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[January 26, 2014]
Cashing in on all-in-one compacts [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) DESPITE the onslaught of dSLRs and camera-ready smartphones, one company remains focused on the premium compact camera market, writes Nicholas King.
Experts will tell you that the best cameras are the large dSLRs - digital single-lens reflex cameras.
What they may have failed to mention is how you don't necessarily need one unless you are a professional.
That's not inclusive of how bulky, complex and expensive an investment they can get before you get the best image quality you want.
As the saying goes, "the best camera is the one that is always with you", and recent trends suggest that consumers may have realised that the massive dSLRs don't fit the bill mainly because they are just too cumbersome for the layman to handle.
A recent finding from market intelligence firm International Data Corporation seems to support the notion.
"You're talking about a 10-15 per cent decline in dSLR shipments all over the world - which is shocking because that market's been growing double digits for almost 10 years," said its research director of worldwide digital imaging Christopher Chute.
But this decline of dSLRs goes across the board. Last December, IDC released findings of a drop in digital camera sales worldwide - inclusive of compact and mirrorless cameras - with a hint that smartphones having more than capable in-built cameras.
"Today's consumer market has two major selling points: networking and quality," said Casio Singapore managing director Watanabe Shunichi.
"With a smartphone, you can get decent photos and instant sharing on-the-go. It is why they are so popular. You can take selfies - also known as self-portraits with a camera - and snapshots at anytime, anywhere with no additional equipment and instantly share them on social media. It is just so fast and easy!" Casio recently stated that it was in fact doing well amid ailing digital camera sales by only focusing on compact cameras. The strategy is probably what's keeping it in the game. Call it calculated risk and knowing your strengths.
"We were asked to venture into the mirrorless camera segment but felt that wasn't Casio's direction to go to.
We have always specialised in compact cameras and we are determined to continually innovate this particular segment," says Shunichi.
"Many who buy into mirrorless cameras soon find themselves facing a similar issue which plagues large dSLRs that at the end of the day, it is about changeable lens which means more spending and time.
"It also takes knowledge and skill to work a mirrorless camera efficiently, which again doesn't solve the use of larger dSLRs but rather just make them slightly more compact." Shunichi adds that "speed and ease of use has become a major factor in the market with the other being pricing and the economics behind mirrorless cameras that put them at odds with what they are meant to achieve.
"It is not as mobile as a compact camera and it requires additional peripherals like lenses and flash to expand its potential. In the end not only are you carrying around the same number of things a professional photographer will be carrying but you will also be paying a lot more for something that should be more mobile and convenient.
"The market for dSLRs and mirrorless will always be there," explains Shunichi. "But with all the complexities behind them and not many actually making use of their full potential, expect those segments to become even more niche with general consumers looking elsewhere.
"In the end, people prefer to just select the best pictures taken out of the bunch that were shot rather than relying on a photo editor to beautify their picture in post-editing." Only time will tell how successful Casio's philosophy may hold out but for now consumer trend suggests that it may be heading in the right direction.
Meanwhile, its push into the premium compact camera market gains further momentum with the launch of its Exilim camera EX-10 in Singapore last week. Touted as the world's first Dual-Combination Bracketing Function camera, it gives an instant variety of nine images - all taken under different settings from focus, aperture, brightness, white balance, contrast and saturation, with a single touch of the shutter button.
Other notable features of the 12 megapixel digital camera are 4x optical zoom, 28mm wide angle zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f1.8 and 5-axis image stabilisation function complete with a 1/1.7- inch backlit CMOS image sensor. It also features in-built WiFi with a 3.5 inch tilt-screen.
The company, whose Exilim cameras have been rather quiet in Malaysia for the past two years, chose to make a comeback to the region, believing premium is the new frontier of compact cameras in general.
"User friendly and non-interchangeable save time for picture- taking as it eliminates the need for lens and mode adjusting," says Shunichi.
"What better way to deliver a better end-user experience by easing usability but still providing the same image quality you expect from superior cameras?" "This will help with the declining compact camera market." The EX-10 comes at a retail price of RM2,700.
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