Point-and-shoot Cameras–the equivalent of the Kodak Instamatic from film days–are not selling… and the ones that have sold are sitting in drawers or on shelves, collecting dust.
Americans are taking more pictures than ever, but it’s not with their cameras, it’s with their phones. Consequently, smartphone makers continue to place a larger emphasis on camera optics, and the hardware and software seems to get better every day. Consider that the
Nokia Lumia 1020 has an incredible 41-megapixel camera that utilizes some nifty software tricks to deliver fantastic shots. Apple is also touting the power of its iPhone 5 camera in a new commercial, and these and other phones often give the casual shooter as much sophistication (and complexity) as a high-priced DSLR. Throw in the ability to send those photos to Facebook— they get 300 million new images each day—or to other sharing sites with a few clicks, plus the ever-growing list of photo-enhancement apps, and it is no surprise that smartphones are the choice for casual, and sometimes professional, photographers everywhere.
Reuters and The Wall Street Journal report that global shipments of compact point-and-shoot cameras dropped a staggering 43% for the first five months of 2013. Today, Smartphones are the camera of choice for the casual user, and with a slew of image enhancement apps one can turn a poor picture into a wow image! And when you consider that your Smartphone can deliver video, streaming media, text, e-mail, games and believe or not, some people still talk on the phone too, well it’s obvious:
Point-and-shoots are just as dead as Kodak.
David La Neve, Photographer and Managing Director of the Orange County Center for Photography and Digital Arts, has experienced the full force of the digital revolution over his 30-year career. “Phone images are wonderful,” he says. “I’ve seen and created some great work with my iPhone, and the apps can often bring life to a drab image. That’s the upside. The downside is that so can everyone else, and just like everyone else. As educators we teach that you can’t stand out from a crowd by following one.”
While point-and-shoots are passing into the same history as Instamatics and flash powder, another area of the market continues to grow. Statistics from camera manufacturers tell us that when it comes to capturing the moments that matter, or at least the ones we have time to plan for, consumers are reaching past the point-and-shoot and smartphone for more expensive, higher-quality DSLR cameras. Manufacturers shipped close to three times more high-end DSLR cameras in January of this year than they did 9 years ago.
La Neve points out that “Phoneography’s” image commoditization is also an entry point for those who have a creative outlook. “Students tell us that when they review their phone images they can feel their creative limits. They want to do more, to express what they feel and see. Many older photographers had the same feeling when we looked at our first Instamatic snapshots or made our first darkroom print. The need to develop one’s creative juices is driving the DSLR market; you can see this whenever you attend any major public event. The number of folks capturing the moment with high-end cameras is quite significant. Consequently, as visual educators we see a growing demand for photographic education across all photography and video genres.”
Smartphone optics is just one of the creative destructors that has advanced photography and La Neve puts the end of the point-and-shoot era in perspective. “Photography is an art form that has always embraced technology and technical changes. Tools come and go — for the most part, we no longer shoot on wet plates or film, and maybe the point-and-shoot camera is off the charts too. What does not change is the light, the creative spirit and the desire to express our feelings, themes and stories visually. Our number one class request is for ‘Basic DSLR Camera,’ and that is exciting because it tells me that we are embracing technology, not for technology ‘s sake, but that we still want to reach for a greater creative range.” La Neve pauses and then with a touch of irony in his voice adds, “Kodak is gone, but the need to create that special Kodak moment— well, that still lives in all of us.”