why are the camera companies leaving?

Discussion in 'Product Availability' started by DirkDynamo, May 3, 2006.

  1. DirkDynamo

    DirkDynamo Member

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    so why are some of the big names of film camera production going under?

    at first glance digital seems to be a large culprit, but digital's main market seems to be nothing more than point and shoot cameras. DSLR's are only recently becoming viable resources for working photographers, both due to prices becoming more reasonable and picture quality improving. But why are some companies calling it quits?

    i don't think the competition of digital was the only reason these companies are leaving the market. I think the main reason these companies could not sustain their production is rather simple; they made quality products. The reason we were drawn to their products in the beginning was the solid construction, with durable materials. The cameras were made with a sense of quality and longevity that beat the same companies out of selling replacement cameras every few years. The working life of the camera is longer than the period of the owner's interest. Personally, I use my father's 25+ year old handed-down slr and a spotmatic thats much older than that. The companies created such a large amount of versatile, long-lasting cameras that are still very available that there is no sufficient need for new film cameras. Digital cameras are winning over the market because they don't last nearly as long, but since it is the market norm, people still buy. They aren't made as solid.

    if i took a new dslr in one hand, and my metal slr in the other, and bang them together until pieces fly, i think my slr would come out unscathed.

    what do you think?
     
  2. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    So far as you go, you're right. The business has been concerned with saturating the market for some time.

    But I'll suggest the Pop Culture, Buy It And Be Better, philosophy has been responsible.

    By deflecting the willingness to acquire proficiency in the craft in favor of 'buying a better camera' photography lost a couple generations of people who actually did something with their camera. Of course video, computers, and the rest of it were part of the problem.

    On the other hand, more people are buying Martin guitars than ever. The Pop Culture hasn't killed everything. But maybe as the 'photo market' diminishes, there will be a similar craft-oriented marketplace that can support a couple small manufacturers.

    Just as excessive features need be avoided, and shabby quality, over-technical and over-intellectual approaches must not drive normal people from the craft.

    We don't have to be virtuosos. Photography will do fine, and camera makers as well, if we can do the equivalent of sitting around a kitchen with a couple guitars and sing old songs. There will always be the great performers and the odd genius. But without happy snappers who know a couple chords and can play a couple tunes with their Nikon and be happy doing it, we're done.

    .
     
  3. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I believe that the need for capital investment to keep up with new technology is making it very difficult for some camera makers to survive. I also think that some of the camera makers have already spent huge amounts of their capital on technology that did not payoff in market share.
     
  4. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Definitely EBAY and the huge amount of quality used gear seems to have impacted new camera sales. This has likely had the most impact on 35 mm and medium format new sales. We see a slightly different situation with large format, now with many manufacturers in that market making new cameras. However, large format new lens sales might not be as good as in the past, or possibly impacted by EBAY sales; the exit of Nikon from the large format lens market could be one indication.

    In the latest P&S wars for market share, it seems that several companies took a loss on products to force out competition and eventually later raise prices to break even or get some profits. Canon and Sony are probably good examples, since neither company needs camera sales as a main revenue source. There are many financial news stories of companies losing money on new technology.

    You can also look at world economic conditions after the dot com crash, and even more after 9/11 events. Disposable incomes were going less into new cameras than prior to those time periods. New prices were also going higher in the 1990s, putting photography as a profession or hobby at a higher level of spending. Now we have many other expenses to consider, like the impact of higher oil prices, so where does that leave photography for the average person to consider when it comes time to spend some money?

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  5. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    There is a reason that people are using the One Hundred year old equipment. A wooden camera has only the rack and pinon and springs to go out and the lenses can be used without a shutter if the shutter goes out. On the other hand if my first generation 645 goes out, then I am out of luck. If I could find someone to repair it, it would cost a small fortune. I have enough to worry about, paper and film; the chemicals I can put together on my own. To survive I think you have to work backwards because the cameras are going to be digihybrids, cameras with digital backs. They give the image maker something to change, the lens, but the whole thing is digital.
     
  6. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day Dirk,
    you make some interesting observations but i think you've failed to see that any 'newer' camera lacks build quality

    i would suggest that camera build quality has fallen since about the introduction of auto focus

    auto focus lead to more electronics, lead to more plastic, lead to more disposability, lead to cameras becoming more like most other consumer products in that the consumer is made to feel he must update regularly so why pay or care or value quality manufacture
     
  7. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I use old cameras, but concede some advantages to today's semi-disposable DSLRs. My first Leica, a IIIf with a 50mm f/3.5 lens, was listed at $278, and my monthly base pay in 1953 as a junior Navy enlisted man was about $100. That camera was little improved beyond a model of 20 years earlier. Today's DSLR, with a zoom and more advanced features than I could ever use, costs less than a month's retirement pay. It is impractical to build classic quality into a digital camera that will be obsolescent within a few years. New digital cameras are a bargain for those who use all of their capabiities. Classic cameras are fine for us willing to forgo modern conveniences.

    In any rapidly evolving technology many companies will fail. Consider the automobile: there have been over 2000 auto makers in America. Most failed within a few years. The few camera and auto makers that combine good technology, product quality, and good business practices thrive. Perhaps, when progress in digital photography has slowed, there will be a return to high quality and long lived cameras. After all, today's autos are a tremendous improvement in reliability over those of my youth.
     
  8. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Or, you could buy a bargain grade replacement from KEH for $80.:wink:
     
  9. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Maybe so, but it's hardly new. In the 70's, when photography really caught on in a big way, magazines and photography columns in newspapers (yes, there was even on in the Sunday NY Times) humped SLR's, zoom lenses, in camera metering, hot shoe flash, and every other new thing that came along with the theme that they would "release your creativity", and make you a better photographer. I remember being in the emotional grip of all that huckstering with a serious case of G.A.S. It took years to relax about all that and get down to making photographs based on seeing and competent technique with whatever equipment I had and would continue to use. I wonder if the wisdom to ignore all those screaming "come-ons" in guys my age has enabled us to resist, with bemusement, the digital tsunami and rely on our trustworthy old traditional camera friends.


    If so, it is we who are the photo industry's worst nightmare...ad resistant non consumers of the brand-new-latest. I fear I am an enemy of the economy...oh dear! (if you could only see the glistening crocodile tears streaming down my face....NOT!!)
     
  10. alien

    alien Member

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    Jovo said a lot which is true.

    The photo industry has not been doing too well for the last 20 years, and since the late '80s (in my opinion, the best 35 mm cameras were made then) they were forced to cramp new features into already great cameras which would sell them (like full automatic everything etc).

    APS was an attempt to gain new ground, but only digital imaging could be sold as something that is brand new and supposedly better than what was there before.

    The trouble now is that digital is closely linked with the computer industry - and there are completely different players in that field. If you look who is taking over the camera business (Sony, Samsung etc) - these are seriously rich companies, and the relatively small camera manufacturers can not compete with these.
     
  11. ajuk

    ajuk Member

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    Obvously prices have tumbled, but you only have to look at BW magazine, Apug or even deviantart to see film has a loyal and devoted following. I am not saying that sales would not be down if it were not for the second hand market, but it does seem that the real reason why film cameras are struggling so much is from the second hand market that has flooded the market with cheap gear, thats is why a film camera is only going to sell in any sort of quaintity is by either offering somthing new or somting that is hard to find second hand, so what is it you would like that would make you buy a new film camera?
     
  12. alien

    alien Member

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    I personally want a back-to-the-roots mechanical fully manual camera, small, VERY robust, with an expected lifespan of decades (I am happy to have it serviced every two years to keep it mint), and with a built-in average and spot meter.


    Nothing fancy, really.....

    Maybe thats where the future for film lies - in the back to the basics stuff. All the sci-fi can go into the d*g*t*l thingies...
     
  13. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    Actually, the real reason that film camera prices are down so much is that the general public prefers digital cameras by a wide margin. That's the cold, hard truth. The vast majority of my customers would never think about going back to film, and I get told that every day. There has always been a lot of used cameras on the market, Ebay has certainly made it easier to find things and it's the best place to sell things, but it is the (relative) lack of interest that keeps the film camera prices low and supply high. The days of a film camera selling in any sort of quantity (by Japanese camera manufacturers standards) is over. In practical terms, the market for new 35mm and medium format cameras is not large enough to support any manufacturer, let alone fund any new new designs.

    If you look at the prices for used stuff, it's clear who is drawn to the film world. The all mechanical cameras hold their value much better than the electronic based ones. Sadly, it is those mechanical cameras that cost the most to build new...


    Isaac
     
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  15. alien

    alien Member

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    But isn't that the hope for film, together with high-end back-to-basics mechanical stuff?
    Looking how Leica seems to be doing (it was bad for a while, but they seem to come out of the deep end at the moment), this could be a strategy for a small manufacturer like that.

    I agree with you, the times for any substantial sale of film cameras is over - but there will aways be the one who like the special thing (funny, film becoming special...).
     
  16. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Personally, I trace the fault back to the pundits on Wall Street (and their equivalents in other capital markets). The expectation of compound growth, both in terms of market share and profits, has been the primary dictator of corporate business strategy for years. Even if a company's management were savvy enough to plan for market saturation, flat growth, etc., they have been precluded from doing so by the need to maintain growth in stock value. That need, in turn, has prompted many corporate execs to go to virtually any means to accomplish that goal, whether ethical or not. In today's captial-market climate, if you can't compete with the latest bubble being created by unrealistic expectations on Wall Street, the only option is to close your doors. Sad.
     
  17. esanford

    esanford Member

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    Everything that you say is absolutely the truth... However, I am not sure the word "fault" is an appropriate description. When a company decides to go public and gain all of the investment benefits of being a public company, it subjects itself to the "pundits" on Wall street. On Wall Street, every public company (not just those involved in photography) must show a growth curve that will attract investors. Most investors could care less how a company makes money so long as it's "making money". The Wall Street pundits analyze the public buying trends and "encourages" companies to take advantage of those trends. If public companies fail to do this, the "pundits" advise investors to withhold investments.
     
  18. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    Umm, Leica isn't what you want to base any hopes on, they are hardly in sound financial shape... Honestly, I only see a future for the larger film formats at all, there are just too few people that like using all mechanical type cameras, hell, it's tough to find someone willing to give up autofocus let alone autoexposure or, God forbid, a meter... If you want to get a good idea of what a camera would cost that is back to basics, go price a Leica. They have been serving that niche for longer than anyone else, and it has been about their only customer for quite a while. To make good cameras in limited numbers costs quite a bit if they are to be profitable...

    The thing is that most people do not consider film special at all, I certainly don't. There are some technical advantages to film that outweigh the connivence of digital capture (IMO), so I stick with it. The "preciousness" or "specialness" of film has nothing to do with photography and that's why the new film camera market has died. You'd be shocked at how many people regularly threw away their negatives after picking up their pictures. There just aren't enough people that like film cameras enough to keep the companies going, it's that simple. The large electronics companies are already set up for the appropriate R&D and are structured for fast turnaround in technology. It is a much different world these days..




    Isaac
     
  19. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    You'd be wrong about "digital's" main market. All of the traditional camera companies are going after the lucrative SLR market. Most of the profit that Nikon, Canon, and Pentax are generating is in digital SLRs. New film camera sales are dead regardless of what kind of consumer you want to think of...


    But that was the case 5 years ago too, and film cameras were the only game in town then. There are many more people buying cameras today than 5 years ago, but if you preferred the older cameras, your choices today are about the same as they were 5 years ago. It is the growth of photography as a hobby that the advent of digital has caused that is shaking up the industry. Nikon and Canon have done pretty well in the transition, Minolta, Pentax, Bronica, Mamiya, and even Hasselblad have not done so well. <shrug> that happens in any industry when there is change. If there was still a viable market for the cameras that those companies made, they'd still be around. The reason that camera companies are leaving the market is that people have chosen not to buy their cameras in sufficient quantities to make it worthwhile. No mystery really...


    If you put your metal SLR in one hand, and a new one (film or digital)in the other, which do you think someone would buy? That has been made abundantly clear in the last several years. Nikon sold 10 times more F100 cameras than FM3a cameras despite the fact that the F100 was 30% more expensive. People want the newer style, so that's what the companies made. Now the electronics companies are making what the market wants, so they are doing well to the detriment of some of the traditional camera companies...

    Isaac
     
  20. alien

    alien Member

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    That was not what I meant with special.
    Computers and digital imaging have become mainstream. Everybody does it.
    For me, photographie and darkroom work has always been special, even more so now when I sit on the machine all day. Frankly, I dont care whether analog is better or worse, for me it is the value of my spare time.
    I believe there must be more out there like me (I know several personally!).
    It is a bit like climbing a mountain, when there is a railway on the other side. Most people will take the easy way...but some dont.
     
  21. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I much prefer my Nikon F5 over any Nikon I have ever owned - F2, F3, N70, N80. I prefer the autofocus, autoexposure, autowind for the situations I use this camera. While this isn't my primary camera, I enjoy using it a lot.
     
  22. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Hello alien,

    In 35mm SLR, you can sometimes still find a new Nikon FM3A, which works fine without batteries. I have an FM and FE that are still in use, with only minor cleaning service. Both were purchased used quite a while ago, yet despite the serial numbers indicating both approaching three decades, they still function perfectly fine.

    Of course, Leica, as others have mentioned, though their rangefinder cameras would be a better fit for your search than their SLR cameras. There is also Voigtländer and Zeiss Ikon, though too early to tell if these will last decades.

    There is a camera line that has a lifetime guarantee:

    http://www.alpa.ch/en/products/cameras/cameras12tc.html

    The 12TC is the smallest of the range, and not much larger than some 35 mm SLRs. Considering the lifetime of such a product, I suppose some might find the pricing reasonable. I would definitely like to have one, though perhaps the 12SWA model.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  23. Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    Much of it is down to the idiotic bureaucrats who decide what is good for us and the environment. They`ve banned the use of lead solder on circuit boards, hence the demise of the Hasselblad X-Pan and some other camera manufacturers products have also had to be discontinued.
    The same grey-suited idiots who banned Cadmium in photographic papers like the old Kentmere Art Classic, Kentona and Kodak Ektalure. :mad:
     
  24. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Anyone notice that there are more LF camera manufacturers than there are 35mm SLR manufacturers?

    Regards, Art.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2006
  25. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Seems to me that what is happening is that the periodic quest by serious non-professional photographers that used to lead to periodic new 35mm purchases is getting diverted to digital cameras. Where the Nikkormat user of the early 80s would have been upgrading to the FG, FE, or FMs, the same type of user today looks at going from an N80 to maybe a D50. So Nikon's decision to only keep the professional film SLR (F6) makes sense in that context, given that they can keep marketing the FM-10 to catch the student market, or at least that portion that just won't buy used. It is the serious amateurs looking to stay current with technology who have switched to buying digital, because they have film cameras that are modern and fully functional. Digital cameras are feeding on the urge for novelty.

    In the point and shoot market, I think film is seen by the general public as obsolete. After at least 20 years of advertising in this direction (e.g. digital sound), it is not surprising that 'digital' is seen by some as a synonym for 'modern' and even 'good'. Thus we get complete nonsense like 'digital' tripods (ten legs? 30?) and 'digital' filters (try to explain the latter in terms of quantum theory, somebody?). I have had many people argue with me over the last few years that I really needed a digicam. None of these people could tell an f/stop from a shutter speed. I remember one fellow who decided he needed to learn photography, went out and bought an F100 and two zooms as his first real camera. After getting all sorts of terrible results (mixed lighting issues and misplaced autofocus issues), he decided that film was the problem and bought a D70. Needless to say, the pics have not improved. No amount of technology fixes the loose nut behind the viewfinder problem.
     
  26. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    While I agree with the theory of what you say, I guess my complaint is really that, all-to-often, the pundits actually create the trends, rather than just analysing them. For example, when a stock's value drops in a major way because the company "didn't meet Wall Street expectations", one has to wonder if it's really the company's fault or really bad "expectating".

    Unless the expectations start to be more realistic, I fear that all of the capital markets are doomed to suffer the effects of the globalization bubble bursting. And then, won't we all be in a fix? Greed, in the long term, only works in small doses.