What Camera Companies Must Do to Compete With Phone Photography

Phone photography
The camera market is sinking faster than the Titanic, and phone photography’s popularity is part of the reason why.

We know this is not new news, but the camera market is continuing to tank, and for the first time, the Mirrorless camera market has taken a hit too. The epic rise of phone camera technology and computational photography is part of the reason why. The other part of the equation is camera manufacturers aren’t doing enough to bring mobile photographers into the dedicated camera fold. After the break, we will take a look at the numbers and talk about what Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and others need to do to win over the hearts of those who think their phone is good enough.

A recent post at 43rumors shared the latest CIPA reports that cover the month of August, and they do not make for pleasant reading. While the camera market has been in free fall, August represents the first month that even Mirrorless camera sales were down compared to the same time last year. It’s not by a vast margin (0.8%), but it’s down none the less. Mirrorless cameras are now in the same boat as the other faltering camera categories.

portrait lenses

There are a couple of reasons for this. Cameras have become so good that photographers simply don’t see the need to upgrade as quickly as before. For instance, the A7R IV is an excellent camera, but the incremental boost in resolution isn’t enough to justify purchasing it if you already own an A7R III. Secondly, smartphone cameras are seen by the masses as being good enough. The point-and-shoot market is in a truly terrible state right now. Sales are down 25% compared to the same period as last year. If we could break it down further, I’m sure that entry-level camera sales are down too.

Camera manufacturers like Fujifilm, Canon, and others continue to release cameras aimed squarely at those who practice phone photography. Yet, none of these cameras (like the Fujifilm X-A7 and the Canon M200) offer any features that entice people to buy them. The same can be said for cameras like the Sony A6100 and the X-T30. They are great interchangeable lens cameras, but apart from that, they don’t offer anything that would make smartphone photographers get excited. And that’s the problem: there is no real innovation in the camera space.

What is the solution? I hate to keep harking on about this, but the obvious thing is to bring smartphone features into new cameras. Why can I go to a home improvement store and buy a fridge (a freaking fridge!) with built-in apps and internet access, but I can’t buy a camera that offers the same? It’s 2019 for Pete’s sake. The great thing about smartphone cameras and smartphone photography is that the user can take a picture, edit it in Lightroom Mobile, and then instantly post it online to a gaggle of social media sites. Getting your work out there is as easy as 1-2-3.

Phone photography

If camera manufacturers want to win over smartphone photographers and start turning around the declining camera market, this is the absolute least that needs to be offered in new cameras. We’re not talking about new technology. Camera manufacturers don’t need to re-invent the wheel, they simply need to purchase the parts for data connections, and develop an OS that allows access to an app store.

Android is open source and camera manufacturers don’t even need to spend money to license it. If they wanted to use Google services, they would have to pay for that. Still, they could quite easily make their own app stores that offered Snapseed, Lightroom Mobile, The Photographers Ephemeris, Stellaris, and a host of other apps photographers would find useful. Once the convenience factors are implemented, photographers who have relied on their smartphones for photography would likely be more willing to invest in a dedicated camera geared and marketed towards them.

Phone photography

Do these features need to make their way into all cameras? No. Those who work in the industry won’t need features like this. The main reason the camera market is in a downward spiral is that the once prominent point-and-shoot market is dead due to phone photography. It’s not because pro-level cameras are faltering. Update the point-and-shoot and entry-level segments with cameras that can do what smartphones can do (but with far superior image quality), and money will start rolling in again. Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, et al., take the fight to Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc. and win your customers back. Innovate and create new products that will excite the masses and things will turn around.