Mar 1, 2006

PMA 2006-A View of the Photographic Industry From 30,000 Feet

Source: The Luminous Landscape
Written by Michael Reichmann

Trade shows are always a good opportunity to gauge the state of health of any industry. Walking the isles and talking with both exhibitors as well as attendees provides insights into what people are thinking as well as what they may appear to be doing.

With this as preamble, here are some highly subjective observations on the current (March, 2006) state of the photographic industry. No gospel here, just opinion.


The great Megapixel Race appears to be over. From the roughly 3 Megapixel Nikon D1 and Canon D30 of late 1999 and early 2000, to today’s mainstream 6 – 8 Megapixel and top of the line 12-16 Megapixel models, we now seem to have reached a point of equilibrium. More Megapixels aren’t what most photographers need. We need better Megapixels, and the manufacturers seem to have realized this.

The 6 – 8M range provides amateurs with enough to make A3 (11X17″) prints, while 12-16M let’s pros and advanced amateurs produce double page spreads and 13X19″ or larger display prints. These were the outer limits of 35mm film in any event,, and so anything bigger is rightly the realm of medium format, just as it always has been.

To the industry’s credit we are even seeing digicams with somewhat lower Megapixel counts than last year. Even camera makers now realize that 6 million clean Megapixels are better than 8 million noisy ones. Given that most digicams have slow lenses, people were shooting at high ISO settings, and were dissatisfied with image quality, even on wallet-sized prints. Mother Nature applies the laws of physics to how many photons can be captured by an individual photo site, and even the best image processing firmware can’t create something out of nothing when the pixels get too small.

The implications of this are that while we may see small incremental increases in Megapixel count over the next few years, we will now see camera makers focus their attentions instead on further reducing prices and enhancing their camera’s other capabilities.

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Check out Michael’s PMA 2006 Show Report

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