Why Do We Speculate About Future Products?

You can’t ignore it on the Internet. Even though I’m no longer really interested in doing it, I get pulled into the discussion of future products by all the questions that come my way. In short, photographers are always talking about non-existent, potentially upcoming products.

I was reminded of this by a question that was about existing products: the Z6 and Z7 models (or any 24/30mp and 45/61mp pair that might exist, for that matter). It was actually a relief to not have to ward off the FOMO (fear of missing out) speculation about a future product that might impact the discussion of which to buy. 

However, hidden in that question was something else. The person in question says that their primary output would be to their 65” TV screen. That’s 4K and that means they only need 8.3mp images! Why are we even talking about the choice of a Z6 and Z7, as they both are going to produce excellent images to be viewed that way. (Yes, of course that person may some day buy a 75” 8K TV, which will require 33mp images, but that just introduces more speculation on more products that, in this case, aren’t cameras. ;~)

I first started writing my shortcut answer to “what to buy” questions back when the 6mp (and a few greater) cameras and 13” desktop printers were the top of the line: If you can’t get excellent prints at the maximum size of a desktop inkjet printer, it’s not the camera that’s the problem. 13” at 300 dpi is 3900 pixels on the long axis. The 6mp cameras were 3000 pixels on the long axis, but I also noted at the time that you could still get really good looking prints at as low as 188 dpi. 

Many of us at the time I wrote that were using 4-8mp cameras to create magazine spreads (two pages across the binding), and no one was complaining that these were worse than our film cameras produced. Indeed, I often got comments about how good the digital image looked, even from 2.5mp cameras, when done well. 

I suppose I could update my old advice to something more modern, such as “if you can’t get excellent output on an 8K display with any current 24mp or greater camera, it isn’t the camera.” Yes, I know that 24mp comes up 1680 or so pixels shy on the long axis, but with today’s upscaling software, that isn’t going to produce issues that anyone is going to see (much like a drop to 188 dpi didn’t on the inkjets). 

While people obsess of pixel counts are fear they’ll end up missing some if they don’t wait for a new camera, I’ve been perfectly comfortable with where we’ve been since about 20mp. If I’m doing my job right, I’ll put my 20mp work up against pretty much anything short of displaying it on the side of a barn. 

I’ve got an upcoming article coming about “solving user problems.” Thus it’s probably appropriate to talk about the headline in that context: exactly what user problem do you currently have that the existing cameras aren’t solving? I’m betting that if you can describe one—and most consumers are not aware of their real user problems until a product comes along and solves them—it won’t match well against what the next generation of cameras being produced will feature. 

Realistically, I can only think of two user problems my Z9 doesn’t solve for me: (1) in very low light, I’d like a four-frame sensor shift mode, as this makes a difference in what I can pull up out of the shadows without applying noise reduction; and (2) I’d really like a C30 or C60 capability that uses the High Efficiency raw instead of JPEG. And even those are just minor annoyance problems, not things that are keeping me from photographing something. 

So, as you speculate about future products—and we’ve got quite a few coming in the next couple of months if parts supply doesn’t kill them first—I’d love to see your discussion move from specifications to what user problem is being solved. Do you even have a user problem? If so, can you identify it accurately? Will you realize when it has been solved? 

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