Opinion: What CES 2016 Tells Us About the (Bright) Future of Photography

Posted by on Tuesday January 12, 2016 | Camera, Photo Gear

Ask any market analyst for their take on the digital camera business, and you’ll get pretty much the same story of an industry in decline.

According to Chris Chute, Research Director at IDC, camera makers shipped roughly 39 million units in 2015. In their heyday, digital camera sales exceeded 100 million. Arun Gill at the research firm Futuresource Consulting, charts a similarly sharp decline, with sales falling from 73.6 million units in 2013 to 38 million in 2015. Both analysts see more contraction on the horizon.

But broaden the frame, and photography is arguably as vibrant as ever. If there was a major theme to CES 2016, it was surely photography and filmmaking.

It just looked like this:

And this:

And also this:

Alongside the mainstay of traditional cameras announcements (which were innovative in their own right), there were dozens of cameras that could fly, record completely spherical images, create three dimensional virtual reality videos, or go just about anywhere and survive just about anything. 

Photographers and filmmakers have arguably never had so many novel tools at their disposal as they do today.

“I think we’re on the brink of a major change in how we think about photography,” says Pentax President Jim Malcolm. Whereas photography and filmmaking had always been about cropping out visual information to fit a given frame, the new wave of spherical cameras that will hit the market in force in 2016 are all about capturing everything in view.

“When you capture everything, you can create anything,” Malcolm says. In this environment, the composition–what a photographer chooses to frame–can occur after the fact, especially as the technology and resolution behind spherical cameras improve.

Whether spherical imaging and virtual reality represent a genuine sea-change remains to be seen (and we explore that subject in more depth here), but there was undoubtedly a lot of interest, new products and enthusiasm for it at CES.

And while storytelling technology evolves, let’s not forget what else happened at CES.

We enter 2016 with both an explosion in new forms of photography and filmmaking technology and a rejuvenated interest in analog. Truly, these are interesting times.


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