Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is the Point and Shoot Digital Camera Dead?

As much as I enjoy personal technology, it's rare that I'll walk into an electronics store such as Best Buy and just look around. But I happened to do just that over the weekend, and while there I spent a few minutes browsing around all the different departments, looking at the latest and greatest they had to offer. When I went over to check out the digital cameras I marveled at how far they've come along...it's hard to believe that they keep getting smaller but even more feature rich, and at prices that are lower than ever before - here's an example of the one of the newest Canon's about to be released. But what was even more striking is the fact that during the time I was looking at cameras, not one other customer wandered over to that department. Now granted, I was there for only about 5 minutes or so, but if you've ever walked into your local Best Buy you know just how much foot traffic those stores generate, especially during weekends. But the lack of camera interest from other customers was very enlightening and confirms what I had already been thinking for some time now....Point and Shoot digital cameras are a dying breed.

I've mentioned in previous blog entries that we now live an era where accessibility is often more important than functionality, and taking pictures is another great example of that. I used to keep my trusty Canon SD700 packed permanently in my briefcase, in case I ever felt the urge or need to take a picture. But several months ago, after realizing that I was using my camera phone for pretty much all spur-of-the-moment picture taking, I decided to unpack it and it rarely has been touched since then. If you go out on the street today and see people at restaurants, sporting events and family gatherings you'll notice that the majority of them are now taking pictures with their camera phones instead of with standalone cameras. And they are doing so because: 1) it's easier not to have to carry around an extra device; 2) the emergence of killer smartphones such as the iPhone and Nexus One; 3) camera phone technology keeps getting better and better (btw the Nexus One's built-in camera is pretty stellar); and 4) within a matter of seconds the picture or video you've just taken can be uploaded to Facebook or YouTube and instantly shared with anyone. Now, before someone starts declaring that camera phones are not intended for serious photo use, please note that I am only talking casual use here...and that is why I focus specifically on the point and shoot variety of cameras.

Need more proof? I recently stumbled across this great webpage from Flickr which breaks down camera usage on their site by type, brand, etc...I've taken the liberty of including some of their screenshots here:

The graph above shows the most popular cameras being used across all of Flickr, and as you can see the iPhone is already at the very top, with a number of digital SLR's taking up the other top positions.

This graph shows the most popular point and shoot cameras. You can clearly see that the popularity of these cameras is waning over time.

Much like the standalone GPS companies, camera manufacturers should either focus on partnerships with handset manufacturers or concentrate their efforts in competing successfully in the DSLR or other "high end" camera categories. Traditional point and shoot is going to be dead before you know it.

What do you all think?