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Entry Level Fades As Smartphones Flourish

TWICE: With smartphones improved and entrenched as they are, what should we expect from the entry level point-and-shoot business?

Bo Kajiwara, Nikon: As an imaging leader, Nikon will continue to innovate to attract new consumers, and embrace the technology that constitutes an added value to the consumer. Nikon’s core focus will always remain on image quality, and this is still a value that camera phones cannot challenge. We recently added to our CoolPix line the P7700, S01 and S800c that each offer distinct benefits and have been very well received. Nikon is committed to offering added value to consumers in the form of superior optics, low-light capabilities and new camera technologies that fulfill the photographers’ need.

Nikon recognizes there is a consumer need to instantly share high-quality images. Consumers are heavily sharing photos and videos through social communities, and capturing photos with multiple devices. Nikon is constantly innovating to meet the needs of the consumer to easily share content and the new S800c is the perfect example of this. We have brought together Nikon image technologies such as a 10x glass Nikkor lens and CMOS sensor with an Android operating system to give consumers the ability to share content and use mobile apps right from their Nikon camera. Additionally, the D3200 has the ability to share wirelessly when connected to the WU-1a adapter with its free companion application.

Stefan Guelpen, Panasonic: Outside of long zoom and tough, this segment will continue to shrink at a very fast pace and will eventually go away.

We will continue to focus on cameras that offer clear and distinct advantages over smartphones. We will also deploy Wi-Fi technology that takes advantage of smartphones and doesn’t compete with them.

Ron Gazzola, Samsung: Smartphone penetration will continue to have an impact on the entry-level point-and-shoot segment. The good news is that more and more consumers understand that a smartphone can’t deliver the image quality, depth of field and ability to zoom that a good camera can. We expect continued growth from cameras that deliver a better photographic experience. Samsung’s Smart camera lineup provides consumers the best of both worlds – all of the critical picture-taking benefits consumers want in their camera coupled with the ability to share their images seamlessly through Wi-Fi directly from the camera.

Samsung is the market share leader in handheld phones and in smartphones. We are also the marketshare leader in smart TVs. As a leader in wireless we recognized the trend earlier than our competitors and have embraced the consumer’s desire to add connectivity and control into our line of Smart cameras. With Wi-Fi embedded in the camera, consumers can take full advantage of our Smart cameras’ ability to seamlessly share their images with their smartphone, tablet or smart TV.

Mark Sherengo, Pentax: We noticed the smartphone trend about two years ago and aligned ourselves to offer better technology solutions than smartphone manufacturers currently offer today.

Smartphones had the impact we expected [last year]. Our shift in products was a direct result of our expectations. Having other manufacturers compete in the categories we selected to focus on validates our choices in category shift.

Scott W. Hardy, Polaroid: We are already seeing, and expect to continue to see, the proliferation of smartphones driving innovation in the entry-level point-and-shoot segment. In order to make entry-level cameras that are viable and desirable, manufacturers absolutely must incorporate new features and functionalities that are not available in smartphones or that are far superior to what a smartphone can deliver.

There’s no debate more and more consumers are taking more photos and videos today. This is a direct result of incorporating a camera into a smartphone device. At the same time, while more people are snapping photos on the fly with their phones, it’s out of convenience and there’s little to no expectation of quality whereas there’s no denying for a special event, vacation, or photo enthusiast, a smartphone camera will not suffice.

Paul Meyhoefer, General Imaging: We see more legacy manufacturers exiting the entry-level point-and-shoot business and our GE camera brand becoming even further entrenched as a solid option for affordability and performance.

Liz Cutting, NPD: The sub-$100 camera business was about one-fifth of compact camera units in the second quarter of 2012, but is no doubt on the retreat. NPD’s household penetration study showed that more affluent households had a larger decrease in ownership of compact cameras than the less affluent. It is likely that more affluent households are simultaneously moving up into interchangeable lens cameras and using their smartphones in place of a lower end camera. The $100 to $149 price point was less hard hit in the second quarter of 2012, but it’s really just the niche of $400-plus that’s actually growing. If the camera has the features consumers are seeking, they’re willing to pay the price.

Chris Chute, IDC: These types of cameras will go away, as top vendors focus more on higher-margin cameras that provide specific value. So long zooms, prosumer models and ILCs [will grow]. Starting with Q4 last year, the smartphone effect has come on dramatically. Because of both the tsunami and Thai flooding, and that the camera industry ignored the threat from smartphones for so long, a lot of ground and mindshare was ceded to Apple, Google and the like. The decline in compact camera sales is accelerating, not tapering off. At the same time, demand for smartphones and tablets is increasing. That tells me there is an effect. Particularly since mobile services like Instagram are really taking off with mainstream consumers.