Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Zeiss Victory SF Binoculars: Zeiss Are Really Fighting for Market Share

There is a lot of interest in birdwatching forums about the new Zeiss Victory SF binoculars. Zeiss, remember, went from being the brand everybody aspired to own in the 1950s and 1960s to also-rans in the competition with Leica and, later, Swarovski. My binocular tally saw a few more users of modern Zeiss binoculars over the past few years but this latest release, seen and used by only a chosen few, is an attempt to taker over the top end of the market. Zeiss describe them as: World's Best Birding and Nature Observation Binoculars.

It seems that Zeiss recruited a new designer—from Swarovski, and the new binoculars certainly bear more than a passing resemblance to Swarovskis. How much of the blurb in the press releases is hype only time will tell; the mere fact that they will be dearer than all the others will ensure healthy sales.

In looking up further information on the design features, this binocular-owning family has learnt a lot about the evolution of binocular optical design and I will follow up this post with the rest of that story.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Amateur Photographer Subscriptions: Buy NEW Don't RENEW

I took out a two-year subsciption deal (two years for the price of one) for the print version of Amateur Photographer. The renewal notice arrived a few weeks ago. The renewal was for 20% off. Thinking that was a very small discount and wondering if their marketing department was following the insurance companies and banks in penalising brand loyalty, I looked up the new subscription rates. Yes, they were penalising loyalty, was the answer, as the comparison below shows:

2 years Renewal £218.32
2 years New £163.99

1 year Renewal £116.44
1 year New £86.99

Needless to say, I bought a new suscription and threw the renewal notice into the bin. Is there no end to the rip-offs in Britain pulled off by marketing departments offering automatic and semi-automatic renewals to customers?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

What an Idiot

A readers writing congratulating the editor on the new look of Amateur Photographer (I see no improvement in the content so far, but that is by the way) also objected to the magazine reviewing a lens (Zeiss Otus) consisting in excess of £3,000. Is there any hope when a magazine is expected to be run on the politics of envy? Of course we need good reviews of top-of-the-range equipment, even if only to allow a judgement to be made of whether a particular improvement or feature is worth paying for. A few more readers might be retained if this magazine aimed higher. There are many amateur photographers out there with expensive but appropriate gear for what they want to do who despair at the never-ending reviews of low-level cameras that litter the magazines. Do magazines in the USA, where the magazines seem much more aspirational, have this problem?

A Bridge Superzoom NOT a DSLR for Birders

Bad advice given in photographic magazines soon gets picked up and batted back. A reader of Amateur Photographer (5 July 2014), Paul Robinson, soon pointed out that superzoom bridge cameras, in this case the Canon SX50 HS, were what birders use to photograph birds and that DSLRs for shots in the field were pretty useless.

The photographic magazines are really not staffed to provide reliable information on anything other than amateur 'pictorial' photography (as the meaning of 'pictorial' has changed over the years) and subjects covered by professionals in the world of commerce.

There is much better advice available online on almost anything in photography.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Photographic Magazines: Circulation Figures for 2013

The sales of photographic magazines continue to fall (see my post of 22 March 2013) along with virtually all magazines in the UK. Owners, editors and employess must be asking themselves, where will it all end?

Of those magazines audited by ABC, the year on year fall in circulation for photographic titles in the second half of 2013 was, starting with the worst: Digital SLR Photography -31.5%; Practical Photography -13.5%; Digital Camera Magazine -11.7%; Digital Photographer -11%; Amateur Photographer -9.9%; Digital Photo -5.6%. I do not know the circulation figures for other magazines that are not covered  by ABC, like Advanced Photographer.

The average change in sales of all UK magazines was -6.3%, so that photographic magazines, in general, performed worse than that.

Average sales for the monthly magazines ranged from 7,504 for British Journal of Photography (no figures available for year-on-year change) to 35,281 for Digital Photo. The average sale for the weekly, Amateur Photographer, was 15,505. 

Just as worrying for editors must be the result of the survey published in Amateur Photographer on 5 July. Yes, I know it is a self-selected group of readers responding but 52% said that they had been readers of AP for less than one year. No wonder the articles are at such a low level. But do the results of that survey also show that AP is not retaining its readership beyond the beginner stage, or that people stay in amateur photography, like most hobbies, for just a short time, or both? The ‘All New AP’ launched a couple of weeks ago is presumably an attempt to decrease or reverse the downward trend. Will it succeed? On its present showing I doubt it.

If magazine sales are falling, were are people getting their information? Even a basic photography book provides more information than a run of magazines but are people buying books? Or relying on the internet for information/misinformation?