What is the next evolutionary step of the compact camera?

For as long as I have been using digital cameras and even before people were saying that film was dead. The phrase catches headlines, “Film is dead”, because we remember film and have nostalgic feelings; some may even still use film. I know I do.

Another phrase is also starting to be heard in the photographic community that has started to make camera manufacturers think. The Compact Camera is dying.

Smartphone photography, Motography or Iphoneography whichever phrase you use has this year really made a surge in popularity. This is partly due to Instagram being released on Android and the purchase of the app by Facebook. Although cameras have been in phones for years the quality of the cameras are now much better and for some it is enough for what they want to do.

With smart phones swamping all sorts of markets from GPS navigation to Cameras it is no wonder that companies and needing to think fast.

If you look on Flickr the top ten cameras used to take pictures on the site is filled with smartphones like the iPhone 4 and 4s which are higher on the list than both the Canon 5d mkII and 550d with no compact cameras even making an entry. [i]

From June 2011 to May 2012 the sale of fixed lens cameras in the UK dropped s from 5.2 million units sold in the previous year to 4.6 million units. This has been attributed to the competition from smartphones.[ii]

Earlier this year Olympus spokeswoman Ayako Nagami told amateur photographer;

“Due to the increasing popularity of smartphones equipped with high-spec digital camera functions, more and more products are competing with low-cost compact digital cameras,”

I can understand why people may not be buying a compact camera. Why do we need one when we have a perfectly good camera on our phones for our snapshots? If you are more interested in photography there are more options with the so called prosumer cameras or even with the entry level DSLRs.

Also we have to look at how a photograph is now viewed and shared. Previously we would print our holiday snapshots and bore people by going through them, handing them around and warning people not to smudge them with their sticky fingers. Now we share our images digitally. From Facebook to email. Load them up send them out. Even when we do have people round and they ask to see our holiday snaps I load them onto a USB key and show them through my media centre. Our new habits have meant that a smartphone is well placed with the ability to take a picture then edit it using an app and upload it straight away. You can even share your holiday pictures as you go, on the move.

Smart phones are smart so what are camera manufacturers doing to resuscitate the compact camera market. Well they have interesting and differing strategies.

Nikon earlier this year released the S800c a camera powered by Androids, Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. With the camera you will be able to take a picture and instantly share it via social media, upload it to a cloud storage system or send the image via email. Jeremy Gilbert the group managing director at Nikon UK says the future of compact cameras is going to be about connectivity.

“There is an expectation to have your computers, tablets and laptop devices all talking together……The future for technology is connectivity – this camera is all about improving connectivity between smart devices, taking quality images and sharing them instantly across devices and social media platforms. The S800c will appeal to people looking to upgrade to a camera from a smartphone and are used to all the mobile capabilities of a smartphone, plus they will be used to using apps.”

Canon believes the fact that smartphones are being used more and more to take photos is great because it makes people more interested in photography. As people become more fascinated by creating images they will be looking to have something more than what their camera phone can offer. Canon believes this is a great opportunity for them.

The Canon IXUS 510 is an example of Canons idea of the future. The camera has inbuilt Wi-Fi that can connect to an app on your phone wirelessly and then share easily as you would like. Steve Marshall product marketing director at Canon Europe stated that;

“Wifi is the simplest way to get images from a camera to a smartphone and to Facebook or any other social networking site,…….We’re doing it the way we think is best at the moment. We’re seeing very early stages of development in regards to how images are utilised from a phone manufacturer or camera manufacturer’s point of view. To be honest, I don’t know where this is going to end, but I think cameras have a history of delivering results.”

Samsung unsurprisingly has taken their expertise in both camera manufacturing and smart phones. Their latest offing has been their Samsung Galaxy camera which neatly fits with the rest of the galaxy range. It shares the same LCD screen as the Galaxy SIII smartphone with a 21x optical zoom with 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi. This phone is a hybrid taking what a smartphone has and a camera doesn’t and what a camera has and what a smart phone doesn’t. With new models of other Samsung cameras to have 3G and 4G connectivity added to them along with the android operating system added to their premium lines.

Fuji has followed a similar route to Canon using Wi-Fi with phone apps. With the Fuji app you can send the image to your tablet or smartphone and using your GPS location it will highlight where landmarks are close to you.

It seems that the major manufacturers are taking note of consumer’s use of photography and that the world has moved from the printed image to the shared image.  But will integrating wireless technology really save the smartphone market. How long will it be until a smartphone can have a 21x optical zoom. It seems to me that Canon, Nikon, Fuji and even Samsung cameras are playing catch up after the initial digital boom.

I am of the belief that if you have a smart phone then for the hobbyist, amateur or professional photographer a compact camera is no longer needed but the market for DSLR and Fixed Lens cameras is still alive. I like the idea that these images could be up loaded via a wireless method to a cloud storage system. This I believe would be beneficial especially when you are working on the move.

Then again, like those who shouted that film is dead they are still being proved wrong, maybe the smartphone photography fashion will slump and the compacts will survive.

What do you think about the future of compact cameras? Are you happy with your compact or do you think you smart phone has taken over from it? Let me know in the comment box below.


[i] This of course could be a sign that Flickr is no longer the first place people are traditionally going to share their pictures now, and that with the integration with Instagram people are just sharing Instagram images on their Flickr account.

[ii] It could also be that due to Britain just having come through a double dip recession and on the verge of a triple dip, people are looking to buy less luxury items and happy to stick with what they have.

2 thoughts on “What is the next evolutionary step of the compact camera?

  1. When they start incorporating cameras into contact lenses we’ll really have something to think about! I have an old Nikon film camera, a smartphone, a couple of compacts collected over the years and two big DSLRs – I use each one for something specific and I don’t know that I would want to give up any one of them and actually, when I didn’t have a smartphone I didn’t realize what I was missing (now I’m hooked) – While I sometimes miss film I thank the powers that be for digital…

    • I miss Black and white film more than i do colour. I have put into steps to start shooting black and white film again but there are a lot of things i need to purchase.

      With compact cameras I don’t really use them because i have my phone. On the other hand with my Canon G10 if it had Wi-fi i think it would be useful to load my images to my sky drive so i don’t have to connect my camera to my laptop when i am going to be away from the man cave for several days.

      Cameras in contacts would be cool.

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