I remember when Syl Arena proclaimed that "Still Photography is Dead." He got all excited about how DSLRs where suddenly capable of shooting quality video, fell in love, thought no one would buy or look at stills anymore (at least that's how I understood it at the time, but maybe he didn't really mean it that way). My response at the time:
Where it involves commercial media, I think you’ll find an interesting turn-around where video will actually be the second choice, or alternate (longer) view of an advertisement or news story.
Marketers of products and news will realize that most people will scan through the onslaught of media, opting to take most of it in quickly without the visuals setting the timeline. Viewing video will be an option, not a given. Static images will be the standard first and most important visual to drawing the viewer, hopefully, in for more.
Then there’s the issue of budgets. Since still photography will cost less to produce than production video, and the still image will be of higher initial value, will video always be budgeted for?
By the way, I love video production, too. But I realize it is not the same media experience as still imagery. They are two different things entirely.
Here in "Nikon and Canon will be Marginalized in the Next Few Years, So Say the Tea Leaves," however, Trey Ratcliff makes a more plausible prediction: smaller cameras with newer technology are going to generate more sales than larger ones with older technology. Ok, now that I put it that way, it doesn't sound like the most Earth-shattering forecast. He's fallen in love with a smartphone that's been turned into a camera (half-kidding here, or AM I?). Just like I still can't get over my iPhone and all the fun I have taking quality shots with minimal effort, and being able to edit and share them on-the-spot. DSLRs are a design carryover from SLRs. They were designed in such a way as to make the transition from film cameras more intuitive for photographers of my generation. I've always wondered how long it would take for us to break the unnecessarily analogous relationship between digital image capture and old film technology. Seriously, why do we still use cameras with mirrors in them? What's the point of holding on to (and apparently designing to) the film-based way of doing things? Heck if I know. But having been a film photographer since the late 1970s, I'm ok with it.
My prediction: Large cameras in one form or another will be around for quite awhile. So will film cameras. In the end, it's not going to be about what you need to shoot with or what camera's got the best tech in the smallest package, as much as it's going to be what you like to shoot with, and how your process, tools, and materials tie-in to your resulting work.
On another note. Does the type of camera really matter where the subject or a shoot is concerned? Well, when it comes to photographing people, it seems that almost everything matters. Photographers who still shoot with large format cameras often talk about how the near ceremonial aspect of sitting for that type of setup has a very different effect on a subject than, say, pulling out a point-and-shoot might. And I've found that for many of my subjects/models the utter significance of the shoot changes when they know I'm shooting film, or when they see the medium format Mamiya in front of them. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but people tend to respond differently when they see you working with serious-looking gear versus something their boyfriend just picked up at Best Buy.
In any event, cameras with larger lenses and bodies are going to be around as long as the human hand likes to hold cameras of a certain size. Will the technology they contain change? Of course it will. Am I rushing out to buy a camera that I can see make light trails on the preview monitor? Not at the moment. I guess I just don't get as excited about that kind of stuff as some people do.
Image above: My daughter shot this with her cell phone. She called the scene, the "Umbrella Graveyard." Umbrellas have gotten smaller and cheaper over the years, too.