A first-time experience with a Nikon S800c or Samsung EK-GC100 camera is an epiphany. Android-embedded cameras change the definition of consumer camera forever and widen the distinction between cameras and smartphones. Android may not save the shrinking consumer camera industry, but it will convince many smartphone photographers to buy an Android camera to complement their smartphone so that they stop missing great photo-ops.
Smartphone cameras produce pretty good pictures most of the time, though many Kodak moments are lost because of terrible depth-of-field, a narrow operating range of lighting and poor high-speed action image capture.
Camera shipments have been eroded by smartphones. Canon, the icon of the Japanese camera industry, recently reported lower sales and profits and its CEO Fujio Mitarai slashed forecasts. According to market research firm IHS Global, consumer camera shipments will contract by 4.3% in 2012. Smartphones are often identified as the agent causing camera revenues to plummet. Android and Apple smartphones have cannibalized camera revenues, delivering comparatively poorer images. Users have sacrificed image quality for the convenience of their cherished daily relationship and user experience with smartphones.
Digital camera manufacturers, like their film camera manufacturer predecessors, have missed a change in consumer behavior; the amateur photographer does not want to wait to share images. Digital cameras leapt ahead because images could be shared on sites like Flickr or emailed to friends. But people want to simultaneously share the image of their experience during the moment of that experience. Point-shoot-and-post capabilities will soon be a requirement.
Some camera manufacturers have added WiFi to certain models to share to Facebook, Twitter and the user’s PC, albeit using awkward proprietary interfaces. The choice of destinations is as limiting as the user interface. But this is not enough. What about Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Google Plus, the billion Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail accounts, and the many other photo sharing sites?
Android embedded in a camera solves this problem. Buy a Nikon S800c or Samsung EK-GC100 camera, turn it on, sign-in or create a Gmail account, navigate in the same way one would with an Android smartphone to Google Play and download the app to share the way the user is accustomed to. Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail , Instagram, Pinterest all have Android photo posting and sharing apps. Of the top rated photo sharing services, 12 out of 13 have Android apps.
The Nikon S800c is widely available and can be purchased for about $300 on Amazon.com. It is WiFi-only and does not support cellular data communications. It runs Android 2.3.3. The Android premium is about $100 at this early stage in the market’s evolution, based on the approximate $200 Amazon.com price for the COOLPIX L810 that has comparatively superior zoom capabilities.
The price of the Samsung EK-GC100 has not been announced. Its digital zoom specs also have not been announced, so it is difficult to set a baseline model to determine the Android premium, but it will likely be the Samsung WB100 available on Amazon for about $200. The EK-GC100 will be exclusively sold by AT&T. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. In addition to WiFi the Samsung EK-GC100 supports 3G and 4G data communications or, in other words, point-shoot-post from almost anywhere there is a WiFi or cellular signal.
Nikon and Samsung have created a new category of camera. These cameras consistently produce great images in many different conditions compared to smartphones that inconsistently produce great images in a narrow range of conditions. In addition to doing everything that a point-and-shoot camera can do, the user can do everything that can be done on an Android smartphone except maybe make a telephone call.