The emergence of Smartphone camera accessories is a major indicator for where photography is heading. That is to say that the Smartphone has to a large degree replaced the standalone digital point and shoot camera.
What consumers are concerned with now, is the footprint of their Smartphone and their associated accessories while placed in their pocket. Moreover, since it is the single most portable intelligent device the majority of us carry around, the Smartphone has become a hotbed of ingenuity for customizations, plugins, and app development all to customize your personal imaging device and thus further propelling the death of the point and shoot.
Exstensability – or adaptability
There are adaptors and sensors that can turn your phone into a light meter, or increase macro and zoom capability, such the Olloclip. You can increase the portability of your Smartphone camera for action adventures with shockproof and waterproof cases by Sealine, Otterbox, Dandycase and more.
Camera equipment companies are also recognizing the shift in Smartphone imaging, and are jumping in with their own range of accessories including the Pico Table Dolly, the Lethal Protection Life-Phorm, and Breffo SpiderPodium.
Intelligent Imaging Applications
What I find more fascinating is the technology that has been developed that pushes the envelope of the Smartphone camera closer to that of professional photography. That is to say that the average person who knows nothing about photography, or shutter speeds, simply doesn’t have to. Your phone is essentially an intelligent computing device, able to fill in some disparity between yourself and your lack of experience in photography.
Along with the proliferation of Smartphone camera usage, there is an important corollary worth noting: the increase in wireless bandwidth that makes uploading and sharing instantaneous. The Smartphone now integrates with a variety of services that facilitate and propagate photo sharing online. Popularity is what matters here, and while the quality of the photo is important, it only needs to be as good as the service allows it (e.g. Instagram and Facebook). So by the very nature of this, the Smartphone is the only really needed camera for many people.
Moreover, capturing full HD video is now viable on a Smartphone. No need for point and shoot let alone a stand alone video camera. YouTube helped propel this just like Instagram.
It seems that Smartphone manufacturers have also been closely watching which apps we install on our mobile devices that increase our image sharing. For instance, Nokia has introduced intelligent white balancing, shutter controls, and more smart camera technology hardcoded into their Smartphone operating system and hardware. This is hardly new technology; apps that help the amateur have been around long enough, such as Echograph, Instagram, and Lumify. Nevertheless, this lends further credence that the Smartphone has quickly become the choice of many to capture photos.
Ultimately, we’ll soon begin to see Smartphone brands begin to hardcode these picture enhancement technologies into their platforms. Why? The Smartphone camera that wins out is the one that most easily becomes the content creator on social networks, and with it improved sales.
Decline of the Digital Camera
In 2012 many camera brands experienced a drop in sales of millions of units of their point-and-shoot consumer range of cameras. We’re not talking about a fickle 200k drop in sales, we’re talking about a consumer driven shift as much as a 30% drop in sales that can curtail huge levels of business. — Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
I spoke to camera retailers who suspect brands are likely to take action on this huge deficit by quietly aiming to reduce their range of amateur-end pocket sized digital point and shoot cameras.
The last time camera manufacturers saw such a paradigm shift in the status-quo, was the migration from film to digital in the photography market. In 1996 Kodak’s revenues dropped from $15.97 billion to $14.36 billion in camera sales alone. This represents a drop of 10% in sales in 1 year, with 1 company, and we all know that 35mm camera sales are now in the toilet compared to their domination prior to the 1990s. Now film cameras are relegated to the retro-look models to demarcate themselves from digital technology and make themselves part of the rising hipster trend.
The Industry Ripples
Further proof of this paradigm shift can be found in the statistic that there has been a 30% decline of compact camera sales in one year! So that in mind, what are the economic ramifications for other industries?
Perhaps looking back can give us an indication of things to come. Remember what happened to the photo processing centers from the 80s and 90s? Whilst they haven’t quite disappeared, the photographic print industry has downsized and shifted focus onto printable goods and storage devices with the decline of the film camera. Check out the 99 Photo Gifts App for the Smartphone Camera – designed to connect consumers with print processing franchises without having to visit these diminishing locations.
This is food for thought regarding how the industry could survive and adapt to the shift from digital to online. Printing is largely a thing of the past as is super high rez unless you plan on putting up prints in your house.
What will Camera Manufacturers do next?
Camera manufacturers are going to focus on what they do best, which is to produce cameras. They will throttle back the line of pocket sized cameras and focus on increasing their compact zoom and Interchangeable lens camera.
“Camera vendors will increasingly focus on ultrazoom and interchangeable lens cameras to drive the market.” — Chris Chute, research director, digital imaging solutions and services
Fuji is clearly laying the way here by being the front runners to adopting the retro-camera look to their X-Pro series digital camera. Check out the retro-styled F-stop toggles.
This year, 2013 has seen the emergence of a head-on-head experiment by Canon’s 6D and Nikon’s D600 SLR cameras at the high end of the spectrum. Whilst technically not a “Smart Camera”, these high end digital cameras do have some built in technical attributes that distance them from the original digital image capture device. They have on board image “unsharpening” and autofocus “edge detection” to help the amateurs on their learning curve into pro-photography. What I’m alluding to is the smart camera.
Evolution of the Smartcamera
Smart cameras, were initially aimed at the consumer end of the market to increase the immediacy through the internet. For example Samsung’s Galaxy camera (not to be confused with Galaxy S III Smartphone) looks like a phone but there’s no phone access built-in to it. Samsung’s goal was to produce a camera that complements your mobile device, and provides not only solid image quality but an ecosystem that is rooted in familiarity.
For the Pro-sumer end of DSLRs, I do not believe they will be affected by image sharing websites. It’s simply not in the mindset of a pro photographer to turn their photographs into “illustrations”. Their concern is more about original image quality, and giving the time to properly post-process blemishes on the image.
Compact cameras however, may embrace the image sharing capabilities. As recognized by Samsung they are more likely to share and work alongside your mobile device for its connectivity. Whereas cameras have the advantage smartphones do not, image chip size.
I expect 2014 to see the full emergence of the Smart Camera, more across the board with the compact camera and into the professional market.
More portability gives rise to the Action Camera
Now, somewhere in between all this hardware there is a gap that can’t be filled with an app, a more efficient image sensor or an enhanced OS. It’s the action camera.
They’re small, somewhat cheap and can produce excellent quality video. They’re sort of the exception to the camera debate since they’ve carved a niche out of extreme portability and ruggedness. However, since they’re so small they lack a screen and all the necessary built-in controls, thus they require some sort of remote. And what serves as a great remote? A Smartphone. For instance, the GoPro Hero3 can be controlled via an Android or iOS device purely over WiFi direct and allow you to live preview the shot and change settings on the fly.
We, as consumers, have therefore sealed the fate of the compact point and shoot camera. Cameras are taking a new direction in the next year, whilst Smartphones are likely to begin forging stronger alliances with lens and chip manufacturers. What we are going to see is more of a divergence of the cameras and Smartphone relationship; And Smartphones will become more integrated with sensor technology borrowed from camera manufacturers.