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Have we reached ‘peak technology’ for photography?

Is it worth ‘upgrading’ your equipment every year or have we reached the point now where what we have is good enough?

Last month, I visited the PDN PhotoplusExpo in NYC – a crazy, photographer-packed exhibition hall where all the latest, greatest – and shiniest – photography hardware is on show for everyone to have a play with (and buy, of course). It was good fun. A little overwhelming, but good fun. As well as all the hardware on show, there were various panels, seminars and presentations going on with some of the worlds best photographers showing off their brilliant photography on stage and giving the attendees tips and insights into how they create their work. It was during one of these demonstrations, where Adam Woodworth was showing us his body of work that beautifully captures the night sky, that I started wondering about how much further the technology can take us. The images he presented were awe inspiring and of course he had taken them with current, and sometimes older equipment – why would we need anything further?

It’s true that there are still some exciting developments happening, especially within sensor technology and dealing with low light but incremental updates, with camera bodies in particular, seem to be getting…well…more incremental. During the boom years for digital photography where it really hit the masses, through the early and mid 00s, it felt like each new generation of camera gave us a real leap in picture quality. Over more recent times, the picture quality improvements have become more marginal, the megapixel wars have (kind of) ended and manufacturers are justifying the upgrades by offering us more features on the camera itself with things like bigger screens, touchscreens and built-in WIFI.

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There is a strong parallel here with the video game industry (and if you’re currently of the view that video games are ‘just for kids’, it’s worth noting that the market is set to be worth nearly $103 billion by 2017 and the average gamer is 31 years old). Throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and early 00s, each new generation of video game hardware bought us huge leaps in visual quality and computing horsepower. With a new generation of consoles recently being released, the differences between the now current generation and last generation are far more nuanced. Graphics can only get so good and processors can only get so fast and it’s become far more about the experience itself. There is a sense we’ve hit the peak, and this is how I’m starting to feel about photography tech, even if there is still a little more room for improvements.

As future developments continue to appear more and more gimmicky, perhaps it’s time for us to focus less on the gear and more on the idea. It’s a great time. We’ve got amzing technology in our hands that we couldn’t have even dreamed of having a decade ago so lets use that to shoot original work that builds and improves upon what has come before it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep on top of – and be excited by – new technology, but let’s focus our enthusiasm on what really matters; creating great imagery that can be used, enjoyed and consumed the world over.

Do you agree? Have we reached a point where it is finally time to focus solely on the image or are there some ‘game changers’ on the horizon? Let us know in the comments.


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