Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Disintermediation and the future of the photo industry

That's what's happening with the new world of connected photography. Nobody passed a law preventing the use of film cameras, although, given the high level of pollutants that come from the film chemicals, it wouldn't be a bad idea. It's just that consumers are faced with a choice:

  • 2,000 pictures for $1,000 vs unlimited pictures for $144
  • An hour or a week's delay to see the images vs. immediate use
  • Duplicate printing on an image-by-image basis vs. sharing with anyone, instantly, for free

Faced with these choices, it's clear that consumers have chosen new school over old school. And the photo industry is feeling the pain. The hurt's gonna get worse.

Future Image, a market research firm, estimates that 875 million camera phones will be sold worldwide this year. That means more than five out of every six cameras sold this year will be in the form of camera phones. By 2009, they estimate that only one in ten cameras sold will not be a camera phone.

You can see why Nokia is dancing on the ceiling, can't you?

And so, at PMA, we saw a pile of cameras. They all had a slightly better set of features than last year, took slightly higher image resolutions, and blah-blah-blah-blah. Blah.

The photo industry is undergoing a radical transformation. Much of what was old school will be gone within a few years. Those who are still trying, desperately, to hang on to the good old days are getting more and more pissed off by those of us celebrating this brave new world of personal empowerment through photography.

That's really the big lesson we learned from the show. Will we go back to PMA next year? I don't know. Will it be there to go back to?