Greetings and welcome to 2014! I just back got from another whirlwind Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and I would like to share some insights and perhaps a nugget of opportunity for our photo-imaging industry to help make 2014 a comeback year for digital photography.
We have seen the shift over the last few years to smartphone and tablet photo capture, and as a result digital cameras sales have suffered during 2013, even though more photos than ever were being taken.
In my experience in consumer electronics, I have seen a similar trend with audio in the late 1990s as that industry migrated from communal enjoyment of music to personal enjoyment of music. The headphone industry took off thanks to personal audio devices like the iPod, and the purchase of music moved from the record stores to the online space. High-quality uncompressed sound through large 15-inch subwoofer drivers became highly compressed MP3 files, pushing mini speaker drivers in earbuds. In short, the listening experience became less about quality and more about convenience.
Here we are 15 years later, and a surprising similar trend has come to the digital imaging category.
Nowadays, consumers are snapping and sharing life’s precious moments on smartphone screens. If we don’t want to end up an industry for professional and student users only, we have to collectively send a message to consumers to enjoy photography greater than five inches at a time!
I know what you are thinking, “Easier said than done!” I agree, but the keen insight that I want to share with you coming out of the 2014 CES is this: let us in the imaging industry take advantage of one of the hottest new technologies that is now getting a huge level of advertising investment. 4K or Ultra High Definition televisions were among the hottest areas of growth at CES 2014.
Everywhere you looked there were big, beautiful promotional displays showing off giant 4K screens. Here is the opportunity nugget: big TV manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic want to show off these new displays to consumers. High-quality images from real digital cameras look absolutely stunning on a living room wall in 4K. But you need good image IQ. Small sensors and mini lenses won’t make the grade; the answer, of course, is large sensors with high-grade glass—true cameras.
Let’s then use 4K still image display as the “gateway drug” for making amazing prints. Once consumers get “hooked” on seeing their images hung on the wall, they will be primed for making more high-quality print output.
In short, my message to you, the collective photo industry, is simply this: Now is the time to work together in collaboration to make 2014 a comeback year for this business we all love. There are great opportunities if you just keep your eyes opened.
Mike Kahn is a CE industry veteran with more than 24 years of sales and marketing experience in the industry, mostly within the world of digital imaging. For the last 18 years he has been with Sony Electronics, serving in a variety of business units ranging from professional to consumer markets. Kahn is also the president of the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association.