Why Toxic ‘Photographers’ Pose a Threat to the Camera Industry

The purpose of this article is to have a discussion about the current online photography community, flame wars about hardware, and some toxic behavior I see, all while trying to be as impartial as possible.

Hopefully, this will lead to a nice discussion by respectfully listening to opposing views from a new perspective.

Now that the purpose is explained, if you’re still reading, here’s a bit about myself: I am an enthusiast photographer from Japan, have been shooting for nearly 35 years since I was kid, and have done some paid gigs but try to keep it as my main hobby.

I organize a couple of large communities of photography “walks”, where we lead Japanese and foreigners alike for walks in/around Tokyo and surrounding areas, day or night, to share the love of photography, events, and socializing, regardless if one is a pro or a complete amateur with just a smartphone.

These communities are excellent for people to socialize and also talk/teach each other’s about techniques and evolve together.

I’ve lurked in Western online photography sites and communities for years but have never posted anything myself. One main reason is, sadly, that photography communities get really toxic. Especially in discussions of camera specs, those who consider the camera as just a pure “still” photography tool look down upon people who want “gimmicks” like videos. Or their attitudes towards “less worthy” smartphones snappers.

It would be understandable (perhaps) to have this behavior in a video game forum because of the age range, but, in my opinion, older photographers should behave more respectfully and welcome anyone to enjoy the “art” of photography, including the advances and changes in usage and trends.

In my opinion, when a person chooses to “snap” tons of photos on their phone, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a genuine love for photography and that some of their shots aren’t taken with the same great care and love that any photographer applies.

So instead of shunning them, why not be more welcoming and teach techniques. After all, the known mantra is “gear doesn’t matter”, is it not?

Below, I will share some arguments that I see repeated every camera generation in the past years (and repeated in the recent Canon R5/R6 announcements) to provide some counter-arguments:

“I don’t use X feature, so no one should need it.”

When people complain about the lack of a certain feature, it means the camera isn’t good enough to meet their needs and it won’t sell as well.

If sales are low, companies have less money to invest in the next versions and enhance their R&D, leading to outdated specs. Or, the company goes bankrupt completely. Here in Japan, most old companies and camera shops have completely disappeared, and even big companies are in the red and rumored to not withstand a couple of more bad years before leaving the photo business and focus on other fields like medical devices.

So please, be open-minded to other people’s needs — needs that if met not only won’t harm you but will benefit everyone when sales follow.

“Who needs video? This is a still camera.”

This comes up often, and the answer is simple: since smartphones came to the market, DSLR lost more than 86% of their market (2009-2019) while compacts lost nearly 90%. Meanwhile, the smartphone audience increased tremendously, with the number one feature being the camera in both photo and video mode. At the same time, vlogging and photo/video apps exploded in popularity. We’ve even seen a new market for action cameras.

So, I guess there are people who need videos, and, outside of those choosing low budget phones, they might have been on DSLRs if companies understood user needs and did better marketing.

“4K uncropped/8K/better codecs/etc.?, A camera is made for stills, buy the cinema version if you want better videos.”

I understand that for some people, just being able to shoot photos is enough — for some people, phones should just be able to do calls. But times change, technologies advance, and people’s needs evolve.

First, the market for a non-studio, professional video camera is extremely small. It’s too expensive for even serious enthusiasts, and it’s too underwhelming for large studios who need support for all of the production pipeline.

So it doesn’t make sense to “protect” a small audience cinema line by making a potentially better-selling camera unattractive.

Second, we shouldn’t ignore the market these cameras are competing in: for years, almost all sub-$500 smartphones have shot stabilized 4K 60p in HDR without any major problems while taking excellent photos, especially when we include the new computational photography to enhance quality, resolution, and even some effects (portrait modes, etc).

We also have the new action cameras that, for a $500-ish price tag, offer video capture in 360° stabilized 4K+ at high framerate and in extreme weather.

So, when we have a new generation of flagship DSLRs, lasting a few years before the next upgrade, that’s over $3,000 for the body only … people are (IMHO) entitled to at least criticize the lack of these specs and features, especially for a device that does only photos/videos and that should be somewhat futureproof as people aren’t changing cameras yearly.

“Bluetooth, GPS, etc. are just gimmicks, no use to be present on a camera.”

Again, if we see the market the cameras are competing against, smartphones offer the extremely big advantage of connectivity and being able to edit photos and share them instantly with everyone (over the Internet or even just wirelessly in a social setting).

Cameras, while perhaps not suited for embedding, say, an Android OS with apps, should at least have enough connectivity to share quickly with multiple devices.

Just looking at action cameras, power banks, people with multiple phones, etc., some people would be willing to transport multiple devices, even buying a cheaper phone and a good camera if the workflow were better.

These are the major points I wanted to address without this becoming a rant article. To summarize, the points of view I’d like people to consider are:

  • Don’t forget the market the cameras are competing against when you see rants. If the price tag is multiple times that of other competing platforms, specs should follow suit or even be better.
  • Other users aren’t the “enemy.” In fact, if more people are satisfied and come back to the camera market, it will survive and thrive. Otherwise, it will be doomed.
  • Let’s not berate and demean people who don’t use specific gear by classifying them as less worthy. All the younger generation starts with smartphones nowadays, and they may move to cameras when they reach the limits of their gear. But they’ll be alienated if faced with toxicity and a demeaning community.

Thank you for reading.

About the author: Suvip is a photography enthusiast based in Japan. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.