Friday, June 1, 2007
What's Next For Professional D-SLRs?
In the top echelon of digital cameras, we're seeing a change in priorities from the major manufacturers
In March, the photo industry made its annual pilgrimage to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the Photo Marketing Association trade show, PMA. This year at PMA, the story for professional photographers was particularly interesting. In recent years, the rumor mill prior to PMA had been working hard, as cameras, software, printers and accessories were being unveiled in droves. At the high end where professionals make a living, recent years have been particularly fruitful as nontraditional players have leapt into PMA, making big splashes with revolutionary products, and at the same time, the "usual suspects" of the industry have used the show to make their biggest product announcements.
So what was so interesting about this year? For professional level announcements, PMA 2007 was the slowest year in some time. Canon brought out the new EOS-1D Mark III, which amounted to the only new professional D-SLR at the show. In the medium-format space, Leaf and Hasselblad both had new-ish products, but nothing that was being shown for the first time. Epson and Hewlett-Packard both showed their latest printers, but again, these weren't new announcements.
Apple was on hand with its current version of Aperture, but it was hardly a new revision of the well-respected workflow tool. In software, the most interesting story was the complete absence of Adobe. Even with a new version of Photoshop on the way, Adobe decided to spend its resources elsewhere than at PMA. Of the smaller companies who produce tools that are every bit as important to professionals, there was plenty to see, but among the big boys, the tone was definitely a bit muted.
So what's the story? Is the industry suffering from some sort of collective influenza? Is photography as a business on the verge of a colossal failure? Hardly. Economic conditions are certainly challenging, but when was the last time you heard someone say that doing business was anything but challenging? What seems more likely is that the industry is in a stage of product evolution where explosive growth is ebbing in favor of refinement: evolution instead of revolution.