What We've Never Gotten From Camera Makers

The first useful digital cameras appeared in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s most of the camera makers had digital options of some sort, even if only at the low end. With the turn of the century, digital kicked into full gear with the DSLR era. Digital camera shipments grew dramatically for just over a decade, then peaked a few years ago. We’re now in what is a “mature market.” A declining market.

Funny thing is, during all this time there have been things that photographers have asked for that have just not been put into our cameras, our files, our software, or our documentation. I was reminded of that when a quote from one of my articles last week started getting repeated: "So here we are nearly 30 years after I first started shooting with digital cameras and we still don't have a single program that nails image ingestation." 

Here are few other things that are astonishing that we don't have yet: 

  • Raw histograms
  • Expose to the Right automation
  • Spectral information
  • Useful file naming
  • IPTC data entry (full, not limited)
  • Programmability
  • Motion sensor data
  • Nodal point ID for lenses

The list actually goes on and on. I’ve just highlighted a few of the things that would make my day as a photographer easier, but haven’t happened. 

My bet is that most of those things I mentioned will now happen on smartphones first (a few are already starting to happen in the labs). Which is another indictment of the notion that the camera makers are making the best and the right tools for photographers. 

My friend Iliah Borg, who helped develop RawDigger, tells me that while a couple of camera makers and people involved in the sensor business in Japan have licensed RawDigger, none has ever provided any feedback, and after asking a couple of questions about how RawDigger operates, none have been heard from again. This isolationist type approach on the part of the Japanese just won't get to the best answers and implementations, I fear. Given that Iliah is one of the most knowledgeable folk on the planet about exposure and color, particularly as it relates to capturing and reproducing those correctly, the fact that the Japanese aren't actually engaged in dialog with him is distressing. 

My suggestion? 

Make CPS and NPS annual fee-based programs that also include an annual conference in each of the major territories (Asia, North America, Europe). Make camera engineers and designers available at that conference to interact with (inform) and listen to (survey) the people that are really using their cameras and need more from them.

Right now that’s sort of done through the Canon Explorer of Light and Nikon Ambassador programs, but the problem with that is multiple. First, for obvious reasons, these are promotional programs and the small number of participants are selected by the camera companies for visibility and ability to articulate the company message. 

Second, suggestions from those participants happens sporadically and is always translated up through the subsidiaries to the home office, and then additionally filtered there before it gets to the development teams. In other words, the information is getting managed before it gets where it needs to go. 

Third—in Nikon’s case for sure—there’s too much paternalism in the design process. I’ve watched Nikon ignore many user requests over the years, and dilly-dally on responding to others (the long absence of trip focus and then whether it was consistently implemented when it returned, for instance).  

Thing is, if you're going to try to sell more expensive products to a smaller group of people—which is where the Japanese camera industry is headed—you'd better be sure you're really serving the needs of those customers. And the only way to do that is to get closer to them and hear their specific comments and requests. 

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