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Andrew Reid

Camera stores disappearing

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So in my personal experience...

Just in Berlin two great stores I regularly visited have simply disappeared in the month I was away!

So sad to see Photo-Stade go. He was always a true enthusiast and owned an FS7 :)

In the bigger retailers for the first time the camera sections have been shunted to the back of the floor or in some cases an upper floor instead of ground/first.

Even at Manchester airport I noticed the cameras had been moved to the back.

If Canon and Nikon don't get their finger out soon and start innovating and winning back smartphone users the whole industry is going to suffer, not just the corporate giants (who can move into medical and other profitable sections and survive just fine). It's the whole ecosystem that's at stake.

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@Andrew Reid

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If Canon and Nikon don't get their finger out soon and start innovating and winning back smartphone users the whole industry is going to suffer

My generation (16-20 years old) has ZERO interest in using proper video/photo cameras. ZERO...All people use extensively their smartphones, they want it "as simple as possible" and aim to post as fast as possible the results on social media. Facebook is for many young people BS, Instagram and SnapChat are nowadays king...An own website/blog? Muahaha....It has to be quick and dirty...NO EFFORTS (saving for buy, handling, shooting, editing, education, etc.), please...

"Winning back smartphone users"? This would be really hard (and costly) to do, as young users are generally lazy and don't want to spend any time with fiddling and properly operating a camera. The formula simply is: "As simple and automated as possible to shoot and share".

And never forget the costs: Most of my colleagues spend 30-50 EUR / month for "all net flat" mobile calling/internet fees, including a smartphone usage for 2 years....So no cash needed to buy a smartphone. This business model for "selling" smartphones is impossible to do for a camera manufacturer.

In my school there are about 1.500 scholars. I know very many people, but only FOUR scholars owning/operating a DSLR/MILC camera.

Camera stores?

It's hard for them (not for the big electronic discounters, but for smaller, specialized camera stores)...Generally diminished camera sales, very small margins and customers expecting top advice, but then going home and ordering online for cheapest price...For 95% of stores it's even impossible to get in the costs for rental...

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Unfortunately camera store are killed by the internet. Last time a brought something from a camera store was in 2004.... The price pressure is too big for them to survive and we consumer we don't want to pay more than what we find online....

Canon, Nikon, Sony they can do whatever they want but they will never win back smartphone users and smartphones are getting better and better to the point that an average consumer does not care at all about other cameras. This is why the race is the Pro and Semi Pro/Serious hobbits.

On the other hand I see more and more pro using very expensive equipment like REDs etc filming for Instagram and co for big companies to separate their post from the masses of phone imagery...

 

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I remember back around the early 00s seeing a lot of small local photographic retailers around the UK getting bought up by Jessops. I thought 'this won't end well' - and it didn't, as when Jessops went tits up countless small to medium size towns lost their camera stores.

Here in Brighton we have one (re-vamped) Jessops and 2 independents, one of which does most of its business online. I suspect that may be the way forward for small photo retailers - have a small shop and subsidise it with/use it as storage for your online trade.

As to 'winning back smartphone users' - I don't really think that's the solution, TBH. Even before smartphones, the number of young people buying 'proper' cameras was fairly small and 'normal people' only began buying them in truly huge numbers when digital first appeared. The industry has to trim its sails somewhat and concentrate on catering to and developing further the enthusiast market.

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@gt3rs

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This is why the race is the Pro and Semi Pro/Serious hobbits

Yep. Bus this is NOT a mass market. So, I ask myself, how many of today's camera manufacturers will survive this race within the coming years without a mass market...In the cold light of day, Samsung did it right (from a company's economical point of view) to leave the camera market. It simply doesn't help to sell (R&D, manufacture, promote, after sales service, etc.) a great camera for a huge minus...Customer satisfaction is only helpful when bringing bread on manufacturer's table. Working for minus or zero financial compensation isn't a good idea in a world where money counts every moment...

I understand the strategic idea of "the winner takes it all" - some camera manufacturers would accept the fact of periodically making losses, because they hope to survive and dominate the camera market (and pricing) and this race in some years - they just try it "Amazon like". But I fear, some of today's players will retire within the next 5 years....

And camera stores will become a rarity...

@Tim Sewell

Quote

The industry has to trim its sails somewhat and concentrate on catering to and developing further the enthusiast market.

The question is for me, if the "enthusiast market" could be a decent amount of business volume to get enough profit. Personally and considering the prizing wars within handheld DSLR/MILC market, I doubt it...RED does it right - but they don't sell their products up to max. 2.000 USD. So, camera manufacturers should go REAL sophisticated/expensive within a small market share but huge margins, OR in mass markets with smaller margins but big business volumes...

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In Sweden we have had a recent rise in photography. There have even been a show on TV for every day photography. It went for two seasons on the biggest channel with two of the most famous comedians we have as hosts.
So there is a photo boom for sure.

In Stockholm there are several shops still keeping shelves full with later stuff. But also a few spread in the other three "bigger" citys.
There are also two big stores with everything imaginable in analog photography as well.
All of them of course have the internet as their main market for nation wide sales.


But Im also extremely lucky.
I live in a smaller town (fifth in swe). Here we used to have two but they went bust.

Luckily one of them resurrected. And the guys running it have been smart. They focus on a lab for development and prints. Signs, frames, etc.
And they seem to be doing alright. They also carry a lot of optics for bird watchers.

Their camera display is small but excellent. If I go down there now I sure I will se an E-M1ii, X100f, Pentax K1, X-T2 and a GH5.
In other words they carry the latest and greatest. On top of that they have some low end entry level. No middle of the road stuff. 
And only one or two of each. No online store, thats why sold out stuff still can be found there.
They also carry Instax, Lomography and Polaroid.

I shop there as much as I can. I love supporting them and hanging out for a while talking photo.
I bought the Pen-f, X-T2, a6300, lomoinstax, two tripods, loads of film and the GX85 there.
And I will comeback in hopes of sustaining them as long as possible... knock on wood.

 

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2 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

So in my personal experience...

Just in Berlin two great stores I regularly visited have simply disappeared in the month I was away!

So sad to see Photo-Stade go. He was always a true enthusiast and owned an FS7 :)

In the bigger retailers for the first time the camera sections have been shunted to the back of the floor or in some cases an upper floor instead of ground/first.

Even at Manchester airport I noticed the cameras had been moved to the back.

If Canon and Nikon don't get their finger out soon and start innovating and winning back smartphone users the whole industry is going to suffer, not just the corporate giants (who can move into medical and other profitable sections and survive just fine). It's the whole ecosystem that's at stake.

Its interesting you should mention this as I hadn't been to Berlin for about 18 months and when I was there a couple of weeks ago, I was in MediaMarkt at Alexa thinking "I'm sure the camera department used to be much bigger than this". It seemed the same story at their other places and Saturn as well and it was quite a stark difference in such a relatively short space of time.

The nosedive of the exchange rate during that intervening period wasn't helping the vibe either !

 

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2 hours ago, Mattias Burling said:

It went for two seasons on the biggest channel with two of the most famous comedians we have as hosts.

Including the awesome Petra Meade?

Just noticed that John Lewis (Edinburgh) have a prominent and decent display and selection of cameras - dslr, mirrorless & compact. A large department store can presumably survive diminishing margins but it still looked impressive.

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Its not just camera stores, generally most CD and electronic stores are closing down... cause its all available online.

When I went to a mall (in the past), there used to be some HMVs and electronic stores speckled in there... now its purely clothing stores, and may find some low end electronics and cameras in the department stores. 

There is Bestbuy... but its now apparent that even Bestbuy has become far and few in between....

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5 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

If Canon and Nikon don't get their finger out soon and start innovating and winning back smartphone users the whole industry is going to suffer, not just the corporate giants (who can move into medical and other profitable sections and survive just fine). It's the whole ecosystem that's at stake.

I have the GH5 and I never really managed to use the wifi and App properly. The App is a royal pain to pair with the camera and it's very unstable. On my 6D the procedure is also very complex to setup but stable afterward. Looks like they still don't get it and it goes beyond Canon & Nikon..

I don't think there is any "winning back". Why would most people bother with large and costly camera ? Most people are 100% satisfied with their smartphone pic. Even GoPro is in the bad position now that you can find decent action cam for $79 on ebay. For video, 99% of the crowd haven't heard about NLE, they just film vertically and share it on FB or IG. Done..

Honestly I just changed my 4 years old phone with a new one and the quality is very good.

As for the stores it goes beyond the camera shops. Bricks and mortar business exposed to the competition of internet giants are dying. How are you supposed to compete against online businesses that benefit from tax optimization, social dumping and economies of scale ? Unless you have a critical mass, a service centric model or a loyal customer base, the fight is very uneven.

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The camera stores in my small city in the middle of nowhere all closed years ago (there were FIVE here at one point from memory when I started being interested).

The trend now is for the big chain electronics stores to downsize their photo gear ("Harvey Norman" and "JB-HIFI" with much smaller selections at "the Good Guys" and just an odd camera at one or two at others.  

Harvey Norman has (had?, every time I go there is a bit less) some higher end stuff , JB-HIFI has maybe one FF Nikon sometimes and the rest is APSC, M43, a few P&S, a few action cameras, a few drones and a few consumer  video cameras.    The same stores in larger cities sometimes have MUCH larger selections.

If I need to go to a bricks and mortar camera store there are a couple of nice ones in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane including a new one that opened a few months ago that I have yet to haunt.        Give it two years and there will maybe be one cabinet at best at any store here.

 

Second hand gear is now limited to a pair of pawn shops and a few charity shops from time to time.

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Big internet shops like Amazon and B&H have put a massive hurt on lots of specialty shops - especially shops that sell expensive hobbyist stuff. Its the same with high end cycling, lots of local bike shops have been shuttered because people get better prices on the net. Hard to compete with virtual stores that have fewer employees and aren't paying rent in a high traffic location. Cameras, bikes, cooking utensils, home appliances, Audio/Video shops and so on ... very little these days (at least in the U.S.) outside of big box and internet. I live in Florida, closest camera shop is in Orlando, ~90 miles from where I am in Tampa Bay.

The being said, I spent the first 5 months of the year traveling around Asia, there were camera stores - large and small - in every city I visited. There are certainly fewer than before, but it was really cool to be bale to walk into shops and check out gear I've never seen/held before simply because I don't live near a dealer and I only go to NYC/B&H once a year.

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This thread hits home like an eerie coincidence. Two days ago, I happened to find out that in my hometown...

(a) ....the local consumer electronics superstore (Mediamarkt) had moved the camera department from the entrance area into the remotest corner of the ground floor, slashing its size by half in the process; 

(b) ....the biggest local second-hand outlet (CashConverters) moved its camera and lens department from a dedicated showcase near the entrance into a larger mixed electronics cabinet in the back of the store;

(c) ....the biggest local camera shop had greatly reduced its stock on display inside the store, reducing the former tripod section (with complete Manfrotto and Sirui lineups) to only four cheap consumer models, tossing out a whole video camera accessory & light section in favor of flatscreen tvs;

...and all this 1-2 years after the majority of small, high-quality, owner-operated camera stores in my country (Netherlands) either went out of business or became swallowed by one big chain that only operates warehouse stores (competing with Internet shops) in industrial areas outside city centers. (I could also add the large duty free consumer electronics store inside Schiphol airport which used to have an extensive, open camera section that now has been reduced to maybe 8 cameras behind glass in some half-hidden shelf.)

On top of that, shrinking camera sections were, in the past, compensated with growing action cam and drone sections. Now that the action cam market is (over)saturated and that drones sell less because of increasingly restrictive government regulations for their use, these shop sections are shrinking or disappearing as well.

I don't think that classical cameras will completely disappear. But they will suffer the same fate as Hifi components/stereos in the past, ending up as niche products, likely with a deteriorating manufacturing quality on the low/consumer end and skyrocketing prices on the high end. [As it happened with CD players, turntables, stereo amplifiers etc.- you can still buy them, but if you're on budget, choice is rather limited, and the products are much more plasticky and cheaply built than their equivalents from a few decades ago.] Hifi components sold like hotcakes in the 70s/80s until cheaper, portable consumer technology killed off their mass market. In this sense, the story of smartphones marginalizing cameras just repeats the history of the Walkman killing stereos. (And later, mp3 killing off consumer-grade high-quality, uncompressed digital audio, whether CD, SACD, DAT or DVD-Audio. And now, Netflix and YouTube killing off BluRay and, very likely, 4K and HDR BluRay.)

Call it as you will, but - speaking of consumer technology - we're in a race to the bottom.

(Conversely, I agree with previous posters that it's completely ridiculous, if not outright insane from a marketing perspective that in 2017, you can't buy a single camera that lets you share a picture on Instagram, or a video on YouTube, with the touch of a button. Compare this to the software world, where even high-end/professional NLEs like Premiere, Final Cut and Resolve have YouTube and Vimeo rendering presets, in some cases also built-in YouTube and Vimeo upload functions.)

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In The Netherlands not too long ago they had a show translated called 'The perfect picture' that stretched over a couple of weeks where Dutch celebs were fighting through rounds of professional shoots eliminating one after another and where the final remaining two were given the oppertunity to shoot wildlife in Africa. The winner would get a publication in the National Geographic. The whole thing was sponsored by Canon and judged by professionals, more on originality and storytelling than pixel peeping. A fashion model, used to her iPhone and shooting selfies, showed quite a bit creativity throughout. Though, ultimately a presentor (sport/news/talkshow/...) who operated a little more structured, with a plan, execution, technical know-how and 'everything for the shot' mentality to realize a vision, won the thing. Was pretty fun to follow.

In meanwhile in Austria, where Voigtländer originated, home of modern day Lomography and hipster central, I think photography is still highly popular. There are numerous stores dedicated to photography, also elsewhere in Austria and they organize events and have social media presence etc, to keep people involved. These are very traditional people too (especially 40+), so they like their basics; change not as much. Don't think you'll find many wearing Snapchat Spectacles. I think in The Netherlands you'd be cool when you shoot stills on a Phase One (bigger = better, so much quality and functionality!). Here it would probably be a Leica (the most purist and lifestyle way to photography). Haven't seen any stores disappear, if anything, new ones popped up. Also stores like Mediamarkt still have a very much alive photography section, I'd say. What I think has gone noticably downhill is the action cam segment; guess everybody's over it by now.

Think stores where you can check out the camera in person, get some superb opinions and insights are so important. At the same time, though, I can imagine a lot of people would even agree to that and pay them a visit, then say they're going to sleep on it and order it on Amazon when they get home for 50 bucks less... think that's the real problem, especially with youth. Don't mind too much if you do that to an electrogiant like Mediamarkt, where even I myself just go to check how a certain camera feels in the hands 'n stuff. The demo models are there and it's not like I need Mediamarkt expertise, because, let's be honest, we could probably educate them on a thing or two. But I've been to several camera stores across the country and they're really passionate people with cool stuff to tell, it would suck to see these people go out of a job. Think all of my cameras were picked up at a store. Especially with new models, I don't want to take my chances with a pre-order and just wait for actual stock. Camera stores around here are quicker than Amazon too for that matter. It's a bit rare for me to purchase a lens at a store though, mostly I'll do research and ordering online. Which might be another thing pushing camera stores out of business, the amount of online previews, hands-on, reviews, comparisons, it's an infinite resource well. So I'm 100% with Mr. Porsche, gt3rs, internet is making it easier and cheaper than ever.

He's also spot on concerning the march of smartphones. When regarding the distinction between 'fun' and 'quality'... smartphones are just so easy for everyone to take shots with and the quality is getting better and better, meaning the gap between smartphone quality and that of dedicated camera devices is narrowing, making it less attractive to go and buy say a Canon 1300D with 18-55mm kit lens for a couple hundos. Also, because more and more we're not taking pictures to print or drop as our desktop background, where quality is quite important, but sharing it on social media instead where we're working with very limited pixel dimensions and shitty compression. Good lenses make a difference, but are also expensive. To get the best out of good lenses, you need good bodies, which are also expensive. A smartphone has limited sensor dimensions with more crop meaning tough to get shallow depth of field going on, focal range is very restricted and the performance is lacking in terms of lowlight highISO performance of course, as well as dynamic range and such. So, take a fullframe camera system with a bright lens and the results can be lightyears apart. Because of this, cameras like the A6500/X-T2, E-M1 Mark II/GH5 must even try harder... rendering them really expensive compared to previous generations, but also really exciting. They just have to keep bringing it to offset the advancements in smartphone photography. There the sensors are getting bigger, lenses brighter. dualcam is a thing now, apps for aquiring shots are far better than a couple of years ago. Zeiss, Leica, Hasselblad lending their names and expertise to smartphone brands. It's definitely over for the throw-away-film-camera equivalent compact camera. Like all those Canon IXUS models etc, about the only thing they have over a smartphone is optical zoom and even that is getting to be less and less of a reason. I love(d) my LX100, but now that I have my Huawei P10 Plus (Leica Dual Camera 2.0 Pro Edition w/ Summilux-H lenses) on the one hand... and the GX80 with Leica 15mm f/1.7 on the other, I don't have as much use for it as I used to to be honest. Less profit from cheaper models probably also means inflated prices for the higher-end ones. Bet the whole situation around cameras in general, the sum of all that's going on, makes it a 200 or 300 bucks more expensive than it would've been otherwise. That's literally and figuratively the price we need to pay to keep getting cameras we'd love to have.

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42 minutes ago, Cinegain said:

In meanwhile in Austria, where Voigtländer originated, home of modern day Lomography and hipster central, I think photography is still highly popular.

(Voigtländer was actually a German company before the brand got bought up by Cosina.) This is a bit deceptive - in Austria (particularly in Vienna, a rich city) you have a huge collector's market for vintage cameras, and therefore a lot of high-end 2nd hand/analog camera shops. Since the major European photographica auction house (Westlicht) is based there, the customer base of these shops by far exceeds Vienna and Austria.

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I think in The Netherlands you'd be cool when you shoot stills on a Phase One (bigger = better, so much quality and functionality!). Here it would probably be a Leica (the most purist and lifestyle way to photography). Haven't seen any stores disappear, if anything, new ones popped up.

Since we're both based in that country, let me just count the casualties of the last few years - and those were the best camera stores, particularly for specialist and good-quality second-hand gear: Foto Patent in Utrecht, Talens in Delft, Abro in Zaandam, Van der Waal in Rotterdam and Schiedam, Konijnenberg in The Hague, Parallaxe in Amsterdam. (In Amsterdam, the situation is still much better than the rest of the country with Nivo-Schweitzer, Den Boer and Fransen still in business.) Of the smaller chains, Foto Klein in the whole of South Holland went out of business last year, which included their Pro store near the Rotterdam Central Station.

Kamera-express became a near-monopolist, buying up traditional, long-standing camera stores all over the Netherlands (FOKA in Rotterdam, in Utrecht, in Arnhem) to reopen them as cash-and-carry warehouse outlets. 

 

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48 minutes ago, cantsin said:

(Voigtländer was actually a German company before the brand got bought up by Cosina.) This is a bit deceptive - in Austria (particularly in Vienna, a rich city) you have a huge collector's market for vintage cameras, and therefore a lot of high-end 2nd hand/analog camera shops. Since the major European photographica auction house (Westlicht) is based there, the customer base of these shops by far exceeds Vienna and Austria.

Since we're both based in that country, let me just count the casualties of the last few years - and those were the best camera stores, particularly for specialist and good-quality second-hand gear: Foto Patent in Utrecht, Talens in Delft, Abro in Zaandam, Van der Waal in Rotterdam and Schiedam, Konijnenberg in The Hague, Parallaxe in Amsterdam. (In Amsterdam, the situation is still much better than the rest of the country with Nivo-Schweitzer, Den Boer and Fransen still in business.) Of the smaller chains, Foto Klein in the whole of South Holland went out of business last year, which included their Pro store near the Rotterdam Central Station.

Kamera-express became a near-monopolist, buying up traditional, long-standing camera stores all over the Netherlands (FOKA in Rotterdam, in Utrecht, in Arnhem) to reopen them as cash-and-carry warehouse outlets. 

 

I'm Dutch, but moved to Austria for my job, so I can only sorta describe what I see happening around Vienna. And it's not all 2nd hand/analog. Most stores I go to where there main focus isn't vintage/2nd hand stuff, generally don't really have anything 2nd hand. A couple do... but it's like a Panasonic G7 trade-in from someone upgrading for example. Seems people in general still find appreciation for more serious photography and service. Though I tried to find a camera store in Salzburg once and that was a tough one to crack.

But I'm kinda surprised that Berlin and Vienna would differ that much, thought Germany would have a similar market. They have all the Zeiss Jena DDR rich vintage history shizzle of course. Leica, Leitz, Wetzlar, Meyer-Optik Görlitz, etc. Makes it hard for me to believe that there's more care for that here than there. Like, I'd think VW/Porsche/Mercedes/BMW has more relative marketshare in Germany than abroad as well. And Berlin has the Berlinale, Vienna the Viennale, both pretty creative spots with people into the arts. Don't know, I was there in '08 for a few months and didn't get the feeling that the crowd was on a different page or different chapter, always thought they weren't too far off from one another. But of course times change and different parts develop differently under different influences. I think modernization and the youth (and adapting oldtimers) might be affecting these changes the most. Who knows, maybe next time I'm in Tokyo again, there won't be a Yodobashi anymore. :P

Not very up-to-date with what's what in The Netherlands. Always felt Kamera Express, FOKA, CameraTools (bought my GH4 there), CameraNU, Foto Konijnenberg and Cameraland were the bigger players (always checked up to compare prices, I'm still in NL about every other month). Ah, Foto Klein, that was such an institution. Then again, they were big when Videoland was still a thing and you'd rent VHS tapes, hadn't heard of 'em in a while. We used to go there to develop our rolls, before that was a thing you did at the drugstore. Oh, the memories. Well, I guess nothing really lasts forever.

Back to history... its actually... 'Founded 1756; 261 years ago in Vienna, Archduchy of Austria' (~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voigtländer), when you're really talking 'origin stories'. :P There's also some interesting Viennese history concerning Petval: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Petzval . Vienna... rich city... rich history. I remember a Leica went on auction here for a record price: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2012/5/vintage-leica-becomes-most-expensive-camera-after-fetching-28million-at-auction-41794/ , true that.

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I think it's easy to be pessimistic about young people's obsession with phone cameras and snapchat but before that it was television and of the TV generation an awful lot still found the time to become passionate about photography. If anything the abundance of phone cameras should allow more people to discover if they have an interest in it to take it further.

The problem is not the device though, it's the narcissism. That element is having a subversive impact. People take pictures for different reasons now. Mainly to show off on social media or to offer a commentary on an aspect of life. Before the internet, photography was for yourself and maybe your friends if they could be bothered to look at the prints and family albums afterwards.

If the main purpose of the camera for the masses is social media, then of course a non-connected camera is going to be a dead dodo to the vast majority of users, or indeed any non-phone camera. I really think image quality is good enough on phones for the consumer not to bother looking at alternatives, so even if a Canon branded phone came out, it would have to be a better phone than what Apple do and that is just not going to happen. They couldn't sell meaningful quantities of it based on the camera quality alone.

11 hours ago, Arikhan said:

The question is for me, if the "enthusiast market" could be a decent amount of business volume to get enough profit. Personally and considering the prizing wars within handheld DSLR/MILC market, I doubt it...RED does it right - but they don't sell their products up to max. 2.000 USD.

I agree that cameras could all end up costing more as a result of what's happening. The shift has begun already and there is definitely a trend for enthusiast and pro models to get more focus and less of the consumer stuff... A6000 was a long time ago. Since then, it has morphed into a prosumer camera. Same with Panasonic G85 if you compare to G5 era stuff.

Serious pro camera market is a good place to be because you're not marketing to indifferent teenagers at $300.

I think the enthusiast market is actually big enough to support profitable efforts from the major companies... it is the low-end $800 and under that is going to go away because they can't sell enough of it. High added value models don't need to sell as many because the margins are much bigger.

10 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

Its interesting you should mention this as I hadn't been to Berlin for about 18 months and when I was there a couple of weeks ago, I was in MediaMarkt at Alexa thinking "I'm sure the camera department used to be much bigger than this".

Let me know if you're in town again. I was in the UK when you were last here getting rained on!

10 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

It seemed the same story at their other places and Saturn as well and it was quite a stark difference in such a relatively short space of time.

The nosedive of the exchange rate during that intervening period wasn't helping the vibe either !

The camera section at Saturn used to be really busy and it is only in the past 2 years it has tailed off... It is a dramatic difference. Sometimes it is entirely empty at peak shopping times and there are more people browsing light bulbs than lenses.

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