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AP reader Paul Foxley questions how far camera makers can promote new models convincingly
The year's first big show in the USA brought the usual flurry of new camera launches to bedazzle eager fans. If you put aside glitz and glamour, many photographers might well ask how far camera makers can convince us about their ‘new developments', when in reality some raise doubts from the start.
It is a fair point that buying trends are changing, partly because of the increasing acceptance of a new generation of smaller cameras, such as CSCs, and partly because, based on evidence published in AP's letters pages, many DSLRs are now seen as weighty choices and too bulky for everyday comfort.
Technical advances always attract headlines, and brands like Sony have challenged thinking by creating breakthrough models. They are offering significant innovation to give tempted buyers something to consider seriously about performance factors. A new phase of cameras boasting a full-frame sensor inside a lightweight, compact and stylish body that offers great handling versatility is inching closer, and may soon be a commonplace consideration among other makers.
Further down the specifications chain, the new attractions in compacts can be less bold but often demand a higher price than perfectly respectable outgoing models that have survived a matter of months on the retailer's shelf. The growing battle for users between smartphones and compacts has certainly hit sales numbers, but Nikon has made its intentions clear and believes its foothold in the compact market can only get stronger as others withdraw.
It's fair to assume that most committed photographers have settled on their preferred choices when it comes to brand favourites, the system selections and all the associated investment that goes with them. So, are makers expecting a new breed of first-time camera buyers to emerge, or do they see more transfer business coming from those who suddenly decide to discard their costly previous choices in favour of trend-setting new thinking?
People will find their own ‘sell-by' point of obsolescence when it comes to cameras, but will the picture outputs from a fresh start be substantially better than the ones achieved to date? Pride of ownership is one thing; swapping kit completely, if you can afford it, undoubtedly delivers smiles from ups and groans from downs. The balance can be hard to settle, like the one at the bank!
The pace of technical change in digital photography has been remarkable, yet the question now is have we reached a point where some camera attributes are more trivial than triumphant? Do masses of photographers really crave gizmos galore when reality shows only a small percentage ever print what their cameras produce? Making picture-taking simpler will always have strong appeal. Raising the technical performance bar to new heights is, questionably, only appealing if you are dissatisfied with what you already have.
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