The iPhone Killed The Camera Lah

I was just browsing through the net when I found Om Malik’s post on the standalone camera being shot (dead) by the iPhone.1 Now, if you were wondering who Om Malik is, he is the founder of the popular site. You see, the writing has been on the wall for sometime. The iPhone isn’t killing the camera. No, the iPhone killed the camera. And for extra effects to the tune of the song, ‘Video killed the Radio Star’, its the iPhone killed the camera lah (to the tune of the song).

We have written a series of posts on the decline of cameras and reasons plus countermeasures that Japanese camera makers could take. We at TechGarage have been concerned, as our primary business deals with camera accessories, and the decline in sales for cameras have affected the sales for camera accessories. On the part of camera dealers and distributors of Malaysia, it has been baffling and yet worrying, as interchangeable lens camera sales, which has been strong, was suddenly affected by some unknown factor.

The iPhone Killed The Camera : Introduction

Before we continue on whether the iPhone killed the camera, let us tell you what this house supports.

  1. Have camera sales been totally decimated? Not really.
  2. Will it affect you, if you are a pro photographer? Not really for now. But it might just do so in the near future.
  3. Will standalone cameras be obsolete soon? Not exactly, but it will be in the hands of non-pro photographers in the near future

iphone vs camera

Now, before we get into a debate and start saying stuff like, ‘The iPhone can’t take this type of shots that by Canon, Nikon or Fuji camera could’ or ‘Nobody uses the iPhone for serious photography’, let us look at the statistics and come up with a conclusion. After all, if the standalone camera could fulfil the needs of the masses, why are camera getting worse, with each passing year?

In one of our previous post, Five Reasons The Camera Lost Its Mojo, we explained on Instagram and the workflow, the rise in quality of iPhone cameras, rising debts and the lack of a compelling need to upgrade. We even presented you with graphs and figures.

With the latest figures from the Camera & Imaging Products Association, we have even addressed the issue of sales and reasons why the everyday photographer prefers using the iPhone as camera, instead of standalone cameras, when we wrote the article about ‘Camera Malaysia : Why Aren’t you Shooting?’ Also, we have previously asked the question on what Canon and Nikon could learn from the iPhone back in 2013. If only they listened, or made some changes back then.

Thus, instead of repeating ourselves and sound like a broken record, perhaps you would prefer to read through these articles before proceeding with this article.

The iPhone Killed The Camera : Better Workflow

If you have handled a smart phone in recent times, especially the iPhone, you would have realised how much improvements the iPhone’s camera has gone through. With every iteration, photographs are no longer just good enough, but really good, full stop.

But other than just being good, taking a photo with the iPhone and sharing it on the social media is just so easy. With my Mac, the photos snap ends up on the iCloud, which then syncs immediately to my laptop. In comparison, standalone cameras are still clunky. While some of the latest DSLRs have wi-fi, the process of syncing, editing and then uploading photos is downright frustrating and time consuming.

And while professionals might say it is part and parcel of photography, for the majority, it just presents unneeded work

The iPhone Killed The Camera : Unwilling To Innovate

Palm PDAs, BlackBerry, Nokia and Kodak. What are the similarities between these two companies? An unwillingness to innovate, and the greed to continue milking the industry without improving their product offerings. Once something better comes up, something more user friendly, affordable or simply better, they live in years of denial before going down the drain.

Has camera sales totally decimated? No. But will it? We believe so. That the age of standalone cameras are coming to an end. And with it, many camera shops, camera manufacturers and camera accessories makers. When we sounded the alarm bells back in 2012, some labelled us as speculative, vindictive or just day dreamers. But the truth of the matter was that, we saw that Apple had a winner in the form of the iPhone, and standalone cameras will be another victim of the convergence of technology.

Take a look at mp3 players, calculators, drum machines, radio, alarm clocks, notebook, calendar, address book, Game Boy, Tower Records and others. And then add standalone cameras to the list. The interesting thing is that, you didn’t hear fanboys crying out when Tower Records went bankrupt, as people switched over to iTunes and iPod, which got replaced by the iPhone themselves. Neither did the industry cry foul when Nintendo’s Game Boy sale was affected by affordable, yet easy to purchase iOS games.2

You see, for camera shops, camera manufacturers and camera accessories makers to survive, there must be a radical shift in thinking. If camera accessories makers continue playing the blame game and look for new distributors every now and then due to pressures of sales, they will eventually fail. Shops will continue to focus on selling high margin items to make up for falling sales. And in the end of the day, both camera shops and camera accessories manufacturers won’t survive.

I remember those days where we had numerous video rental shops when cable TV first landed in Malaysia. Having grown up with these video rental shops, it was painful to see crowds dwindling and the shops eventually shutting down. But the writing was on the wall for sometime.

The iPhone Killed The Camera : Conclusion

It always pains us when something we love, ends. And in the same way, what can camera manufacturers do? Previously, before Google’s Project Ara and Apple’s twin lens patent was announced, I was filled with hope that an integration with Android and 3G, would have solved the problem. But the opportunity went by. Now, perhaps creating lenses for the iPhone or some kind of system like Moment’s Kickstarter project,3 would save them. Camera Accessories makers would need to step up their game and not just hope on selling overpriced camera bags, camera straps, camera tripods and filters, but look long and hard at user interface, design, packaging and even marketing.

Will the professional photographer be affected by the iPhone? Eventually yes. If sales continue to drop and the iPhone continues to improve their cameras, eventually it might not make financial sense for Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony nor Olympus to continue making cameras. After all, just like other dead technology, nobody continues manufacturing laser discs nor cassette players.

What can you, the photographer do? Well, if your shots are solely reliant on the lens you use (and we know how easy it is to hide behind bokeh and ultra wide angles), perhaps it is time to work on your skills. Also, if you are planning to invest in camera and lenses, perhaps waiting till the dust settles would be better, as you wouldn’t want the system you have invested in to be obsolete within a few years.

Last but not least, do consider iPhoneography. Follow us here on TechGarage as we bring you the latest updates on the state of cameras in Malaysia and photography.

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