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Home >> Camera Phones: Challenger Or Chump?
TWICE:Cellphones with camera attachments are hot. Is this is a threat for 'traditional' digital cameras, an opportunity, or a harmless sideshow?
Young: I'm probably the only person in the room who represents a company that's in both categories. So I brought my Sony Erickson camera phone. Now, I just took a picture of Susan [takes picture]. It took about five seconds, and I can now e-mail that. It's minimal quality and it's a little tiny lens, so it's very slow and doesn't do very well in this low light. But that will continue to improve. Does that make it a substitute for a camera? Yes and no. It gives you an opportunity to take pictures because you happen to have the device with you.
And yet I can pull out this little camera [holds up a Sony U20] and I can be ready literally in one second to take a picture. And this is a 2-megapixel camera, so it's decent enough to make a 4-by-6 print and it has a real focusing lens and a real exposure system and all that.
Will consumers find [camera-equipped cellphones] inadequate as cameras? Yes, they will, and they will continue to find them inadequate as real cameras for quite some time, because the interface is designed as a phone. If this thing doesn't work well as a phone, I don't want it. If it's okay as a camera, that's good enough. But this [holds up the U20] has to work great as a camera. Right now, these things all co-exist.
Grossman: I don't think that when someone's going out looking for a camera now, they're going to look at a camera phone and say that's going to be my camera. I think it adds a lot of fun to the category. I don't think that the camera industry should necessarily worry about it, because I don't think that people are comparing the two. I don't think one replaces the other and I don't think it ever will.
Arnette: I agree, I think it's more like a market development activity, it increases the awareness and gives people the choice but then when it's time to have a real camera, they go buy a true, dedicated digital camera. Look how long it took the industry to combine a telephone with a PDA. They tried for between five and eight years and the ones today are either optimized as a telephone or optimized as a PDA and not any of them on the market really hit both design criteria head-on.
Sienkiewicz: I think it's still too early to tell. I think all the technological shortcomings [of camera-equipped cell phones] can be easily overcome if the consumer demands it. What Greg has in front of him with the U20, five years ago that would've been impossible to do, that size, and that fast of a start-up time, but that was truly market driven. I think we have to consider the camera phone as a viable alternative, in the future, to a camera.
Schaffer: Memories happen every day. They happen when somebody has their cellphone out and they might not happen to have their camera with them. So I go back to the issue of options, and digital imaging, because it can be incorporated in so many products, in so many ways, just enhances and increases the options that the consumer has. We think there is a great opportunity within the [cellular] market, not only in terms of capturing memories, but also in being able to support it with wireless services to help people enjoy their images even more. That's an area that we are working on very aggressively.
Maciag: It's a way to enhance communications. And that's a tech-savvy consumer that's buying that phone and he's using it because he likes it, it's something new to the market. But that person also has a digital camera and probably a fairly expensive digital camera, because he's been out in the market place looking for the latest and the greatest.
Carr: We're tracking the camera phone phenomena, which I think is fantastic, and we're seeing the market leader is Japan. It's had a significant impact on one-time use cameras. It's also made a significant impact on the youth market. They're not using that phone to share moments or memories, though, they're using them to communicate. In instances where before they would go to a pay phone to call their mom, now they show her a quick picture and say: Here I am, I'm okay, mom.
Sienkiewicz: My cellphone is so old-fashioned, it still has a rotary dial. It certainly does not take pictures. But I think the advent of cellphones with built-in cameras has been strongly influenced by people who no longer put any special reverence or intrinsic value on the image itself. It is very temporarily, very transit, and that's fine. In many instances, I'll take your picture with my cellphone and I'll send it to you and you'll look at it and you'll delete it. So it changes the whole purpose of photography.