I was recently working on a consulting project for one of the Cameras companies, and their question was — how to save the cameras in the dying camera market with a specific geography in mind?
A very interesting and challenging problem. Being a photography enthusiast, the topic was extremely close to my heart, and I knew I would be glad to find some answers. So, my team and I started on our journey of discovery — what did people think about taking pictures, why did they take pictures, what devices did they use, and why were they not cameras?
We analyzed the situation, formulated the recommendations and I believe gave some good solutions, which I am not going to discuss here. But what I am going to discuss is a completely different angle of the problem — are the camera companies partly responsible for their own slow demise?
Talking broadly, cameras can be divided into two broad segments as are known to people — the Point and Shoots (PnS) and DSLRs. Common logic dictates that the target audience would be someone who does not know the intricate details of how to operate a camera manually and would still like excellent pictures, while the target audience of a DSLR would be someone who wants the freedom to play with the controls and create art.
Market research dictates a very different picture.
A survey conducted by Sony reveals that roughly 2/3 of casual DSLR users never take their cameras off the fully auto mode. 1/3 people admitted to not knowing how to use their fancy cameras, and ¾ believe that formal education is required to go beyond auto. The data does not surprise me; it confirms my observation and hypothesis.
So, why then people buy DSLRs when they in face know that they would never go out of auto mode? Most of my friends — who have cameras or not, tell me that they find DSLR controls really intimidating. People are probably aware of the difficult to maneuver controls of DSLRs before investing in them. So, my inference is that people buy DSRLs because they believe that they can take better good pictures, and most likely better than the PnS.
Based on my surveys and FGDs, I understood that one of the major concerns of the people is that the camera is a heavy equipment to carry. Most of them acknowledged that the photo quality was way better than a cellphone’s but they did not want to carry the camera around during the precious moments.
But how much does a PnS weigh? Now a days I can fit one in my pocket. So, they were indeed talking about the DSLRs. But then why would they want to carry a DSLR when a PnS gives them as good a quality with the auto mode?
This was the point I believed the Camera designing companies had ignored. They had created this perception that DSLR were for everyone who needed good photos, leaving a huge segment of their customers frustrated and give up on cameras, and also reduce the market for the PnS.
Better marketing and the right message conveyed to the right segment could reduce the rate of decline of the camera market.