Smart Cameras and Facebook Printing Dominate Late Summer News

Alan Bullock
Sep 6, 2012

It’s hard to recall a week with so much interesting news in the photo industry since the glory days of PMA trade shows. With Photokina less than a month away, the eight days from Wednesday, August 22, to Wednesday, August 29 saw a number of significant announcements hit the wires. Here are the highlights…

Since 2005, InfoTrends has advocated for wireless connectivity in cameras and manufacturers are finally responding in earnest. Most of the major vendors have introduced Wi-Fi cameras this year, but Nikon and Samsung took it up a notch with “smart” cameras based on the Android operating system.

Nikon COOLPIX S800c

Nikon COOLPIX S800c

First, Nikon announced the COOLPIX S800c, a 16-megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom, Wi-Fi connectivity, and built-in GPS. (See InfoTrends’ Carrie Sylvester’s reaction here.)

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Less than a week later, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Camera, which also features 16 megapixel resolution, Wi-Fi, and GPS, but adds a 21x optical zoom, Bluetooth connectivity, and a Wi-Fi/3G-4G cellular version. As Android devices, both the Nikon and Samsung cameras will be able to download apps from Google Play.

Sony Alpha NEX-5R

Sony Alpha NEX-5R

In between, Sony revealed the Alpha NEX-5R compact interchangeable lens camera with Wi-Fi connectivity. Although not an Android device, the NEX-5R will support downloaded proprietary applications through Sony’s PlayMemories Camera Apps platform. Six apps will be available at launch, with more to follow.

Apps unleash the power of thousands of really smart and really creative developers who can crank out features and enhancements that the typical camera manufacturer would take months (if not years) and several committees to implement — if they ever thought of them in the first place. There may be exceptions (particularly with Android 2.3 Gingerbread on the Nikon S800c), but both Android cameras should be compatible with most of the photo apps currently available for other devices. And, if Nikon and Samsung provide APIs for developers to access and control native camera functions previously unseen on any other Android device, the results could be spectacular. Given Sony’s apparent tighter control over the app market for the NEX-5R, there will probably be far fewer apps available for that device, but the ones that are released are likely to take full advantage of the camera’s capabilities. It makes you wonder what Apple could do with an iOS camera, but that’s a rumor for another time.

Thanks to their larger sensors and better lenses, these connected cameras should be able to take better pictures than even the best smartphones. Does this mean that camera manufacturers can now rest easy as smartphone photography fades away like a scary nightmare? Absolutely not. But it does indicate that they are listening and addressing some of the things that consumers like best about mobile photography — connectivity and apps. This type of innovation will be critical to avoid steep declines in digital camera sales this year.

Output News

Snapfish SocialPics Book

Snapfish SocialPics Book

Two mainstream photo print vendors (Snapfish and Walgreens) unveiled creative ways to monetize some of the billions of photos that have been uploaded to Facebook. Snapfish’s SocialPics Book automatically generates a 20-page photo book filled with the most popular photos, status updates, and associated comments from the user’s Timeline within a specified date range. Individual photos and/or comments can be deleted, but there is otherwise very little creative control in the user’s hands, resulting in an extremely quick and easy photo book design process. Finished books are 8” x 8”, and are available in soft or hard cover.

Walgreens PrintWorthy Print

Walgreens PrintWorthy Print

Walgreens Photo launched a new Facebook app that features a product called PrintWorthy, a 5” x 7” print containing a single Facebook photo (cropped square) with people tags and as many “likes” and comments as will fit in the remaining white space next to the photo. This added personal content makes them more socially relevant than ordinary prints. At the right price, they should prove popular among Facebook users. The initial price of $2.99 each seems high; 99¢ would probably be more successful.

Of course, not all of the news was positive. Last week, Kodak announced plans to sell its Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging businesses. Personalized Imaging includes photographic film and paper, as well as Retail System Solutions (RSS), with its installed base of more than 100,000 Picture Kiosks and APEX dry lab systems around the world. InfoTrends believes that the RSS sale is more about Kodak’s need to generate cash during ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings than it is a reflection of the condition of the retail photo print business, which we believe remains healthy. Fujifilm, Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), and Lucidiom are mentioned most often as potential buyers for the retail business, but a dark horse candidate may emerge.

As always, we’ll be watching these and other developments over the coming months. If you’ll be at Photokina, please consider attending our InfoBriefing on the morning of Wednesday, September 19. Details and registration info can be found here.

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