Looking Ahead: The Even Years

There's something odd about the even years in the photo industry. While manufacturers no longer wait for trade shows to release products, as they did in the past, there's something about the even years that seems to bring forth the really major introductions and changes. It might be a hangover from the past, before the Internet was filled with rumormongers and those who spy on big box store shipping invoices to scoop their stories, but any year in which a photokina show takes place is when tidal changes are announced.

But new innovations do not simply spring forth from the head of the design and engineering department. They take place in the context of the competitive environment and the development of other technologies outside the direct market those products address. In olden times when a new film came forth, especially as ISO ratings and quality rose together, it served as the basis for many other changes, from processing equipment to camera capabilities to photographers' expectations as to what they could capture. But the change was generated from within. Now there are so many outside influences on image capture--from software developers to computer makers to microprocessor manufacturers to competition from, of all things, multimedia devices like camera phones--that developments in photography come from any and all directions.

Manufacturers are looking two, three, and sometimes five years down the road and considering how to incorporate all these influences and potentially useful technologies into their products. But even they cannot predict how the economy will fare or when an entirely new device or approach to image making will turn everything upside down. Yet, even the most cautious photo manufacturer has their eye on the even year, when the worldwide industry gathers at the photokina show. The anticipation is palpable, and, having been at this for a while, we can make one prediction--that major news will begin to break during and right after summer, 2008.

Does this mean that nothing will occur between now and next fall? That's unlikely, as the CES and PMA shows in January also have their share of new intros. It's a given, however, that what we have come to see as forward-thinking developments in place today will become commonplace next year, and that even greater changes are coming in the near future. As is our wont, we will have numerous reporters at the PMA show and photokina, so we'll be sure to keep you up-to-date on all the developments.

Which brings us to one of our annual features published in this issue--our contributors' predictions for what the coming year holds. We always look forward to their revelations and rants, with some proving especially prescient while others are steam rising about important issues facing photographers.

Also in this issue we bring you our annual suggestions for photo and imaging books, our one nod to the "holiday gift guide" approach found in many magazines this time of year. While the Internet is certainly a fount of information and at times inspiration, there's nothing like opening a great book of images, as suggested by Cynthia Boylan, and absorbing yourself in the printed page, or taking your time studying tools and techniques with the many books Joe Farace covers in his top digital imaging book list. While some may consider it an antiquated way of doing things, it's nice to be able to get some knowledge and visual inspiration without turning on a machine.

I also want to thank you, the reader, for all your support this year. Shutterbug keeps growing in print and online, and I and the entire staff and writers appreciate it very much, and want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2008.