DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY IN AN ECONOMY IN CRISIS

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Over the holiday season the mass media’s pundits, columnists, and political soothsayers dusted off their crystal balls and polished their moral compasses to spin their usual self-serving conventional wisdoms while obfuscating carefully not to embarrass any of their benefactors. The same exercise as any New Year brings out, but this 2008 to 2009 passage involved factors that deserved much more insight and candor, but apparently the courage and fortitude of journalistic celebrities remains tempered by the fact the mass media is the mouthpiece of corporate America and it is never wise to bite the hand that feeds one. I don’t get paid enough by a long shot to be restrained in the same manner, but at the same time I have not risen to a level of celebrity that induces an audacity to think I can see into the future.

So lets consider what we do know presently and what is happening in the marketplace to see if 2009 will look much different from 2008. For sure with Circuit City already a thing of the past the number of retail outlets for digital photography products will be fewer, in part because the pie in terms of consumer spending has shrunk, but then the stores that remain will have a larger share of the pie if there are fewer stores. In other words it will be easier to shop around for a digital camera because you won’t have to visit as many vendors, and the really low-ball prices will probably disappear because the stores cutting the margins too close will not survive a reduced volume of sales and will likely disappear. Sadly in my view, the one store chain I would like to see disappear from the scene, WalMart will likely survive, but that is because it has been dragging America down to the bottom of the barrel on every front and too many just can’t resist the lowest price regardless that the product quality is second rate.

At the manufacturing level I don’t see much change in the immediate future, and I think the MacWorld show in San Francisco this week will bear me out. My rationale is a simple logic that all the new stuff has been in the pipelines of the big producers for 2, 3 or more years, so the investment in development has already been made, so not bringing a new model or an evolutionary upgrade to market would save little and cost more in no sales at all, and the hype of the new will help preserve public awareness and market share. So what I am looking for are possibly several new Apple evolutionary model upgrades, and one rumored one in particular I think digital photographers should take very seriously. I have been using Apple Mac Mini computers since they were first introduced about 3 years ago, and with great satisfaction in the performance and reliability of a really modest cost computer with unique advantages, one being it is just a 1/10 the size of a typical PC tower. The new Mac Mini is said to have much improved video support including possibly two interface connects for dual displays, and very likely it will have a faster processor and in the top-of-the-line model maybe even a single Quad Core processor. But MacWorld isn’t just Apple products it is also heavily invested in all kinds of graphics hardware and software, some of which will support PC Windows use as well as the Mac crowd. So beginning tomorrow look for digital photography news out of Moscone Center in San Francisco.

I don’t think the excitement and enthusiasm will be any less in 2009 for those latest and greatest new goodies that are offered, but the realities of an economic environment 2008 brought us will have a large impact on individual’s thinking and consideration of making a purchase decision. That is reflected in what you see in the personal for sale advertisements in newspapers and on-line for the largest SUV’s both in the huge numbers for sale and the actual prices they are selling for. But I think there are many more gas guzzler’s sitting not driven in driveways because more is owed on them than they are worth. Reality has had its impact and mindless expenditures just to satisfy one’s self image may be set aside for more realistic and practical choices. Will so many tack a couple of $1,000 plus lenses to their dSLR kit so readily, or will they realize they can obtain just as sharp an image with a lens that is a fraction of the cost of the super XXX model. No one has listened to me in the past that optics are much less a factor with digital SLR’s compared to 35mm film SLR’s, because no one has taken the time and effort to examine a true unsharpened raw digital camera file to see on a computer display just how soft and low contrast what is captured by a dSLR camera is. On the other hand a frequent correspondent who is even older than I, (if that possible) am and still shooting just got a Canon G10 and sent me some prints from a small segment cropped from an image made with his G10 - he was literally cooing about the results he was so pleased, and for good reason I could see in the prints - better acutance and detail definition than anything I have seen from a medium speed 35mm film frame, plus no grain.

I think 2009 will not be that different in digital photography, in part because momentum will keep the business percolating, although with slightly fewer players. But after the mortgage shoe dropped in 2008; if the other shoe, credit card debt, causes more big financial institutions to go belly up, 2010 may be a very different situation. In the meantime with a little more time on our hands in a slower economy even more digital pictures may be taken, it is a time to stop and smell the roses and shoot a picture or two.

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