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01-26-2022, 01:49 AM - 8 Likes   #1
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Stepping back for the long view of DSLR vs dMILC

Things to think about in the ongoing discussion...

1. Cameras are tools, not a definition of who we are. There's room for both DSLR and dMILC cameras, because each system is better suited for some types of photography than the other. A useful toolbox includes both a hammer and a screwdriver.

2. As a photographer, my favorite camera is the one I'm currently using, be it a DSLR, dMILC, Phone, MF film, or whatever. When it is unable to deliver the results I am after, or not suited for the current task at hand, I switch to another camera which is more appropriate to what I am trying to do. I don't use a car to tow a 50,000 lb trailer, and I don't use a Mack truck to go to the store.

3. Manufacturers are driving the demand for the products they want to (or still can) make, and devote many resources to creating demand for the products they want to (or still can) sell. And it's not all about profit. There is a need for skilled workers with specialist knowledge, skills and experience to properly align and calibrate the focusing elements of DSLRs. Robots can't (yet) duplicate the precision a skilled technician brings to the process, especially when the work is a labor of pride and self-esteem for the camera builders, manyóif not mostóof whom, are at or beyond retirement age. Further complicating the situation is that younger workers with the same dedication, extensive skillsets, esoteric knowledge, and lifetime commitment necessary for hand producing extremely sophisticated, professional-level SLR cameras are virtually nonexistent. (If you don't think this is important, take your favorite camera apart and put it back together.)

dMILC production is much easier to automate since all the high-precision autofocus calibration technology is integrated into the mass produced sensor chip, and highly-specialized, highly-skilled craftsmanship is not required to calibrate it. Digital MILC design philosophy is relatively new, and is at about the same place DSLR design was in the late 2000s. I'm not saying that it will take 10 years for dMILCs to mature, but they are still growing and have already established a foothold in the mainstream of photography (which for the overwhelming majority of people in 2022 consists of their smartphone).

The discussion as it exists in the media and online discussions is largely missing the point: The reality is that the largest part of the camera market no longer exists, and has now become the smartphone market.

Apple designer Jonathan Ive once stated, "We're surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects." (After retiring from Apple, Ive formed a business partnership, LoveFrom, with Marc Newson of Pentax K-01 fame.) see: Apple Designer Jonathan Ive Talks About Steve Jobs and New Products
QuoteQuote:
ďWeíre surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. Itís tempting to think itís because the people who use them donít care ó just like the people who make them. But what weíve shown is that people do care. Itís not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made. We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. our success is a victory for purity, integrity ó for giving a damn.Ē

Ricoh/Pentax may be taking the best path going forward: resizing to meet the demand for the admittedly botique-level technology they can and want to produce, while embracing the reality that the camera market for Ma and Pa and the Kiddies taking family vacation snapshots at Disneyland is gone... perhaps forever. The good news is that there will continue to be a very active niche market for professional-level photographic equipment among Artists, Publications, News, Entertainment, Advertising, Portraits, Industrial, Medical and aficionados of fine photography.

Leitz (Leica), Hasselblad and others are aware of this, and for those willing and able to pay the fair cost for all the creativity, skill and quality necessary to develop and manufacture such elite products, there will continue to be top-shelf markets in photography, technology, automobiles and the rest of life. Successful manufacturers understand this. Leica and Hasselblad understand this. Mercedes and Rolls Royce understand this. Apple understands this.

Pentax, Nikon, Sony and Canon need to understand this too, if they want to survive this decade.

01-26-2022, 02:17 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Thanks for your thoughts - very interesting.

To me, there were two periods when sales of SLRs were inflated beyond their natural user base - there was a charge back in the 60's and 70s, lead by Pentax and Olympus towards affordable fun ILCs (where most peoiple didn't even go beyond the good quality kit 50/1.7 or whatever) - this started to tail off with increasingly good zoom compacts - and then another when digital hit and huge droves of peiople swapped out their film cameras for DSLRs. Numbers are now settling down again as most peole realise that they don't need an ILC. I think that the market is returning to its natural level - the problem now being that the R&D costs to stay ahead in high tech cameras require sales that are not there, so you get an upoward price spiral.

However, as you suggest, for us it's best not to over worry it - there will always be cameras good enough for our needs, and they are tools. I'd hate to see choice disappear because the different makers have different characyers that suiyt different people, butr as long as that remains the case, we should have choice. There are a lot of people in the world!

Last edited by ffking; 01-26-2022 at 03:36 AM.
01-26-2022, 03:45 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I think there is plenty of room for both types of cameras. I believe that the shift from SLR to MILC is motivated mainly by the camera manufacturers who see more profit in these new mounts. It is pretty clear they are moving upscale -- fewer low end and APS-C cameras and more expensive options across the board compared to SLRs. Beyond which, they hope to resell a bunch of lenses to people who already had a complete SLR lens line up. Of course, you can use your old lenses on the new cameras with an adapter, but over time people will probably shift to the newer ones.

I was just looking over the prices of the Z mount lenses on B and H and they certainly aren't cheap. A 50mm f1.8 prime for 600 dollars, their 70-200mm f2.8 is 2600 dollars, and their 24-70 f2.8 is 2200 dollars. Clearly, this isn't a move designed to save their photographers money.

SLRs are currently "good enough" for most photographers. Not everyone need 20 fps and 6K video and 500 auto focus points on the sensor. At the same time, there is something pleasant about seeing the world through an OVF that an EVF doesn't really capture -- plus depending on your shooting style, you may have significantly better battery life with an SLR design. I do a lot of composing through the viewfinder without even turning the camera on. I may come back from a photography excursion with 20 or 30 photos, but I spent a lot of time looking to figure out what I wanted to shoot. This sort of thing drains the battery on a camera with an EVF.

Anyway, I agree. Both styles of camera will be around for some time and my expectation is that Pentax will continue to support SLRs for a long time to come. It certainly doesn't make sense for them to jump into the MILC race, as that would require an investment in technology that I don't think they are willing to give.
01-26-2022, 03:49 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
And it's not all about profit.
But if these camera companies donít make a profit sooner or later, they will cease to existÖ

Itís a hard, cruel world.

01-26-2022, 05:16 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
But if these camera companies don’t make a profit sooner or later, they will cease to exist…
Free market would force the weakest companies out, letting more sales volumes go to leading companies, allowing high value products (price/performance), keeping sales up. It looks like Japanese companies have decided not to play by the free market book, they all downsize, stay in the camera business and raise prices to compensate for lower efficiency.
01-26-2022, 05:21 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Free market would force the weakest companies out, letting more sales volumes go to leading companies, allowing high value products ...
I donít understand what point youíre making.
01-26-2022, 06:01 AM   #7
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My sister was visiting here with my twenty-something niece last week, and I found my niece's approach to photography interesting. She's happy taking most of her photos with her phone, but she also had a Canon SX740 superzoom compact with her to cover the shots that the phone couldn't handle.

Here's my point:

The chances of my niece buying any sort of an interchangeable lens camera are about zero, but she obviously cares enough about photography to want something better than her phone when it's needed. Since she's a fairly typical example of her generation in most ways, my bet is that many others among her peer group probably also want to own a compact camera of some sort to supplement their phones. And some of those WILL eventually end up deciding that they need an interchangeable lens camera.

So I think that some sort of a market for interchangeable lens cameras will always be there, among those who develop an interest in photography as an art form rather than just as grist for the social media mill. The challenge for Pentax in the future will be to make the buyers in that market believe that an optical viewfinder DSLR is the true artist's choice.

01-26-2022, 06:17 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
Cameras are tools, not a definition of who we are. There's room for both DSLR and dMILC cameras, because each system is better suited for some types of photography than the other. A useful toolbox includes both a hammer and a screwdriver.
I understand, however lovers of mirrorless would argue that the analogy is flawed, and that in fact their camera is a better screwdriver than yours

QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
Manufacturers are driving the demand for the products they want to (or still can) make
That's true, both parts. Mirrorless is easier to assemble, with less parts. Manufacturers can then devote their R&D expenses for things like software, which can be re-used for multiple cameras.

QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
Robots can't (yet) duplicate the precision a skilled technician brings to the process, especially when the work is a labor of pride and self-esteem for the camera builders
There's truth in that.

Based on my experience, manufacturers increase their profitability when skilled technicians become less necessary. We did that in a company I worked for. For a given step of the assembly process, only 2-3 people were trained and able to perform the task. They were the stars, viewed as separate from the others. By working on the process, we turned that task into one of many, doable by everyone, increase yield by 40%, cycle time decrease five-fold, and profit of course improved.
01-26-2022, 08:13 AM - 3 Likes   #9
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Where did all the technicians go?

I should have elucidated more on the demise (both figurative and literal) of the uniquely gifted SLR assembly technicians. They are an elite group, and their skills were learned through the experience they gained from a lifetime of working in the industry. There is little opportunity to develop such skills in the Western world, and outside of Japan and a few communities in Europe the master crafters are not to be found.

I have a friend who has made a career in the manufacturing sector. His company can't find enough basic laborers, let alone those with advanced skills. A distressing number of the new hires couldn't tell you the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver, let alone possess the knowledge of how to use either safely and effectively, without damaging the product in the process.

And they refuse all attempts at training, because they believe they know it all.

NASA is going back to the moon, or so they say. But it won't be any time soon. The Uncomfortable Truths of American Spaceflight

And now we look at the camera manufacturing industry. Its bread and butter mainstay of millions of point and shoot cameras a year is no longer relevant, as customers have 0deserted them for smartphones. The loss of that market segment and the profit it generated is making it difficult for the companies to be able to fund the highly-skilled, labor-intensive manufacturing of DSLR cameras—let alone to fund exotic R&D programs.

Pentax is lucky to have found an adoptive parent in Ricoh, who has a large sales network and a bounty of loyal non-camera customers who generate enough profit from their other business lines to permit the funding of top-line camera manufacturing and R&D such as the massive bankroll of two state-of-the-art flagship DSLRs in the face of unreliable parts supply chains, uncertain sales and declining market interest in complex technology that isn't a smartphone, tablet or large-screen TV.

Pentax already is a boutique brand, and we will have to pay more in the future to keep them in business if we want to enjoy buying new products from them.

And remember—Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras have been around for 170 years (using 8x10", 4x5" or 9x12cm sheet film; and 120, 620, 220, 127, 126, 110 and 135 roll film sizes.) The SLR was a novel idea before WW II, and Leica wasn't worried. It wasn't until the late 1950s that Pentax and Nikon followed by Canon, Olympus, Konica, Minolta, Topcon, Mamiya and a host others) started to outsell popular rangefinders such as the Argus C3, The Leicas and Contaxes, the Kodak and Polaroid folding cameras (with bellows!) and plastic SLR lookalikes from anonymous Asian manufacturers.

There are significant numbers of us who still use these films and cameras occasionally, but it is a niche market. Optical rangefinder dMILC cameras are a mainstream product, and almost all of the current entry-level, mirrorless, Point&Shoot cameras (that aren't cellphones) are rangefinders with LV and built in flash.

Any industry is subject to the whims and fads of society. Successful companies find a balance of giving the public what they want, while maintaining the integrity of their high-end products. Think Nikon sunglasses and hunting rifle scopes being a support system for the expense of producing D-850 and Z-9 cameras. And think Pentax—and yes, I know that division is not owned by Ricoh, but it does remind consumers that there IS still a Pentax!

Last edited by Shupienis; 01-26-2022 at 03:58 PM.
01-26-2022, 08:28 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
Where did all the technicians go?
They go to enjoy their retirement. After so many years of assembling mirrored cameras, they finally have time to go fly fishing (No photography! Please).

---------- Post added 26-01-22 at 16:31 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
Where did all the technicians go?
And for all who passed away, they are now reincarnated into software engineers, it's pretty much the same job, instead of lining up tiny parts , screws and bolts, they lineup lines of firmware code.

Last edited by biz-engineer; 01-26-2022 at 09:05 AM.
01-26-2022, 09:39 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Shupienis Quote
I have a friend who has made a career in the manufacturing sector. His company can't find enough basic laborers, let alone those with advanced skills. A distressing number of the new hires couldn't tell you the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver, let alone possess the knowledge of how to use either safely and effectively, without damaging the product in the process.

And they refuse all attempts at training, because they believe they know it all.
I understand the point you're making, but that's a broad generalization. There are still competent people to be found, it's just that the demographics make it harder to recruit them.
01-26-2022, 10:03 AM - 7 Likes   #12
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In my opinion the real problem in the MILC vs DSLR debate has nothing to do with the technology or capabilities of either system, it lies in human personality flaws. We people are too invested in self validation and being "right" and we can't separate ourselves from the inanimate objects we choose to buy. Objectively speaking you have to be splitting hairs to see significant differences in the images from any camera system in the past decade. So now it is just fawning over gadgetry and bragging about the insignificant differences in order to feel superior or justified or validated or <add insecurity fixer here>. I am guilty of falling into this myself, though I try and catch myself and back out before I fall too far down the rabbit hole, but I see far to many who don't and remain oblivious.

The facts for me personally are: I like my Pentax gear. I derive great satisfaction from using it to create images. I would likely derive similar satisfaction from any other brand of gear. My images won't get better from switching brands, no matter what I choose. MILC is not going to make my images better either. I have a unhealthy sized budget to acquire more gear than I can use, but I need to keep some limits on that and just enjoy using what I already know I enjoy using. So I keep shooting Pentax, and I still like it.

Also on the point of whether there is young talent to keep creating DLSRs, please go back to the K3III videos where the creators are talking about the different pieces of tech they built for the camera. I did not see many grey haired retirees in those videos, the team looked younger than I expected them to. As someone who works in high tech I always hear the argument that young people are useless, but a big part of my career has been training young people to learn very complex things. Young people these days are immensely capable and bright and motivated. There is no barrier to them learning and mastering and taking over anything us old guys think we are the masters of.
01-26-2022, 11:21 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by vector Quote
Also on the point of whether there is young talent to keep creating DLSRs, please go back to the K3III videos where the creators are talking about the different pieces of tech they built for the camera. I did not see many grey haired retirees in those videos, the team looked younger than I expected them to. As someone who works in high tech I always hear the argument that young people are useless, but a big part of my career has been training young people to learn very complex things. Young people these days are immensely capable and bright and motivated. There is no barrier to them learning and mastering and taking over anything us old guys think we are the masters of.
I'm glad you mentioned the K-3 Mark III videos. Those and the associated narrative pieces were not only interesting to me, but also highlighted the talents of a relatively young team.

This past summer, a vacant house across the street was undergoing a total renovation. I was lucky that the renovators allowed me to pop in every so often to take a look at their work. The guys (no females on this particular job) were mid-twenties to mid-thirties. I was really impressed by their craftsmanship, attention to detail, and finesse. They certainly not only knew the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver, but also the use of different types of hammers. And one of the guys had custom-built the interior of his workshop van -- wow! I'll be looking for this outfit if I need something done on my own house.

- Craig
01-26-2022, 11:54 AM   #14
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Idk the terminology of economics so well but there arenít so many camera manufacturers, so prices pretty much follow the competition, more or less. Thatís why we are more than happy for a -10% every now and then.
Is it really a cellphone camera era? Surely. But not even once have I checked on cellphone camera specs with a buying perspective. I admit that some of them are surprisingly interesting but Iíll stick with my DSLR. Maybe itís gonna be a mirrorless in the future. But a phone to get the shot? Idk. Probably not. Too limiting.
01-27-2022, 06:02 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by vector Quote
My images won't get better from switching brands, no matter what I choose. MILC is not going to make my images better either.
Images are unlikely to get better, true. We could argue the merits of various lenses, but that's splitting hairs, like you said.

QuoteOriginally posted by vector Quote
I derive great satisfaction from using it to create images.
The only argument for a different system, to me, is whether you can derive more pleasure by using a different approach. For instance, a smaller camera means it's easier to carry, so when I'm hiking that's a bonus. But a camera as well designed as the K-1 is enjoyable to use, once it's been carried.
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