Shifting focus

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Before, the current economic downturn, it was predicted that 2008 would be the year of the Digital-SLR camera and that the compact camera market would face its first real challenge after sales reached a peak in 2007. This has proved to be the case, says Cedrid Mertes, GfK account manager for photo/imaging panel, who comments: “Year-on year, the D-SLR segment has maintained the sales of the global camera market in the UK, while the compact market has reached maturity and so relies on replacement sales. Especially in a crisis period, product categories relying on replacement sales have more difficulties”.

GfK data shows that although unit sales in the compact camera sector have risen slightly year-on-year (Jan-Dec ’07 to Jan-Dec ’08), average price has decreased from £115 to £102, resulting in a substantial decline in sales value.

Consumers are now on their second or third digital cameras, and this ‘replacement’ trend means that they know what they want when looking to upgrade.

As usual, the average megapixel count on digital cameras has increased. Although this is not the only feature which reflects the image quality of a camera, it is still the most important factor for many customers, and is often considered before the price.

Happy snapping

Many consumers are now looking for products with greater durability so that they can be used for shots in active situations, such as outdoor sports. Panasonic’s DMC-FT1 is shockproof, dustproof and waterproof to three metres, and has been tested using the same rigorous assessments used for Panasonic’s acclaimed Toughbook series computers.

Panasonic has also unveiled a new addition to its Lumix G Micro system – the DMC-GH1. This Micro Four Thirds camera has been designed to make D-SLR-style photography smaller and easy to use, says the manufacturer, as well as offering HD recording.

Along with its new TZ series which sports a 12x optical zoom and a 25mm ultra wide lens, Panasonic offers various models with iA (Intelligent Auto), which automatically chooses the most suitable scene mode according to shooting conditions. Also available are the SDR-H90, -H80 and -S26, all of which offer a powerful 70x ultra zoom lens.

Recent product highlights from Sony include the DSC-HX1 Cyber-shot 9.1 megapixel camera which sports a new technology called Sweep Panorama that enables the camera to capture landscape and city scenes by seamlessly stitching together a high-speed burst of frames at the touch of a button, says Cam Nguyen, product manager for Sony Cyber-shot.

Sony has also recently launched the DCR-SX30, which sports a 60x optical zoom and internal 4GB memory, and is available in silver, blue or red.


The D-SLR sector has shown a strong performance over the last 12 months, with substantial increases in both sales value and sales volume and a very slight increase in average price.

Sony’s Cam Nguyen explains: “D-SLR is becoming a more appealing option for consumers who are looking to upgrade from a digital still camera. Products are more affordable and more accessible to all consumers. Sony currently offers a range of D-SLR products to suit all consumers with varying experience and budgets”. Sony’s latest D-SLR camera is the top-of-the-range DSLR-A900, which boasts the world’s first 24.6 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor.

There are many crossover products now available – such as cameras that can record video footage and camcorders that can take still images – but, are these new hybrid products affecting standalone products in a negative way? Mark Robinson, Lumix product manager at Panasonic doesn’t think so, commenting: “Cameras and camcorders are primarily designed for different uses and shooting situations. For example, a compact camera offers the best still image quality for everyday use and travel, while camcorders offer the highest quality video performance for major events such as weddings.”


The camcorder sector has seen a lot of development over the last few years with several key factors driving developments. GfK figures show that standard-definition camcorder sales fell by 26.8% (Jan-Dec ’07 to Jan-Dec ’08), while high-definition camcorder sales saw a staggering sales increase of 99.4%. So, it’s clear that this sector’s focus is now clearly headed towards the HD market. Sanyo’s Phil Williams comments: “The increased demand for high definition movie product has been driven by the continued rise in adoption of product able to playback high definition images. In addition to television there are a number of high-definition projection products which have come to market recently, offering the consumer more choice in how they playback their HD movies”.

Sony Handycam product manager Ian Rea reiterates this point, stating: “High definition is a real opportunity for the digital imaging market. Consumers continue to be educated about the benefits of high definition content and the ability to capture high-definition home movies and still images that can be displayed on an HDTV, creates a stronger proposition for retailers to the sell the benefits of the HD experience”.

The Facebook effect

Social networking sites such as Facebook, along with video sharing sites like YouTube have exerted a huge influence on the number of people sharing this kind of content online. Phil Williams, Sanyo’s business manager for Digital Imaging explains: “The Web 2.0-led boom in social networking has driven a big increase in consumers who use moving images as part of their day-to-day lives. This increase in consumers interested in the sector offers potential benefits across the product range as consumers who first experience video through an entry-level product look to move to more advanced products that best serve their needs”.

This trend has led to the development of several compact sub-£200 models, sometimes known as Pocket Video Camcorders (PVCs) which aim to combine good quality videos with simple editing, for easy video sharing.

Martin Carpenter, product sales manager at Kodak, explains: “Kodak’s latest PVC is the Zx1. The follow-on from the Zi6, it still offers HD video capture, yet in a smaller, more robust body. There is the added inclusion of an HDMI output (cable included in the box) to allow the user to connect straight to their TV. The Zx1 comes with video editing software and a simple one-button upload to YouTube feature”.

Sanyo’s popular Xacti range of SD card camcorders includes a wide range of features, including the world’s first HD waterproof dual camera – the VPC-WH1. What’s more, all of the Xacti models enable still images to be taken while simultaneously recording moving images.

Panasonic also offers a variety of SD card-based camcorders, such as the new SDR-SW21 which sports an extra-durable design.

Product developments

Despite a growing preference for camcorders using SD cards, there is still a place for hard disc drive (HDD) models. JVC recently introduced its new Everio camcorder line-up which not only includes several HDD models, but also several products with dual SD card slots, which enable continuous recording between the two cards. The new models also include a direct YouTube upload function along with the ability to upload content to iTunes at the touch of a button.

Recent product innovations from Sony include what it claims is the world’s smallest full HD camcorder with GPS – the TG7VE.

Toshiba recently unveiled its new product line-up for 2009, including several 1080p HD additions to its popular Camileo camcorder range. The S10 is the thinnest camcorder in the range, measuring just 18mm thick, and also offers a compact pistol-grip design. Also new are the P10, P30 and H20 models, all of which incorporate a YouTube upload facility.

Flip Video recently launched
what it claims to be the world’s smallest high-definition pocket camcorder – the Flip MinoHD.

Many manufacturers, such as Panasonic, have always worked closely with the independent sector and will continue to do so in 2009. Sony is currently working on a number of in-store initiatives to promote the new range of Cyber-shot and Handycam products.

Both the camera and camcorder sectors provide huge potential or add-on sales, so don’t forget to mention accessories. Some camera models will certainly be in need of some spare batteries, while there’s also scope to sell accessories such as cases, tripods and lenses. Photo printers are also a popular purchase and are easy to demonstrate in store. There is also an ever-increasing range of digital photo frames to offer. These prove particularly popular as gifts, so if a camera is being purchased as a present, this could be the perfect add-on sale.

Sales Tips

  • Ask the customer what they want the product to do and whether they require any special features.
  • Find out how they wish to store their pictures/footage.
  • Make sure that you know the benefits of each recording format.
  • Make sure that your products are ready for demonstrations.
  • Use high definition as a selling tool – with a suitable HDTV.
  • Demo cameras and camcorders with related products such as laptops and digital photo frames.
  • Don’t forget to mention accessories.

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