September 10, 2019

Is this the Death of Digital Cameras?

Pholiota squarossa, shot with the Nikon Coolpix.
On a hunting trip last fall, I lost my camera.

But aside from a really artistic shot of aspen-bark graffiti, which would have appeared on this world-famous blog, I was not too brokenhearted. It had cost me only a little more than $20 on eBay.

Two years ago, I did a little smartphone-versus-pocket digital camera field test, "iPhone versus Pentax Point-and-Shoot," followed by a musing on cost-versus-speed of access, "The Smartphone vs. the Pocket Camera, Revisited." 

Now I have a different iPhone (an SE, not the latest, but I like the pocket size) and a second little Nikon Coolpix off eBay, probably at least a decade old. The Nikon still wins for cost, spot-metering, and genuine optical zoom. The iPhone . . . well, Instagram.

Even that retro set-up is increasingly post-retro. The digital camera market — both high-end and low-end — is in free fall.

Camera sales are continuing to falling off a cliff. The latest data from the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) shows them in a swoon befitting a Bollywood roadside Romeo. All four big camera brands — Sony, Fuji, Canon, and Nikon — are reposting rapid declines. And it is not just the point and shoot cameras whose sales are collapsing. We also see sales of higher-end DSLR cameras stall. And — wait for it — even mirrorless cameras, which were supposed to be a panacea for all that ails the camera business, are heading south. 
Meanwhile, in the acoustic world, vinyl records may soon outsell CDs. So who knows what will happen next. (Vinyl represents 4 percent of all music sales, to put it in perspective.)


Pat, Marcus & Alexis said...

Sorry to be thick (my coffee hasn't fully kicked in this morning), but are you saying then, that the digital phone camera is muscling everything else aside? I'm not quite following.

I'm a Pentax fan and one of the rare users of a Pentax DSLR full frame for "serious photographs". I was pondering picking up a Ricoh WG-50, which is a descendant of a Pentax point and shoot, for packing around while fishing etc. in part because I'm not a real fan of my Iphone camera, but then I keep my Iphones until they're hopelessly outdated.

I never left vinyl completely, so I feel like such a trend setter now.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Yes, that is what I am saying. Have a look at the graphs in the linked article. Also consider the capabilities of the new iPhone 11 Pro Camera, to name just one. Really, the one thing that real glass lenses can get you is more control of zooming and depth of field, but the smartphones are more and more impressive.

Woody Meristem said...

The cheap digital camera with limited capabilities may be on the way out, but for any photographer who needs a telephoto the smartphone will not do. High quality DSLRs are capable of taking about 1,500,000 pictures before they fail, the superzooms are good for about 100,000. No smartphone user will ever come close to that many images and if they do they'll switch to a real camera.