Long Term Versus Short Term Planning

It's the end of the year, and this year has shaped up to be a real log-jam of new products. All the major players are playing majorly right now. 

What all the hype and PR coming out of a busy trade show like Photokina does is focus consumers on the short term. There's a great deal of FOMO going on in the photographic community. (That's Fear Of Missing Out for those of you over 35. Heck, maybe even over 25 ;~)

Something I've seen in recent articles and posts about recent camera introductions is that, for example, Canon and Nikon were rushed into adjusting their plans. That the Canon EOS R, for example, was a rush job. A corollary to this kind of thinking is that "the DSLR is over. Dead. Kaput."

I'd caution people not to think that way. Particularly with Nikon, who I know to be a careful organization that makes and follows long term plans (almost to their detriment, as the late rush in broadening Coolpix and the release of KeyMission came right into the decline of both markets).

To think that the camera companies didn't think about what's happening in the market and how they'd likely transition to mirrorless in time is incorrect. The players that couldn't dent the Canikon duopoly in DSLRs had nothing to lose by transitioning early and fully to mirrorless. Canon and Nikon did have something to lose if they made an incorrect or premature transition. 

Neither company rushed their basic ideas here; you can see evidence in that in how both Canon and Nikon made very strategic changes to their lens mounts for mirrorless. Both companies realized that there was an opportunity here to make their mounts more flexible to new optical designs as well as provide higher communication bandwidth between camera and lens. The trick was in balancing the change with the legacy past, and both seem to have done a very good job of that.

What I'm saying is this: the camera companies have all been deep in long-term planning, and they'll also be deep in long-term execution to that plan. But what about you? Are you just succumbing to "camera of the day" or do you have a long-term plan of your own?

When I first identified Last Camera Syndrome, I wondered how that would play into a market transition. We're about to find out. (Last Camera Syndrome is someone who has bought what they believe to be their last camera upgrade/update. They believe they can be happy with that camera for the rest of their photographic lifetime (or at least a very long time). That doesn't mean they don't buy new lenses, though ;~).

The D850 is a pretty stellar camera, and it's a DSLR. It's a solid all-around performer, which is what most enthusiasts and pros really want. It's going to take a lot more pixels to provide visible gains. It's difficult to imagine significant features that the D850 doesn't have. It's built well and holds up to abuse well. It's a Last Camera Syndrome candidate for a lot of folk. And it's a DSLR.

Nikon knows that, and they have to cater to that. People keep asking me if we'll continue to see F-mount (FX) lenses from Nikon. The answer to that is a pretty solid yes, though we won't see them in high quantity. The FX lineup is already pretty filled out, with few gaps. Nikon won't stop making the FX lenses that are already in the lineup, either (they still make AI lenses from the 1980's, if you need some verification of that). 

I wrote elsewhere that now was the time to be making up your mind about what you're going to do. The number of excellent cameras on the market that are probably fully capable of doing what you need them to is long and deep. Ditto lenses. Ditto accessories. 

It's not like you can't make a long term decision, just as the camera companies are doing. For me, for instance, I'm going to have to sit on the fence for awhile. For sports and wildlife, I don't really see a mirrorless camera topping what I can do with the DSLRs for awhile, and the native lenses really aren't there in the Z mount yet, either. Thus, the D500, D850, D5 DSLRs still are solid in my visible future, as is the FX lens set I've built.

It's where small/light/portable comes into play—travel photography, hiking, etc.—where I'm re-contemplating my future, and it was already shifted towards mirrorless. The D7500 looks less interesting to me given that the Z7 is almost the same size and weight (ditto the Sony A7Rm3). It does get a little tricky with lenses on the Nikon side, but Nikon never delivered a full set of great DX lenses, did they? (buzz, buzz)

My point is that—for my shooting, not necessary for my Web site product reviews—I'm heavy into a long term plan for what I'll do over the next few years. I've got enough information now from the camera industry that I can make that plan and likely stick to relatively close to it.  Am I interested in a 70-200mm f/2.8 mirrorless lens? Not really. My long term plan has that covered with what I already have (the really great 70-200mm f/2.8E on a D850 or D5). Would I be interested in a 14-30mm f/4 mirrorless (or the 12-24mm f/4 Sony I already own)? You bet. 

But to get to those decisions I needed to generate a use pattern and a long-term plan. 

Use pattern meaning I understand what I carry and use cameras for. Shirt pocket for casual stuff (RX100), where image quality is not the driving characteristic. Lightish and convenient for travel, hiking, event (mirrorless). Image quality is important there, but carrying fatigue is to be avoided. Heavy duty for sports and wildlife (DSLR). Image and focus quality absolutely predominate here, and I'll deal with the size and weight.

My long term plan says—notwithstanding a surprise product—I'm set with all my DSLR needs. I'm not likely to be buying more DSLR lenses or bodies. Indeed, I've been winnowing down my gear closet quite dramatically based upon that plan. My long term plan also says—notwithstanding a surprise product—that the two RX100's I have deal with the casual use quite fine. So in those areas, something dramatic would have to happen that's unexpected for me to worry about those needs and use patterns.

It's in the middle where all my transition happens, and that's still playing out as I assess options. I'm not in a hurry to make that transition, either, as there's enough gear in the closet as it stands to cover those things for the time being anyway.

So:

  1. What's your use pattern? Are you really sure you know what it is you shoot today and what gear is really needed for that? And are you confident that use pattern will stay the same, or will it change (due to retirement, or family, etc.)? Have you ever examined which focal lengths and apertures you actually use? Are you over-equipped for what you actually output (e.g. shooting a 45mp camera just for Facebook and social media posts)? If you can't answer these questions, you can't make a plan.
  2. What's your long-term plan? Not what you're going to buy this holiday shopping season, but what you think your gear closet will look like two or three years from now, and why. Some of you can probably look out even longer than that (those of us who shoot professionally have to stay on the leading edge of what's possible in order to keep clients, but someone who's just retiring probably has already thought out further about what they will be doing with a camera in the future as they don't want to keep using their retirement dollars on camera gear if they can avoid it). Are you going to shoot more, or shoot less in the future? Will what you shoot change?

If you can't answer all those questions, it doesn't matter what the camera companies did or didn't introduce this year. You have more important work to do than study press releases and Web posts on near gear. 

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