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Tech and Gaming

How can the traditional camera survive the Instagram era?

Words by Nathan Irvine

Snap chat.

As smartphone technology continues to effortlessly improve our photography skills, the idea of owning and carrying around a separate camera has come into question. It’s convenience for the most part. But the growing popularity of instantly uploading images to Instagram and the like is also sticking the boot into the traditional camera industry.

So how does it compete, survive or thrive these days? Well, we spoke to Venkatasubramanian Hariharan, B2C Business Unit Director Canon Middle East to ask just that.

Mr. Venkatasubramanian Hariharan B2C Business Unit Director Canon Middle East

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Supplied Venkatasubramanian Hariharan, B2C Business Unit Director Canon Middle East

How has the camera industry adapted to the influx of smartphone cameras that most people use these days?

The popularity of photography is aided by the proliferation of smartphones. They’ve fast become established as the default ‘entry-level’ camera for capturing spontaneous moments in everyday life. We view the smartphone as a future customer recruiting ground rather than a challenge. For us, the opportunity lies in bringing them into the broad and rich world of camera imaging.

The introduction of smartphones into the world of photography has been a catalyst to accelerate innovation in cameras and further push boundaries of what is possible. With a lot of focus on R&D and technological advancements, the camera industry continues to offer passionate photographers incredible opportunities to capture memories and create new ones. The latest Mirrorless cameras are a testimony to this fact. They’re not only lighter and faster, but also revolutionary with respect to creative options.

What impact has the smartphone camera had on traditional cameras?

We already understand that interest in photography and videography has never been higher. An estimated 1 trillion images are taken per annum and social media platforms have become more image-led. These trends show us that people are becoming more passionate about communicating through powerful images and videos.

There has certainly been a decline in digital compact camera sales as a result of smartphone camera penetration. But we have seen an increase for mid-high-end DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, in response to an uptick demand for high-quality content. Video content has gained prominence during the pandemic. When people turned to social media for news and entertainment or both, serious and amateur content creators and vloggers started investing in professional cameras over smartphones.

The versatility that is required in content creation makes use of different kinds of lenses depending on the content of great importance. And this is where the interchangeable lens camera technologies, like DSLR and Mirrorless, will play an inevitable role in the future of storytelling.

Who’s the target audience for standalone cameras now? What do the demographics look like?

It’s quite diverse and inclusive, with something for everyone. Instant print cameras cater to the young and millennials, entry and mid-segment products for photography and videography enthusiasts, and high-end products for the professionals and industry players. If you are interested in capturing an image, there’s an option for every age group and price point.

The Middle East has a very large youth population and this demographic is the most active content creators and storytellers. Therefore they are key.

The camera industry has certainly seen a massive shift from the analog to the digital era. Consumers today are seeking lightweight, affordable, yet state of the art mirrorless cameras, coupled with a growing trend of casual and professional content creators that require innovative product solutions to pursue their passion.

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Canon ME The new Zoemini S

What experience does a specialised camera offer that a smartphone version can’t?

Now, more than ever, people want to stand out and create their own visual style and presence – be it on social media or via another medium. A specialised camera is capable of capturing emotion and portraying what the human eyes can see. It can capture memorable moments that will last forever. When you shoot through the lenses of a professional camera, you become the creator of a story and the master of the scene. It gives you full power to transform what might seem ordinary into a work of art. Especially with the assistance of the impressive features integrated into a pro camera.

It offers higher quality images too. Especially when shooting moving subjects or in low-light conditions. Fast auto-focus, advanced sensors, an extended and affordable range of lenses, coupled with the pièce de résistance – the ability to shoot in 8K raw is a photographer or videographers dream. All this helps reiterate the fact that a camera has a host of features that a smartphone simply cannot provide for. A camera offers a full user experience with ultimate control. This is most easily explained by the criticality of the lenses that could be used depending on the genre of capture – from macro photography to portraiture and even, high action high speed capture.

The need to capture and edit exceptionally superior quality images and video will always present the camera industry with opportunities that a smartphone cannot achieve.

What new demands has the likes of Instagram placed on the likes of Canon and the wider industry?

Instagram is fuelled by memorable visuals that are uploaded mostly by a new generation of everyday content creators and influencers. There is an increasing need from influencers and content creators to capture a variety of high-quality imagery and videos. Whether these are of food, fashion, travel, lifestyle and beyond, Canon has a role to play. We do this by providing the latest, most innovative features and tools that empower the user. Most notably, in the form of several 8K and 4K lightweight cameras, that offer superior vlogging options.

Where do you see the camera industry 20 years from now? What innovations are we likely to see between now and then?

Cameras will continue to play a significant role in the coming years. The growth of Mirrorless cameras remains the fastest and most important trend to note, as manufacturers continue to invest in this direction. Video content will dominate in the future. With the rise of social media and OTT based streaming (Netflix, etc), there is a huge demand for visual content and this will only grow further in the years to come. Products and solutions that can handle high quality video streaming in 8K as a baseline will be something to look forward to.

Watch out for the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning too. Although human expertise will still be needed, the continued advances of AI will tighten the gap and enable everyday photographers to achieve professional-grade images. AI-enabled devices and technologies will become a norm in photography as people realise the potential it has in capturing great images.

A byproduct of the abundance of user-generated content on Instagram and similar has been the rise fake news and online hoaxes. This has led to mass distrust in information. We expect to see a growing need for tools of authentication and the emergence of services and features which make videos and images more trustworthy. From embedding metadata about where and when an image was taken to tagging photos with edit history, advances in technology will help combat mistrust in media.

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