Coolpix, Cyber-shot, PowerShot, Exilim; these compact camera sub-brands now sound like they’re from a bygone era. And its demise has all but been confirmed by a new report from Japan that most major camera makers, including Nikon, Sony and Canon, are drastically reducing their point-and-shoot camera offerings, if not abandoning them altogether.
The Japanese Business Newspaper Nikkei (opens in new tab) talked to all the ex-pocket camera giants for their report, captured by petapixel (opens in new tab)which concludes that “big camera companies” have “stopped developing new compact digital cameras” to focus on “mirrorless cameras with high unit prices”.
Unless you’ve just woken up from a cryogenic sleep that started in 2006, this won’t be shocking news. Smartphones have become so good and so much better than most compact cameras that for many the idea of owning a separate photographic tool now seems as strange as carrying around a Walkman.
But despite the emphatic conclusions of CIPA (Camera Imaging & Products Association) data in the Nikkei report, which shows that shipments of compact digital cameras have dropped by 97% since 2008, there is evidence that the point-and-shoot camera is still very alive and even evolving. It simply won’t have a Nikon Coolpix or Sony Cyber-shot badge on the front.
Point of no return
the surprising about CIPA data (opens in new tab) is that compact digital cameras still accounted for 36% of global camera shipments last year. So where will all these people go if the camera giants stop developing new compact models?
To be fair, not every company the Nikkei spoke to said they were immediately ejecting from the point-and-shoot cockpit. Canon said, “While we are moving to higher-end models, we have strong support for low-end models and will continue to develop and produce them as long as there is demand.” Nikon vaguely added that “future production volume will be determined by paying close attention to market trends”.
But reading between those carefully worded lines reveals the reality. Only three Nikon Coolpix cameras are still on sale, and the last of them arrived in 2020. Neither Canon nor Sony have released a new compact camera for three years. Panasonic was more direct, telling the Nikkei that “we have stopped developing new models that can be replaced by smartphones”. There. Just like DSLRs, the point-and-shoot sales graph only goes in one direction and very quickly.
And yet, those who enjoy the point-and-shoot experience aren’t all sticking to smartphones. Certainly, a significant number are, thanks to the power of the best camera apps and the arrival of accessories like Shiftcam SnapGrip (opens in new tab) and Fjorden, which turn your cell phone into a compact camera. But an increasing number are also adopting a new kind of point-and-shoot.
It’s no secret that film cameras have seen a resurgence in recent years, and not just among nostalgic geeks. O Ultra Wide and Slim Straight (opens in new tab), for example, is a cheap point-and-shoot that launched this year and comes in five colors, weighing in at just 68g. This popular starter model takes 35mm film and has a wide 22mm lens to help you get more out of a photo than a typical compact.
There has also been a flurry of new ‘half-frame’ compact cameras this year, such as the Kodak Ektar (opens in new tab), which help reduce rising film costs by allowing you to take twice as many exposures on a roll of film (for example, 76 shots on a 36-exposure film). A new British startup called Alfie Cameras (opens in new tab) is also looking for beta testers for its new half-frame Tych camera, which has a selection of different smartphone-style lenses.
Elsewhere, even Canon has been secretly diving into new types of point-and-shoot cameras with crowdfunding models like the (somewhat disappointingly) Canon PowerShot Zoom and Canon Ivy Rec. And while it’s a little more advanced than your average compact, the Alice Camera is also trying to do what’s beyond the Cyber-shots of this world – combine smartphone-style computing power with traditional camera hardware.
Elsewhere, the best instant cameras have also channeled some of the point-and-shoot enthusiasm that was previously aspired to by compacts, with market observation (opens in new tab) predicting a steady growth rate of 4% per year for the sector. There’s also a healthy second-hand market for point-and-shoot movies, with models like the Olympus XA2 and Minolta Riva Zoom 130 proving popular with those wanting a certain element of surprise that smartphones lack due to their relentless efficiency.
There’s still plenty of room to aim and shoot hard like the Olympus TG-6 or the GoPro Hero 10 Black, as our smartphones still need stuntmen in more extreme situations.
But, as the Nikkei report points out, the compact digital camera as we knew it in the 2000s has all but disappeared.
That means we’re likely to see big changes in the world of the best point-and-shoot cameras in the years to come. They won’t die, however; just evolve and become a little more eccentric as we explore new types of hassle-free fitting.
If the return of film cameras tells us anything, though, it’s that photographic trends work in cycles. They may not be loved right now, but one day the Sony Cyber-shots, Casio Exilims, Nikon Coolpixes and Fujifilm Finepixes of this world will have their cultural resurgence. And when that happens, you’ll probably want to remember which drawer you left them in.