For Sony and other makers of cameras and camcorders, the past few years have been disruptive, to say the least, trying to introduce products into a digital-imaging landscape that's been dramatically and drastically altered. For instance, most people take photos or video on their smart phones. Period. So, does this mean that at Sony's CES press conference or at its booth (as well as at other booths on the show floor), you won't see any cameras or camcorders? Not by a long shot. In fact, Sony and others are simply working hard to reinvent both categories
Here are three reasons why cameras and camcorders aren't ready to die, at least not yet:
Going 4K. As I reported earlier, the new Sony FDR-AX100 is the cheapest full-sized camcorder to include 4K or ultra-high-def video. But other products are including 4K-related features as well. For instance, a number of digital cameras can display photos, or slideshows of photos, in 4K via an HDMI connection to a Sony 4K HDTV. So, if you're considering or already have a 4K HDTV, you may want to think about upgrading your camcorder in the near future. And this new camcorder comes at just the right time for the camcorder industry, which has seen a dramatic drop in camcorder sales.
New camera-body designs. Last summer, Sony introduced a very enticing product in terms of product design: The QX-series of cameras look like lenses, but they're actually Wi-Fi cameras that work in conjunction with your smart phone. So, you can shoot with a camera that has a very good lens and sensor, and then view them on your smart phone's great display and quickly upload them.
Of course, the best example of effective and inventive design is in the camcorder space: Action cams are still very hot, with GoPro and others continuing to reinvent this type of camcorder. Sony introduced a splashproof version of its action cam: the AS100 (shown above). It goes to show that a drastic overhaul of a product design can actually bring new life to a product category, as GoPro and other action camcorder makers have.
For more on point-and-shoots as well as advanced cameras, check our buying guide and Ratings for cameras.
But it's not the only design that's garnering praise: Some camera companies are reaching into the past to produce new designs. For instance, the Nikon Df SLR looks like a film camera—the body is adorned with all sorts of buttons and levers--but is a full-frame digital SLR. Also, Fujifilm and Olympus have covered parts of their SLR-like models with a textured, leather-like material, a look that harks back to the rangefinder film cameras of the past.
Inventive high-end cameras. Sony and others have also been introducing cameras and camcorders for more enthusiasts and even pros. For example, Sony had on view its two latest full-frame cameras—the Alpha 7 and the Alpha 7R. Both include large, full-frame sensors (which are the same size as one frame of 35mm film). But their bodies aren't nearly as large as SLRs or SLR-like models of the past. So you get all the power of a high-end camera without the weight.
These aren't the only reasons the camera and camcorder markets are far from dead. For instance, there are more Wi-Fi enabled models now. Also, lenses are getting longer and more powerful. We'll be looking for interesting new cameras and camcorders at the show and will report on any other new developments.
Over the next few days, we'll be covering the latest news on cameras and camcorders, both connected and nonconnected, so keep checking back for all our CES 2014 coverage.