Like a champ getting off the canvas in a UFC brawl, top camera makers are wobbly but their heads are clearing as they head into 2015. What does this mean for photographers and videographers, from amateurs to pros? Let’s rattle the crystal ball and take a peek into the future.
But first, consider these stats: In 2009, 35 million cameras were bought in the United States, but in 2014 that figure dropped to 9.4 million. For 2015, the prediction is around 7 million, made up of 4.5 million compacts and 2.33 million interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs, such as mirrorless and DSLR cameras). And the numbers keep dropping from there, per research firm IDC.
Given this radical decline – all thanks to consumers shift to the smartphone for casual photography – it’s amazing so many camera companies are still in business. Those still standing have confronted the new normal and continue to introduce cameras geared for people who want to go beyond what smartphones can deliver in image quality.
Based on our years of covering this space and speaking with industry analysts, here’s what to expect from digital cameras in 2015.
Point-and-shoots are heading for extinction
This isn’t a shocker, but the era of cheap, aim-and-forget digicams is nearly over. Our sources tell us there may be a small handful at the 2015 International CES in January, and it’s very doubtful any will be introduced at the CP+ camera show in Japan, held in February. Who wants to carry a second device when smartphones – the ones you carry with you at all times – take good enough stills and video?
Analyst Chris Chute, research VP of Global Digital Imaging Practice at IDC, notes that at 2014’s Photokina trade show in Germany, he didn’t see any “snapshot” point-and-shoots from the majors and he expects them to go the way of the dinosaur. Oh, you’ll still see them around, but their fate is sealed. Given that the emphasis by well-known companies next year (and into the future) will be on large-sensor compacts like the Sony RX100 series, mega-zooms such as the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, rugged cameras, and ILCs. Chute sees more models with larger APS-C and full-frame sensors to attract enthusiasts, as well an enhanced wireless connectivity and 4K video.
Up and away with 4K
Given the consumer electronics industry’s almost single-minded focus on 4K UHD televisions, this higher-quality video capability will be crammed into loads of new cameras and camcorders. The good news: Many will be introduced in 2015, with prices far more attractive than last year – just like 4K TVs. Plus, 4K video will be easier to take; you used to need an outboard hard drive to save 4K footage, but now you’ll be able to save directly to an SD card. Example: Samsung’s recently introduced mirrorless NX1. Camera makers will also make it simpler to grab a single 4K video frame as a standalone 8MP still (being called 4K Photo).
More, faster Connections
Almost every new camera will feature Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. There will be an occasional model without wireless, but after years of watching the smartphone decimate the industry, camera makers realize it’s a must-have feature. Expect to see cameras get even more with the program by adding faster Wi-Fi 802.11ac along with the usual b/g/n. Samsung is a leader here by not only offering 802.11ac and NFC, but Bluetooth connectivity too.
Helping speed-up downloads between devices will be the addition of USB 3.0 outputs, once only found on the most expensive DSLRs. Taking so long to embrace USB 3.0 – a standard in computing – gives an insight as to how insular camera engineers can be. The near-death experiences they’ve encountered have opened their eyes somewhat, but they still have a ways to go.
Wi-Fi pairing, apps are still a wasteland, but we’re hopeful
Despite the aforementioned more and faster connections, the apps and pairing process still leave much to be desired. Camera apps are a good case in point: We’ve used almost every one during the course of our reviews and they are functional at best, which is OK. We expect a least a few companies to change this in 2015 by adding more features and capabilities, as well as simplifying the Wi-Fi pairing process.
Yes, it’s great accessing shots taken with your camera on the smartphone for easy sharing, but there should be loads more in camera apps such as in-depth controls for stills and videos. Editing and simple-to-use filters should become much more prevalent – there’s a reason there are 300 million Instagram users.
Smartphone capture keeps improving
The 800-pound gorilla in the digital imaging room is the smartphone – and the ape is still hungry. We expect many improvements to their cameras as new models cycle through. More megapixels are a given (20 megapixels and more) as is 4K video, larger sensors, and RAW (uncompressed) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) capture for stills and videos. We also expect lens breakthroughs as well with optical zoom capability, which will surely kill off the compact digicam sector, as we know it.
There is good news … really
Now that the big camera companies of the world realize casual photographers are quite happy with their smartphones, they are concentrating on – shock of shocks – making terrific cameras for people who really care about image and video quality. Over the past year, we’ve reviewed dozens of cameras and have given more Editors’ Choice awards than ever before. Just one example is the fantastic Nikon D750, and you can read all about it and our other picks here.
Our crystal ball is cloudy, but we can definitely predict photographers and videographers will be a happy bunch next year and beyond. Still, our dream of a full-frame ILC for less than $1,000 is still a long ways off.