As we wait to get our hands on the new Samsung NX10, I reflect on our rapidly changing camera industry.
Long before I came on the scene the photographic market was full of British camera makers, such as Ensign, Corfield, Kershaw and Reid. These vintage models put Britain on the map in the camera world...and gave the US and Germany a run for their money.
When I entered the hobby back in the 70s the last of the British models were fading into obscurity. These had been replaced by a fresh breed from Japanese manufacturers who were producing highly sophisticated models from the 60s onwards.
I bought an MPP large format camera, but that was my only British piece of camera kit. My film was Ilford and processing chemicals were Paterson, so Britain still played a major part in my photographic world, but not from a hardware point of view. That balance changed even more when Fuji came along with films like Neopan and Velvia.
Looking back to the 80s and early 90s the photographic industry became dominated with the Japanese camera brands. The big five; Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Minolta sold along side smaller brands, such as Contax/Yashica, Ricoh, Chinon and Fuji. There was also the Russian Zenit and German Praktica brands. The two big names in film were Kodak and Fuji with Agfa and Ilford tailing behind.
A big change happened in 1996 when APS was launched to the photography market. Five of the above (Nikon, Canon, Minolta Fuji and Kodak) joined forces for the first time to create what was soon to be a short lived new format - the Advanced Photo System. Short-lived because digital was around the corner. Digital was not only innovation and real excitement for us photographers, it was also a wake up call for the photographic industry.
We've seen over the last decade the demise of Zenit, Praktica, Minolta, Chinon, Contax, Yashica and Agfa. Brands that fight on, such as Pentax and Olympus, have been pushed to one side while the electronics market takes a hold. Now big names in photography, include Panasonic, Sony and Samsung all compete for third place behind Canon and Nikon.
The photography industry is a very different place than it was 10 years ago...and no doubt it will be very different again in another 10 years. It's good to see Olympus pushing the barriers with the 4/3rds format and the recent EP-1/2, but will their counterpart in this format, Panasonic, become their owner? Will Pentax be taken over by a stronger company such as Samsung? Will Kodak, who have always been the innovator of formats (110, 126, disc etc), create a new breed of camera? Will Nikon take the market lead before Sony get there? Will we see some new names enter the arena, such as Nokia or LG?
My money's on Apple! I await the introduction of the iCam. Super slim camera, digital enhanced zoom, touch zone focus, built-in touch screen editing...you heard it here first!