Point-and-shoots are dying, but photography is alive and well

The good news for camera makers: Now they have a chance to move people from smartphone cams to the truly pricey gear.

Visitors to a famous Paris church snap away at a street performer. Point-and-shoot cameras are getting replaced by smartphone cams, but photography is doing just fine. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Point-and-shoot cameras are getting elbowed out of the market by smartphones, Reuters reports. Canon, Sony and Nikon should be overjoyed.

History has never known a generation of such wannabe shutterbugs as this one. For the first 11 months of the year, retail sales of "entry-level cameras" fell 17 percent to 12 million units while makers of smartphones sold 95 million devices.

This is a great opportunity for the camera companies. So what if the public is rejecting point-and-shoots? Those were the near beers of the industry anyway. What is sure to happen now is that some of these smartphone owners will want to squeeze out more color, sharpness, and depth of field than their itsy-bitsy camera phones can deliver.

So, no more easing consumers into the hobby. The camera guys can move them straight into plunking down of real money on real equipment. Let me explain, using myself as an example.

I took the long way to photography as addiction. I went from my cellphone cam to a point-and-shoot to a Sony A100 SLR to the pro-amateur class. I recently purchased a Nikon D7000. I dropped a couple thousand on the camera and the 18-200mm lens. They eventually got me for a speed flash, $300 camera bag, hard drives, monopods, numerous memory cards. I'm easily out $3,000.

Try getting a shot like this with your smartphone. A street performer entertains a crowd in Paris. The photo was taken with a Nikon D-7000 using a focal length of 142mm. Greg Sandoval/CNET

And I'm just getting started. I'm now in the market for a wide-angle lens, a new tripod and better editing software. I just signed up for a photography class. Here's the best part for Nikon: I don't even mind. For me, the cost is worth it. Few of my pursuits have delivered as much satisfaction and enjoyment.

Obviously, I'm not alone. During a trip to Paris and London (excellent places to gauge the health of amateur photography), a street performer with a soccer ball wowed onlookers at the Sacre-Coeur Basilica when he began dribbling the ball on his feet as he hung from a light post.

No sooner had the performer started into his act when seemingly everyone in the audience, all at once, reached for one kind of camera or another. Yes, a lot of people whipped out smartphones--but I also saw dozens of SLRs. I was asked by strangers to snap their pictures five times that day. I was handed two smart phones, one SLR, one point and shoot and one old film camera (you're welcome, hipster).

So camera makers just need to relax and remember that all those smartphones are great starter kits. They'll still have the opportunity to expand their market... just as long as people continue to click, click, click.

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