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Hans Hartman

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Hans Hartman

Chair at Visual 1st

[Scroll down for And a few more things… industry news highlights]

We’ve all seen variations of this graph depicting innovation waves. The idea is that, at some point, a new product category expands beyond its initial early adopters and becomes the new mainstream category, and therefore replaces the incumbent category over time.

However, innovation patterns are often messier. Sometimes the pendulum swings back and the incumbent solution becomes resurgent. Sometimes it takes way longer than was thought to replace the incumbent. Sometimes the much-heralded new category deflates and never moves beyond early adopters.

Indy bookstores have made a great comeback vs. mega bookstores (remember Borders?) and even managed to hold the line against Amazon. Instant photo print cameras (such as Polaroid and Fujifilm Instax) have made a serious comeback after they’d been almost wiped off the face of the earth by digital compact, and later smartphone, cameras. We’re still waiting for VR to become a mainstream way of engaging with visual content, and we’ve been waiting, and waiting …

When reflecting on our imaging industry – say starting from the days when digital cameras were first introduced – we detect a similarly muddled pattern: some innovative solutions succeeded in replacing the legacy ones, others failed flat-out. Yet others ended up coexisting with the incumbent solutions without fully replacing them, and in some cases old solutions have made a comeback.

While the answers are rarely black or white (no pun intended), for most of the examples listed below you probably have an intuitive grasp of how well the new solution has fared at replacing the incumbent category:

  • Digital cameras replacing film cameras?
  • Color photography replacing B&W photography?
  • Digital photos replacing photo prints?
  • A long tail of photo merchandise replacing photo prints?
  • Microstock services replacing macrostock agencies?
  • Free stock photo providers replacing microstock services?
  • 360 photography replacing limited-angle photography?
  • Videos replacing photos?
  • Smartphone cameras replacing digital cameras?
  • AR replacing… what exactly, if anything?

We’ve covered and will continue to cover most of these innovation category issues – and quite a few more – at our Visual 1st conferences or in this newsletter. But there’s one in particular that I’ve had quite a few conversations about lately, and am now conducting a large survey for: Will smartphones become the capture device of choice, not just for consumers, but also for pro photographers?

And why does this matter? It matters in two ways:

Sales to pro photographers: if the digital camera were no longer the default camera for pro photographers – i.e. if its use became limited to a small spectrum of use cases that smartphones can’t address – pro photographers would less frequently have a compelling need to buy the latest and greatest cameras, as well as lenses, flashes or other accessories. [For a discussion on whether wedding photography is such a use case, I highly recommend checking out the recent Shooting an Entire Wedding Day with the iPhone 11 Pro article in PetaPixel, along with the comments from its photographer readers]

Sales to consumers: call it trickle down adoption – many consumers simply want to own the same tools that the pros use (we’ve often been surprised in our past surveys to learn how many consumers bought Photoshop, while much easier and cheaper solutions could have very well met their needs).

If consumers see pro photographers are doing their gigs with higher end smartphones in addition to their DSLRs, it could negatively impact digital camera sales and boost sales of those smartphones.


Interested in joining the discussion, reviewing the latest pro photographer camera use research data, and hearing directly from two award-winning professional photographers – one predominantly using digital cameras, the other primarily using the iPhone; one from Europe, one from the US?

Join us for our webinar: July 28, 5:00 – 6:30 PM Pacific Time. Special discount price for Visual 1st Perspectives community: $19. Use dreg45k as discount code.

And a few more things… other news

Profoto. Pro flash for the iPhone & DSLR. At Visual 1st last year, Profoto introduced their handheld C1 flash for smartphone photographers. The company now announced that its B10 professional-level studio lighting solutions clock-synchronize with the iPhone, using the company’s AirX technology. I.e., you can use the same flashes both for your DSLR and iPhone.

Fraunhofer HHI. New compression format. The company behind the MPEG-3 music encoding format and the H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC) video codecs, unveiled H.266, just as the world has finally gotten around to adopting HEVC/H.265. H.266 is expected to offer the same quality at about half the file size. Major chip and technology companies, including Apple, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Sony, are all industry partners, virtually guaranteeing widespread adoption.

Olympus. Exiting the camera business. A bit older news, but just in case you missed it, and also relevant in light of the perspective piece above: Olympus announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding to sell its camera division to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP).

DxOMark. The best smartphones for camera, selfie and audioBig winner: Huawei P40 Pro. Oops, and where is the iPhone? Ranked 12th, their highest scoring model, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, didn’t quite make it in the top 10 of best smartphone cameras, according to DxOMark.

Panasonic and Sony. Vlogging-positioned cameras. The past two months have seen both Panasonic and Sony introduce cameras explicitly aimed at vloggers. Here’s a review of what’s described as “recognizable adaptations of existing technology.” The author raises an interesting question: what could vlogging cameras really look like if they were to no longer resemble traditional cameras?

Excire. Desktop image recognition software. Excire Inc. has released Excire Foto, AI-based photo management software. Unlike competing cloud-based products, Excire Foto works locally on the user’s computer.

Mimeo Photos. Adding wall décor. MacOS app Mimeo Photos, has added acrylic, metal and canvas wall decor products to its existing lineup of photobooks, calendars, cards and prints.

MIT. Removing offensive AI training setMIT has taken offline its highly cited dataset that trained AI systems to potentially describe people using racist, misogynistic, and other problematic terms – a shocking account of how cavalier MIT has been about their 80M image training library that they created back in 2008.

SpotMyPhotos & Headshot Booker. Free headshots for the unemployed. Last year’s Visual 1st presenter SpotMyPhotos has teamed up with Headshot Booker, real estate firm Brookfield Properties, and an anticipated 200 photographers to provide 10,000 free headshots for unemployed workers.

Visual 1st. Mark your calendar: Visual 1st 2020 will be Oct. 14-15.

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Hans Hartman

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