Are We Going Backwards, Forwards, or Nowhere?

As a companion to my "How is this better for customers" article, I thought it appropriate to ask where are we at overall and whether that's moving us anywhere. Are things better or worse?

The answer to that question is quite nuanced depending upon what you're up to photographically, but I'd tend to say the overall answer for me is we're not moving at the moment. 

Let's start with the forward direction. It's easy to see that going from the original 2.5mp DSLRs to even 12mp was a big step forward. 12mp to 24mp somewhat less so. 24mp to whatever you're shooting at the top today, even less so. While pixel counts keep moving forward, it's sort of a Zeno's paradox, in that our progress towards the "ultimate" resolution reduces in impact with each step we take, and we'll soon be taking very small steps that aren't differentiated enough to be worth taking. But here's the thing: for most of you, 24mp is enough. That'll produce a 20" print at 300 dpi. Are you sure your needs are higher than that? Because sometimes you move forward just because you can, not because you need to.

In terms of backwards, I look first at complexity and understanding. My Complete Guides keep getting longer (now over 1100 pages) mostly because more features and options keep getting added to our cameras, so there's more to explain. I keep hoping I'll figure out the Simple Idiot's Guide to a camera and that it'll be 100 pages max, but given that I can identify hundreds of decisions a photographer has to make for each image, I'm thinking that's like a paragraph per decision, and that still wouldn't make things simple. Much of the excitement over Face/Eye detect autofocus today is that many people now find that they can set an all-automatic focus mode and get better results than they used to with their older gear. Not perfect results. Just better than what they were able to do when they had to make all the decisions (and in real time).

In terms of nowhere I come to the ultimate question: does the latest and greatest camera allow me to take better photos than I'm currently taking? My personal answer is no, it probably doesn't. For sports that progress stopped with the Nikon D5 (and probably would with a Sony A9 Mark II, as well). For landscape that stopped with a D850, the right lens, and maybe some stitching. And I'm not sure the rest of my needs weren't already satisfied with a model earlier than those two cameras.

Most of us aren't going forward, so we're not buying. The camera companies keep iterating, but with less buying by customers, they then go backwards. 

Maybe there's an answer hanging just over the horizon where we can't yet see it. But until I do see it, I'm going to concentrate more on taking photos than buying gear. Your mileage may vary.

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