Compact cameras are going back to basics with fewer features, less buttons and simple additions to supply the growing lust for a real point-and-shoot experience.
Director of Panasonic Australia’s consumer electronics group, Paul Reid, said that the company’s Lumix compact camera range had taken 20% of the market as of 2010 and was starting strong in 2011, but a bit of questioning of the Panasonic team revealed that the market in general was getting tighter in competition with all the big brands beginning to lose out.
The latest figures put market growth at only 10% for the compact camera industry as of last year.
This intense competition is leading to a reshaping of compacts, aimed at pulling out all the extra features on the cheaper variety of point-and-shooters and simplifying it with fewer buttons and only the important features that amateur shooters really use like sharing options, image stabilising and enhanced zoom.
While image quality is on the rise, it is important not to be fooled by the megapixel count. For instance, Panasonic’s new S series of compacts, marketed towards the new generation of casual shooters, sports a high 16 MP though doesn’t sport the image quality of the 12 MP FT series of cameras.
According to the Lumix Marketing Manager, Alistair Robins, the high MP count pushed out by all the major camera brands is just a way of bringing in ‘uneducated’ customers who see megapixels as quality.
The gap between general consumer cameras and high-end cameras is being bridged as the professional and top-end camera grades only account for a small portion of the market. Cameras with interchangeable lenses like Samsung’s recent NX-100 have taken the high-grade photo capabilities of chunky DSLRs and thrown them into the compact sphere by shredding out all the extraneous functions and controls.
In one way, consumers are getting now getting more for their money but, on the reverse, those looking for the fully customisable experience with their photography could end up with sub-par cameras that sit awkwardly in the middle – once again, like with the NX-100 – unless they fork out more for the high-end products.
Cameras ditched film, are now dropping hard disk recording and are pushing the SD card format. The industry has previously embraced card storage, but according to Panasonic, SD is set to be the accepted standard in storage for cameras.
Panasonic’s AV Group General Manager, Motoki Nakahara, said that the latest aims for compacts and camcorders are “image quality and digital networking.” Digital networking is hitting more compact cameras through Facebook integration, though this is tends to be more of a name-drop than a practical function. Lumix Facebook uploading requires photos to be selected on the camera, the SD card inserted into a computer, and then manually thrown up onto Facebook – basically what consumers already have to do. The simplicity of this with an SD card rather than USB is making the format the top option for the industry.
Lack of 3D content is still the major obstacle for brands struggling to push their 3D TVs, so user-end content creation is becoming the bridge here. Many of the new Lumix cameras sport 3D image functionality, even with an ordinary lens with a little bit of software. The hope is that if users can create their own 3D content, they’ll buy the TVs to supplement it.