Friday, 4 May 2007

Buying a digicam

Ctein, over at T.O.P., has put up a post about the difficulty of buying a digicam (pocket sized digital camera). I think he's missed part of the point about the digicam buyer, which is part of the fundamental disconnection of serious photographers and camera makers.

The more serious photogrpahers want a digicam with controls, good dynamic range, RAW etc. A device that gives them full control in a small package.

The average digicam buyer (the ones at whom these are targeted) wants a small device, more megapixels, decent photos right out of the camera for email and small prints and a nice looking device. I know, I often look in the local mega-store (Media Maarkt, something like CompUSA or Curry's) at the latest batch and also to hear what's going on.
Salesmen are out to sell zoom ranges, mega-pixels (as a de-facto measure of image quality) and all the easy-print features. These are the things that at least 95% (maybe more) of buyers want. Even amongst those carrying DSLRs (the smaller variety at least) I've not come across a RAW shooter and most haven't moved the dial from P.
I also know quite a number who used to shoot a lot of fairly serious stuff with decent SLRs who've abandoned it all for the ease of the modern digicam. No more thinking about settings, developemtn etc - just point & shoot get decent pictures, keep them on the computer.

I think the older 35mm pocket cameras were sold on a similar premise but there were some key differences that helped serious photogrpahers: dynamic range was less of an issue, fully controllable with film loaded. Now you're stuck with JPEGs that choice is gone. There were small cameras with controls, too, and they all had optical viewfinders. All boons to the pro. It's just that the deveice he was buying was in no way targeted at him. Cameras lasted a long time too (after all, film cameras are just light-tight boxes between lens and film).

Now that digital has come, all the inadvertant advatages have been stripped out, sizes have shrunk limiting the ability to add the good stuff and the whole sensor thing means devices go defunct quickly. Great if you're a camera co. executive. Poor if you're serious about pictures.

Until the 2 sides (camera cos & serious photogs) actually start talking about the digicams, there will be no change. But then again, what incentive is there for a camera maker to build this kind of device - the market is small, highly critical but also highly demanding. Of course, on the other hand, there are all the technologies available in each company range, it's just a matter of will to bring some of them together.

I hope the new Sigma DP1 is good and sells well, then maybe things might shift a little.

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