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  1. #1

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    why are the camera companies leaving?

    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. #2
    df cardwell's Avatar
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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.

    .
    "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
    and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

    -Bertrand Russell

  3. #3

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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.
    Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)

  4. #4

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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. #5
    Curt's Avatar
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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. #6

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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. #7
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Heath
    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
    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. #8
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt
    ... 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. ...
    Or, you could buy a bargain grade replacement from KEH for $80.
    David
    Taking pictures is easy. Making photographs is hard.

    http://www.behance.net/silverdarkroom
    http://silverdarkroom.wordpress.com

  9. #9
    jovo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by df cardwell
    But I'll suggest the Pop Culture, Buy It And Be Better, philosophy has been responsible.
    .
    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!!)
    John Voss

    My Blog

  10. #10
    alien's Avatar
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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.

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