Canon's PowerShot N100 Puts the Photographer in the Picture
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
That seems to be what Canon is saying with its announcement Monday of a new PowerShot camera model, the N100, which includes several features popular on smartphones.
For example, the shooter has front and rear cameras. Combined in Dual Capture mode, a picture-in-picture effect can be created with the image from the rear-facing camera being incorporated automatically into the main image.
The images captured with the rear-facing camera can be placed in four different locations on the main image and in three different sizes at the photographer's discretion.
"The new PowerShot N100 is a unique digital camera designed to not only create high-quality images and video, but also capture the feelings of the photographer at the moment they take a picture," Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager for Canon's Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, said in a statement.
The PowerShot N100 is expected to be available in May in white or black for US$349.99.
The unit also supports WiFi. With the press of a button, you can connect to a compatible smartphone, tablet or computer.
What's more, the N100 supports near field communication, found in some Android phones, enabling the sharing of photos by tapping an NFC device with the camera.
Playing on the popularity of popular smartphone apps like Instagram, which applies digital filters to photos, the N100 has also added 46 new filter types, including HDR effects.
It has a 3-inch touchscreen, too, but its display can be tilted away from the camera -- something that can't be done with a smartphone display. Tilted displays make it easier to snap extreme low- and high-angle pictures.
On top of its smartphone qualities, the 12.1 MP N100 has a number of quality camera-only features. For example, it uses Canon's Digic 6 processor, which is found on some of the company's higher-end cameras.
It also has a fast F1.8 lens with a 5x optical zoom that's the equivalent of a 24 mm to 120 mm zoom in a 35 mm camera, and can shoot 1080p video at 60 frames per second.
'Serious, Deep Cannibalization'
This latest PowerShot may be a preview of the kind of strategy point-and-shoot camera makers will adopt to stem sinking sales due to smartphone photography.
"There's been serious, deep cannibalization of the point and shoot market by smartphones," Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, told TechNewsWorld.
Point-and-shoot makers have adopted two general strategies to cope with smartphone competition, Rubin said. One approach -- "coopetition" -- seeks to make cameras work better with smartphones. Sony, for instance, last year introduced two camera models -- the QX 10 and QX 100 -- that are designed to attach to a smartphone but are still independent units.
The other approach is to outperform the smartphone on image quality, low-light performance and sensor performance.
"Smartphones took some of the best features of digital cameras and incorporated them into their designs," Chris Chute, a research director at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. "Now I think camera vendors are doing the same thing."
Canon is on the right track, Chute continued, by "incorporating some of the fun features that you normally find in a smartphone and putting them in a standalone camera that has great image quality."
Handwriting on Wall
Some photographers, though, believe camera makers should not copy what can be found in a smartphone.
"They'd be better off with specialized features that you can't get in a smartphone," David Busch, creative director for the David Busch photography guides, told TechNewsworld.
"Olympus has a $150 camera you can use underwater," he said. "There's no smartphone that you can use underwater without a specialized case."
While point-and-shoot sales have declined, one segment that's shown strength has been the action-cam market.
"It's been growing because people don't want to jeopardize their smartphone to capture themselves skiing or diving or something like that," Reticle's Rubin said.
Nevertheless, the handwriting appears to be on the wall for point-and-shoot cameras.
"There's no reason to carry a camera if you've got a smartphone, and if you're not going to carry a camera, why buy one?" Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.
"SLRs will probably be around for a while because of professional and semi-pro photographers, but point-and-shoots are at risk of becoming obsolete against ever-more-capable smartphones," he observed.
'Canon and Nikon Will Rule'
"I think the compact market is going to go away eventually," suggested Stan Horaczek, online editor for Popular Photography. "Even the camera brands think that.
"If anything, Canon and Nikon will rule in the final days of the compact, if only because they're the most familiar camera names," Horaczek told TechNewsWorld. "The exceptions are in super-zooms and rugged cameras. I'd expect those to live on."
Really cheap cameras will likely live on as well, he added, "if only to stock Black Friday shelves every year."