This Changes Everything Award for 2009

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Our Response to Technology Leaps

In general, every technology leap is met with a group who are awed and thrilled. Another, often larger, group is defensive and derisive. Some of these latter just don’t see the point, others are really threatened that they are going to have to learn new techniques or buy expensive equipment to keep up. Blasting the new technology seems to help quiet their nerves. This is exactly what’s going on now with my nomination for technological leap of 2009 — which is one of the reasons I think I’m correct on this prediction.

The This Changes Everything Event of 2009

The Video enabled SLR
Nikon’s D90 was the first released, Canon’s 5D MkII’s 1080p video created the most impact, and the Micro 4/3 cameras brought the most video features (and possibly forced Canon to upgrade their feature set), so we’ll give this award to all the manufacturers. Well, except Sony. And, as I was reminded, they were available in late 2008—but they really only became readily available in 2009.

The initial response: Among photographers, largely “I’ll never use that, it’s useless” and “it’s raising camera prices for features I don’t want,” along with some scatterings of “that’s pretty cool” and “the video quality is awesome."

So why do I think this is a digital-photography-changing event as important as affordable full-frame, the first film-quality digital SLR, or the sub $1,000 digital SLR? Read on, but remember that I’m not stating the following reasons are good or bad for photography. I’m just stating that things will be different, and these are some of the things I think will happen.

  • Video SLRs (or at least HD video) will change the profession of imaging. It’s already well underway in the wedding and event photography fields. A lot of customers want to deal with one person or company for video and photo, and a growing number of imaging professionals are willing to give them that.
  • Video SLRs will result in more interchangeable equipment. Videographers usually have more invested in accessories like monitors, audio equipment, etc. than they do in cameras and lenses. If a manufacturer wants to get them to change camera brands, they had better make a camera that takes those standardized accessories.
  • Video SLRs mark the beginning of the end of Strobes. I’m actually going to write a full article on this next week. But video lighting, while currently a bit more expensive and less powerful than strobes, can generally be used for still photography. Strobes, however, are useless for video. Additionally, continuous lighting is simpler (no radio controls, sync cables, etc.) and has a very high “cool factor.” Anyone shooting much video is going to have to get continuous lights, and many will use those instead of strobes, not in addition to strobes.
  • Video SLRs will bring new accessories. The classic tripod-and-ballhead isn’t very useful for shooting video. I expect we’ll see more compact fluid-heads introduced in the next few years, and the “fluid ballhead.” I think we’ll see a lot more LCD eyepiece products, since manual focus with LiveView is the way most videographers work. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more high-quality electric viewfinders in SLR cameras, too. Not to mention more robust “video-out” connections, so an external LCD monitor can be used as an alternative to the viewfinder and LCD altogether.

And Some Things Won’t Change — Much

Fine art prints have always been and will always be. Portraits, baby pictures, wedding photographs will always be. Even less-than-fine-art (say, my work) will continue to be printed and hung on the wall. And they won’t be HD video pull-downs; they’ll still need the resolution and techniques of still photography.

When the dust all settles, there will still be us photographers, taking images, and constantly arguing about equipment and post processing. But things will be a little different.

  • Fausto

    I believe that - thanks to m43 - 2009 will be seen as the beginning of mirrorless interchangeable lens photography. Mirrorless will most probably replace DSLRs as the dominating interchangeable lens camera technology within the next couple of years. But then - there's no reason why my guess should be any more accurate than your's.