Smartphones are changing the picture for camera sales

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)December 19, 2013 

People are taking more photographs than ever, nearly 400 billion this year, yet sales of cameras are shrinking.

Overall, global shipments of digital cameras have fallen 30 percent this year, according to Christopher Chute, research director of worldwide digital imaging at IDC, a market intelligence firm. Camera stores are closing, and those that remain are emphasizing customer service or high-end products as they fight to stay relevant.

“It’s especially shocking because this was a market that until recently was growing by double digits,” he said. “This is the beginning of the collapse for cameras.”

And the obvious reason for the decline? The ubiquitous smartphone — a combination mobile phone, personal computer, data storage unit and camera, small enough to fit in a pocket. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. homes now have one, compared with 70 percent of homes that own more than one camera, according to The NPD Group. But while digital camera sales fell by nearly a third this year, smartphone sales are expected to rise more than 32 percent.

Amanda Brady of Castle Rock Township, Minn., recently purchased Nokia’s new Lumia 1020 smartphone with a camera that sports 41 megapixels. She uses it for shots of her artwork to put on Etsy. com but also for nature pics during a recent family vacation to the Black Hills.

“We print quite often, and they don’t look pixelated,” she said.

It’s a culture shift that many believe started with the release of Apple’s iPhone 4 and 4S in 2010-2011, the first smartphones to have a backlit-illuminated sensor to produce brighter pictures with accurate colors to rival the quality of a decent point-and-shoot.

While sales of point-and-shoots have dropped the most, sales of single lens reflex cameras also have started to decline, although not as much. Sales through October were down 8 percent this year, said Ben Arnold, industry analyst at The NPD Group in Virginia.

Camera manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon, whose stocks have lost more than half their value since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, tried to stop the free fall this holiday season with aggressive markdowns.

Even sales of the new highly touted mirrorless cameras, which were expected to see 15 percent to 20 percent growth on Black Friday weekend, fell 1.5 percent.

While the camera industry hoped consumers would still buy traditional cameras for better-quality pictures, consumers instead seek the software that allows them unlimited, immediate sharing on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram, mobile image editing and manipulation, and cloud-based backup. “Image quality is now second to connectivity to Web services like Facebook,” Chute said.

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service