Back in the day, you’d buy a camera body and a couple of nice prime lenses and you'd be good to go for at least 10 years. But with the advent of digital sensors, cameras effectively became computers with lenses, and their life cycles were adjusted down accordingly. Now, in line with the rest of the tech industry, camera manufacturers introduce new models on an annual, if not a semi-annual basis. Photographers, gear-heads that they are, have played right along; today, if you shoot with a digital camera that's more an a few years old, you're outdated and falling off the back of the technological treadmill.
Fortunately, there are signs that this relentless race to upgrade gear is starting to slow. Recently released camera industry figures show a dramatic drop in camera sales across the board. This includes all types of cameras, not just compacts, which have understandably taken a beating from the now nearly ubiquitous iPhone. Even the new so-called “mirrorless” cameras, touted as being the be-all and end-all to replace both DSLRs and compacts, are slumping big time.
Perhaps what we’re seeing is a leveling off of the rate of technological advancements (most cameras today are well beyond “good enough"), combined with buyer fatigue as a result of profit-hungry manufacturers releasing cameras at a rate that even the most fervent gear-heads can no longer keep up with. If this is the case, it's good news. The obsession with gear that fully consumed many photographers for the last decade or two took the focus away from what really matters: the skill and artistry of the photographer. Lets hope this is the start of a trend and not just a statistical blip. Moving away from photography primarily as a camera buying exercise, and back toward photography as a fine art medium, would be a welcome development indeed.