Strategy Session: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Strategy Session: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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From where I sit, I hear it from all sides.

Smartphones are killing the camera business. Compact P&S sales are way down, and Wi-Fi was too slow to come to market. It’s so easy to share on a phone, who needs a camera anymore?

But “real” cameras take much better images than smartphones—no contest: longer zooms, better exposure systems, far superior lenses. With DSLRs, it’s not even worth a conversation. Should you trust your memories to a phone?

The answer is, yes.

It’s not about us. It’s not about what camera manufacturers can produce anymore. It’s not about the battle for the image that takes place every day on the street or on the field or at the family reunion.

Personal story: I attended a wedding two weeks ago of a very dear friend’s daughter. Jen looked so beautiful on the most wonderful day of her life (not to mention her parents’ lives). As she walked down the aisle on her father’s arm, I lifted my DSLR (brand not mentioned here) and captured her essence. And all around me, cameraphones captured the same moment. Not the same picture, but the same moment in time.

I’m not the first, or the last, person to have this experience. But at some point, after I tempered my frustration at the low opinion that my fellow guests must have of this gorgeous bride to trust their smartphones for this occasion, it definitely hit me. There’s nothing wrong with them. Or me.

My head was in a different place. I was shooting for a lifetime of memories. They were shooting for a share on Facebook. I’m thinking photo book. They’re thinking Instagram. I’m envisioning 8×10 prints on metal. They’re thinking, ‘How many likes and comments can I get in the next 30 minutes?’

They could never do what I could. But you know what, I couldn’t do what they were doing either. Were either of us wrong?

My conclusion is a resounding no. I’m done fighting the fight. I’ve finally accepted the fact that the photo world is shifting, and it’s not really hardware driven. It’s experientially driven. Smartphones are now OK in the world—just not in my world when I’m at a lavish wedding that I want to preserve for posterity.

Over the last year or so, I’ve seen camera manufacturers accept the fact that smartphones are here to share. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled cameras allow you to send your images quickly to your smartphone, where they can be shared and viewed instantly. Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is making it even easier to turn a phone into an accessory for a camera—controlling zooms and shutters and accepting data far more easily than ever before. It seems that, in some circles of the world, there’s the desire to get along.

Are smartphones hindering the compact P&S camera business? From the looks of the numbers, yes. But does it have to kill the entire camera business? Not if we can all get along.

Back to the wedding. My camera delivered big-time. Jen and Matt’s first kiss. Their adoring glances. Their first dance. And while my pictures were clearly not the first memories to land on Facebook, they were clearly the best. Same moments. Much better pictures. The mother of the bride asked for full-resolution files. The photo books will be filled with memories that can be shared and printed and displayed for a lifetime.

My smartphone competitors? They won their own battle. Cyberspace instantly owned a huge piece of Jen and Matt’s wedding day. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Flickr. Pinterest. For the next few weeks, or months, their wedding will be shared by far more people than the ensuing albums will ever be. Old high school friends will gush . . . college roommates and fraternity brothers will send their love back with comments. Even thousands of people who never knew them will appreciate how beautiful they looked on that warm spring day.

The battle of smartphones versus cameras is over for me. There’s no right or wrong. When we’re selling cameras and lenses and accessories, it shouldn’t be a question of either/or anymore. It’s more about why not both?

For me, it comes down to this: Smartphones are phones that deliver pictures you might never dream of taking. Cameras are photographic devices that deliver pictures you’d never dream of missing.

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