Seven Photo Industry Predictions for 2012

Telling photographic fortunes



Happy new year! What's your resolution? Mine's 18 megapixels!

But seriously...

The following predictions are not based on any "inside information" but rather are based on publicly available articles, trends, a bit of common sense, over 25 years' experience in the photo industry, and my willingness to make bold, reckless predictions, for your education and entertainment. What are your predictions? Leave a comment below!

Here we go...

1. Smart Phones will kill point-and-shoot cameras
It's already started: Led by the Apple iPhone, smart phones with built-in cameras are taking over the role that has traditionally been held by simple-to-use snapshot cameras. Perhaps stand-alone cameras got too complicated. Or maybe it's the idea that you can instantly share the photos and videos you just took. Even the quality is improving to the point where, if you do it right, you can take photos that will make fine 4x6-inch prints under most conditions and that's what 95% of all print orders are for.

2. Camera companies will try putting Android OS, internet connectivity in new cameras
With smart phones winning the hearts and minds of snapshooters who suddenly find they may not need to spend another couple of hundred bucks for a stand-alone camera (see above), traditional camera companies are going to spend much of 2012 scrambling to innovate and win back the point-and-shoot crowd. One possibility is to give them wireless Internet connectivity so users can not only share photos, but can download apps. An open source operating system (Android) would make sense. This would require a great leap of faith by camera makers, because they would be opening up their proprietary systems to user modifications. But wouldn't it be cool to be able to post on Instagram direct from your camera—just like millions are doing right now from their smart phones?

3. A new generation of cameras will be Bluetooth devices
I believe camera makers will add Bluetooth wireless connectivity to stand-alone cameras. Samsung has already done this with one of their cameras (remote live view and shutter release controlled via an Android-based smart phone or tablet). Will camera makers take it a step further and let you use your camera as a social-networking launchpad via Bluetooth connections? What about expanding wireles control via smart phone using a new generation of apps? Will this happen for high-end or compac cameras first? The crystal ball is a bit cloudier here...

4. Two well-known camera companies will merge
If you've been reading the news, you know how earthquakes, flooding, and corporate malfeasance has wrecked havoc on the photo industry in the past year. While most companies will pull through, I predict at least one company will be in such dire straits financially that it will be gobbled up by another one that's flush with cash. I'm not naming names here, but I predict a photographic powerhouse will emerge as a result.

5. Kodak will survive—but not as a photography company
The good news? I believe Kodak is making the right moves as a business to get out of crisis mode. The bad news? Its photographic business has been unprofitable for years, and it will most likely shed most or all of it. After all, the company recently quietly discontinued 8x10 sheet film except as a special order item, and stopped making Plus-X film. Kodak has spent the last several months selling off whatever parts of the company they could find a buyer for. With over a thousand patents that they're willing to sell and entire divisions being shopped around, Kodak will be a very different company a year from now; it will likely emerge a much smaller and more specialized company serving the printing and business world.

6. Canon will introduce a MILC
In 2011, every camera maker that hadn't already done so, introduced a mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact camera...except Canon. So, here's a really easy prediction: I predict Canon will bow to the inevitable and introduce a MILC system in 2012. And, I will go out on a limb and boldly predict it will be either APS or full frame.

7. A new memory card format will arise and be quickly adopted
Actually, we already know this will happen. Look for new mid-range and high-end DSLRs to have slots for the QXD memory card, which was announced two weeks ago by the Compact Flash Association. Larger than an SD card but smaller than a CF, QXD is said to offer blazingly fast data transfer speeds that make it well suited for both high-res photography and HD video. What's more, Canon, Nikon and Sony have compatible cameras in the works. The only question that remains is: Will QXD live beside the other two major formats, or will it eventually kill off Compact Flash? I predict the latter.

How did I do with last year's predictions?
I correctly predicted the dominance of the iPad, the rise of 16MP as the latest version of resolution overkill, and that eliminating shutter lag would become an important goal for camera makers. But I failed when I predicted a full-frame sensor-based MILC. As for the rest of the predictions, lets just say their fulfillment may be subject to personal interpretation. So...around a 50% success rate? Maybe!


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