Has Consumerism Killed My Love of Photography?
Consumerism:- the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods. For example, the need or desire to upgrade your iPhone regardless of how incremental the updates are. Or referring to the old adage, "keeping up with the Jones's" whereby you always ensure you have a new car on your drive that matches your neighbour's implied or supposed success in career or business.
I AM TIRED
There was a time when I really looked forward to the release of new tech. New cameras that were radically different and a huge upgrade from their predecessors.
I used to love reviewing products too. Now I am feeling overwhelmed. In the past, something new and exciting would be announced with minimal fanfare and then released with the usual gusto of a superb product launch. How far things have come.
I write this as rumours of yet another iteration of the Mavic 3 start to appear just one year after the original release. So far we have had the DJI Mavic 3 (original), DJI Mavic 3 Cine, DJI Mavic 3 Updates and the DJI Mavic 3 Classic:
...and now we may be seeing a new Mavic 3s with the second camera being upgraded to a 1" sensor as opposed to a 1/2" sensor. Others speculate that it may be the Mavic Air3?
All within a year.
I was pretty sure it wasn't an Air 3. Looking at the image below, the set up would compete a little too closely with the Mavic 3. It would also pee off a lot of Mavic 3 buyers if the Air 3 was close to or better in some regards.
At the time of writing, there is also talk of a new DJI Mini 3 set up (NOT the Pro which I already own). The new version will have slightly less features and a lower price. Why???
As well as hardware upgrades, there are always multiple firmware updates bringing features that were either missing on launch or new tech that has been rapidly evolved since that launch.
Moore's Law has taken somewhat of a back seat.
The same is happening with other drone models and manufacturers.
It's Not Just Drones
The same thing has been happening with Smartphones for years. I got so fed up with the pressure of upgrading I fell off that particular bandwagon (think iPhone 4, 4s, SE etc). I still have the aging Samsung Galaxy Note 9 with its 3.5mm headphone jack and stylus pen. It still does everything I need and I have even gone over to a pay as you go contract.
Cameras - DSLR's and Mirrorless
Oof! Where do I start. I am going to show my age here...
Back in the 1980's when I first got into photography, new cameras were few and far between. The same with lenses. It was always accessories, new film technology, hints, tips and training in the art of photography as well as photo printing ads that adorned the popular magazines of the day such as:
How I loved reading and absorbing everything in those mags, including the ads for things I couldn't afford that I would dream of having.
There would be one amazing show each year at the NEC that I went to once or twice where you could get your hands on cameras that you could never afford. Bliss. Simple.
Take a look at the timeline of Canon SLRs and Canon DSLRs over the years (outlined below). You will see that there are only a handful of cameras being released but when they did release them, there were quite significant updates such as the Canon AE-1 going to the AE-1 Program.
This update added aperture priority and "program" mode which would set the aperture AND shutter speed automatically meaning all you had to do was press the shutter. It also had a palm side grip and LED's in the viewfinder. Quite revolutionary in its day.
Canon Film SLR Cameras 11 Year Timeline 1971 - 1981
The above timeline shows about 1.2 cameras a year on average being released and that includes the Canon F1 being updated twice...but updated every 5 years (not every 6-12 months)!
Canon DSLR Cameras 11 Year Timeline 2010 - 2020
Add in all the bridge and point and shoot cameras and wow!
40 cameras in 11 years = 3.6 cameras per year which is 3x that of the 80's.
Which Camera Should I Buy?
It's no wonder that one of the most common questions asked online is "which camera should I buy?" or "should I buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera?
In the past, camera manufacturers would put a lot of effort into making sure the updates were not just worthy updates, but complete!
With competition and consumerism increasing every year and the desire to keep up with the Jones's running rife, those manufacturers are now pressured into getting new gear out as fast as possible. This means corners are cut and the inevitable frustration being shown by consumers complaining about product errors and missing features leading to plenty of returns being made.
Going Back to the DJI Mavic 3
In my opinion, this drone should have been released in two versions:-
- 1An all-singing, all dancing Mavic 3 Cine with removable hard drive and a 1" sensor on the 2nd camera and all features available on release at a more affordable price
- 2A Mavic 3 standard with no second camera, no Pro Res and no internal hard drive
If you could afford the Cine version and needed what it offered, great. What if you were an amateur pilot and those features were not necessary, the standard would more than suffice would it not?
If the Cine price was lower, it would probably push more amateurs that didn't need the Cine version to think "F**k it, I may as well go for the Cine version"!
People had waited long enough for the new Mavic 3, a few more months wouldn't have mattered. Mostly because DJI are so far ahead of their competition, people would have most likely waited regardless of any other drones being released.
So Has Consumerism Killed My Love of Imaging?
Yes and no.
Yes with regards to reviewing so many products.
I only tend to review things nowadays that are more significant updates. Products that really push tech forward in an exciting and practical way. I get sent a lot of "stuff" or asked to review things too similar to existing reviews. I decline a lot.
Yes with regards to competing with new software.
For example, techniques that I had spent months learning to do manually and spent thousands of £££'s for the kit required to get the desired result. Techniques that have now been replaced by cheap, but admittedly excellent, software that will do the job for you. All with the click of a button.
AI can suck but I also find it fascinating!
Yes with regards to stock photography.
The willingness to share ones "best selling" images in the past through the desire for recognition and "likes" led to a bombardment of similar/better images being produced en masse. For example, Dreamstime went from having 35,000 images online in 2004/2005 when I started shooting stock to now having:
Showing Off Your Work
Yes with regards to posting so many images on Instagram etc.
Especially when I see truly stunning images produced all the time with Smartphones and an app. Personally, the thing that kept, and keeps me going with photography is the effort made in producing a quality photo.
Even if it is only me that knows that what that effort was. Similar to all the sketches and drawings I made as a child that no one ever saw. Like this one below (drawn aged 15 for my Art and Design O Level taken 1 year early)...
Old School Photography
No with regards to the pleasure of spending time outdoors and still "seeing" those images around me that others don't. For me, having a (dedicated, not Smartphone) camera with me was always an excuse to get out and about by myself.
No with regards to spending hours in Lightroom and Photoshop doing the thing that automated software can't mimic. One's individuality and artistic creativity for example.
New, Meaningful Tech
No with regards to still getting excited when a new camera comes out that truly makes a difference. However, these are now becoming few and far between for me. We now have cameras shooting so many stills per second that only serves to clog up my hard drives.
Cameras that also shoot 8k video that will only be shown on HD1080p TV's or on 5-7" Smartphones. New camera tech with such incredibly fast and accurate autofocus, metering, stability and low light capability it seems almost boring using such cameras (unless in a professional capacity such as weddings but even then...).
My desire to upgrade my cameras has gone from every year without fail to maybe every 3 years...or more.
The Importance of Consumerism - Is it Important?
They say that consumerism helps to drive economic growth...but at what cost?
Heavy, constant and clever advertising leads to more consumerism. More spending leads to a growing economy. A growing economy keeps shareholders happy and (mostly) encourages research and development into new technologies which leads to more consumption.
All this leads to (supposedly) better living standards for the masses. But...
In my opinion, it also causes stress. Stress in people that maybe can't afford to upgrade to the latest tech so often and so feel left behind. If they don't have access to the latest tech, their business may suffer.
Also, I have said for years that the stock market is the cause of many financial and quality issues. For example, when a company floats on the stock exchange, their attention is diverted to keeping their shareholders happy over and above their customers (in many cases).
This can lead to products being brought to market too quickly which has happened more and more over the past few years. This can give us consumers sub-standard gear that either needs constant firmware updates or even recalls in some instances.
Consumerism on Society
So with this in mind, consumerism has a huge impact on society especially when the TV adverts are so appealing and enticing. The desire for the latest and greatest "thing" is exacerbated in places such as schools where kids can be ridiculed for not wearing the latest fashion for example. Tragic.
When you mix consumerism with social media, the situation can get even worse. Most people tend to only show the "perfect" aspects of their life on the likes of Instagram, TikTok etc. This can cause stress and anxiety in the young as they feel their life is lacking if they don't have what others have.
Consumerism and Wedding Photography
I see this with photography and filmmaking all the time. Back in 2007, I shot a wedding in Sotogrande on the southern coast of Spain where the bride's mother was a professional photographer. She also had work exhibited in a London gallery. During the wedding, she asked me why I was using flash (outdoors, in the dark, where there were only minimal LED lights and fairy lights available).
She pointed out that one of her guests had the latest Nikon DSLR (the D3) and "he wasn't using flash so why was I"?
I spied on him using my 200mm lens as he was looking at his photos on the rear screen. They all had awful colour balance and overall poor quality whereas mine had a perfect mix of ambient and flash light. A few weeks later, she informed me that she was disappointed with all of his images : )
My Conclusion on Consumerism
I have had a huge passion for photography since the age of 13 (1980). I used to get excited about cable releases and floppy lens hoods as much as I did getting a new flashgun, lens or camera. All of it was new, exciting and frustratingly addictive.
Lately, that passion has diminished slightly. This is mainly due to the overwhelming and all too regular "pings" I get alerting me of an impending product launch, rumour, update or software release that does this, that and everything for you.
Many companies that used to produce just one or two goods have now expanded their product lines to compete in an already packed market. Sometimes they fail like when Go Pro tried to enter the drone market.
I don't think consumerism will slow down anytime soon. This means that whilst the market and demand is there, manufacturers will continue pumping out cameras and other gear with minor updates, missing features and less spent on research and development.
With that being said, I am waiting with bated breath to see what the Canon R1 brings to the table when released. Perhaps the prime, professional, flagship cameras will never bow to consumerism demand and continue to hold fire on release until they are spectacularly ready.
The Canon R1 could well be the camera that sees me through to retirement in both stills and video.
So until then, I am actually leaning more towards playing more music and getting out in nature with a sketch pad or an easel, canvas and paint brush. Slow, peaceful, relaxing and non-teckie art. Hello middle age : )
But I will always have my camera with me just in case.
What Do You Think?
Please leave your comments below. Do you think we are seeing too much tech rolled out too quickly? Do you get stressed about which camera, drone or accessory to buy?