I’m a huge fan of point-and-shoots. As an observer and archiver, I’ve always carried one even if I already had an interchangeable lens camera with me. Pre-smartphone era, it was rare to carry around a full size camera unless you were a professional photographer or on vacation. Instead, most people carried around point-and-shoots for the convenience. It was small, light, and you could carry it with you anywhere without the device getting in your way.
The peak sales of digital point-and-shoots was in 2008 with over 120 million units sold globally, and would probably have continued growing except for one small problem. The iPhone was released in 2007, thus the exponential decline in sales ever since. Looking at the current sub $1000 point-and-shoot camera landscape, the selection is slim pickings; while the smartphone cameras are getting better and better. Will the point-and-shoot camera eventually disappear? Is it already dead? If it was up to me, the answer would be no, and here are my reasons why.
When Fujifilm first announced the brand new XF10, I must admit I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for an X70 update, but Fujifilm decided to go the other way. After I finished doing my initial review I returned the camera and ended up carrying around my film p&s cameras instead. Why? Because they’re more fun. In my small mind, p&s cameras should be EDC tools, but also cameras you can have fun with. You take it everywhere you go and you don’t necessarily have to take serious photographs, even though the cameras can do exactly that. The Fujifilm X70 was a serious tool, but it was also fun. Same as the Ricoh GR series. The Sony RX100 cameras are a bit stiff to me. Great tools, lots of features packed into a small body, but a bit stale.
That’s when I started thinking about the XF10 again. I liked the image quality of the new 24MP CMOS Bayer sensor and the familiar lens from the X70. I wasn’t a fan of the no-name processor, but it got the job done, including having my favourite Classic Chrome film profile (no ACROS though). At first I missed the flash hotshoe, but then remembered that all I wanted was a camera that I could take everywhere. It didn’t need a filter thread or be able to attach adapters to the front. All it needed to be was simple to operate, compact and light, and fun to shoot with. I asked Fujifilm to resend me out the XF10 again, this time in the gold colour (it’s closer to champagne). I wanted the camera to be playful.
I temporarily sidelined my Ricoh GR and my film p&s cameras and carried the XF10 with me everywhere. I stopped caring about what the camera didn’t have, and just saw it as a simple tool with a simple task of taking good quality photos on the go. Yes my smartphone camera is good, but this 24MP APS-C sensor point-and-shoot can keep up with the X-T3, and it fits into my front pocket. No matter where I went I took this little guy with me. Because of Bluetooth and Wifi, I could easily connect, shoot, transfer and share my images.
One night I was working late in my studio and left around 12am. On the way home I noticed pockets of fog and decided to head to my favourite park. The fog and the street lights added such a cool mood and I was ready to take pictures. The problem? All my serious gear was at home. If I went home, grabbed my gear and headed out again, I would waste 15-20 minutes round trip, plus risk waking up my wife. However, I did have the little XF10 with me, shoved and forgotten inside my work bag. I pulled it out and started shooting. The XF10 came to the rescue! When I didn’t need it I could ignore the XF10, but when it came time to rely on it, the little p&s was ready to roll.
This story repeats itself time and time again over the past 30+ years I’ve carried around a point-and-shoot camera. Most of the memorable photos I’ve taken in my entire life has been on a point-and-shoot camera. Yes my smartphone can take pretty good images, but it’s not a dedicated photographic tool. There’s always compromises when you create a Swiss Army Knife of technology. I still use my smartphone camera to take photos of bananas and ask my wife if she wants me to bring some home. However when it comes to taking dedicated images for my own viewing pleasure, I always want a camera close at hand. I don’t think the smartphone camera is going anywhere, but I also don’t want the point-and-shoot camera to disappear either.
How can we save the point-and-shoot? We need to communicate to manufacturers what we really want. In turn manufacturers need to give us something we want. They need to convince us to buy one, convince us why we still want to carry around yet another device in our pockets. Here are some of the features that I believe are necessary for the point-and-shoot camera to survive the next 5 years:
- compact, light, stylish and FUN
- WR and OIS/IBIS to keep up with smartphone cameras
- built-in lens cover please. I don’t like carrying around a lens cap
- large sensor (at least 1″ but preferably APS-C)
- selfie mode (not for me but it’s important to attract new buyers)
- should be part of a larger ecosystem with built in apps like LR, GPS, Instagram, Google Maps, etc.
- improved connectivity to smart devices (always connected Bluetooth) and innovative mobile apps
The last two features will probably determine the future of point-and-shoot cameras as a category. Less people are buying dedicated cameras and most will probably only buy and carry one. It’s important that the camera works flawlessly with existing smartphone ecosystems. Imagine being able to take a photograph on your p&s camera, process it with built-in LR, and then post it directly to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter via your smartphone? Camera manufacturers should offer cloud services like Apple’s iCloud or Google Photos and sharing-networking platforms like Flick’r or 500px. Point-and-shoot cameras should be an extension of our current digital ecosystem, which includes our mobile devices. Without this connectivity I think the p&s market will eventually disappear, taken over completely by the smartphone.
Moreover, the XF10 is a great little p&s camera for an old school snap-shooter like myself, but I don’t think I should be the target market. As much as I love the Ricoh GR cameras, I think they’re making the same mistake (for example, they removed the pop-up flash). Don’t try selling to us camera nerds, as we’re buying less and less cameras. The sales numbers are reflecting this trend. To grow the market, manufactures must appeal to a larger consumer group that loves taking photographs. They need to appeal to the younger photographer, and to accomplish that the camera has to be a connected device, as well as offer features that smartphones don’t have or can’t do better. That’s why dedicated waterproof cameras and GoPros still sell reasonably well for exactly this reason, they do a better job than smartphones. The future of the sub $1000 point-and-shoot camera may soon disappear unless manufacturers adapt to the current needs of those taking photographs. If not, all we’re going to have are X100’s and RX100’s. Hopefully Fujifilm decides to make the replacement of the X70. It should be a fusion of the previous model as well as the current XF10, appealing to both photo enthusiasts as well as the new generation of photographers. Fujifilm, please help keep digital point-and-shoots alive! Thanks for reading and happy snap-shooting
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