Introducing "Consolidators"

Over the past decade I've described a number of common photographer gear types I've discovered through my research and surveys. For those of you who haven't followed along:

  • Last Camera Syndrome (LCS)— These folks buy a new camera, discover how good it is, and are done with buying camera gear, as they perceive that what they now have should last them the rest of their foreseeable photographic future. They don't need better, so they stop seeking it out. The major things that might get them to buy again are: (1) their gear is lost or stolen; (2) their gear is dropped and fixing costs more than replacing; and (3) something dramatically different comes along that clearly solves a problem they've been having. #3 is rare. It happens maybe once a decade or longer. Many in this group are also older, having grown from SLR to DSLR to perhaps mirrorless. Last Camera may be literal for many.
  • Leakers — You're a leaker when you get to the point where you believe that the camera brand you originally bought into will not catch up and give you something you perceive another camera brand to have. Sometimes this is technology, as it was with on-sensor image stabilization. Other times it is something not easy to measure, such as focusing speed or accuracy. The operative point here, though, is the perception that their chosen brand is letting them down in some way, and that's not changing fast enough for them. Thus, they'll pick up something out of their brand and try it in order to verify their suspicions that their brand has fallen behind. This also means that this group has a fair amount of disposable income.
  • SwitchersLeakers have a tendency to turn into switchers. That's because they discover that they were right: the alternative brand does have features, performance, or user experience that was better than what their originally chosen brand offers. You go from being a leaker to a switcher at the point where you start selling your old gear to get the money to buy the new gear.
  • Samplers — These folk have enough disposable income coupled with paranoia that they are constantly picking up cameras that they might use because they're afraid they're missing out on something. Strong marketing messages tend to easily sway these folk into thinking that gear fixes whatever photographic problem they might think they have. Samplers are different than leakers in that leakers are pretty sure about what they're missing out on and seek it out specifically, while samplers are just casting about looking for something they can't easily define.

All these groups can be identified in both the film SLR and the DSLR eras. We had LCS folk and samplers in the film era, for sure. But I think I can identify leakers and switchers in the film days, too. 

One thing that happened in the film to digital transition, though, is that we got another group: consolidators. We need a definition for that:

  • Consolidators Someone consolidates when they decide to get rid of all the gear on their shelves they're not using and restrict themselves to a smaller set of new gear that fully meets their needs. Typically, consolidation only happens on a big transition point (e.g. film to digital, or now DSLR to mirrorless). In the case of all four groups I identified in the first part of this article, many just keep a lot of the older gear they have, just in case. A few will sell off a few things that they obviously don't need, but they often keep a lot of extra gear around that they don't really continue using. Consolidation happens when they realize that they're making a major transition of some sort, and just how much equipment they have will simply not be productive for them in the future, so they stop hoarding it. 

I'm seeing a fair amount of consolidators suddenly appearing on my radar, both anecdotally and measurably. It's being mostly driven by this: full frame mirrorless systems. 

Those that have decided to take one of the current journeys of transition—Canon EF to RF, Nikon F to Z, Minolta/Sony A to Sony FE—start to realize that (a) getting a fully mirrorless system is costly, so maybe they can find some dollars to buy new gear by selling the old; (b) some of their old gear is truly closet ridden and not really in use any more; (c) the transition truly obsoletes some gear; and (d) image sensors and lenses have absolutely gotten better recently, so the older stuff in the closet just doesn't live up to the same standard.

What happens is this: the consolidators basically sell off all their old gear and just start afresh with a new system, and with fewer items. Note that when you consolidate, you can also switch ;~). For example, I've found a number of folk recently that chose Sony full frame over whatever DSLR they were using, and have just jettisoned everything DSLR. Earlier on, one of the claims that a lot of the Sony full frame samplers kept making was that they could just throw a converter on and use older lenses they already have. I'm starting to see that type of claim go away and be replaced by "might as well just start with a clean slate" type of message, which is what defines a consolidator.

Consolidators are likely to grow in number as the same journey of transition begins to happen more and more often with the crop-sensor DSLR users, too. At least those that didn't already make a crop-sensor to full frame transition.

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