How Fast Will Smartphones / Tablets Kill Off Compact Cameras?

I’ve traveled a lot during the last few months and have noticed the same trend in the USA, Asia and Australia … sightings of compact cameras are few and far between as more tourists are taking photos with their smartphone/tablet or have stepped right up to a “serious” interchangeable lens camera.

If the compact camera industry was a ship at sea it would be taking water onboard and sinking, despite the best efforts of a bucket brigade throwing water overboard. The ships rats would have sensed the problem and swum away long beforehand.

mobile phone photography - Night laser lightshow Hong Kong harbour

While some doubt this trend I have gathered evidence which proves my hunch. In a recent article on the ABC Technology website Nick Ross pointed out that at

“my son’s recent school concert … there wasn’t one single camcorder or stills camera on display as all the parents were using phones instead.”

DxO Labs the independent industry standard for camera and lens image quality measurements projects that in the USA if measuring the number of photos taken by device type:

“2012 could be the year that mobile imaging overtakes DSC [Digital Still Camera] imaging”

Samuel Gee, Technology Analyst at market research firm Mintel recently said that in the UK market:

“Although smartphone cameras do not typically match the quality of output of dedicated devices, the technology is consistently improving, as the quality of camera image output becomes too high for consumers to reliably distinguish between competitors”.


In Japan Chief Financial Officer Toshizo Tanaka told Bloomberg a few weeks ago that Canon had cut it’s projection for net income this year by 6.4% to 234 billion yen while also lowering its sales estimate for compact cameras by 9.5% because of:

“slower economic growth and an increasing use of smartphones that’s eroding demand”.

In mid 2012 Sony announced increased total production capacity for image sensors to approximately 60,000 wafers per month to supply image sensors mainly for smartphones and in August announced the commercialization of Exmor RS. Exmor RS is the world’s first CMOS image sensor incorporating a unique, newly-developed ‘stacked structure’ facilitating higher image quality, advanced functionality and a more compact size.

Museum of Contemporary Art - Vivid Sydney 2012

Beleaguered Japanese technology giants Sony and Panasonic both saw their debt rating dropped to “junk” status by ratings agency Fitch overnight.

However Fitch saw moves like Sony’s decision to invest in mobile imaging in a positive light, believing that “improvement in the devices segment which makes semiconductors and components” would help to offset continuing weakness in the home entertainment, sound mobile products and communications segments.

Australian photography industry website Photo Counter reported that according to John Swainston, managing director of Maxwell International:

“In Australia, some 300,000 fewer cameras have been sold year to date, with an alarming 50 percent decline in compact camera sales in September”

Photocounter also quoted the CEO of Ted’s Cameras Nic Peasley confirming that while sales of low end compacts are soft, revenue from interchangable lens cameras is strong so they plan to:

“de-range the lower end of compact across our smallest stores and focus on the top end of compact and obviously on CSC [Compact System Cameras with interchangeable lenses] and DSLR. Smaller stores cannot sustain the sheer volume of cameras across all manufacturers any longer and as adventure cams and CSC have grown, shelf space is now at a premium”.

iPad photography - 2012 Sculptures By The Sea - Tamarama to Bondi walk

The view ahead for dedicated cameras to take photos within the next few years is the likely disappearance of compact cameras, an uncertain future for the fragmented Micro 4/3rds segment and stagnation or slight falls in the sales of interchangeable lens SLR cameras.

It remains to be seen whether premium compact cameras like the Sony RX100 which recently made it to Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of the Year 2012 or the recently announced 3G/WiFi capable Samsung Galaxy Camera powered by Google Android help to keep the compact camera market segment alive.

2012 Sculptures By The Sea - Tamarama to Bondi walk


One response to “How Fast Will Smartphones / Tablets Kill Off Compact Cameras?”

  1. Mark McGrouther

    Very true Neerav. I’m in Prague at the moment and using a DSLR. It takes great images that I will enjoy when I return to Sydney, but to post an image to the Web (read Facebook), it is so much easier to capture the photo with a smartphone and upload it directly.

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