Back in 2009, I was finishing an internship with Magnum Photos while simultaneously freelancing at Geek.com. Photo Plus was a magical place to a college kid back then. You could meet so many people, make a ton of connections, and discover new stuff. That was the year Casio created a camera that offered some serious innovations. While the DSLR world was touting their fast frame rates, Casio was creating compact cameras with insanely high-speed shutters. Some of them looked like DSLRs but were actually compact cameras with big lenses. Indeed, Casio had a lot of great things going for them, but they ultimately pulled out of the camera business in 2018.
Think about it; how often do you hear photographers waxing poetically about their Casio cameras? Probably not often. But that’s not because they didn’t make good cameras; it’s more because they didn’t aim higher when they should’ve. Casio didn’t diversify. If the company had joined the Four Thirds coalition they probably could’ve made cameras with a super-fast shutter speed. Folks would’ve gone crazy for something like this. And more importantly, they’d have a full range of lenses to include with their cameras. But instead, Casio focused on compact cameras. This was the same strategy HP and a few others had. Remember General Electric cameras? No, I didn’t think so.
Back in the day, innovative cameras like the Exilim EX-F1 Pro could shoot 60fps, had in-body image stabilization, and shot 1080p video. That’s when the multimedia journalist was starting to bloom, and a camera like that could’ve been perfect. However, the Canon 5D Mk II and the Nikon D90 stole the spotlight with their interchangeable lenses and larger sensor. Just like today, bigger sensors meant better image quality. And it’s easier to market a bigger sensor.
Casio, in the grand scheme of things, was doomed to fail despite making some serious innovations in the compact camera world. The reason for this is the narrow focus. By 2018, when they announced they were exiting the camera industry, smartphones became the norm. With that happening, why would someone bother to buy a Casio camera? You could make a good argument for a mirrorless camera with great tech inside or something with a large sensor. But Casio didn’t do any of that.
The plunge of the point-and-shoot camera made Casio exit the business. No one was interested in point-and-shoot cameras, and even fewer people were interested in a small camera manufacturer.
So besides entering the Micro Four Thirds alliance, how else could Casio have survived? Well, there were a few years where Pentax was in serious limbo. Casio could’ve bought Pentax and gotten into working with them in some ways. Who knows; we probably would’ve had something similar to Sony’s purchase of Minolta happening. Casio K-Mount has a wonderful ring to it.
Is it sad that Casio is gone and out of the camera industry? Yes. The camera industry needed more strong companies to propel innovation. But that’s probably going to continue slowing down as time goes on. Camera companies need to evolve and diversify. Casio, for sure, wasn’t the exception to that rule.