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Analysts Look To ILCs, Photo Printing For 2014 Profits

LAS VEGAS — The smartphone continued to take its toll on plans of camera manufactures in 2013, setting a stage for 2014 that is expected to pursue photo enthusiasts and prosumers to a greater degree.

That was the assessment of leading category analysts, who observed lower-than-expected sales of both point-and-shoot and entry interchangeable-lens camera categories as more specialized professional-grade models tallied the little growth the industry enjoyed last year.

“2013 was the year the market moved solidly towards professionalization,” noted Chris Chute, IDC research worldwide digital imaging director. “Consumers are now solidly using smartphones for everyday image capture, resulting in a market that revolves around ultra-zoom models, many with more than 20x, and interchangeablelens cameras.”

“We see a focus in advertising from Apple, Samsung and Nokia on their phones’ cameras,” said Benjamin Arnold, NPD executive director and industry analyst. “Add to that a variety of popular photo-sharing apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic, and places to share images like Facebook, and the smartphone has become intrinsically linked to a new age in digital photography. This is one of the biggest challenges to the camera market, given that DSLR is down by 8 percent — how to better connect photographers, users of actual cameras, to the online places they want to share their images.”

Even interchangeable-lens cameramodels faced challenges, the analysts said, as IDC research reported the segment saw deep discounts — such as the Nikon D7000 at $749 at Best Buy — driving 2013 holiday sales. But, Chute said, such practices are “unsustainable in the long term.”

Moving forward into 2014, IDC expects vendors to further reduce the number of models they introduce throughout the year, and focus on ultra-zoom models at higher introductory price points than in years past, and refocus on the mid- to high-end DSLR space, Chute said.

IDC also expects similar moves from vendors in the mirrorless compact system camera (CSC) category.

“Mirrorless models are being purchased by enthusiast photographers, and we expect there to be more competitiveness in the $1,000 to $2,000 space” across both DSLR and CSCs, Chute said.

Arnold said just around 8 percent of DSLR cameras sold in the past 12 months are Wi-Fi-enabled, marking a clear trend for 2014.

“Given how large the Cloud looms in photography today, my opinion is this is a very low number. That said, I expect more DSLR cameras that will come out over the next 12 months will be Wi-Fi- or even 4G-enabled,” Arnold predicted.

He added that the Samsung Galaxy camera is likely the first of many more connected cameras to hit the market.

Meanwhile, the new Sony QX-series lens camera is an indicator of a new direction camera companies will take to play off of the smartphone challenge.

Other opportunities for retailers this year, according to Arnold, will come from smartphone output printing and creating connections between new photo apps “and how they might exist outside of the Cloud or off of a screen, and perhaps that becomes a component somehow of the camera purchase.”

“One common concern I hear from retailers is how to get consumers to think about the photo aisle after they buy a camera,” Arnold continued. “Things like printing or offering educational resources (as much as that can resonate with a particular store’s core consumer) are ways to do that. But overall, I think consumers are taking more photos, just not with traditional cameras — camera makers need to embrace online more and demonstrate the benefits of using a camera.”