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Samsung: Why The Camera Market Isn't Black And White

By Oonagh Reidy | Friday | 17/05/2013

Samsung Imaging boss talks to CN about the camera v smartphone debate and why the market isn't black and white

 The Great Camera vs. Phone debate

"We've picked up the pace," declared Craig Gillespie, Samsung Australia's Head of Digital Imaging as it announced Ussian Bolt was backing its fast as lightning new compact camera NX300 (it takes 8.6fps), launched in the opulent surroundings of the Opera House yesterday.

But at a time when anything from 8Mp-16Mp camera are standard on newer smartphones, has demand for cameras declined? 

Not at all, says Gillespie. 

"What we're seeing at Samsung is the mobile phone market is huge, but there's absolutely no decline in photography, people are still really keen to capture great images." 

"The concept of cameras being impacted by mobiles is a bit misunderstood." 

"A lot of people think of it in black and white terms - 'if I buy a phone, I won't buy a camera as its got a good camera built in', which is not the case at all" for consumers.

In fact, the smartphone and camera are "complementary devices" he says, especially on the smart cameras like NX300, where you back up pictures to the phone so one goes hand in hand with the other.

If a consumer buys a phone with good camera in it like Samsung S4 (which has a 13MP), when compared with a true camera device undoubtedly "there's a step up in quality."

"Its an attitudinal thing," says Samsung's Digital Imaging boss - "when people use a camera it's usually for a more meaningful event e.g if you go to a wedding its rare people will say 'I must take my phone'"

"Its all about the camera" he says. 

"There are different areas in the market growing."

"Speciality, higher spec cameras with interchangeable lens are increasing in popularity, and there's also a shift towards wireless."

"We understand the phone is designed to make calls and users still take photos with it, but its usually more casual, instanteous shots...kind of disposable", he notes. 

The standalone camera still offers higher resolution, bigger lens capability, zooms, "but we're not saying you have to replace your phone with a camera". 

Opportune moments can still be captured by the phone - but planned moments are a camera affair.  

"We're trying to grab those users who appreciate that special moment" with the launch of the retro look NX300 (RRP $899), which Samsung says is suitable for the photo enthusiast who wants to capture professional looking pics, NX2000 and 12 new interchangeable lenses including a new 2D/3D lens which allows 3D pics and 3D Full HD video record in one lens.  

"People are looking for photography...they want to take good quality images, once they have a basic camera they might want to upgrade to a high spec." 

Others want even better quality to record life events having children, holidays the 'I want to record and preserve everything' consumer. 

"You can still get really great functionality with a camera for $599 - which is cheaper than a smartphone." 

"There is huge interest in quality in the photo market as it stands...the NX 300 taps into that," with the "usability and simplicity that you get out of a compact."

Samsung are eyeing the compact system camera (CSC) market, which it says are now challenging DSLRs. 

 "You get much better quality out of a compact system (CSC) or compact camera, but there's always room for that little bit more," says Gillespie

The Future?

It's coming down to sharing and connectivity. 

As the likes of Facebook, Instagram or Dropbox provide more photo services, or whatever else the consumer is looking for,  ''it'll be providers like Samsung that tap into that ...you have to do it to stay relevant," citing innovations like the Instagram app preloaded on to Samsung cameras, NFC going to app stores. 

Samsung's imaging technology has "simplified and speeds up the process for consumers", he says, noting the major progress the imaging industry has made since the 1990's where you had to go to a PC, downloads software upload images laboriously. 

"In future I see everything we do making it easier and better from purchase to upgrades," Gillespie predicts. 

Life cycles?

"It depends, there are different segments in the camera market, some are earlier adopters...who have to have the best and newest technology" - 'this prod will benefit our life and I need it now' group. Price is not irrelevant but it's not a major barrier, he says. 

At the other end of the spectrum are the laggards - those who have never owned a digital camera, saying 'it's about time we owned a digital camera.'  

Early adopters churn rate may be every time there is a new product; whereas laggard might buy a product and hold on to it as long as possible, and see no need for change. 

In terms of Samsung lifecycle, "we're introducing new products all the time. We do range reviewers once a year and in between upgrades, whenever we see an opportunity."

In other words, watch this space.


"It's a standalone product, no-one else is offering the speed, performance and price as NX 300. Its a unique proposition," says Samsung's Head of Digital Imaging. 

"Manufacturers across board delivering great quality...but it comes down to Samsung delivering great images, connectivity...no one else is delivering the same capability." 

He says Samsung will be focusing heavily on the digital channel in terms of marketing the new NX cameras; and other corporate activity to push products across the entire Samsung range. 

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