Are cameras staring at an imminent death? Perhaps


Professional photographers and videographers say cameras are not becoming obsolete. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Across the various clusters of camera users, the tide is rapidly turning in favour of smartphones. Smartphone manufacturers are now focusing on quality pictures to boost sales, taking a big slice of the camera market, especially among young Kenyans who prefer portable gadgets.

The tendency of flaunting out big cameras, which in the yesteryears was a symbol of status, is slowly fading away as Kenyans increasingly move to mobile in a disruption that has seen the sale volumes of cameras record a significant drop in a majority of global markets. Smartphones have made personal photography ubiquitous.

Last week, Somesh Adukia, the Japanese multinational camera manufacturer Canon managing director for Central and North Africa said the sales of the DSLR cameras had dropped.

But he exudes confidence that Canon continues to command over 80 percent market share in Kenya and the East African region.

“The digital still camera business is coming down, and we are also witnessing an increase in the number of pictures taken by smartphones,” said Mr Adukia.

Last year, image sensors manufacturer Sony published a report indicating that the breakthroughs in its cutting-edge innovations of mobile camera technology will see smartphones match and even overtake the capabilities of the digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) and the mirrorless cameras as soon as next year.

The quality of smartphone pictures is now considered equal to — and sometimes better than — camera images, at least in terms of the amount of detail they can capture, known as the image resolution.

“I think that within the next few years, the image quality of smartphone images will surpass that of single-lens cameras. This will be achieved by combining the accelerating trend of larger diameters for smartphones with high saturation signal volume technology,” Sony CEO of semiconductor solutions Teruji Shimizu told a press briefing during the release of the report last year.

“Around 2019, it was said that the three elements of smartphones would evolve: battery, display, and camera. While the other two have reached technological saturation, there are still expectations for the camera to evolve,” added Mr Shimizu. In Kenya, camera retailers and authorised dealers in Nairobi confirm a worrying trend for their trade, disclosing that the signs of the times are gradually calling for an overhaul of operational strategies.

Christopher Ndung’u, who operates a dealership outlet for Canon within Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD), says the first to collapse among the device models was the point-and-shoot camera in 2015.

At this point, he says, one cannot be very certain about the future of the trade. The point-and-shoot device, also known as a compact camera, was a still camera and existed in both film and digital models.

It was designed primarily for simple operations with most of them using focus-free lenses or autofocus for focusing, automatic systems for setting the exposure options and in-built flash units.

“When the point-and-shoot camera dried up in the market in 2015, it was the first signal. We knew the beginning of the end had come. Today, no manufacturer is producing that model anymore,” said Mr Ndung’u, quickly noting that the transition will likely take some considerable time owing to the inadequacies of mobile camera that it relies on a pinhole opening which cuts down its competitive power to a great extent.

"Until phone manufacturers devise a way of countering that, the camera will continue receiving a good measure of traction from users,” adds Mr Ndung’u.

However, professional photographers and videographers say cameras are not becoming obsolete and that only a handful of smartphones have zoom lenses, so they cannot match the best cameras in poor light.

“For professional users like film-makers, the camera will remain the go-to instrument of trade for quite some time,” said Billy Ogada, a photojournalist, sentiments that were mirrored by Edwin Muchina, director of corporate communications firm EdVent Media.

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