Ultra-high zoom, all-weather usage: In this age of smartphones the camera is making a comeback in a new avatar

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Published: August 20, 2018 12:53:27 AM

Anil Godara, a wedding photographer in Abohar in Punjab, has a booming business—a fact reflected in the Apple iPhone 8 that he flaunts.

Anil Godara, a wedding photographer in Abohar in Punjab, has a booming business—a fact reflected in the Apple iPhone 8 that he flaunts. But when it comes to photography—even of the non-professional kind—he doesn’t always ‘trust’ his smartphone. “The iPhone produces great photos, but if I have to capture minute details, I will place my bet on a good camera,” he says. For professional photography, a smartphone is a strict no-no. “My D5600 runs my business,” he says.
In this age of selfies and Instagram, digital cameras have surely lost a lot of ground, but the camera, it appears, is making a comeback, in a new avatar.

Sajjan Kumar, managing director, Nikon India, says that with the advent of smartphones and their increasingly-getting-better cameras, the entry-level compact camera market has been hit. “Sales have fallen in the last 3-4 years. However, smartphones have whet the appetite of the enthusiasts, and we are seeing consumers gradually moving towards cameras with features such as ultra-high zoom, all-weather usage, etc.”

These are the features that even the best smartphones cannot—and likely will not be able to—provide, given the size constraints.

“The revival, interestingly, is being led by sophisticated and high image quality devices such as DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras,” Kumar adds.

One of the reasons digital cameras had lost out to smartphones was connectivity. In older cameras, you first had to transfer photos to your connected device before posting. However, this is no more a handicap. “Most of our DSLR cameras are as connected as any smartphone. With these cameras, you can go online using Wi-Fi and other connectivity modes, and immediately share images on social media. You can even connect with smartphones and edit photos. These cameras allow you to take selfies,” Kumar adds.

Moreover, he says that the image produced by a DSLR camera lens—which is bigger, and hence lets in more light—will always be far, far better than that produced by any smartphone camera, “because that is the DSLR’s primary job.”
The ability to click better photos and connectivity features have ensured that DSLR camera sales rise, albeit slowly. In 2017-18, 5 lakh units were sold in India, of which Nikon has 45% share. The other major players are Canon, Sony, Fujifilm and most recently, Leica. This year, sales are set to rise to 5.25 lakh units—a 5% growth.

Recently, in an interview with Financial Express, Sunil Kaul, managing director, Asia-Pacific, Leica, had said that the photography content generated using smartphones is very average. “There is no filtration process, no rules and regulations, a lot of stuff is created post-processed, because everybody wants to have more followers and more likes on their pages. We, being a company associated with a very high level of quality images, see a great potential in this area.”

Sales of the more affordable compact digital cameras, however, may not follow the DSLR trend. In 2017-18, 2.5 lakh units were sold. An analyst said that their affordability pits them directly against smartphones. “The image quality they produce is marginally better. Why would anybody want to buy two identical cameras—a smartphone and a compact digital—at the same price?”

Camera companies, therefore, are focusing on educating people on the art of photography, a strategy that can lead to even more sales. “We are enhancing customer experience not only in terms of sales and service, but are also helping them refine their photography skills through initiatives such as the Nikon School.”

Kaul of Leica thinks the same. “We have a lot to share in terms of education and inform people about what photography really means,” he had said. Canon India organises initiatives such as the Canon Photo Walk, photography workshops and social media contests, all of which are aimed at augmenting customers’ interest in photography.

It appears that for high-end camera companies, smartphones, rather than acting as a replacement, are acting as a gateway to serious photography, the tool of which is a DSLR. August 19 was the World Photography Day, and also a day to rejoice for high-end camera companies.

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