Press "Enter" to skip to content

Traditional digital cameras sales struggle in the smartphone age

Traditional digital cameras sales struggle in the smartphone age

“It’s simple to take your smartphone from your pocket in the event you would like to shoot an image of someone or something. And you’ll be able to send the photos to friends instantly” on social networking, said the 17-year old on a day trip to Tokyo’s historical Asakusa district with her pal Rina.

A quick shift to picture-taking smartphones has torn into a camera sector controlled by Japanese companies including Sony, Olympus, Canon and Nikon all but ruined the market for photographic film years back.

As well as the numbers paint a black picture: 130 million cameras were sold worldwide in 2011.

The fall was underscored as the companies released their latest financial results, with poor sales endangering a once-energetic sector.

Now businesses are needing to scramble for a reaction, striking back with choices that are upmarket and offering internet-friendly characteristics, or in a few cases just moving away from the hard-hit business.

While Samsung and Apple lately pointed to slowing sales of smartphones, they’ve shown a powerful competitor, offering an all in one camera, computer and mobile with relatively high-quality graphics and Internet picture downloading.

Convince and the response, the camera business says, will be to innovate smartphone users to climb the standard ladder.

“The competition from smartphones has virtually killed the most affordable cameras, but at the same time, so there are lots of people who are shooting pictures, as never before in human history.

“The smartphone is the initial step into the topic of photography, and then folks wish to update, the possibility is there.”

Betting on Nostalgia

For the Sure Shot digital camera of Canon, whose, the response is always to offer what a phone cannot, such as more powerful zoom alternatives.

“We’ve been offering cameras that provide features smartphones cannot supply,” said company spokesman Richard Berger.

“Folks who use smartphones are getting to be interested in photography; they want to take better pictures, to be more creative, so they’re moving up to SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras.”

Another battleground has been in mirror-less cameras, which may be made almost as small as cameras that are compact but with image quality that rivals their bulkier counterparts.

While Olympus is driving farther to the medical equipment company as a leader in endoscopes, which eclipse camera sales, Panasonic and Sony have teamed up with German competitions, including Leica.

Fujifilm, which was almost put out of business by the fall in photograph movie sales, has also shifted focus to other businesses, including the health sector — a drug to combat the deadly Ebola virus has been developed by one of the companies it got.

But the sector that scored an unlikely triumph with the Instax, a nostalgic throwback to the retro Polaroid, and made Fujifilm has not left its name.

Users can sling the bulky gadget — available in a run of gaudy colours — around their neck and print images they’ve simply taken. The newest versions sell for about $140.

After a slow start, the camera’s appearance on a television series that was popular South Korean helped jack up Asian sales lately, with about five million units transferred to March in the current fiscal year.

The allure of giving real pictures to pals sold Calvin Lau on the Instax.

“We never know how photos will come out until they’re fully ready,” said the 31-year old Hong Konger, who now lives in Tokyo.

“It is entertaining and exciting for folks shooting Instax photos and those whose photographs are being taken.

We can give our pals unique, actual graphics.”

Still, Seiko Mikie, who has about 20 years on Lau, believes the Polaroid throwback is all about as feeble as it gets.

“I am not the least bit interested in a Polaroid-style camera — that’s something from the Showa era,” said the 50-year old transportation company employee, referring to the past Japanese emperor’s reign which ended with his departure in 1989.

“Back then, the picture quality was good enough for the time, but not any longer.”