Every wave of technology poses a challenge to its predecessor. Some leverage this as an opportunity to innovate and improve on their offering. For others, however, these times represent a significant inflection point as their current business model is predicated on the maintenance of the status quo. The camera industry may have a penchant for the latter.

Last week, research firm IDC lowered its expectations for shipments of DSLR cameras by 9.1% to 17.4 million units. There are any number of potential reason for this drop, but many attribute it to displacement by smartphones. There has long been competition at the lower ranks with “point and shoot” cameras, but this represents a challenge at the higher end of the spectrum.

When asked to comment on the matter, Canon spokesman Takafumi Honga had this to say:

“Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring. Using interchangeable cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.”

Source: Phones Imperil Fancy Cameras, WSJ

Sadly, this is not the story of a customer, but more a brand’s justification for not having a story aligned closely enough with the customer’s narrative. Amongst photographers, there is a saying “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” Canon’s metaphor fails to acknowledge the value of the camera that’s always there – the one that may not shoot in RAW but does capture the highlights of our day-to-day lives. And if our mobile photography highlights are any indicator, the mobile phones we carry don’t exactly inhibit photographers from creating some amazing works of art.

Of course, this is not the first nor likely the last time we’ll hear this argument. There is no doubt that those who embrace the wave create opportunities to not just survive, but thrive. Let’s hope that Canon and its ilk can learn to swim fast enough to keep from drowning. Kodak tried to swim against the stream – to its demise.

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September 12, 2013 Add Comment Monica Watson

It used to be the way you take better pictures is you learn to be a better photographer. You get bigger cameras, bigger lenses, you learn about all the techniques of light meters and gels and filters, and you can spend your lifetime learning how to take advantage of this and make it work for you.

For the people who want do that, that’s great. For most of us, we just want to take a picture, and have the iPhone take a better picture for us.

- Phil Schieller, Senior VP of Marketing at Apple

The above quote comes from the Apple release of the iPhone 5c and 5s. The announcement came with a variety of updates to the phone’s camera – an upgraded flash, a better lens, and a larger sensor. Smartphones have taken a big chunk of the point-and-shoot market, now Apple is gearing up to do the same to DSLRs.

By playing up the learning curve of DSLRs and touting the iPhone’s camera quality, Schieller is encouraging consumers to put down lenses in exchange for iPhones. And why wouldn’t most consumers do exactly that? In one device they have the tools to take, edit, and share photos. A DSLR doesn’t provide that immediacy that we’ve become accustomed to.

What do you think is the next step for consumer-level DSLR manufacturers to compete with the iPhone, the Lumia, and even Sony’s Lens Cameras? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

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Smaller is great, but where’s the social?

This week, Canon expanded its Rebel DSLR line to a new, smaller camera: the Canon EOS Rebel SL1. The SL1 manages to fit the majority of the larger Rebel T4i’s specs into a smaller and more portable device. This latest mini DSLR along with mirrorless cameras, that provide DSLR-quality and control without the bulk, are making it easier for consumers to access near-professional image quality.

Canon Rebel SL1

However, most camera brands are missing one key aspect in their entry-level DSLR cameras: social. The SL1 comes fully equipped with filters and in-device cropping, but where are the built-in Instagram or Flickr apps? Shouldn’t one of these cameras come with a  version of Android and it’s own app marketplace by now? There are already point-and-shoots that are android powered, and if these companies really want their professional cameras to appeal to consumers then their entry-level professional cameras need to start including more smart technology too.

Canon made a noble attempt at bringing smartphone capabilities to the Rebel T4i with its touchscreen – making the switch from point-and-shoot to DSLR a little less daunting, but it still lacks any other social aspects. Their latest releases, the SL1 and  T51, do nothing to advance in that field.

There are already apps for phones that give a DSLR look, and more phones like the Nokia Lumia are breaking all expectations with their strong photography performance. There’s really no reason for consumers to buy point-and-shoot cameras now – all of that functionality has been packed into the phones they carry around everywhere already.

2013-03-22 11.26.53

However, the DSLR offers something extra with the quality level and customizability – as long as manufacturers catch up to current social and tech standards. We live in the time of the visual revolution – where photos and social are two sides of the same coin, and DSLRs need to adapt before they become redundant.

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