Long Live the Camera

Craig Mod, in an article he wrote for The New Yorker:

But I returned with the unshakeable feeling that I’m done with cameras, and that most of us are, if we aren’t already.

I was getting all worked up at this point — I am passionate about cameras, photography, and well camera gear — but Mod went on:

But it seems clear that in a couple of years, with an iPhone 6S in our pockets, it will be nearly impossible to justify taking a dedicated camera on trips like the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage.

And:

In the same way that the transition from film to digital is now taken for granted, the shift from cameras to networked devices with lenses should be obvious.

It’s hard to read this article and disagree with it at the same time. It’s a smart article, which isn’t talking about the demise of the camera, but the resurgence and rejuvenation of the camera. As a kid I remember hearing: “Did you remember the camera?” But more and more as an adult I am hearing: “Did you post that to Facebook/Instagram yet?”

It’s that distinction — of worrying not about having a camera, but about sharing — that I think really drives home Mod’s point. I can’t agree with Mod’s notion that he doesn’t notice differences in the quality of the photos, or that he finds shooting on the iPhone better, but I do agree that I will pull out my iPhone and snap a few shots so I can share them right away even if I was shooting with a camera already. And I agree that editing photos on a touch screen is far superior and immersive than with a mouse/keyboard.

Near the end Mod summarizes:

It’s clear now that the Nikon D70 and its ilk were a stopgap between that old Leica M3 that I coveted over a decade ago and the smartphones we photograph with today.

In order to agree with Mod you have to forget the ‘pro’ argument — there will always be pros that need pro level gear — what Mod is getting at is that the average person will be increasingly happy with their smartphone cameras. That’s something I wholeheartedly agree with.

If I was a camera manufacturer right now I would be looking at creating a platform that works with smartphones. Something like:

  1. Snap a photo on the camera.
  2. It is automagically sent to the app on your smartphone/tablet.
  3. Edit and post from the app on the smartphone.
  4. Both original and edited image are sent off to your archive location of choice.

There’s a few things such a system would accomplish for photography enthusiasts:

  • You would get to take images with a better camera, but still get all the benefits of having taken that image with a phone.
  • You wouldn’t ever have to download images to a computer. They are already shared, and archived. If one needed/wanted an image on a Mac then you could grab the archive from a web service and do what you need to do.

There are some systems that attempt this, but they are shitty. They are shitty because they don’t understand the two aspects that make such system better: why the user wants it, and how the service needs to act.

The user wants this to make their life easier — in other words it should be no more complicated than remembering to shoot with your “good” camera instead of your phone. And of course in order to achieve that level of ease, the service must be flawless in its implementation.

Apple’s Photo Stream works exceedingly well, and effectively what I am talking about is cameras being able to pipe directly into a system like Photo Stream. This is where the real challenge comes (getting a web-connection on a camera, getting a universal like system, etc.) and where I doubt this is done without a partnership between a phone maker and a camera company. But, one can dream.

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
3 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Craig Mod, in an article he wrote for The New Yorker: But I returned with the unshakeable feeling that I’m done with cameras, and that most of us are, if we aren’t already. I was getting all worked up at this point — I am passionate about cameras, photography, and well camera gear — but […]