General manager of Canon Consumer Imaging Ireland, Philip Brady (pictured), discusses how the mobile phone and picture sharing sites like Flickr have impacted on the digital camera market.
How has the camera market been changed by the explosion in popularity of user generated content on photo sharing sites like Flickr?
“There are about 18 million pictures up on Flickr at the moment and growing daily, and this has absolutely added to the sale of cameras. It was predicted the sale of digital cameras last year in the UK would flatten but in fact it grew, and here in Ireland it grew by double digits.
Has the photo printer market grown in accordance with this?
“No, because people are not actually printing their pictures. Thousands and thousands of pictures are trapped on a PC or laptop and one of the things we are encouraging people to do is get more involved with their photographs and print them.
“Many people don’t realise they can get lab-quality prints from their digital camera and home PC with affordable printers, once they use the correct photographic paper.
Do camera manufacturers like Canon worry that sales will be affected in face of the mobile phone, which now comes with a fairly decent integrated camera?
Ironically, the use of cameras in mobile phones has actually introduced people back to photography, so it has had a definite positive effect on camera sales.
Mobile phones are whetting people’s appetite for photography. I would draw on the analogy of video back in the Eighties, whereby that was seen as the death knell for the cinema but brought people back because they had more exposure to films.
Phones are for making calls. It is nice that they have a camera feature but it does not replace the camera for special occasions. In fact, consumers nowadays are more inclined to move upwards through varying levels of cameras when they’ve learnt to tackle basic features and want more from their camera experience.
Do you think most digital camera users fall into the trap of point-and-click, never realising the full potential of what it can do?
“Our cameras are quite feature-rich so Canon felt it was a good idea to let people know what they can really do with them. We started by running a training course for the entry-level SLR camera and with such a positive reaction we are actually running this course again and extending it to the digital compact cameras.
“We believe the customer relationship with Canon only begins when the consumer opens the box. We want them to come along to a free course that would normally cost €150, and at that point the relationship flourishes.
“People want to be seen with the latest model but are not quite sure what to use it for! A 6- or 7-megapixel camera can knock the socks off a 12- or 13-megapixel model if you can maximise all the features on it.
“Megapixels have been a numbers games on the market for many years. Megapixels do not determine the quality, only the size of the image. The trick to a decent camera is the lens and the processor.
Is there an appetite in the market for the ‘advanced amateur’ camera?
Absolutely, with the digital SLR camera for example. The growth is going to be somewhere around 30pc to 40pc year-on-year for the next few years. With the maturity of this market, many consumers are now beginning to move up a level.
By Marie Boran