So the big question being asked at this Photokina is why, with so many exciting new cameras currently being announced, are hardware sales (i.e. cameras and lenses) still in decline?
One answer is definitely the iPhone with Apple very heavily promoting its capabilities – particularly the last couple of versions – as a camera. The convenience of carrying only one device is undeniable, but immediacy and the sharing options are undoubtedly also attractions. Yet Apple isn’t just promoting its smartphones for snaps… the ad campaigns suggest serious photography and that’s the problems for the camera makers.
It’s interesting to note that the categories doing big business at the moment – namely actioncams and camera drones – have a real element of excitement and it’s not just about shooting video (because they shoot stills as well), but about the experience and involvement…. the buzz word is immersive. It’s just possible that the huge diversity that’s now part of the camera market – sensor sizes, mirrorless or reflex, 4K and 2K video, RF style or SLR… and that’s even before you get to the actual specs – is simply confusing many consumers who really only just want to take better or different pictures.
This is part of the thinking behind Nikon’s headlong dive into the actioncam business. The KeyMission 360 was, of course, announced way back in January, but has been delayed because of sensor delivery issues (Nikon is not alone here) so it’s now caught up with the two models planned for later launch… the KeyMission 170 and KeyMission 80. Nikon’s compact camera business has been decimated by the rise and rise of the smartphone, so actioncams look like a good replacement, especially now it’s launching a family of products. The brand’s reputation will help here too. As with the 360, the new KeyMission modes are waterproof, dustproof and shockproof, but Nikon believes the potential audience extends beyond the extreme sports and action applications to everyday use… in other words, they’re the new interpretation of the compact camera. Consequently, the KeyMission 80 is smart, slimline device that’s designed to be wearable and incorporates a second lens-and-sensor combo specifically for shooting selfies. And it’s able to record time-lapse movies or there’s a ‘Route Shooting’ mode which captures your journey in either stills or movie clips.
The KeyMission 170 is the more conventional actioncam design and, frankly, the model likely to sell the best. It’s extremely rugged and an optional housing enables it to be taken to depths of 40 metres. The Nikkor lens gives a 170-degree angle-of-view and it can shoot 4K video in the UHD resolution. As with the original twin-lens KM 360 model, both the 170 and 80 have Nikon’s Bluetooth-based ‘SnapBridge’ for quicker – and subsequently continuous connection – to a mobile device. There’s a swag of mounts for various applications.
You might have expected a company of the calibre of Nikon to do something a bit bigger at an event like Photokina, but the KeyMission program makes sense in terms of finding a replacement for its compact camera business… and offering something that smartphones can’t.