What Is In Store For 2004
A Collective Look Into The Photo Imaging Crystal Ball

Digital SLRs Heat Up: Going Hybrid Gets More Attention
First to the obvious...the digital SLR market is going to explode. With the recent introduction of the Canon Digital Rebel model the $1000 price point has been broken and every manufacturer has to reassess if they're going to get in on that game. Given that the Digital Rebel does not meet everyone's needs, there will still be room for D-SLRs with more pro-oriented features, like Nikon's D2H WiFi model. But companies such as Nikon, Pentax, Fuji, Minolta, Sigma et al might well feel the need to respond, and that should make for interesting times ahead.

How does the D-SLR impact what happens in this industry? When we talk with companies who make accessories--from independent lens makers to those who supply memory cards and even tripod and bag manufacturers--they all say that this is the breakthrough that they've been waiting for. Film SLR sales have been dropping steady, if slow, and they have not provided the big push that the digital SLR can deliver. That means we'll all see a whole new flock of the above-named items specifically geared to what everyone thinks will be an overwhelming migration into digital SLR territory. All I can say is okay; now that we've broken the $1000 barrier why not aim for $500 next? It might not happen right away, but with 2004 being a photokina year--the worldwide show in Germany in the fall--we are bound to see major changes in both price and feature value sets for this product category.

Another area where we'll see lots of action is in printers and the fact that more and more people will be doing their prints at home or in their studios. We have worked with some new printers that give amazing color first time out and even true continuous tone black and white, without color shifts or weird crossovers. The new ink formulations and the development of archival papers to go with those inks should encourage even more people to try their hand at making more than just snapshot prints from their digital image files.

The digital darkroom has opened more creative options for everyone, and printers that produce amazing results--without too much fuss--are coming in at better prices than ever before.

The same goes for scanners, which now sell for prices unheard of before and deliver quality and resolution equal to those that sold for thousands before. This brings up what I believe will be one of the main moves this year--the understanding by many photographers who want big prints, easy storage and retrieval, and, in some cases, the best quality, that film and digital actually do go hand in hand. By shooting with film and then scanning with a high-quality scanner, digital files are produced that in some cases will beat even the best digital camera available today.

This might, just might, lead to a renewed interest in formats larger than 35mm. Just as with printing with conventional enlarging techniques, scanning from a larger film format can yield higher resolution, tonal- and
detail-rich digital files that yield amazing prints. Having done a fair share of scanning from both 35mm and medium format film I can attest to the fact that the scans from medium format are the ones I return to for prints again and again. Printing from a 72MB file can be a revelation, both in the amount of RAM needed and the incredible image quality it can produce. Perhaps medium format manufacturers might consider touting this the overall enlargeability and image quality of film run through their cameras--rather than trying to sell us on digital backs that in some cases get lashed onto their camera bodies. Perhaps they should get into the scanner business or partner with a scanner company to bring us their recommended hardware and software solutions and tout the amazing results you can achieve.
--George Schaub

The Pro Market: Weddings And Portraits
Since my business is based on portraits and weddings, I'm going to stick my neck out and do a little forecasting about those sectors of professional photography. Let's start with weddings.

Almost every photographer I know who does weddings as a business is down. While you can talk about the economy and the losses in the stock market, I think the reason is twofold. First is because of changes in technology and second is a backlash to what the public perceives as high prices. Let's look at technology.

Quick, how many videographers do you see at a wedding? I used to see them all the time, now it's very rare. But I do see Uncle Joe with his digital video camera. I think digital has killed the video wedding business and it's now making an impact on the still photography side as well. For many couples, having two or three friends with digital cameras will be good enough. Looking at pricing, many wedding couples will wonder why they should pay several thousands of dollars for wedding photos when they're practically free from their friends' video cameras. In this instance photographers have proven to be their own worst enemy. They have sold the public on very natural, candid photography. Now, many couples feel they can get that without using a pro.

In the portrait market, I've been saying every year that the photographer who aims at the middle of the market will soon be gone, and every year more of them are. The cheap department store guys are here to stay and there will always be a market for the "prestigious" photographer. Clients have a hard time distinguishing between the department store and moderately priced studio, so price will win. Improve your photography, sales, and marketing skills if you expect to be here in 2005.
--Steve Bedell

Photo And Digital Symmetry
It's clear that digital photography has become equal to 35mm film in most situations and is now challenging medium format with the availability of 14-megapixel cameras. I think we're going to see some of that technology trickle down to consumer cameras. More cameras will address some of the issues that make digital photography questionable, like shutter delay that until now has inhibited more spontaneous shooting to capture that "decisive moment." Larger file sizes will add to the capability of producing larger prints. Most of the fine art photographers I've spoken to are waiting to get into digital until they can produce 20x30 prints that are indistinguishable from the ones they now get from 35mm film.

The storage issue also needs to be addressed. Over a year ago I wrote about the need for stand-alone CD burners that could work in the field and replace traveling with laptops. Those are just starting to become available. But with the larger megapixel cameras with increased resolution, can stand-alone DVD burners with the ability of reading multiple memory cards be far behind?

On a personal note, I was an early purchaser of a DVD burner to back-up the data from three 120GB hard drives that were filling up. But I quickly found out that it wasn't the large capacity DVD burning that was needed as much as was taking the time away from my other computer work to actually burn the data to disk. That didn't happen until I purchased a new computer and was able to dedicate my old one solely to burning the back-up DVDs. I think as larger file size cameras produce large amounts of image files, photographers will be purchasing dedicated computers to deal with archiving their valuable images.
--Larry Berman

A Corner Will Be Turned
From what I know that will be introduced in the last quarter of 2003, I believe 2004 will be a year in which photography will turn a sharp corner. The level of digital imaging photographic quality will match or surpass analog, film-based picture making and will be affordable to most professionals and many serious enthusiasts. However, not everyone who can will make the switch to digital. Many will remain devoted to the analog past because it is traditional; others will just plain reject digital because it is new, and they don't like change of any kind.

What I anticipate will prove interesting, though, is how those who do make the switch will individualize and stylize the images they produce. Many photographers have customized the analog photographic process in the past to put their personal "stamp" or look on the photographs they create. With digital that capability is no longer limited. This will make the potential for interpreting what a lens sees even greater, resulting in personal visions that are virtually infinite.

What will photographers do with that creative potential? I doubt that it will be immediately noticeable. More than likely, many will try to make digital look like underexposed Kodachrome, if that was their style in the past. Is that being cynical about creative self-expression? Not really, especially when you consider how many people in recent years have purchased Harley-Davidson motorcycles, thus conforming to the accepted appearance of what it is to be a nonconformist.
--David B. Brooks

The Digital Wave Rolls On
In 2004, the number of digital cameras sold will significantly exceed the number of 35mm cameras that are sold, at least in the "compact" category. Expect to see entry-level 3-megapixel models in the $199 range, many new "single-use" models, more 8+ megapixel digicams, and many new cameras with very long built-in zoom lenses, some with an image stabilizer system.

According to a Photo Marketing Association study, less than 19 percent of digital pictures were printed in 2003, "because of the complexity, cost, and time requirements of home printing." Statistics like this will encourage the printer manufacturers to release more affordable photo printers, using less expensive ink cartridges as well as more models with direct printing (from a camera or a memory card) capability. At the other end of the range, expect to see more large format ink jet printers. These machines will produce 13x19", and perhaps even larger photo prints; at least one new model should sell for under $500. Eight-color printers will also become common as will machines with 5650 "optimized dpi" resolution capability.

In digital SLR cameras, 5- and 6-megapixel sensors (smaller than a 35mm film frame) will remain the norm. Still, we should see at least one new 8-megapixel camera in the $1500 range and an entry-level model with a 3- or 4-megapixel sensor, priced at around $499. Many new lenses, suitable for use only with digital cameras, will be introduced, including some with extremely short focal lengths, for producing true ultra-wide angle effects with digital cameras that have less than a "full frame" sensor.
--Peter K. Burian

64-Bit Computing
I think that a trend that will truly help digital photographers will be the release of the 64-bit computing platforms. The Apple G5, AMD Opteron, and Intel Itanium coupled with 64-bit operating systems from Apple and Microsoft will offer a huge gain in computing performance at reasonable prices. Digital printing technologies and color management are two areas in which I would expect continuous development and refinement in the effort to create the best products and simplest workflow for photographers.

I would expect the digital SLR market to continue with its rapid development, and wouldn't be surprised to see heavier competition and price drops on digital backs for medium format bodies.

Lastly, I think that personal development is the key to remaining profitable for the years to come.

Training classes, seminars, or books that can enhance your understanding, knowledge, and expertise will always benefit your final product or business, and minimize downtime.
--Cris Daniels

Making The Switch
I have just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that states that Kodak will no longer be supporting research into new film-based products. Instead, they will pursue the home and professional digital printing markets. This article also stated that the digital revolution was happening at a much more rapid pace than anyone previously had anticipated. Like we didn't already know that.

I can remember not too many years ago thinking that digital photography wouldn't change my way of working very much. Yeah, right! My darkroom is now the computer sitting next to the one I use for typing, excuse me, word processing. Let me be clear about this, I don't like computers. But boy, I sure do love what they can do for me! I just wish the upgrades weren't coming quite so fast.

Speaking of upgrades, are you wondering what new goodies are lurking around the next bend and what they're going to do to your wallet? (Just remember that you're reading someone who invested heavily in Beta video and eight track audio equipment.)

In the short term I expect digital cameras of all types will come down substantially in price while the image quality continues to rise. I anticipate that 10+ megapixel cameras will be common and the prices will be around that of today's 4- to 6-megapixel cameras. I wouldn't even be surprised to see this happen by the end of 2004.

One area that has lagged somewhat is medium format digital camera/backs and many would hope to see increased activity in this area in the next year or two. Also, ink jet printers will continue to come down in price, although I'm not sure how they can get much cheaper. On the other hand, I suspect the actual cost of paper and inks will remain relatively constant. In the near future, the color fidelity and longevity of ink jet prints will achieve levels we can hardly imagine.

The president of Xerox once predicted that the market for copiers would top out at something like 5000 units per year. I can only hope my predictions are a little nearer the mark. In fact, I'm going to tack this text on my wall and see how close, or far off, I was a year from now.
--Joseph A. Dickerson

Where Does Digital Go From Here?
Yoda said, "there is no try, just do," but he never had to deal with Washington bureaucrats at the Jedi Academy. What's possible for imaging in the near or far future will be determined less by technologic possibilities than political, social, and economic considerations. Based on the success of NASA's Apollo program, I predicted manned space flight to Mars by the end of the 20th century, but it didn't happen. Right now, real digital innovation is hampered by dormant economies in the US, Japan, and Europe.

Speaking only for myself, I think the digital SLR wars are over and, with the introduction of the Digital Rebel, Canon won. Contax tossed in the towel and Leica is determined to be a boutique company aimed at deep-pocket collectors and traditionalists. Nikon is struggling with a concept marrying expensive digital-only lenses to small chips and is becoming the neo-Leica with people buying because of brand loyalty. Olympus' all-digital approach is technically interesting, but, like their fascinating film-based O Product, seems doomed to become a photographic curiosity. The Pentax *ist siblings--one digital, one film--makes so much sense you wonder why it took so long for somebody to figure that one out. A set of $1600 digital and $370 film SLR bodies will be a tempting package for many photographers, especially Pentax users who hung in there with the company during their indecisive period.

If we follow the money, like Woodward and Bernstein, where are we going to find the profits? In point-and-shoots, the Minolta DiMAGE Xt and Konica KD-500Z are class acts but these companies seem happy building Honda Civics while letting others construct Porsches and Ferraris. Minolta and Konica should produce a small interchangeable lens rangefinder digicam--the digital camera "killer app"--but they don't seem to grasp the idea. Hey Kobayashi-san, why not a digital Voigtländer that uses your optically superb lenses? Photographers would line up round the block for one.

My forecast is for "snow pushing off to the east..." sorry, for creeping improvements in digital cameras, a lackluster and more Euro-centric photokina, and no breakthroughs until the world economy sees blue skies. But that's just my opinion. I may be wrong.
--Joe Farace

If there is one thing that the last 20 years has taught us, it is that the 21st century will see more and more niche marketing. The days when everyone watched the same TV programs, ate the same food, and read the same magazines (except Shutterbug!) are gone. As Bill Bryson memorably phrased it, you can now buy magazines such as Christian Woodworker and Machine Gun Collector. The same degree of hyper-specialization will become increasingly true of cameras and materials.

You want to buy a "real" mechanical Leica, where the shutter speed dial goes the right way? No longer are Voigtländer the only suppliers: the Leica MP is available from the lads themselves--and there are further developments in the works that I have promised not to reveal. You want a proper wooden camera? Gandolfi is still in business after 110 years, and they have over a dozen more modern competitors. You want "real" film? Ilford never stopped; Kodak has signed the pledge anew with revised Tri-X and Plus-X; and there are other superb choices from Paterson, Forte, Foma, Bergger, and more.

If you want digital, it won't be a problem. If you don't, that won't be a problem either. Photographers should focus less on knocking what they don't want and concentrate more on buying (and using) what they do want.
--Roger W. Hicks

A Note To Travelers
To all travel photographers: Begin making the transition to digital, but don't give up those analog toys and tools. Have fun with it. Experiment. Play around. Use different formats, film types, cameras, and exposure guidelines. Work harder on seeing and discovering. Work smarter with the equipment you lug around with you.
Pack light. Consider purchasing film at your arrival destination and FedExing home. Keep an eye on those travel valuables. Get photo releases of everyone you shoot. Shoot a roll of film per day--on anything. Just shoot. Consider taking out trip insurance on those once-in-a-lifetime excursions. Blend in. Don't stand out or bring attention to yourself. Exhibit sincere humility. Be a diplomat for your country. Embrace all people and cultures with love, acceptance, and honor. Camera tools will come and go, but your vision (how you see the world and share it) abides forever! Rock on, my friends and happy snaps.
--Jack Hollingsworth

A Creative Time Ahead
The coming year will be an exciting one for photography. It's a given that image quality will continue to improve as megapixel count climbs and post processing techniques employed by cameras are optimized. The cost of digital cameras will continue to drop, introducing more to the digital way of creating images.

Unlike shooting film, digital photographers are not constrained by the significant cost of film and processing. Furthermore, the instant feedback that a LCD gives can help a photographer improve their technique with every shot they take.

Finally, the smaller, lighter digital cameras that are being produced will encourage photographers to shoot everywhere, capturing moments in time that otherwise would have been consigned to the "gee I wish I had a camera" lament.

The upshot of all this? We can look forward to a creative photographic year in 2004, as more and more people embrace photography and use their new tools to push limits and produce a record number of images of the world around us.
--Chris Maher

Digital Still Has A Way To Go
My crystal ball is a bit hazy, but here are my thoughts about photography's near term future. There's no question that the handwriting is prominently on the wall for more and more digital capture devices. But until the digital camera becomes much easier to use and faster in response time it will not entirely replace versatile film cameras. I believe most film cameras still have the edge in terms of high-resolution image quality, immediacy of capture, and moderate price. They are also far easier to learn. I'm not anti-progress and enjoy having a multitude of built-in features and capabilities in any camera. But when you have to keep referring to the instructions to accomplish any relatively basic operation, digital becomes more of an aggravation than a convenient way to quickly record images.

Now that even cell phones, that many people carry constantly, have multiple capabilities including image capture and display features, why would anybody want to also carry a digital camera? I predict that even more versatile multifunction cell phones will become available in the near future and perhaps even eliminate the need for a separate digital camera. Then, having a conventional film camera for recording really top quality images, plus a multipurpose cell phone/camera, will suit the image capture needs of most snapshooters in the near future.
--Robert E. Mayer

A 2004 (Digital) Wish List
While everyone else may regale you with visions of better digital cameras capable of even higher resolution and at lower prices, I'd like to go on record with my "wish list" for 2004 instead, focusing entirely on digital:
1. Digital cameras that use smaller batteries that last longer and cost less. Rechargeable lithium battery packs are still too bulky, cost too much, and don't last nearly as long as we need them to. With film cameras, one or two tiny batteries lasted, it seemed, a lifetime. Today's energy-crunching color monitors draw power at an unprecedented rate, rivaled only by the built-in flash. It's time battery manufacturers met the need of today's camera gear.
2. Considerably shorter shutter lag and processing times, with instant start up. Except for the interchangeable-lens SLR genre, even prosumer digital cameras take too long to do their business. Let's get on with the show.
3. Industry standardization on a memory card, with high-capacity (multi-gigabyte) cards priced affordably.
4. Image stabilization on every lens over 5x. It's hard to hold a long lens steady, and we don't always have a tripod handy. Why tout long lenses when users can't be expected to take sharp pictures with them?
5. Color monitors that are easy to see in bright light, with a tilt-swivel function.
6. Ink jet photo printers that perform to expectations (and manufacturer claims) right out of the box, and do so
very consistently.
7. Flat-screen monitors that are every bit as usable for digital imaging as a CRT.
8. A merging of Macintosh and Windows platforms, or at least an operating platform that doesn't crash every five minutes, no matter what software is installed.
--Jack Neubart

The Digital Darkroom
Epson has already started shipping new printers with archival, pigmented, ink systems that even Epson says are good for over 70 years. I believe that while ink jet printer manufacturers will continue offering dye-based ink for regular use, there will be an increased trend toward more stable inks with a better color gamut for photographers. Epson's UltraChrome and DuraBrite inks are probably only the beginning.

Ink jet printers will become a bit faster, and one major manufacturer will introduce a 17" throat photo-quality printer for less than $1800.

Computer hardware will continue to get faster, smaller, and less expensive. The new serial hard drives will improve reliability and allow for better performance. As image file size gets larger from the newer digital cameras, serial hard drives will become more meaningful.

DVD+R recording will become mainstream with CD-ROM eventually phasing out.

Again, larger image files from newer digital cameras will drive photographers to seek the higher capacity DVD capability for their archiving.
--Darryl C. Nicholas

Dial In The Monet Effect...
On the pro side, I think digital special effect filters (graduated) and artistic (brush stroke) will be built into digital SLRs. Perhaps the same type of filters could be built into consumer digital cameras. Most important, I think battery life will be greatly extended...and pro cameras and lenses will get lighter.
--Rick Sammon

Silver Still Gleaming: Don't Count Film Out...Yet
One technology rarely replaces another completely. So it is with digital and silver halide photography: the energy and interest stimulated by digital have helped improve silver halide.

Take film. Because many films are now scanned, the film manufacturers have invested a great deal in research and development. Advances in film technology have improved the results you get with film scanners. They have also improved the results you get when you print traditionally. Color negative films offer finer grain, more pleasing colors, and greater consistency. Ever more chromogenic black and white films are now available, alongside updated old favorites. And transparency films are finer-grained, with better colors than ever before. You can have bright supersaturated colors, or softer, subtler colors.

Backlash is another factor. Those who do not want to embrace digital are determined to show what silver halide can do. Consider the revival of the traditional rangefinder camera. Just one man, Hirofumi Kobayashi, is mainly responsible. He decided to build a 15mm lens. He also made a camera--the Voigtländer Bessa-L--to use it on. And another lens. And another body. And some more lenses. And some more bodies. Kobayashi-san has no intention of making digital products. He's a halide man. But you can have the best of both worlds by shooting film in a traditional rangefinder camera, and scanning it into a computer. You then have the best available archive--film--plus the convenience of manipulating and printing your photos digitally.
Crossover is fundamental. As people take the best of both technologies, all products will improve. Just as photography stimulated artists to experiment in new directions, digital photography has stimulated traditional silver halide photography. That has to be good news for everyone.
--Frances E. Schultz

Silver Halide's Last Gleaming (With A Nod To Bob Schwalberg)
The trend in digital is obvious to anyone with eyes and ears. Film is on the way out. It will take years and there will always be film and film cameras, but with a purchase ratio of about 9:1, companies will probably begin to phase out film cameras.

With the next level of digital cameras it will probably be possible to create about a 50MB file. That is pretty much the size of a scan on a 4000dpi film scanner. There are 16-bit scanners coming out, 16-bit digital cameras, and 16-bit printers. Photoshop 8 will be 16-bit capable.

The day is coming soon when you won't be able to see the difference between a film print and a digital print. If you're worried about losing the Velvia saturation look, or the 800 press look, you'll be able to just dial it in on the camera. Filters? You'll be able to easily handle that in Photoshop.

If I sound like I'm enamored with all of these things mentioned here, or that I'm a digital guru of some kind, I'm not. I am one of the last film holdouts, but the future is staring us in the face, film shooters. I, for one, am beginning the process of completely realigning my brain to enter the digital realm and leave film behind within two years. It's a brave new world.
--Tony Sweet

On The Film And Digital Front

Reaching for my crystal ball I still see more advances in the world of conventional (film) photography. Film will not pass as fast as some may think (or wish) and improvements will continue to move forward. Kodak will replace Kodachrome in favor of a new and updated E-6 film and Nikon will introduce a brand-new F6 camera.
On the digital front, Photoshop will introduce a completely new and shortened version especially for photographers who don't need all the fluff in the current version. Full frame digital cameras will continue to emerge from the drawing board but present and smaller CCDs will still be the favorite of serious wildlife and sports photographers, simply because of the increased field of view they offer with longer lenses.
--Stan Trzoniec

The Last Word...Going Back To School
With all the new technical advances expected in 2004 I see a definite return to technique as a means of survival for most photographers. Photographers are being armed with so much photographic power that it's apparent that photographic know-how has become the missing ingredient.

Digital technology can assist in making better photographs, but the desire to create better images in the camera seems to be driving more and more people to seek education. I already see an increase in people seeking help in basic concepts of the use of light, composition, and content.

Websites for education seem to be the coming thing. They are becoming more informative and less gimmicky. In the meantime, look for more and better photographic instruction. One on one. Face to face. I, myself, am returning to school as often as possible to learn how to take advantage of all the latest advances
in technology.
--Monte Zucker