by Willow Blythe
In a constantly shifting world of technology, the pressure is on as these specially equipped cameras lose popularity within the photography industry.
It would be the last time he would carry the exquisite piece of glass used to capture the world from a unique perspective. Monthly bills had begun to pile up over time, and unfortunately one of the only options left had been quickly placed upon the shoulders of 49-year-old Dallas photographer, Nathan Shane. Although sentimentally attached to his Nikon 14-22mm wide camera lens that had once traveled with him to take photos inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in Minnesota, Shane was forced to place the lens on Craigslist for less than the $1,999 he spent for it.
“I needed the money,” said Shane. “My current job project was not paying enough money to cover my monthly bills.”
For years, photography has been a unique art used to capture many sentimental moments in people’s lives. Digital single-lens reflex cameras (or dSLRs), the type of camera used by Shane and many other photographers in the industry, are specially equipped cameras used to capture high quality photos. But, the shifting world of camera technology has left many tech experts wondering what will happen to the popularity of this type of equipment in the near future.
In recent years, the photography industry has faced the rising popularity of cheap compact cameras as well as built-in cell phone cameras. Currently, the latest talk in the industry has been about “third-generation” cameras, compact photography handhelds that lack a traditional inner mirror, contain smaller sensors, and come equipped with lightweight and interchangeable lenses. The concern of these cameras is that they could potentially replace the need for traditional high-priced lenses and equipment. With these cameras slowly beginning to emerge in the industry, this can be alarming to several traditional dSLR photographers who are used to equipment ranging from amounts as low as $100, to more than $5,000.
“As the saying goes, the more money you spend on the camera,” said Shane, “the more features, options and capabilities you are buying into.”
In addition to new camera technology emerging, current hi-tech devices such as smartphones, have been of popular demand for several consecutive years.
“As mobile phone cameras become more advanced, consumers are dumping their point-and-shoot cameras in favor of their mobile phones,” said Robert Hart, Pulitzer Prize-winning commercial, advertising and editorial photographer since 1974.
Many consumers are choosing smartphones as their primary device over traditional cameras, according to a study done in 2011 by NPD Study Group.
With the influx of mobile phone camera usage, this has had an impact on the photography industry as a whole.
“What the camera phone did destroy was digital point-and-shoot market,” said Paz Beatty, an SMU journalism and Spanish major who has been working with cameras since the age of 7.
Though Beatty says that having a high resolution smartphone is more convenient, the quality isn’t anything to be compared to a dSLR.
With technology always at a fast pace in many aspects, manufactures have no choice but to keep up.
Over the last couple of years, dSLRs have gradually dropped in price, making them more affordable to users worldwide. Many photographers agree that this price drop is not only a sign of a shifting future in the industry, but also because of less demand from the general public.
“When demand wanes, manufacturers have no choice but to drop their prices in order to remain competitive,” said Hart.
With dSLRs becoming more affordable, the photography industry has also suffered another kind of trouble.
“The proliferation of amateurs equipped with affordable easy-to-use dSLRs has flooded the photography market with wannabes and part-timers,” said Hart.
As the price of these cameras become more easily attainable, competition between amateur photographers and professionals increase. This in turn has made job availability more difficult for photographers looking for work.
Though the photography industry continues to face many challenges, the need for professional photography will always be in demand.
“I think dSLRs will always have a place in journalism,” said SMU staff photographer Christopher Saul. “They will be less popular, but there will always be a need for these devices.”
While many photographers are hopeful for the preservation of digital SLR technology, these special cameras will still have an important role in the market today.
For experienced photographers who have been in the industry for several years, these cameras will always carry a remarkably unique value.
For Shane, his dSLR camera will continue to be a major part of his life and career despite the evolving camera technology.
Although he was forced to place the ad for his special lens on Craigslist, Shane was able to sell it 3 days later for a little over $1,000. Fortunately, he was able to use the money to pay the bills.
The lens served a purpose in my photography life for the times that I did use it, “said Shane. “The lens is now a part of my photographic past.”