TWiP #239: Sad times at Canon, Sigma, Kodak, and Yahoo

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This week on TWiP: Canon’s president steps down, Apple reinvents the ebook with its iBooks Author app, and Yahoo! begins axing customer support reps.

Hosts: Frederick Van Johnson, Ron Brinkmann, and Sara France.

NEWS & DISCUSSION

Canon’s president steps down as Canon falls short of expectations for the second year in a row:

Petapixel reports that Canon’s president Tsuneji Uchida announced today that he will be stepping down to pave way for a younger management team as the company fell short of expectations for the second straight year. Canon’s stock price dropped 19% last year, while Nikon’s grew 4%.

Ron feels like it’s still too early to tell whether Mr. Uchida’s stepping down is a good thing or not, but it’s certainly an indication that Canon is shaking things up. He also feels like there are indicators outside of stock price that determine how well a company is doing.

Frederick imagines Canon as a somewhat gigantic, elephant-like company, compared to Nikon, which is more like a gazelle. Ron agrees; Canon makes much more than cameras, after all, whereas Nikon is more focused.

Sara feels that no company is fail-safe, and that no company gets to just stay on top anymore. She adds that the Canon president’s resignation in order to bring in some new blood was a good decision on his part.

Listen in as the panel debates the pros and cons of this event and the future of the competition between Nikon, Canon, and other camera companies.

Sigma Founder and CEO passes away at 78

Popular Photography reports that Sigma CEO Michihiro Yamaki died in Tokyo of liver cancer on January 18 at the age of 78. Yamaki founded Sigma in September 1961 with the development of the first-ever rear attached lens converter. He was just 27 years old at the time, working as an optical engineer.

Frederick touches on the topic briefly, recalling that Sigma’s David Metz was on TWiP #191 and spoke about the founder’s single-minded dedication to photography. Frederick gives a nod to the folks at Sigma.

Apple Launches iBooks Author

A few episodes back, there was a discussion around how photographers can publish their work. Alex Lindsay and the other panelists speculated as to whether Apple was working on some new publishing tools. Now, Apple has announced iBooks Author, which allows people to create electronic books than can be enjoyed on the iPad and sold through the iBookstore.

Frederick poses a question as to whether this represents a paradigm shift in the world of ebook publishing, and whether this will change the way people consume books similar to the way that iTunes changed the way people consume music. Ron feels that the way people consume books is going to change regardless, but that iBooks Author takes the design and functionality of ebooks up to the next level.

When asked what this means to Sara, she notes that the content of the Aperture training videos she has done in the past could easily have been delivered as an ebook. Frederick also has her thinking about the potential to use this new tool and format to deliver images to her clients, perhaps as albums – though there are some questions as to how to restrict distribution to just her clients.

Listen to the episode for the rest of this engaging discussion on the future of publishing and the implications of Apple’s new tools in this space.

Kodak Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

According to PetaPixel, Kodak has announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company has permission to continue normal operations while it restructures.

While we probably won’t see the death of the Kodak brand, the company has stated that it intends to transform into “a lean, world-class, digital imaging and materials science company”, and that they’re planning to sell off “significant assets” during this process. It remains to be seen whether Kodak continues to play a significant role in film photography once it emerges out the other end of bankruptcy protection (if it ever does).

Frederick references a Bloomberg story that describes how Kodak is looking to sell its photography business as it gets into printers, both commercial and consumer, and says quite bluntly that “those better be some killer printers.” The panel expresses sadness all around at the downfall of this great icon. Sara goes back to the first story, saying that “you have to innovate,” because even the largest companies can fail.

Frederick and Ron commiserate on the state of companies like Kodak that start strong, then end up becoming too slow for faster markets. Ron points out that Kodak does have amazing technologies in their patent portfolio, and thinks that Kodak got so large, it simply didn’t know what it had.

Picnik Announces it’s Shutting Down, as Yahoo! lays off an entire level of Flickr’s Customer Support team.

Yahoo! has laid off the highest level of Flickr’s customer support, the people that end up filing bugs against the developers and helping the trickier cases get solved for the members. Some folks are saying that the users of Flickr lost their major advocates.

Ron says that this is yet another indication that Flickr is not a huge priority for Yahoo!, and that it never has been. He thinks that Yahoo! doesn’t know what they have with Flickr, while Frederick wonders whether it’s time to take his images off Flickr and take them elsewhere.

Frederick also points out that the TWiP Flickr group has thousands of members; what do they do if Flickr shuts down? Where do they go? The panel discusses possible alternatives to Flickr and considers Google+ as a possible alternative.

Along the same lines, popular online photo editing site Picnik announced on its blog this week that as of April 19th, it will be shutting down its service and moving everything to Google+. Picnik has powered most of the photo editing features in Google products (as well as some Yahoo products) for several years, but also offered a stand-alone service for non-Google users. They are offering a full refund to all premium account holders and are providing a tool to export images out of the service before it shuts down.

This news falls a bit flat for the panel; Ron thinks it’s not that big of a deal, since most of these features will still be around in Google+. He feels like this is more of a rebranding effort to bring everything under Google+, rather than an actual loss of Picnik’s technology.

Listen to the show to find out what the panel thinks of online editing tools, where they fit into a photographers workflow – and if they should even be used at all.

 

LISTENER QUESTIONS

Question 1

Kent Vidrine from Fairfax Virginia writes: Frederick, Alex, and guests often say that good photos are made by good photographers; it’s not about the gear. I agree that good photos can come out of just about any camera, but if that was all there was to it, I’m sure that good photographers would never spend money on gear. But instead, I hear on the podcast about photographers lusting after the next lens or flash or camera body. So I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that it’s all about the photographer. Gear matters.

Sara: Gear lets the photographer get the shot, whether it’s with an iPhone or a pro camera. However, sometimes you need the great gear – trading in a 50mm f/1.2 for a 50mm f/1.8 would hurt a pro who needs that bigger, more expensive lens.

Frederick: Having great gear helps you get the shot, and having great gear with, say, great low-light capability helps you get the shot that you might not have otherwise gotten.

Ron: It’s not always the case that great gear helps you get a shot, but it certainly can make getting it easier. Using a straight macro lens instead of a normal lens with extension tubes makes getting a macro shot easier, for example.

Editors note: Kent’s comments led to a very engrossing discussion on the topic of gear and its importance and role for photographers. Listen to the show to get some interesting insights on this issue from the panel.

Question 2

Patrick Rafanan wrote to us and is having a bit of an identity crisis with all the social media sites that are available. He would like to know: How do you deal with having a profile on Facebook as well as a page for your business? Do you keep them separate, as in personal only vs. strictly professional? Do you simply put all your content in one place and link from everywhere, or drop little bits all around randomly? Any simple solutions to manage your online presences?

Sara: Sara initially just had a personal Facebook page, then had to get a professional page when she hit the 5000-friend-limit. However, separating the two at that point was challenging, so she recommends starting with separate professional and personal business pages.

She warned, however, that her business page on Facebook did suffer from a bit of a “disconnect” factor when it came to communicating with other photographers. However, Google+ is emerging as a great place to move relationships over to, but there is still quite a lot to handle. Answering this question will require a lot of strategy and consistency.

Ron: Ron acknowledges that this is kind of hard, since there’s something new that pops up every day – consider Pinterest, for example.

Frederick: Frederick agrees that it’s hard to keep up with everything at this point, and uses Hootsuite to help him manage it all. Hootsuite pushes out to Facebook and Twitter, with Google+ support coming soon. However, this can lead to the absence of a personal touch. For him, Google+ is also turning into a hub of sorts.

PICKS OF THE WEEK

Sara: WPPI (Sara also has an Aperture Intensive Platform Class at 8am Monday morning).

Ron:  http://unbounce.com/

Frederick:  iZon

WRAP UP

Follow us on twitter.com/ThisWeekInPhoto. Join the Flickr critique group. You can also join our Facebook group and add us to your circles on Google+.

Ron Brinkmann: www.twitter.com/ronbrinkmann or www.digitalcomposting.com

Sara France: www.sarafrance.com or www.gobeebags.com or on Twitter @sarafrance. On Facebook: sarafrancephotography

Frederick Van Johnson: www.frederickvan.com or www.twitter.com/frederickvan or fvj.me/plus

CREDITS

[box]TWiP is brought to you by the following sponsor:

Carbonite, Automatic, continual, and unlimited backup for your computer files – for only $59 a year. Try it free at Carbonite.com. Use the offer code TWiP and get 2 bonus months with purchase.

Pre-Production and Show notes by Sohail Mamdani. sohailgplus.com or twitter.com/sohailmamdani

Producers: Suzanne Llewellyn

Bandwidth provided by Cachefly

Intro Music by Scott Cannizzaro

Image Credit: Lil De Vil

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