HWM (Singapore) - - Think - by Hafeez Sim

Fig­ures don’t lie: the cam­era in­dus­try is bleed­ing and there’re no signs of it stop­ping. It’s widely-known that smart­phones are tak­ing the fight to point-and-shoots, and judg­ing from the re­cent dis­mal sales fig­ures it seems that smart­phones are win­ning.

96 mil­lion point-and-shoots were man­u­fac­tured in 2009, and within four years that fig­ure has dropped to less than half, at only 44 mil­lion for the year 2013.

But what’s sur­pris­ing is that mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­eras are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the pinch. When mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­eras first came onto the scene, many were hope­ful that the new cat­e­gory would help re­vive the flag­ging cam­era in­dus­try. With the cam­era in­dus­try shrink­ing, cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers looked to push mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­eras as al­ter­na­tives to both dig­i­tal com­pacts as well as DSLR cam­eras. Ini­tially mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­eras were meant to oc­cupy their own seg­ment, sep­a­rate from the dig­i­tal pointand-shoots and the larger DSLR cam­eras.

They of­fered sub­stan­tially bet­ter im­age qual­ity com­pared to smart­phones and com­pact cam­eras, while still be­ing gen­er­ally smaller and lighter than DSLR cam­eras. Small and com­pact mod­els such as the Pana­sonic Lumix GM1 of­fered smart­phone shoot­ers more in­cen­tive to up­grade as op­posed to a stan­dard com­pact, while the more pow­er­ful mod­els such as the Sony A7R ri­valled DSLR cam­eras in terms of spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Un­for­tu­nately the mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era cat­e­gory isn’t the sil­ver bul­let so­lu­tion the cam­era in­dus­try thought it was. While it has seen some growth (from 4% mar­ket share in 2012 to 5% in 2013), the mir­ror­less sys­tem seg­ment only ac­counts for a small por­tion of the pie with the cam­era in­dus­try still very much de­pen­dent on com­pact cam­eras and DSLRs. Sur­pris­ingly from 2012 to 2013, DSLR cam­eras have shown the most growth among the three cam­era cat­e­gories, with the cat­e­gory jump­ing from 16% mar­ket share to 21%.

In fact you could say that the ma­jor DSLR cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers have been hard at work. Canon re­leased the EOS 100D, which is a DSLR that’s as small as they come, while Nikon’s D800 is veer­ing into medium for­mat ter­ri­tory.

But even then, most of the ad­vance­ments in cam­era tech­nol­ogy and de­sign the last cou­ple of years have re­volved around the mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era, which has re­sulted in many mod­els to suit var­i­ous tastes and re­quire­ments. Take Olym­pus’ OM-D se­ries for ex­am­ple: it comes with good im­age qual­ity in an at­trac­tive, weather-sealed de­sign that’s cou­pled with its ac­claimed 5-axis im­age sta­bi­liza­tion. Or how about the Pana­sonic Lumix GX7, which of­fers good im­age qual­ity with an easy-to-use in­ter­face? If you want some­thing more pow­er­ful you could al­ways opt for the Sony A7R, which has a mas­sive full-frame sen­sor (36 megapix­els by the way), while still be­ing rel­a­tively com­pact com­pared to a DSLR cam­era.

So why hasn’t the mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era caught on? One of the main rea­sons seems to be the lack of knowl­edge about this par­tic­u­lar cat­e­gory. It doesn’t help that cam­era in­dus­try it­self can’t seem to set­tle on a stan­dard­ized name for the prod­uct seg­ment! While the Ja­panese have been pretty en­thu­si­as­tic about adopt­ing this new in­ter­change­able lens stan­dard, Europe and the Amer­i­can mar­ket has been less than warm about it. In fact, mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­eras only con­sti­tute 10.5% of the mar­ket in these re­gions. The U.S. in par­tic­u­lar, re­mains a strong­hold for the DSLR cam­era since im­age qual­ity is com­monly as­so­ci­ated with the size of the cam­era.

And with a gen­er­a­tion ob­sessed with self­ies and In­sta­gram, con­nec­tiv­ity is val­ued much higher than pic­ture qual­ity. This puts a dent in the am­bi­tions of many a mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era maker. With the cam­era in­dus­try get­ting blind­sided ear­lier on by the rise in smart­phone pho­tog­ra­phy, it’s a no-brainer that many man­u­fac­tur­ers are scal­ing back on their point-and-shoot mod­els. But with many ma­jor cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers sport­ing at least one mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era in their sta­ble, we can prob­a­bly say that the many of these com­pa­nies’ for­tunes are tied with the mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era’s suc­cess.

The prob­lem is many users aren’t clam­our­ing for im­proved im­age qual­ity, but how they can upload im­ages from their cam­era di­rectly onto so­cial me­dia like Face­book and In­sta­gram. This is­sue continues to plague mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers and with many of them in the red, the mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era might be go­ing the way of the dodo if a so­lu­tion or a com­pro­mise isn’t found soon.

"The prob­lem is many users aren’t clam­our­ing for im­proved im­age qual­ity, but how they can upload im­ages from their cam­era di­rectly onto so­cial me­dia like Face­book and In­sta­gram.”

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