The future of compact cameras may be in peril, as Panasonic concedes, "we have to admit that this category will be going down."
It's been a while since we've seen manufacturers make such overt statements about how phones are eroding the core camera business. However, while they definitely still have a place, there can be no denying that even the best compact cameras (opens in new tab) struggle to compete with best camera phones (opens in new tab).
"Looking at the evolution of smartphones, they will have a multiple sensors and lenses to adapt to various focal length shooting conditions. So this category is gradually being taken over by the smartphone," said Yosuke Yamane, director of Panasonic's Imaging Business Unit, in an interview with Imaging Resource (opens in new tab) (as spotted by (opens in new tab) Mirrorless Rumors).
"Especially compact cameras with middle-range zoom lenses, they will be the most affected by the smartphone evolution and expansion of the smartphone. Personally, I use LX or GX for snap shooting, and this is very effective. But we have to admit that this category is the most affected by the smartphone's expansion."
Yamane admitted that, while there are still likeminded photographers who will pick up a dedicated compact rather than reach for their phone, he sees the category as a dead end – and intimated that Panasonic would likely pull out of it.
"But still, there are people who continue to use this model. But we have to admit that this category will be going down. And so as a camera business, we have to decide the priority of the development resources, which category is the most important. We have to study for the future."
It's a familiar refrain, of course. At the beginning of 2019, Canon CEO, Fujio Mitarai, warned that the camera industry would be cut in half within two years thanks largely to the disruption of smartphones.
"The world market for interchangeable lens cameras is around 10 million," said Mitarai. "People usually shoot with smartphones.The digital camera market will keep falling for about two years, but professional and [advanced] amateurs use about 5 to 6 million units. Finally [the market] will hit the bottom."
That said, manufacturers like Canon and Sony have pivoted to offer compacts geared towards the ever-growing vlogging and content creation market. The question is, are the likes of the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III (opens in new tab) and Sony ZV-1 (opens in new tab) a new hope or the last hurrah for compact cameras?