Photography and Art

Friday, January 6, 2012

Predictions for 2012

2012 is going to be a terrific year for photographers. This year was a little lean, due in part to the tsunami in Japan and the floods in Taiwan. If all goes well and natural disasters don't interfere, we'll have lots of new hardware and software to buy in the coming year.

Let's look at software first. In 2012, we are going to see a lot of new stuff. We'll see a new version of Photoshop and a new version of Lightroom. I won't speculate on what's going to be in Photoshop, but I'm very hopeful that Lightroom will offer a few goodies that we've been waiting for. Here is my wish list:

  • Speed: it would be really nice if Lightroom could make use of the GPU in my graphics card like Photoshop does. Why can't the Lightroom team re-use some of that good code?
  • Networking: Most of the people I know have a small network in their house and have at least a desktop and a laptop machine. I'd like to be able to share my catalog on my network. I'm sure that professional photographers have even a more urgent need for this functionality.
  • Cloud integration: the ability to either have my catalog in the cloud or, failing that for performance reasons, have my catalog index images stored in the cloud. Also, let me edit images in my iPad or Android device and have those edits reflected in my catalog.
  • More and better tools: I like the tools that came out with Lightroom 3, but I'd like more control. For example, I'd like to be able to control the gradient adjustment tool so that I can vary the steepness of the gradient.
Cameras - DSLR FF
The first shots have been fired in the pro wars with Canon and Nikon announcing new generation tools for the sports photographer. The Canon 1dX and the Nikon D4 are evolutionary products. Curiously, both vendors seem to be coalescing around a megapixel count in the 16-18 range. This is driven, no doubt, by complaints from customers that they don't want to be messing with large file sizes for editing and uploading where the target vehicle is a web site, newspaper or magazine. Both cameras have sprouted excellent video capabilities reflecting the change in the industry to having reportage in video as well as text/still photography.

The next shots will be fired in the fine art photography space where the Canon 5dmarkIII waits in the wings. Here's where things get interesting:
  • Will it take the next step up to 36 megapixels or will it come in at 18 megapixes, a slight drop in resolution from the current 21 megapixels?
  • Will we see a 3d and a 5dmarkiii? 
  • Will there be a killer video camera with 4K video to drive the 4K TV's that are just starting to come to life? 
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there will indeed be two cameras. One will be an 18 megapixel camera aimed at the video set with 4K video to keep Canon in the lead. The other will be a 36 megapixel art photographer camera aimed at still shooters. 

Of course, there will also be a slew of new APS/C cameras from Canon including the new 7dmkii. 

What will Nikon do? Things are a little clearer in the Nikon camp. There will be a D800 announced soon. It will be 36 megapixels, full-frame and will have video capabilities (probably not 4K).

Cameras - Mirrorless
This is going to be a very interesting spot to watch in 2012. Let's go vendor by vendor:
  • Nikon is all set. The V1 was announced and has been received with mixed reviews. There was some disappointment with the small sensor size, but on the plus side, the camera and lenses are in balance unlike Sony's product line where the camera looks like the tail on the lens dog. Look for more lenses in 2012 to fill out the line-up.
  • Sony is all set. The Nex 7 was announced to pretty much rave reviews for the sensor. DxOmark rates the sensor as better than a 5dmarkii, so it must be pretty hot stuff. The only issue with the Sony mirrorless cameras is the size of the lenses. The APS/C sensor format drives the lens sizes up. Look for more Zeiss lenses in 2012.
  • Canon is missing in action. I guess if you're the big dog, you can wait to see everyone else's strategy and then come into the market late with the winning hand. Will Canon introduce an APS/C camera or something with a smaller sensor? My prediction is that they will follow Nikon and introduce a camera with a smaller sensor. Why? They need to protect their entry-level DSLRs that are huge sellers. They also need to differentiate themselves from Sony, Nikon, Olympus and Panny, so my guess is that we'll see a sensor that is around micro two thirds in size but without joining the consortium. We'll see a full set of lenses and the camera will be loaded with video capability. 
  • Olympus is fighting a PR nightmare and will have a tough time getting over its distracting financial difficulties. We may not see a lot of product in 2012 which is too bad.
  • Panasonic will continue to build on its success in the micro two thirds market and will look to steal share away from Olympus and even Nikon. There will be lenses and bodies announced, but nothing revolutionary.
  • FUJI is going to be in the news. The new X Pro-1 will be out in the first quarter. Think of it as an X100 with interchangeable lenses. Rumors abound that the sensor will have multiple pixels per site like the Sigma Foveon technology. This should be a very interesting camera. Let's hope the image quality is as good or better than the X100! There are also rumors that Fuji will buy Olympus. Wouldn't that be interesting.
Printers and Paper

Epson will announce a model or two with marginally better gamut and performance. Ink prices will stay flat. Snore.

There may be a few new papers announced in 2012, but I think we're also at maturity in that space too. Snore.

In Summary
Get your credit cards out! Before the year is out, most serious photographers will be out buying not one, but two new cameras and a bunch of lenses. First will come the upgrade to either the 5dmkiii or the D800 to get those 36 megapixels. Better also upgrade some of your lenses to take advantage of all that resolution. Maybe a Zeiss lens or two will fit the bill!

Then, we'll all be buying mirrorless systems for those days when a big camera is too bulky or too obvious. The Fuji announcement will create a whole lot of buzz. The Canon announcement will create even more buzz. In short, the light will be shining on this product category all year and people will be lining up to buy as the economy recovers.

Not only that, but you'll have to be shelling out $400 to upgrade Photoshop and Lightroom, assuming that you upgraded to CS5 to avoid having to buy the license for Photoshop all over again.

And if that isn't enough, you should consider upgrading your computer to something with a quad Intel i7 and at least 16GB of memory so that your system doesn't choke on those huge files. Better buy some more disk while you're at it.

This is going to be one expensive year for a lot of people! Buy Japanese yen.

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