The days of the traditional camera are numbered. The words ‘film’ and ‘developed’ fell into disuse years ago, but even digital cameras aren’t surviving the rise of mobile devices. If you still have that camera that someone gave you for your first communion or your birthday as a kid, don’t throw it out! In a few years it might be a rare collector’s item.
The camera’s nosedive
According to the speciality website LensVid, 121 million cameras were sold in 2010, but this number has dropped to 19 million in 2018. The camera’s days are numbered, and manufacturers know it. Fujio Mitarai, the president of Canon, claims that the market will continue to fall until it plateaus out at salesof 5 to 6 million cameras per year.
It’s the smartphone’s fault…
Photography has become one of the biggest fields of competition among smartphone manufacturers. We want the best camera and we base our decision about which phone to buy on which phone has the best one. Xiaomi knows this, having just launched their first 108 megapixel smartphone with 5 cameras. The company is also collaborating with Samsung to develop a sensor that will have the same resolution as a top of the range digital reflex camera.
And these days we don’t just take pixels into account. There’s the focal aperture, stabilisation, sensors, burst mode, wide-angle, 4K video etc. Users know all of these things are important, and they want them all. And the cherry on top are the hundreds of apps available to edit and improve your photos.
…and social media’s fault too
We don’t take photos to keep them in albums and show them to visitors anymore. Our habits have changed, and we take photos to share them with the whole world on social networks like Instagram, which has more than 1 billion users. Even photography fans have caved and the most used cameras on Flickr are iPhone cameras. Smartphones also allow us to create short videos for apps like Tik Tok, which are very successful with younger audiences.
How can the camera survive the smartphone?
Camera manufacturers are counting on professionals to ensure the survival of cameras, although professionals are also using their mobiles alongside their cameras more and more. Even National Geographic has jumped on the bandwagon by publishing three photo stories that had images taken using a smartphone. Even Robert Capa himself may have been disloyal to his Leica on occasion, having used the advantages of mobile photography.
Travellers are another niche that is resisting the change. According to a study by Waynabox, 36% of those surveyed confirmed that they prefer to use a camera on their trips.
After Polaroid folded in 2008, the company rose from the ashes by focusing on the instant camera market, which allows for immediate photo printing, competing with the Instax cameras from Japanese company Fuji as well as Kodak’s instant camera options.
Will there come a time when the big camera manufacturers like Nikon and Canon will have to close their doors?