Rant: Is the photo industry dropping casual photographers and hobbyists?

Many of us have watched as the price of cameras have gone astronomical. I see people with $3,000 camera bodies attached to $8,000 lenses hanging around their necks. This is insane.  You can buy used cars – even two of them – for what some people carry around their necks!

Micro four thirds, the lower tier of the interchangeable lens market (and what I shoot) has pushed cameras up to the $1,000 to $2,000 price range with hints that even higher priced offerings may emerge in 2019.

Online camera reviews breathlessly tout the latest camera offerings with more megapixels, better focusing or what have you, but which rarely make much difference to anyone except professionals and some high end amateurs. All those online review sites have become “latest tech you gotta have” pushers. And why not? They make their money with affiliate links, earning a commission each time someone clicks through to Amazon or B&H and makes a purchase. They are the camera gear equivalent of drug pushers!

The pressure to upgrade is everywhere – and few people recognize how they are played to spend more money.

If you are a pro, who earns money with your photography, you are in a different league than most people out taking photos. You can likely cost justify your purchase of the latest high priced gear.

Today, Flickr announced they will delete photos from free accounts with over 1,000 photos as of February 5, 2019. If you want to keep your photos, you’ll have to upgrade to “pro” – and oh, they doubled the price on that too! Again, for a pro that’s making money on their photography, that’s not a big obstacle. For all others, Flickr has decided the customer hostile approach to their business is the right one for Flickr, but may be not so much for users.

The message from Flickr is clear – they are no longer interested in the casual hobbyist market. They are after the “pro” market and some high end amateurs who can cost justify the new prices.

Meanwhile, as we already know, camera phones have obliterated the point-n-shoot market so all camera makers have been moving up scale. The reality is that beyond certain megapixel limits, most of us will not see personal benefits from buying new cameras and lens priced in multiples of $10,000 🙂 The camera makers are steering their business towards high end photographers willing to shell out the big bucks.

The photo industry seems to be bifurcating into smart phone shooters who share on Instagram, and high end “pros” (or pro wannabes) on Flickr and other platforms.

What will happen to the middle ground segment? There are still APS-C cameras and micro four thirds but even they seem to be moving upscale.

The casual/hobby market is moving up scale very rapidly – and may leave many photographers behind as photography becomes an activity limited to the high heeled elite of the future. Or just using smartphones …

A related issue is that the old idea of buying a product has gone away – today we merely rent them. Adobe did this with their photo editing tools. Flickr is doing this with photo sharing. Microsoft has done this with Office. Before long, we will be paying considerable amounts of money – forever – as we get locked in to tools used to create and access our own content. How long before we are charged an annual fee to use certain features of our cameras, such as say, SLOG or VLOG video color grading? This seems to be the holy grail of the industry now – lots and lots of user fees!

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