Last December, Canon announced that they would be discontinuing development and production of DSLRs over the next few years. “The market needs are increasingly moving towards mirrorless cameras,” Canon CEO and Chairman Fujio Mitarai told in an interview. As the largest maker of digital cameras, Canon’s announcement dealt a blow to the industry—and rumors started swirling this July that Nikon would soon follow Canon’s lead, and similarly discontinue its DSLRs.
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While Nikon hasn’t explicitly confirmed the rumors — in fact, they issued a press release this month calling the report “speculation” — development and production of DSLR cameras have been in decline.
The DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera became popular around the start of the new millennium, with companies such as Nikon, Canon and Fujifilm producing DSLRs for the consumer-level market. With a large sensor and lightning-fast shutter speeds, the DSLR quickly became a favorite of many professional photographers.
Then came Instagram in 2010. Smartphones were equipped with photographic capabilities for many years, but with each iteration their capabilities expanded. As of 2010, the iPhone had a camera with a 5-megapixel lens, capable of recording HD video. With the push from a new social media giant, smartphone imagery began to take over the internet, seeing over 10 million registered users in its first year.
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In addition to the ease of use of social media, the cell phone camera also provided a sense of urgency. Suddenly, photographers no longer have to carry bulky cameras to capture the movements around them. Award-winning photojournalist Ben Lowery documented war zones via his iPhone, and in his series “Rebellion by iPhone” he wrote: “Small mobile phones are intuitive and enable far greater intimacy with a subject. It was a liberating experience: pointing and shooting with a tiny instrument, unaffected by a camera bag full of gear and reacting to the world around me.” In 2012, Lowy’s iPhone photo Hurricane Sandy was the cover image for Time magazine. was chosen as.
Architectural photographer and author Andrew Campbell Nelson feels the same way. “Phone cameras make documentation extraordinarily accessible,” he says. Nelson alternates between a DLSR (Canon 5D Mark 3), a film camera (Nikon 35mm) and his iPhone, the latter being his most used iPhone. “The intimate moments between family, friends and lovers are being captured and saved every day because of its omnipresence. [cell phone] Cameras,” he says, “should be a good thing I believe, quality be damned.”
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Quality, however, is subjective. With each generation of smartphones, the lens has been upgraded, and the ability to produce great images has expanded. In 2014, Apple launched its wildly successful Shot on iPhone campaign to highlight the rapidly increasing quality of its lenses; In 2019, the company partnered with pop icons Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga to film music videos using only the iPhone. The lines between smartphone photos and other digital cameras have blurred, especially as a plethora of software now offer “upscale” imagery, or the ability to increase resolution.
Certainly, photographers are adopting these new tools. British photographer Nick Knight, who famously likes to refer to himself as an “image-maker”, told business of fashion In 2016 that “photography took off years ago and we shouldn’t try to take back a new medium by defining it with old words. We can do things that Muybridge or Avedon or Mapplethorpe could never do because they are far from their particular craft.”
One of Knight’s most popular series, “Rose from My Garden”, has been shot exclusively on his iPhone. Thanks to AI-based software Topaz Labs, which ups the resolution, Knight was able to print the images in a large-scale format, blowing them up between 6 and 8 feet in size.
“I’m glad everyone has a camera now,” he added business of fashion, “Photography was considered a medium of the people. It was not a bloody well. We had a camera in the house and it belonged to my dad and we had to ask him to borrow it on Saturday morning. But now everyone can make an image, and everyone can see it.”
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It cannot be denied that the ubiquity of smartphones has democratized the ability to participate in photography, especially as the difference in quality between a smartphone camera and a traditional camera is no longer as wide as it used to be. was. But perhaps quality is the wrong metric to evaluate both. Fred Richin, Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography, believes that smartphone photography and analog photography are two different mediums that cannot be mixed.
in his 2008 book after photographyRichin compared the development of digital photography to the development of the automobile. “We didn’t know what to call [the automobile]That’s why we called it a carriage without a horse. We still have horsepower in our engines, even though there are no horses, because we thought it was a horseless carriage. And in the same way I think digital photography is like a horseless carriage,” he says. “It’s not really photography anymore; it’s something else. It’s another medium, or series of mediums, but we don’t know yet what to call it. We’re calling it digital photography, when in many ways It has little to do with photography, which is now called analog photography.”
Despite the nomenclature, digital photos reign supreme in terms of sheer output. Consulting firm Rise Above Research estimated that in 2022 people will take about 1.5 trillion photographs worldwide. If everything is photographed, what is the value of any individual photographs? “I think you have to differentiate when you say we’re photographing everything—I don’t think we are,” Richin says. He does not believe the boom in digital photographs will negatively impact the photographic market. “I think we’re creating images of a lot of stuff, but we’re not really drawing everything with any sort of purpose, or selection, or framing, or point of view. It’s an image to the experience as a whole. It’s like absorbing and then sharing it.”
This is not to say that Richin is against digital photography. “I think one of the exciting things about new media, which Marshall McLuhan wrote about, is when it hybridizes. It’s part film; it’s part still. It’s two energies coming together. are, in two perspectives, coming together. So the DSLR gave you the right to the image that is more ‘professional looking’. But the strange thing is I think some of the most effective photos around the world now are more amateurish The looks, which are more raw.”
Nikon France marketing director Nicolas Gillet says that for the time being, Nikon is still producing reflex cameras. Gillette does not believe that the smartphone has eliminated the need for a DSLR; In fact, he says, they complement each other. “It is clear that smartphones have democratized the creation of images as much as the social networks that host these images. Some people get a taste for it and want to go further in their artistic expression. They often feel they need a dedicated tool,” he says. “Beyond image quality and the ability to change lenses according to those needs, the ergonomics are quite different. At Nikon, we even have a word for this aspect: “cameraness.” The physical feel of the grip, the comfort maintained after several hours of use, the quality of subject tracking in a viewfinder, optimization of functions directly on the camera are elements that should not be underestimated when choosing your equipment. ,
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Nelson agrees. Despite the ubiquity of camera phones, Nelson believes the DSLR holds an important place in the photography world, and cites the need for a specialized tilt-shift lens to capture the architecture—something that his Can’t call. (“I’m dreaming of the day a slim, phone-sized camera could do a tilt-shift lens,” he says.)
But there is another element at play, which goes beyond the world of cameras and photography. Over the past decade, there has been an analog renaissance, partly thanks to the power of nostalgia, and partly thanks to a yearning for the tangible. In the music industry, which was disrupted by the advent of streaming services, vinyl record sales have grown steadily over the past decade; Between 2020 and 2021, vinyl sales doubled. There has been an incredible resurgence in the market for instant analog photography, like Polaroid cameras. In 2021, business Insider reported that the Fujifilm Instax camera was one of the best-selling cameras in the world. And Polaroid is embracing the hybridization of digital and analog by selling a printer that will convert iPhone images into Polaroid prints, it will be referred to as the “desktop darkroom.”
“Film photography is really a trend that seems to be on the rise. We at Nikon haven’t had any more film cameras since 2020 (with the end of the Nikon F6), but the second-hand market is very dynamic and the Nikon FM2, among others, is exploding,” Gillett says. “It’s hard to know how big this will be in the long run. The lack of physical experience of digital photography certainly plays a part in this trend, but many trends are cyclical.”
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Richin believes that analog will become more valuable as photography and imaging trend toward digital, and as NFTs boom. The market seems to agree: This year, the previous record for the most expensive picture ever sold at auction was broken by the sale of Man Ray Le Violon d’Ingres, which earned $12.4 million in May. “My understanding is that analog photos are going to increase in value in a lot of ways, and digital imaging is going to find itself in things like multimedia and virtual reality,” he says. “That’s why I wouldn’t say that the billions of images produced every day are equal to a. [Jacques Henri] Lartigue photograph or a photograph by Dorothea Lang. I think they are different media.”
Richin references Walter Benjamin A work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, a presenting essay about the devaluation of art by endless reproduction. Therefore, Benjamin believes, the origin is of utmost importance. Similarly, Richin says, we can evaluate digital and analog photography through this lens. “One is Mona Lisa in Paris,” he says. “It could hold 10 trillion postcards. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is a singular Mona Lisa People from all over the world come for that singular experience unlike the postcard that exists in the Louvre.” As with photography, “there’s a print appeal.” Personal touches by the photographer who printed it, and their techniques in the darkroom, What makes it original worth visiting the museum to see. There are digital photographs that hang in museums as well, but the craft behind it is inherently different.
For now, DSLRs are still available, but it is clear that they are headed for extinction. Canon is focusing on mirrorless cameras as the future of digital photography, and it is likely that other major players in the photography market will follow suit. But it is unlikely that digital photography will completely replace analog. In the rapidly growing digital world, the tangible has become more and more precious. For photography enthusiasts, there is nothing that can replace the chemical experience of developing photographs in a dark room, or the pride of being able to understand and operate a mechanical camera. The DSLR was an attempt to hybridize the feel (and quality) of traditional cameras with the digital output: but as the world of digital imagery expands and no longer relies solely on physical cameras, perhaps this is where the obsolescence lies. .