Do You Need "That" To Be Better?

Today's announcement of the Sony RX100 Mark VII (I abbreviate this RX100m7) has me raising a question to camera makers that I've been seriously pondering for some time: do I need that to be better?

bythom sony rx100m7

"That" is some specific feature or performance metric, which is generally the big marketing punchline for the new product. For the Sony A7Rm4 "that" was 61mp. For the Sony RX100m7 "that" appears to be blackout free continuous shooting at 20 fps with tracking focus ala the A9.

No doubt these are technological improvements worth noting. But the relevant question in photography is: do you really need "that"? 

The question comes up in camera pairings, too. For instance the Z6 and Z7 are basically the same camera with different sensors (so 45mp becomes "that"), as are the Panasonic S1 and S1R and Sony A7m3 and A7Rm3 (basically the same "that" as with Nikon). 

One thing about technology: if you continue to hire and employ talented engineers, they continue to iterate it ;~). While some keep writing that what Sony is doing is innovation, I'd tend to say it for the most part "that" turns out to be expected iteration. Innovation comes when you don't make the expected iterations but you instead deviate from the course and try something different. The A7S, for instance, was an unexpected course change, thus I'd argue that it was innovative. Of course, we're still left with the question of "do you need 'that' to be better?" ;~)

Since I espouse optimal data as my photographic mantra, it's rare that I'd turn down "that", whatever it turns out to be, as long as "that" is an improvement that allows me to collect more optimal data. But to the vast majority of those practicing photography with dedicated cameras these days, I often wonder whether or not most people need whatever the latest "that" turns out to be. 

Of course, marketing is going to tell you that you need "that". Moreover, today it's nearly impossible to tell if you're being gamed in any messaging on the Internet, where you're more likely to see That! or THAT!!!. 

Here in the US we have regulations (from the FTC) that require that you identify "influence", but they're not followed by most and the FTC has been lax at enforcing them in all but the most extreme cases. (Disclosure: I try to follow the spirit and letter of regulations as best I can; all ads on my sites are identified as such, and anything I receive from a company I write about is fully disclosed (mostly loaner equipment, but there have been a couple of other different "perks" over the years, as well).)

Now it might seem like I'm picking on Sony today, but they just happened to make an announcement on the day I was contemplating writing this article. Here's what I think: the addition of the microphone jack and the other improvements on the video side were more "that" for me (disclosure: I bought, own, and use a Sony RX100m6). 

But the details of the RX100m7 still left me a little cold on the video side. 

Because it's iteration, not innovation. 

The first question you have to ask yourself is this: does the Vlogging world need a camera that fits a shirt-pocket? If the answer to that question is "yes," then the RX100m7 isn't really the answer. (Oh dear, what happened here?) 

Sony emphasizes vlogging in their press release and marketing materials. Here's how they want you to do that: add an external microphone, add a shooting grip, and buy a lot of batteries. Suddenly it isn't a shirt-pocket vlogging machine anymore (and wait, didn't Sony try this trick already with the RX0m2?). Not unless you have substantially bigger shirt pockets than I do.

Here's how innovation works to solve the problem: fold-out shotgun (or variable angle) mic, fold-out grip. Fits in a shirt-pocket. Here's how iteration solves the problem: add someone's existing microphone with a cable using an age-old connector, add a variation on an add-on grip you already make. Doesn't fit in a shirt-pocket, so why are we starting with a shirt-pocket camera?

So the question for today (and every day for that matter) is this: do you need "that"? If not, keep shooting with what you've got and put the money you didn't spend into savings. 

I'm sure the Sony RX-100 Mark VII is an excellent camera. After all, the Mark VI it derives from was, and the new version is now I better ;~). 

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