Are digital cameras on their last legs?
There was no shortage of new cameras buzzing about CES 2013 in Las Vegas. But do any of them have enough new ideas to save the faltering compact camera market?
This year got off to a rough start for digital cameras. The UK’s most established high street camera specialist, Jessops, went into administration, largely down to poor sales in this cameraphone world and better bargains online.
I don’t see 2013 getting any less gloomy for the big camera manufacturers, and the ‘innovations’ coming out of CES 2013 didn’t change my mind.
CES 2013: digital camera innovations fall flat
CES hosted all the predictable updates to the latest cameras. They’re smaller, they’re ‘touch screenier’, they’re waterproof to greater depths, and they have more wi-fi than your nearest Starbucks. But are any of these innovations truly enough to revive sales of compact cameras?
Let’s start with wi-fi cameras. Wireless connectivity will not be the saviour of compact cameras. Why? Because all you can really do with a wi-fi camera is upload your photos straight to Facebook. You can’t use your fancy wi-fi-enabled camera to browse the web, play games, make Skype calls, or anything else that smartphones have been doing for years now.
Touchscreen cameras? To me, a touchscreen isn’t a natural fit for taking snaps. However, touchscreens are cheaper than ever to make now, so why not slap one on the back of the camera? Oh, I know why not, because you’re left with a baffling little box of a device like the newly-unveiled Canon PowerShot N. I’m all for innovation if it leaves you with a genuinely useful product, but I don’t think Canon’s square snapper fits the bill.
Waterproof cameras? They’re definitely great things, and I welcome the idea of Sony introducing a more affordable one. But Panasonic and Olympus have unveiled cameras that can go to depths of 14 metres. That’s lovely for keen divers with £349 to spare, but that’s a pretty niche market they’re targeting, and not one that will prop up dwindling camera sales.
High-end cameras holding off smartphones
There’s still one section of the market that cameraphones can’t eat into, and that’s high-end cameras like DSLRs and compact system cameras (CSCs).
Sales of CSCs ought to keep on rising this year, particularly if prices finally begin to settle to a more sensible level. But sales of high-end cameras won’t be enough to revive the flagging fortunes of camera manufacturers, who’ve taken a serious hit with the rise of cameraphones.
Myself, I hardly ever use my cameraphone. I like taking my time composing a shot properly (and yes, that means using a viewfinder), and I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to post a photo straight on to the web.
But I know I’m not typical, compared to the millions of people snapping away on cameraphones every day. And from what I saw coming out of Las Vegas, I don’t think the big camera manufacturers have hit upon anything that will truly entice the cameraphone crowd.
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