing, take the credit as a public servant, and move on.
Using this approach, Penn State’s results would only be temporary negatives.
Long term, they would have been viewed as a good and faithful servant
of the public, doing what is the best thing ( and, of course, worthy of the
zillions of dollars that would come in to the football program and the school.)
Many people in management are totally insulated by their staffs. They look
to the next quarter’s earnings and not to the reputation of the company.
Corporate Idiots do make it to the top — in the U.S and in Japan!
Nikon? Advice? Sure. Take the responsibility for the mistake.
Apologize – Nikon – Apologize even if it HURTS!
State the fix and make it easy for D800/E owners to get a repair.
Expedite their fix. Pay for it! They just paid $3,000 + for your
not very perfect Professional Camera.
Next step, issue quality reports on all your cameras, showing they are within
specifications. Use reviews and other vehicles as a mechanism for telling the good news.
Next, combine that with a huge PR/Adv campaign touting Nikon’s long
history of Quality and Professional Grade Equipment.
Use testimonials – use lots of PRO testimonials!!
The ad campaign should WORSHIP THE NIKON IMAGE!!!
Run that campaign for no less than two years.
It will work. The faithful will stay. The image will be rebuilt! Others will come!
Nikon, you really screwed up. You had better listen to your world-wide
client base or you will begin to slide from prominence.
PS: No. I have not bought a D800E yet. Been on B&H’s wait list since Feb 7, 2012.
On another wait list since 4 months ago.
Am I in a hurry now. No. The damage has been done for many of us.
As I said at the start, doing nothing is a kiss of death.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Perhaps Nikon should call you! :)
As I indicated, I think Nikon’s current fans would easily forgive the mistake if the company was more upfront and proactive about it. The notion that Nikon knows there are a healthy number of units in the field with this issue, but waiting to see if customers go through some detailed testing (without any help from Nikon) seems… well… you can fill in your own adjective…
A little common sense on Nikon’s part would go a long way to repair the damage. And ironically, companies can sometimes come out stronger after a mistake, since their response to it can enhance their credibility and brand loyalty.
Good job Bob. Keep up the good work
Thank you again for this nice article!
I feel positive about digital, it’s progress and were all there to profit from it. As the cities are getting bigger and bigger, roads more crowded, etc , the Internet and DSLR have brought some freedom to express ourselves (and as usual some are just better at it than others). Back in the old days of b&w we could afford our own blackroom, not so much with color. Now I take as many pictures as I can without the burden of finding a place to process them. With CS6, Lightroom, Elements etc, I can vision and share with the world from my home. How could we go backward? The opportunities are just exponential now.
Just think of the Mansurovs without Internet (maybe a bbs with a 300 baud modem?) lloll…
There is no going back now! Digital is here to stay. Now if we can drag Nikon into the future, and change its antiquated way of dealing with product issues, which is a remnant of the SLR days, when products were easier and product cycles moved at a slower pace… ;)
“Product Issues – Faster To Find, Quicker to Go Viral, And Harder To Hide”
True – but we also have more product issues thanks to much more complex products.
Yes, back then products had issues, too, but just think about how many problems are software related?
While there were microprocessors in pre-digital SLRs the programs they ran were tiny in comparison to what a camera processor has to work on today – both the amount of code and especially the amount of data (images etc.).
While all companies are busily trying to establish the urban myth that one can’t expect bugfree software anymore (more code means more complexity means more bugs) but the truth is of course a different one: The problem is the limited amount of testing a company is willing to do on software because the allegedly finished product has to hit the market in order to stay in the market in the first place! And of course the testing costs money so profits shrink which makes stock holders unhappy etc.
When more and more products enter the market in a shorter and shorter time period (well, perhaps not Nikon ;-)) the pressure to release an unfinished product rises to enormous heights.
This is a downward spiral that continues to thrive until the customer gets too weary and a market crash is inevitable because nobody buys stuff anymore, fearing to get a dud. This happened in the early eighties in the videogame market – and this market was more or less dead until a new protagonist (Nintendo) arrived that grabbed the market with a good product and a licensing scheme to control what software enters the market. Not that all software was good but it was not as chaotic as with the Atari stuff.
At the moment, though, all is well and companies like Canon and Nikon (among others) are getting away with extremely embarassing design and manufacturing problems and people buy expensive gear because they are either so hyped up that they can’t control their feelings or because they have the fear they can’t survive with their three year old 12MP D700 a day longer.
In fact I’ve read a comment on Nikon Rumors where a D800 owner wrote that he wasn’t capable of parting a single day with his beloved camera for Nikon repairing/recalibrating the focus unit. He’d rather have a faulty camera…
Products are more complex indeed, but we get far more for the money, despite some of the headaches associated with them. The $5,000 early Nikon DSLRs couldn’t hold a candle to some models that now go for less than $700.
We can have bug-free code, but who would pay for it? Certainly not the average consumer. And even if they would pay for it, they wouldn’t wait for it to be built. If we were waiting for the perfect PC operating system, we would still be waiting. There is no “urban myth” associated with bug-free code. It is simply extremely expensive and would take more time than most people in most markets would ever tolerate before bringing the product to market. The road of ontinuous improvement is a journey – not a destination. The only bug-free software is that which is never written, never bought, and never used.
That said, I think Nikon is botching this one terribly. They made some mistakes with the early production runs – certainly understandable and somewhat expected with a brand new model. But… their handling of the issue has been a real eye opener. I hadn’t expected in the wave of so much evidence, they would engage in such a game of “Issue? What issue?”. People will forgive the mistakes of attempting something bold, such as bringing a ground-breaking DSLR that competes with medium format cameras for a value-priced $3,000 price tag, but not bothering to be upfront with your clients when there are well-documented issues? That’s a tough one to overlook. I certainly hope Nikon rethinks this ridiculous policy. I don’t want to have to feel like I am engaged in fighting the Cold War with my photography vendor of choice…
With respect to some people being not being able to live without their D800? That’s pretty sad… ;)
Bob, nice job. For those of us that have been around for a while and still have our original Mamiya TLR’s, RZ67’s and medium format Rangefinders we have always known these systems are timeless and cannot be compared to modern digital equipment. I think of it this way. I can’t duplicate the look I get from a roll of Tri-X loaded in any of my medium format mechanical cameras on the best of the best digital SLR’s and accompanying software (i.e., Photoshop, Lightroom, plugins, etc). On the flip side I can’t make an film-based image look like it came from a D700, D800, D4, etc. They are just different and that is okay.
For me, I see my work through the older processes that include film, dry plate, wet plate collodion and paper negatives. Most of my equipment is vintage 19th century-based and it never needs replacing. You might be wondering why I discussed the above systems and processes. The point is that I didn’t need the Internet for any of my photography work when I got started in the late 70’s and I technically don’t need it now. I do believe there are significant advantages to having access to information at the tip of your fingers and I also believe it can cripple us and retard our own growth as artists and photographers.
There are clear advantages of being able to market your work like never before, but then again they aren’t really looking at your work unless your target medium is digital. I scan and photograph many of my prints to display online and in my gallery, they look fine, but these digital versions are simply not the same as my prints. When I look at a photographer’s print in person it is a much different experience for me personally than viewing it online. I remember the first time I went to my local museum for a private viewing of some the greatest photographers (Adams, Penn, Strand, Cameron). I was, and I am not kidding, literally speechless. I was in awe and I was emotionally overwhelmed. I have viewed their work in digital form for decades before ever viewing them in person and I never had that kind of response. Maybe it is just me, or maybe I am on to something?
I also wonder about the impact of the Internet on our ability to sell our prints? Are people even buying physical objects such as prints any longer in high demand or would they rather look at it on their iPad via our gallery websites for free? Inventions like the iPad have changed the publishing business and the way we consume information and even how we publish. A friend of mine’s daughter is starting high school this Fall and an iPad was a requirement and they would have been financially penalized if they wanted her to use real books. Granted this is a private school, but the trend is obvious.
All of this is hard to say, but I can say that I have personally seen a significant decline in people buying real prints and whether that is good or bad depends on your perspective I suppose.
Thanks for the article and keep up the good work.
All my best,
Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experiences and background. Indeed, the ability to showcase your work, learn from the efforts of others, sell our work, and increase the speed at which we can connect to people are important – regardless of the photography technology used to take your photos.
I also wonder if the next generation will appreciate prints as much as the rest of us. I am not crazy about having EVERYTHING only online. There are some serious downsides to this, not the least of which is the ability to control information, including history! :) I do think that as display technologies improve, prints may be displayed in electronic picture frames that will be much better than the cheaper ones that usually sell for $25-$100. And the day may come when prints will be rare. At that time? They will make a comeback and be in style again! ;)
Thanks again for visiting the site.
Interesting, interesting and interesting.
The reason I keep coming back time and time again is for articles like this, informative and thought provoking, snarkism, had not heard of that one, but straight away reconized what it was all about, seen it on all different types of subjects and has made me want to shout at the screen, go away as the thread descends into petty squabbling. Bobs point on the power of the consumer to make the big boys respond to product faults will maybe change the anodine replys to genuine enquiries to camera problems, ie D800 auto focus.
Thanks so much. I am waiting with my 70-200mm VR for some of the Snarks to come for me… ;)
Thom Hogan seems to have also come to realize that Nikon has some issues and has fumbled the ball. I think Nikon should take a good hard look at the chart highlighting Time & Information. “Bad News Doesn’t Get Better With Time.”
Keep a watchfull eye, as in the poem, Hunting of the Snark, the Snark never appeared
They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.
Thanks for reminding me of this one. The difference is that some Snarks, as we have often seen, are real! ;)
The biggest problem with the digital age of photography, IMHO is things have become so simplified that knowledge of technique has been lost, compounded by “you don’t even know what you don’t know”. You now need a chart of hyperfocal distance vs aperature, where it used to be engraved on the lens. People are so used to autofocus they don’t realize that to get a good group photo of 3 rows of people you need to switch to manual and focus on the middle row. Things we used to do with double exposures in camera are now only done by the purchase of an “app”. I am encouraged that our local school system still teaches basic photography with adjustable 35mm film cameras. You learn the relationships of shutter to lens opening and the different types of optics and how to use them. After this foundation of knowledge, going digital and autofocus is a no brainer, as you’ve already learned the basics of technique.
You are spot on with those comments. You wouldn’t believe the number of “wedding photographers” I have bumped into who don’t know the basics, apart from setting their camera in P mode!
I always warn people to learn the basics before venturing too far into this rabbit hole. And sometimes, I find that I have to brush up on my own understanding of the basics – too many facts to stuff into one’s head a times! ;)
Well done Bob!
Things have changed rapidly over the last few years, the internet is now as common as a Dixon Ticonderoga HB#2 used to be in our pencil box (boxes were for geeks, cool guys just took the geek’s pencil), and with it there is more information than we can digest. Yet, there is more crap also, so we must sift it all out. I think that the net and software tech has influenced photography more than the photos have and sometimes more than the camera itself.
Thanks, John. With the good, we must accept (and hopefully minimize!) the bad. Software indeed is the name of the game. Since my article focused on the internet’s influence, I didn’t include too much on the software side. Will touch base more on this when I review the Adobe Creative Cloud.