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Death of the standalone camera

I took the above photo on my Fujifilm X-T3 at the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Toronto. Obviously, it is a cast of David Bowie’s head. I’ve been using Fujifilm’s X cameras for exactly 3 years now and have already gone through 2 different models. I love them. But Om Malik’s recent post on why the future belongs to computational photography is, in my opinion, entirely accurate.

For most people, taking photos on a standalone camera and dropping them into Lightroom is not only far too much work, but also unnecessary. Here is a chart from Om’s post showing total worldwide digital camera unit sales (in millions). Sales have fallen off a cliff from about 10 years ago and now look to be on the verge of dying.

What is obvious is that we are all now just taking photos on our phones. Thanks to better chips, sensors, and software, the future of photography looks, again, destined to be computational. Apple is set to announce its new iPhone 11 (or whatever it will be called) this week and already the rumors point to a dramatically improved camera.

This change in hardware has also changed our relationship to the photograph. We now take photos for the purpose of real-time sharing, which is another point that Om makes. When I post photos of things that have happened in the past — as I often do — people are commonly confused: “Where are you? When are you back in Toronto? Wait, is this a #latergram?”

This has made photographic memories feel ephemeral. Once the moment has passed, we forget about them. They get drowned out in new real-time images and shares. As a society we are taking more photos than ever before. Not surprisingly, this lowers the gravitas of each individual one.

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