Is it the smartphone or lack of fun that's killing the camera?
Camera companies are struggling to sell cameras - that much is widely known. But Mayflower Concepts' Heino Hilbig (a former Head of Communications and Marketing at Olympus Europe) says that it's not smartphones, market saturation or the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis that's caused this. Instead he argues that it's the fun-factor and easy operation that the iPhone brought that have made cameras seem less attractive.
Micheal Heath, over at PhotographyLife.com picks up this argument and runs with it. Camera companies have retreated to making cameras for existing, experienced camera users with prices and levels of complexity that don't exactly encourage people to step up from their smartphones. His post: 'How Mirrorless Cameras could save the photo industry (but probably won't)' is well worth a read.
|Is it the smartphone that's killing camera sales, or the expectation of fun that they've led people to demand?|
The argument states that cameras have become (or, perhaps, stayed) too complex and off-putting for people who are new to photography. Smartphones and their impressively capable automation have meant that photography can be as simple as framing the scene and tapping the screen.
A counter-argument might be that several manufacturers have made some effort to make more user-friendly entry-level mirrorless models (including the results-orientated interfaces on the Olympus E-PL1, Sony NEX 3 and, as Canon recently explained to us, the EOS M3), only to be met with either disappointing sales or sales to an entirely different group of users.
What's hard to deny, though, is that no camera maker has gone back to a blank piece of paper to work out how a digital camera could work, rather than how to make a digital camera that works like their film era cameras did.
This isn't just a problem for the beginner/non-photographer end of the market, though. Even the best modern digital cameras don't provide enthusiasts with the tools needed to properly expose Raw files, with even the highest-end models still essentially metering for JPEGs as if they were negative film.
|Mayflower Concept's Heino Hilbig makes a strong case that cameras are not as user-friendly as they could be.|
Furthermore, I don't think there's any owner of a contemporary mid- to high-end camera who would argue that the menus on their camera are anything other than cluttered and confused. They're operable if you've taken the time to learn them (all the more so if you've used an older camera from the same brand and already know your way around a less over-loaded version of the same menu).
It's been seven years since we wrote a blog post suggesting that camera makers could learn something from the type of innovation that Apple has shown. Sadly, all that time and the collapse of the camera market don't seem to have been enough to prompt much action.
Hilbig goes further than this, advocating greater collaboration in the industry, to do away with proprietary formats and lens systems. He also says the photo media needs to be more fun, rather than reading like Physics books. We're not sure we know what he's referring to there, but we agree with the need for more fun in photography.
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