The Hot or Not List

It seems every camera is solely capable of photography based upon how "hot" it appears on the Internet (not!). 

So let's play along for a moment. Here's my current assessment of the Hot and Not products. First, the Hot list:

  1. Sony A9 — give Sony credit, they've conjured up an Internet frenzy
  2. Panasonic GH5 — though almost all of the cred is coming from the video side
  3. Fujifilm GFX — fading fast, because the potential buying market is small
  4. Nikon D500 — just barely clinging onto the list (some DX lenses might help, buzz, buzz)

If you're not Canon or Nikon, you want to be on the Hot list because that's the only way you're going to win any market share in a tight market. If you're Canon or Nikon, you want to show up on the Hot list as often as possible to keep the rest of the pack from winning that market share.

And now the Not list:

  1. Nikon D3400 — as Robert Palmer would sing: simply resistible*
  2. Nikon D5600 — ditto
  3. Canon T7i — mostly ditto
  4. Fujifilm X-A3 and X-A10 — were they announced? ;~)
  5. Leica TL — only five months old and long forgotten
  6. Any Pentax DSLR — the faithful still believe and buy, but they're a small group that can't outshout the Internet

* /How can it be permissible/She compromises my principle...

It's not surprising that the Not list is mostly DSLRs. Just saying DSLR out loud will net you a lot of grief as the mirrorless proselytizers pump up their amplifiers to make it so you aren't heard. It's tough to get a DSLR on the Hot list, easy to get it on the Not list these days. 

I'd also say that there are products that were Hot that faded fast (e.g. Sony A6500, which, like Nikon DX DSLRs, needs lenses). Maybe Nikon was somewhat right about the DL camera potential: the Sony RX100V and Panasonic LX10 seem to have fallen off the "must talk about" list pretty rapidly. 

Other cameras just kind of fall in the gap between Hot and Not. The Nikon D7500 was talked about a lot by the Nikon club for a week for the things that it left off, but not by anyone else. The EOS M and 77D products from Canon don't get a lot of Internet attention, though they fit nicely into Canon's lineup and I'm sure are selling okay to established Canon users; moreover, they're already getting discounted, not a sign of a Hot camera. The Fujifilm X's still have a little bit of heat to them, but that was eclipsed by the GFX and the leaks about the upcoming X Premiere offering (oops). The Olympus E-M1 Mark II is a bit like the Pentax DSLRs, though the Olympus folk shout better. However, at the seven-months-after-introduction mark, the new E-M1 has lost most of its shine outside the dedicated m4/3 user base. And who talks about the Pen F any more?

Meanwhile, what I call the Workhorse cameras are all still doing their thing. In this group I'd put the Canon 1DxII and Nikon D5 (their thing being attractive to a very few high-end shooters with very particular needs). I'd also add the Canon 5D series, the Nikon D750 and Nikon D810, plus the Sony A7rII models. When the talk gets serious on the Internet about choosing a camera for specific purposes, these are the models that get pointed to. Indeed, three of six are in my work bags.

Funny aside: I had just finished writing and editing this article for posting when a pro friend messaged me "Shooting a Spartan race. Heavy Canon user tells me he's buying an A9 and lens because of silent shutter and no blackout and 20 fps. Asked him how 20 fps is an advantage for this type of shooting, and he says 'it's a game changer.' Told him his problem was he didn't know what game he was in." Excellent point. I can see places where silent shutter or 20 fps are an advantage, but not there. This is by all means the definition of "Hot": when potential customers repeat and re-broadcast a marketing message without actually trying the camera or thinking through use patterns. Workhorse cameras are Workhorse cameras because they've proven to be well balanced for the jobs you encounter. I suspect the A9 might find it's way into that group, but not because of the hype the marketing department spun out, but rather the actuality of what it does and doesn't do.

Looking closely at the Workhorse and Hot groups, you might notice something: large sensors rule. Some of that is the tyranny of light, some the legacy of lenses, some just the fact that more expensive cameras allow designers to provide more. 

That's not to say that crop sensor cameras can't have heat or be working class. The two cameras in that category that most come to mind are the Fujifilm X-T2 and the Nikon D500. Both add significant useful things from the Workhorse side of things, which produced their Hotness. They sit in a price grouping well below the Workhorse products, so appeal to the more casual or price-restricted enthusiast. 

But notice what's not Hot, hasn't been Hot at all lately, and for which we have no rumors of new Hot products about to appear: lower level, lower priced, entry and true consumer products. Products that might attract a smartphone user into a dedicated camera. Products that were the key to the long run-up of digital cameras after the film era. Products that appeal to the tight budgets of a millennial. Products that would build the future base of serious photography enthusiasts. Products that would grow the camera market again.

Indeed, the most Hot low-cost consumer camera isn't digital at all: the Fujifilm Instax type cameras, which are the modern-day equivalent to the Polaroid. 

Something's wrong with this picture. More photography is being done today than ever before, yet not a single one of the well-established camera makers has a Hot consumer digital camera. 

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