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Computers versus cameras - a 30-year perspective
  • I'm struck by how closely the current video camera competition resembles the computer rivalries of 30 years ago. At that time, the computer industry was split into several camps with radically different perspectives:

    * Mainframe companies, notably IBM, well established in the corporate world.

    * Minicomputer companies, notably DEC, who had successfully targeted the small business market.

    * Apple Computer, whose Apple II emerged as the leader of the pack of late 70's home computers.

    * The PC-clone industry, leveraging its wide-open platform with dramatic leaps in microcomputing power and versatility.

    The video world's mainframes are the Arri Alexa and Sony F35, with well-earned professional reputations and industry-standard workflows.

    Much like DEC with its relatively inexpensive stand-alone minicomputers, RED's upstart marketing won over the hearts and minds of independent filmmakers, delivering a fresh alternative to the hidebound corporate studio system.

    Following in Apple's footsteps, Canon emerged as the winner of the DSLR video sweepstakes, with a product that wasn't originally designed for film making. In both cases it was a cottage industry of add-on enhancements that made the Apple II and 5D Mark II into useful semi-professional tools.

    As with the IBM PC, the Panasonic GH1 was marketed by a major corporation as a generic mass consumer product based on an open technology platform. Both products attracted swarms of Far East cloners and DIY hackers whose turbo-charged results far outstripped the foresight of their corporate godfathers.

    It's also interesting to reflect on the strategic moves the major computer manufacturers made at a comparable point in computing history:

    * The mainframe companies continued with business as usual, oblivious to the long-term threat posed by the rapid evolution of their smaller competitiors.

    * DEC produced the VAX, the first 32-bit terminal-based minicomputer of its era. The RAW 4K capabilities of REDs Epic platform evokes the affordable raw computing power that was the VAX.

    * Apple produced the Lisa, the first consumer PC with a graphical user interface, targeting the small business market with an expensive, yet underpowered box. Will the Canon C300's high price tag and mediocre technology consign it to the same fate as the Lisa? Will the 1D-X become the Macintosh of the DSLR world?

    * Spurred on by the accelerating market pressure of the unconstrained PC-clone industry, the PC mutated out of IBM's control into a do-it-all computer that could be cheaply configured to suit your own needs. As with the hacked GH2, PC-clones were widely disparaged as unreliable and unprofessional, good for little more than personal entertainment...
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  • I think that as in the PC world, the video camera world is changing so fast now, that make no sense to invest in expensive products, because even if they are better in few years (or sometime months), are achieved from products that cost much less.

    So my strategy is to spend less but change more often the equipement.
  • Moore's law that camera's are all digital, it working for us in the same way PCs are. It still will take some time though. 10 years from now....most cell phones will probably have 4k video.

    My only consolation is....while the tools get better....there are still only the same number of craftsmen that can use them. You can learn technical can't learn TALENT. Either you're born with it, or you're not.
  • @CRFilms I hear you about the tools - whatever the technology gives us, they're a means to an end, a possibility of expressing ourselves. And the entry barrier is being lowered while the potential results get better and better. And yes, technical skills are not the only answer.

    Where I agree less is about the "born with talent" thing, because it sounds passive. I think if talent exists, it's an inclination to do something. It's the spark that starts you down a particular road, but much more important is what you do with that spark - being passionate enough to put in the hours, to be obsessed enough to work relentlessly to develop whatever has inspired you (whether it's music or lighting or carpentry or creating code or sculpting or anything else that people say takes "talent"). Or maybe that's what you're saying.

    When people say "If only I had this (musical instrument / camera / education / talent etc...)" I believe what they're really saying is "If only I could be bothered to put in the hours..."

    EDIT: It was after a very long evening when I wrote this and it barely makes sense to me now!!!
  • interesting perspective, what i like the most is that i own a gh2/pc-clone :) jajajjaja

    ..about talent, there is obviously a part of a subjective perspective, that comes with the package (family, culture, money, genes, etc..), but the other part is just discipline and joy, and the first one is not always the most important of the three elements....
  • @lolo
    So True!
    I suppose I'm the only one old enough to know where you're going with this. I chose DEC the first time around. Bought a PDP-11 in 1981 because it was multi-user, multi-tasking. I creamed the competition who were using the crude early IBM PC. I bought Nikon's first digital, the E3. Now I'm Panny only ( one of the first 18 GF1's imported) because of VK & you.

    Thanks to you both!
  • @LPowell
    Upstart to full blown rebel...