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Amazing Changes Going on in the Digital Photography World

Published: 07/02/2019
By: larry

There were a couple of interesting articles that caught my attention in the past couple of weeks:

  1. Canon Sees the Digital Camera Market Plunging by 50% in Next Two Years.
  2. How AI is changing photography.

Both of these trends are because of what's happening in the world of SmartPhones. Of course, as #1 says, those of us who insist on removable lenses and big sensors will always want the mirrorless gear that we are all moving toward these days for professional work. But smartphone cameras are producing better and better quality images without much work and they are replacing everything but professional gear.

I keep wishing that Canon, Nikon, and Sony would pay attention to the innovations going on in the smartphone space and use some of that smartphone AI in professional gear.

A couple of years ago when I took a trip to San Francisco and met with Scott Hargis and Wayne Capili for dinner, Wayne found it strange that I was traveling with only my iPhone and no DSLR or mirrorless camera. Intimidating to be reprimanded by the master but yeah, carrying all the extra weight and stuff wasn't worth it to me for the small difference in results. Since then, my iPhone has gotten even better. My iPhone XS shoots great 4K 60fps video that my Canon 5DMKIV can't even come close to!

19 comments on “Amazing Changes Going on in the Digital Photography World”

  1. I feel the same way, but am not willing to go as far as the phones.

    In the US to go on a typical photography outing, what do you have to do? Load the gear into the car from the garage, drive, open photo case from the trunk and take pictures.

    I live a completely different lifestyle now. I have no car. I have to sling my gear over my shoulder and I walk and take public transport everywhere. Huge difference. I seriously look at my dslr with the sigma 18-35 and just laugh now. I love it and will use it of course. But I just laugh, it is a total joke. But it next to my compact lumix, where i gain all sorts of stuff like insanely good ibis, tilt screen, 4k... I am actually gaining many things with it, which just blows me away, as my entire setup weighs less than a coke can. The photos are astoundingly good. I can shoot time lapses and get a video straight from the camera. I could go on and on, it is just insane to me.

    So yeah, brininging the phone on that trip i am totally with you. Five minutes of my old gear slung over my should is already way too much for me.

  2. What difference does the type of brush make, if you can paint a good picture with it and are pleased doing so? This, of course, doesn't address the issue that some clients may require the use of a certain brush.

  3. If you wanted a golfer to perform best in a contest, would you prefer Tiger Woods with consumer clubs, or his high end golf clubs in the hands of an amateur?

  4. I have been watching how the iPhone keeps taking better images with every new release. Someday this profession will only be about drones and Matterport both of which I have no desire to do. Outsourcing from an iPhone will be next.

  5. I wrote an article about 2-3 years ago I think. I claimed in that piece, in 5 years we would be out of business if we did not become more than RE photographers. I was admonished that I did not know what I was talking about. I do know what I'm talking about. I've been in the tech industry for over 50 years (yep I'm 71) and in this one for 11 (I still do tech consulting).

    I was amazed not at the iPhone but the Pixel phone. No going into which is better but the phone was amazing with the proper lens attached then I added a gimbal and took up video. I'm still amazed at the video quality and the image quality. What we jump through hoops to get with layered images big gimbals and giant lenses, these devices get close with 1/10 the effort. There are times when close is good enough. 80% of the clients are looking for close enough and when they can do it our differentiating value is greatly diminished. Agents do know how to play horse shoes.

    Now don't jump on me about this but RE photography is not AP. Clients rarely need magazine quality images. Then the barrage of "it's not the camera" began.

    You are right it's not the camera but when the camera and technology can replace the expensive equipment and deliver "web worthy" images and video and reduce the processing time and reduce the need for post processing... danger Will Robinson, we've got a problem.

    A gimbal will keep things straight (I don't need no stinking tripod and level). The high def and auto layered images that don't blow out windows almost eliminate the need for image blending. Advances in chips are and will further reduce the noise allowing to shoot in the dark. Good by flash.

    What they won't replace is the photographers eye. But then let's face it we have AI coming folks. We all know the dirty little secret is we see thousands of homes and so many are the same we get into a pattern shooting the same scenes and angles over and over again. A few years ago, 5 I think, I used a program from MIT that would look at a photos and could predict if it would be pleasing or not. It did not look at subject matter or if there were puppies in it or not it only looked for patterns of areas and colors (effectively composition). It was very good. It was scary!

    I always shoot a bit wider than I need and then crop out what's not pretty in PP leaving a good composition. This program could do the same, perhaps tomorrow in camera.

    My contention was once the phone can take acceptable images and the gimbal can hold the thing straight, then all the agent needs to do is understand the repeat angles that look good.

    We all know that most of us could take great images and video with a phone. We must also realize we are in a field that, once the expense and technical barriers are overcome by technology, then competition will reach a critical mass and the business will implode. The pony express only lasted 2 years I think.

    I contend that if you want to survive you need not rely on the latest technology but we must understand our clients needs and be more than a photographer but a marketing consultant. We must not only provide stunning images but know what to do with them to market the property and provide those marketing services (even if we outsource them). We must stay one step ahead of the curve. I've been doing all of those things and today I have what I call a mini agency and my clients like it. They have one stop shopping. Some of them could take great images but they like what I deliver beyond acceptable quality (I never claim to be a master).

    So I do drones, brochures, virtual staging, hosting, ad creation (FB and Google and print), videos and photos (and I took on a young partner). I work on work flow all the time trying to reduce my time in post production and letting technology improve the images. Yes composition is everything and I do that well but everything else has been taken care of. Oh and videographers it won't be long before AI will just say "throw me a bunch of clips and I'll give you a professional production from them".

    Danger Will Robinson. Look at your craft as a business not an art. The Art piece of it is what is being attacked by technology. Agents don't need Rembrandts they need pretty pictures. AI can do that.

  6. I am curious how interior lighting comes into play with the camera phone to ensure the interior and adjacent rooms are well lit while still being able to see exterior views. I am moving over to the Sony mirrorless systems but I would love to keep ahead of technology especially when you have to deal with carrying so much equipment to each shoot.

  7. I use a dslr for my work. I like the weight in my hand, the durability, and the image quality. Mirrorless burns through batteries too fast for what I do every day. If I go on vacation, I take my Sony RX100 VI. But in a lot of situations, I just take my phone.

    At age 59, I might be able to work at my current pace for another 15 years or so, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm not going to worry about cell phones, Matterport, or drones. I'm going to get up every day, do what I love, thank the people that use me, and not worry about ones that don't.

    One of my standing jokes (albeit a bad one) when I speak at Realtor functions is this.

    "The bottom line is that I love what I do. You folks think that you are the agents and I am the photographer. But the truth is, I'm an addict....and you all are my dealers."

  8. @Lee Allwy...For the record, and definitely an amateur, I did win the top prize in a daily "Hole in One" contest with amateur clubs. However, in addition to the prize (trip to Hawaii) embarrassed myself as qualified for the one ball one shot for $1M. Have no idea where the ball went, but do recall the live TV cameraman ducking behind a tree and the announcer "Who says there is no pressure..."

    Now back to topic. One thing that is totally left out of the phone debate, and speaking as an iPhone user, is photo memory management. When the phone memory is full, you can't add more memory and reward Apple when replacing the phone but buying the next memory level up. Likewise, need space, bump your iCloud account higher. Phone manufacturers make offloading photos, like we do with an camera SD card difficult as they want you to practice the other two options. Wife went through that "iPhone is all I need" phase then started hitting the memory barrier and my reply was "Start deleting (keeping it clean but wanted to say - all those crap impulsive videos and photos)" After several deleting session, she is beginning to rethink that and actually stated she was going to start carrying the a6000 again. I will say, miniaturization in cameras is important to compete with the convenience of phones, as lugging around a large camera is burdensome. That is part of the reason I switched from Nikon to Sony, retaining full frame for professional use, but I travel to Europe annually visiting daughter in Switzerland. Had the Nikon experience, but when she was married in the Canary Islands (side trips in Madrid and Barcelona), borrowed a friend's original Sony a7... and the rest is history as miniaturization proved it's worth.

  9. Idk about iPhones but my vacation camera, sony rx100 mk6, smashes my galaxy s8 and my wife's note 9. The quality might look good on a 6" phone but put it on 28" 5k iMac and there really isnt much to compare. It's like apes and oranges.

    Agree that this new software engineering should make way to pro cameras but in the end it's still a gimmick like the blue sky app for sony cameras.

  10. To be honest, with in 5-10 years, stand alone RE photography will be dying. Unless you have moved beyond just taking photos at that point, you will have a hard time making a go of it. By that time I expect to be able to walk into a room, take 4 to 6 cell photos at different angles and create an virtual representation of the room. You will then be able to view the room from any angle either on a monitor or a VR headset.

    Mark this comment to be revisited in 2024. See if I am wrong.

  11. Earlier this week there was an interesting press release from Matterport about their new Cloud solution (Cortex) that can be used to construct 3D models from two-dimensional images captured with spherical lens cameras, including Ricoh Theta V and Insta360™ ONE X. Why would they do this? Well, likely they see a big market for anyone shooting with a 3D camera that costs $400 or less. The bottom line is that if you are a typical consumer viewing images on home computer or mobile devices, you really don't need to see a high resolution image.

    Ironically two weeks ago I bought my first spherical camera (Ricoh Theta V) and compared the quality of the image to my full frame DSLR with a 8mm fisheye lens. I was amazed at how little difference there was in image quality. Certainly the 3D camera produced a noisier image, but for $400 it's amazing. I'm holding off as long as possible for a my next camera purchase... who knows what that will be?

  12. Phones are getting better and many consumers of RE images are looking at them on tiny screens where the quality of a Canon 5Ds or a Nikon D850 isn't going to be as apparent. There are some issues though.

    Show up to a job with just your mobile phone in the US and you are not going be taken seriously. I'm not debating whether you can deliver good images, it's just the "pro factor" that will be missing. You will also be shouting to clients that if they just buy the phone you have, they can get the same great images. We all know that is tripe but for some agents they see a case full of pro gear as too daunting and they don't think they'd ever be able to figure out how to use it. The ones that are braver at least wind up wasting a stack of money finding out that it isn't the gear and may tell other agents about their tribulations going down that path unless they are underhanded and flog the gear they bought to the next sucker.

    Being able to work efficiently is a factor. We very infrequently get to see a home before the appointment which means we are solving problems on the fly. DSLR's and the new mirrorless cameras are extremely flexible and can interface with various third party flashes, CamRanger and wireless triggers that phones/tablets can't currently talk to. Proper lenses can be used instead of a plastic lens held on with a rubber band. It's not that good lenses can't be made to adapt to a mobile phone, it's that the phones change frequently. It's been ages since Canon changed lens standards and they are just now adding another to go with their mirrorless camera bodies. While it's going to be painful to buy a whole new range of lenses, the advantage of being able to get the lens closer to the sensor means faster, smaller and lighter glass even if it doesn't get less expensive.

    Many of us do more than just RE photography. We could have several sets of gear but it's easier to reuse bodies and add lenses to suit along with other accessories specific to each job. My heaviest case right now is for flashes and hardware (things other than cameras and lenses). I could lighten my camera pack by moving the lenses and backup body that I almost never use to a separate case that I don't take into a home with me unless needed. I'd rather not do that since it's one more thing to forget to load and the weight isn't that big of a factor plus it's a backpack so it doesn't take a hand away from carrying stuff. I have three cases: Camera backpack, "Stuff" case and a bag for stands/tripod/umbrellas. It goes in and out in one trip. Using a phone or a MFD or a small mirrorless won't affect that and I don't normally have to carry stuff very far.

    I'd like to see some of the software found on phones making its way into body/lens dedicated camera but I also must have complete manual control. There is no way for software to know what is important in a scene or what mood/style you are going for. You may not want a strong window pull or a fancy light fixture is throwing shadows that is going to make HDR unworkable.

  13. I think in the future what will set you apart is your ability to save Realtors time. You will have to target those whose time is more valuable than what it takes to do the work themselves.

    Another thing will be your ability to tell a story through stills and video. I am in the process of learning how to do videos and soon hope to offer video/drone service.

    It is always going to get easier to do anything. That's the nature of things. The low paying clients (low priced homes) will use their phones as they do now. Presentation will be key to getting business for those with greater budgets.

  14. Wow...a lot of "Carnac the Magnificents" here. For those to young to remember, Johnny Carson... a great late night hose in years past

    Bottom line, the future brings changes that you can either get ahead of or fight it until you go belly up. Anyone remember the die hard's that said "film" will always be better?

  15. I have a steady set of appreciative clients who have not asked for anything different over the past 7 years for their real estate, remodeling/renovation, or new home construction photography other than the photos that I give them. I just bought mirrorless Olympus OM-EM1 Mark II and am transitioning from Canon 5DIII just to lighten up on the weight. The images are excellent with both systems. I have competition, but my clients are sticking with me. I'll continue what I'm doing so long as I have my clients, until I'm ready to quit (I'm 69) and then get out and fulfill my other passion at my leisure, wildlife photography.

  16. If you haven't read what Frank posted previously, he's spot on. I have used the program from MIT that he mentions. I too expect AI in a phone at some point be able to scan a wide view and then apply "logic" to crop the best view of the scene. It's going to happen. So, if you're working RE and you are just a photographer, you need to expand your market to other niches such as extended living homes, hotels, banquet facilities, wherever you can and / or expand your services if you want to stay in business long term.

  17. You know, I was told that flying cars were the future by Mrs. Hill in 3rd grade. That was 50 years ago and I'm still waiting. Good still photography is surprisingly resilient.

  18. Please educate me on the advantages of the mirrorless cameras "that we're all moving to." Specifically for real estate work.

    I have used Fujis sporadically. My X-Pro 1 had the fatal flaw of always previewing exposure, so when I exposed for windows and used flash fill, I saw nothing but the window in my EVF. I understand that this problem is fixed in newer cameras, but I still don't see the advantage. Size? Wide angle zooms will always be big lenses, and hanging one of them on a downsized camera body is just awkward. Stabilization? It's already in my DSLR, thank you, and it's good enough to enable handheld HDRs outdoors. Weight? My FF DSLR weighs two pounds, and the UWA zoom adds another. When I can't carry three pounds, I really ought to retire. Meanwhile, the flashes I usually attach to the camera weight another four pounds, so mirrorless might save me a pound or so out of seven.

    There's still a small element of performance in what they do, and looking the part. At the home, we are first judged by our cameras, and I don't want to show up with the same little compact mirrorless that Dad takes on vacation.

    I don't see mirrorless offering what would really be helpful to us- a faster shutter sync speed. I don't need a 1/8000th shutter, but the 1/500th flash sync of my of D40 was really helpful. HDR, IMHO, arose due to the slow sync speeds and meager DR of early DSLRs, and now we're using it like a habit when it may no longer be necessary. I can get perfect, balanced interiors and window views with my Ricoh GR and fill flash, but how many pros are even willing to consider something odd as that?

    Mirrorless is new, so it's getting news and ad space to build the buzz. It's the manufacturer's last pitch to a dwindling market. I believe it's important to them, more than to us. But I've always been a contrarian, don't mind me. Enjoy your new mirrorless gear. while it's shiny and new. The tech does offer benefits to some, such as video shooters and travelers who want to carry multiple lenses. I just don't see specific benefits to our kind of work.

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