Over the past 5 or 6 years accessibility to cameras has skyrocketed. This is largely due to the significant increase in quality of cellphone cameras and popularization of smartphones. While pocket sized cameras are by no means a new thing, rarely did a person have one on them all the time though. Now with the dawn of “quality” cameras on phones however, nearly everyone has a camera and camcorder with them 24/7. Great, right? Well… maybe not.
Because of how accessible “quality” cameras are now many critics argue that it is diluting the artistic space. One particular blog (linked below) goes off on a diatribe against the popular photo sharing app instagram. Their criticisms of instagram mainly revolve around what they call “phoneography.” The blogger defines this mostly as people who take pictures of singular “artsy” objects such as “a light post, a mailbox, their coffee and random stuff lying around the house,” and then add a filter to it. While the author of this particular blog does not have anything against instagram in particular she takes offense at the atmosphere it has perpetuated, one where everyone feels they are the next Van Gogh.
This blog contrasts nicely with another blog I found while researching this topic that praises the wide availability of cameras. While the author of this blog does give some concessions they are largely in favor of this availability as they can’t help but, “be happy for those falling in love with photography.” They do however end their blog in a casual yet radical way saying, “So iPhone developers, bring on the photo and video apps. Help us do amazing things that we used to be completely unqualified to do. Help us shake things up and ruin a few industries while we’re at it.”
These two blogs nicely outline the opposing sides of this argument. One side claiming that the wide availability is ruining “pure” film while the other side mostly just wants people to have fun who are starting to get interested in photography. Not all things taken on phone cameras are medium to low quality either, take the popular YouTube channel Rocket Jump for example. This channel originally famous for their high quality, action filled shorts and now famous for the wildly popular web series Video Game High School took the challenge of recording one of their videos entirely on a Samsung Galaxy sIII. While this of course was also part of an advertising campaign for Samsung, the video itself also turned out pretty well. However, it is important to realize that the producers of this channel both have film school degrees and they used professional mounts and other equipment during the shoot. In short, what they did with this phone camera would be nearly impossible to reproduce by oneself.
It is not only phone cameras however that are diluting the camera market though. Within the last five years there has also been a large growth in both dslr cameras and medium level camcorders. Dslr cameras are fairly high quality cameras that typically cost less than $1000 which is pretty darn cheap considering their quality. Camcorders have also become much more affordable with semi-professional one costing in $2500-5000 range. Again looking at Rocket Jump, they have put both of these pieces of technology in their videos with pretty amazing results and even more amazing low price tags (below I have linked their detailed price breakdown of the first series of VGHS). These productions can be a serious threat to the film industry who spends more than 10x what Rocket Jump spends for products that are hard to differentiate. So few content creators are on that level though, are they really a threat?
No. Well, atleast not yet and probably not for a while. I recently had the opportunity to work on an actual professional movie set as part of the lighting and grip department. The movie was far and beyond what you would find in an independent film but it probably won’t be one that makes it into major theatres. My point with this is, the production quality on even a movie of this level blows Rocket Jump out of the water.
While purists might be offended by the volume of lower quality productions the film and photography industries have little to worry about. The quality that is easily accessible still has quite a way to go before it threatens the professional, high budget productions of Hollywood.
pro-independant photography blog:
Rocket Jump’s video filmed on Samsung Galaxy SIII:
Rocket Jump’s budget breakdown of VGHS:http://www.rocketjump.com/blog/how-much-webseries-cost