Inflated Claims

Here’s an interesting statistic (sorry, I meant to say “here’s a statistic” since statistics cannot, by definition, ever be interesting); while the Retail Price Index shows inflation to be up to 3.7 in December, on camera and video camera equipment it’s dropped by 17.8% (according to the BBC).

Interesting, in a cure for insomnia sort of way, but bear with me. This is going somewhere.

Prices did rise in 2009/2010 due to the strong Yen, or weak Pound, I’m not sure how these things work, but even if the currency markets reversed, that’s a heck of a difference. And while other luxury electricals also suffered deflation, none of them came close to this figure.

So what’s going on? Professionals hurting so bad they’re making their kit last longer? Amateurs getting fed up with shelling out for more pixels every 9 months? Micro-stockers finally realising they can never recoup the cost of their kit?

I doubt if any of these factors could have this kind of effect in isolation, but put the professionals, amateurs and wannabe micro-stock photographers together and they account for the entire market.

The figure reported by the BBC doesn’t separate video camera prices from SLR/compact camera prices, and I’ve no idea what’s happening in the video market so let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

But if prices have tumbled, and may still be tumbling, what are camera manufacturers doing to fight back? Personally I think their tactic is to use advertising to mine peoples’ gullibility to new depths.

This example is a quote from a Samsung press release regarding some new lenses, “These are products that a professional photographer would be proud to use, but we make them so easy to use that a novice could get amazing results every time.” No matter what the lens is pointed at? Wow!

From various Olympus blurbs for the Pen series of cameras, I quote: “Loved by pros, Made for you” and “Itching to take professional photos but intimidated by SLRS?”

If you haven’t detected a trend yet, here’s the strap-line for the Sony NEX-5: “Performs like a pro, feels like a compact.”

What the manufacturers are trying to say is that with their latest piece of electronic wizardry you too can take photos like a pro. I can’t recall which manufacturer used the strap-line “Take pictures like a pro, but without the hassle” but it struck me that there was a new shift in emphasis here. Trying to convince people that it’s the camera, not the photographer, that takes the picture. If you just have the right tool. If I had the right piano, I’d be composing like Beethoven. Doesn’t matter that I don’t know one end of a keyboard from another.

But it isn’t just the public that are being wooed with ever more ludicrous promises. Note this nonsense from Zeiss’s press release for one of their lenses:

OBERKOCHEN/Germany, 01.09.2010. : A woman is sitting at the bar of a dimly-lit cafe. Lost in thoughts, she doesn’t notice the glass of wine the bartender places before her. From a distance, a photographer tries to capture her mood. He brings her face, which is leaning toward her phone, into focus. Everything around her becomes a blur, and the lights in the background coalesce into a wild “dance” of diffuse shapes.

This shot will only work with a fast lens with short focal length and harmonious bokeh. Carl Zeiss introduces a new lens for just such images: the Distagon T* 1,4/35.”

The press release should continue, “shortly after taking the shot, the photographer is wrestled to the ground and kicked senseless by undercover security officers mistaking him for a terrorist/pervert.”

Oberkochen? Overcooked more like. My tip, don’t believe the hype.

man wrestled to ground by police

Bob knew he shouldn’t have tested the new Zeiss lens in the ladies’ changing room.

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  • Chris Barton February 22, 2011   Reply →

    Interesting observation about camera manufacturers trying to make consumers think that buying the right camera will make the me pro.

    Of course, there is the risk of it backfiring, because bad workmen always like to blame their tools….

    “I bought this fancy new hightech SLR camera with lenses they claim never take bad pictures, and look at the images! They’re sh*t! I am never buying one of their cameras again!”

    • Glass Eye February 22, 2011   Reply →

      On that basis, it does seem a risky strategy. In fact when you get underneath the message, what the manufacturers are often referring to is the size of the imaging chip.

      For those of you with a life I should explain further; digital SLRs have always had imaging chips much larger in dimensions than those found in compact cameras. This allows the photographer to play with depth of field more (difficult to do with a small chip/small lens camera). So now that models like the Olympus Pen have the bigger chips, there’s a little more scope to experiment with depth of field. The ads place a subtle stress on this in the images they show, but they make out like it’s the ONLY thing that sets you apart from a professional. It’s a bit of a disingenuous ploy.

  • pogomcl February 22, 2011   Reply →

    no– the things shoot like a pro isn’t new. it’s been around for at least 3years, but the difference is that chip prices have dropped radically and this is major expense in camera…since the lens is kind of separate in dslr. chip technology has improved radically and is not as expensive to produce, but also pocket cameras like the Samsung don’t have manual controls any longer. They have those picture mode jobbers like”snow, night, disillusionment, hangover, etc”

    this is also why they can make the claim the camera makes perfect picture. the settings are pre-fixed… and in at least 2 Samsungs there is autodetect for focus. However, how accurate such autodetect focus is, have no idea.

    and actually the same kind of argument is constantly in professional photogs forums.

    I know somebody who went out and bought D5, not because he needed it or because he knew how to shoot, but because having the D5 makes him a photographer and of course I’m not. Bad pictures on a D5 are even more intolerable than they are on an Olympus whatever. You really can’t blame the D5 for gross overexposure.

    I’ve got a crap low-life camera and secondhand lenses, not an L 27-40 kit, so obviously not a photographer. Besides bug-shooters are never photographers. It’s ok. I don’t have to worry about ego-wars this way.

    Some folks really are this way and wouldn’t matter what you handed them, the shot would still be junk and then there are others, who you hand them a piece of junk and the shots are great.

    It’s a bit strange to see the new 60D coming out at a lower price than what the 50D was leaving market on, but it has to do with the chip I think.

    • Glass Eye February 22, 2011   Reply →

      I like disillusionment mode. I’d buy a camera with that feature! They should advertise cameras to pro’s with the strap-line “spend like a professional, shoot like an amateur.” Of course all these modes are based on just setting the camera’s settings to best suit each scenario, but the impression the public gets is that they somehow overcome the laws of physics. It’s just so much hokum.

      As for your situation, it’s a bug-shooter’s life!

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