Has Photography on the Web Gotten Boring?

Is it me, or is there a trend going on that's trying to tell us something?

It starts with new products. In terms of new cameras, we're down from a peak of 21 new mirrorless models a year to something around 17 to 18. Coupled with no new DSLRs and very few new compacts, what used to be a vibrant "here's a new camera" followed by reviews of same seems to have died down to a faint whine.

Lenses aren't helping much. The camera makers (Canon, Nikon, Sony) have long trended at six to eight lenses a year, while the major third parties (Sigma, Tamron) are running at the same six to eight number. Moreover, many of those lenses are "new version, new mount" variations. 

Yes, the Chinese lens makers are quite active. Hope you want a 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm prime, because that's what a lot of those are (or the APS-C equivalent). Also, while we now have over two dozen autofocus lenses out of China, those are mostly just seeking to be a lower cost alternative to something already available, or at least similar (e.g. f/1.4 instead of f/1.8). 

But realistically, what in terms of new products in the last year has really been exciting and broken the iteration boredom? I can think of maybe four such products, which means that the other eight months of the year all we have to talk about is small things that changed. 

Since Fujifilm announced the X-100VI today, some of you are going to ask me if it's one of the "exciting" products for 2024. 

Maybe. While some will find the 40mp and IBIS as exciting steps forward, it feels to me like the lens is likely to hold it back from truly delivering. That's something I'll have to evaluate in real use before making any real conclusion, though. I do find it comforting to know that at least someone is still tinkering in the high-end truly compact camera market, though. Maybe that alone is enough to be excited about.

On the software side we have everyone wanting to be Adobe and everyone discovering AI in some form. In short form, what you're now being marketed is "subscribe to this and run your images through it and they'll all be magically better." Personally, I enjoy the craft of converting and editing, love dealing with nuance, and enjoy tools that allow me to tinker. I dislike giant Black Boxes that "create the latest trend in images." To me, taking, editing, and sharing a photograph is my personal expression, not some AI engine removing and adding things out of my control while applying the latest fad.

But more curiously, what the heck do you write about such all-in-one automated tools? There's not a lot to say about them. They either work or don't, and when they work they either create an image you like or they don't. Oh, and make sure your subscription is up to date, because the Black Box is always changing and you'll likely lose access to it if you haven't made the current tithe.

Meanwhile, Scott Kelby appears to be on an extended "creative pause", joining a few others that have gone from constant blogging to some more quiet form. He joins a number of others who have gone more quiet or no longer give you fresh insights and ideas. Two photo programs at the University level I have some knowledge of seem to be calcifying, too. 

Given the above, the rumor sites all now seem to be in a lather-rinse-repeat formula: (1) imminent release of a new product, then spill some beans, preferably bit by bit followed by pointing to all the YouTube videos that get created; otherwise (2) promote products with affiliate links (probably the latest subscriber version of that AI Black Box, or surely someone has a new bag or accessory to promote), or (3) dig around Kickstarter to find some project that pays commissions, or (4) republish some Google translation from one of the Japanese sites.

The net result of a more boring photography Web is that I find myself spending less time browsing the Web and more time working, so I guess there's a positive side to this. Still, I have to wonder at what point does this stagnification start to have real impacts on the overall market. Camera makers, for one, should want a healthy, lively, and interesting photography presence on the Web. 

Personally, I want the young to discover photography through their mobile devices and then be excited to learn, know, and practice photography in more advanced ways. There's so much craft, art, procedure, technical, and more nuance that should excite and encourage our future image creators. Without them, the camera makers will make fewer cameras, software will become a button you subscribe to, and information and discussion on the Web will present little of use. 

Since I'm in the middle of re-imagining my own Internet presence, all the above has me thinking about how I might do something different, something that brings back some energy and excitement to Photography on the Web (PoW). Yeah, I like that: we need more PoW, less YAWN (yet another wearisome narrative).

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