Late Adopters - For Better or Worse

Photo of a statue in Vienna, Austria covered in bird droppings illustrates the perils of being a late adopter in the digital ageCanon 5D Mark II camera with Canon 70-200mm f4 L series lens add Canon x1.4 Extender @ 193mm. Exposure Details: 1/40 second @ f11 ISO 100

The year was 199I and I had a middle management job at Kodak, at the region headquarters in Coburg (Melbourne), Australia. I didn't really get a proper management position for another 5 years. At this level management probably meant white collar and non-union (and that decision was very much made for me). There were still several thousand employees at the Coburg plant back then and, I think, around 130,000 worldwide.

My colleagues and I in the Kodak Information Centre (Photo Information and Pro Passport Departments) were each given a version of Photoshop 2.0 on our Windows based PC's. I believe they were 286's and I think mine had been upgraded to a whopping 20MB of RAM. I remember we were still using 3 1/4" floppy disks, with a 1.44 Mb capacity, though the boss still used the larger 5" ones for some things.

I spent about 20 minutes on Photoshop 2.0 and declared "this will never catch on". A few years later I handled the first DSLR camera, a Nikon that had been re-purposed by Kodak. I think it was 1Mb and came in at around $30,000. Designed for the photojournalist it could only be used tethered to a computer. I remember thinking that was just insane and, once again, uttered the immortal words "this will never catch on". Although, this time around, I believe I added some qualifying remarks.

I'm a classic late adopter, not being overcome by the hype and promise offered by new products and preferring to wait until the inevitable bugs are resolved prior to opting in. When it comes to software and electronic devices I see no problem in waiting for the 2nd or 3rd generation before I opt in. However they are exceptions, particularly when it comes to Leica cameras. Though because they're built on a decades old base, I feel there's less risk involved.

So, while I've been happy to be a late adopter, it's not without compromise. From a commercial point of view its often the early adopters who benefit financially once a way to commercialize the product or process in question becomes evident. By being slow off the mark the chances are you'll be entering a more competitive market which will make it harder to secure business, higher pricing and profits.

The good news is that the rate of change is now so fast that you probably only have to wait a few years for the next big thing. So, if you've missed the boat, make sure you get in nice and early when the next big thing becomes available. In the case of software this means BETA testing. So, by the time the product is released onto the market, you're already a (so-called) expert.

In the world of social media Google + is the perfect example. There are numerous photographers who have grown massive followings by investing a lot of time and effort, right from the early days, in Google +. Now that its base is quite well established, it may well be harder to establish a following as quickly as some of these early adopters.

Food for thought. Otherwise, you may end up with something even worse than egg on your face.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru