Last Updated Jun 4, 2010 2:44 PM EDT
The answer for a number of camera vendors is to go beyond basics and find a new type of customer willing to pay top dollar. This new generation of point-and-shoots still share basic characteristics of their endangered brethren. Cameras are light, compared with more expensive DSLRs (digital single lens reflexes). Lenses are non-interchangeable. Point-and-shoots are generally small enough to drop into a pocket. However, the new breed differs in a number of ways:
- Lenses are often from such name optics manufacturers as Leica and Schneider and are also "faster," meaning they can allow more light in and let consumers take pictures under more challenging conditions
- There is greater flexibility in storing images, not only in compressed JPEG form, but in unaltered so-called RAW files that preserve all the visual information
- Greater control over shutter speed, aperture, and light sensitivity
- Larger sensor chips to improve image capture quality
However, they well fit the interests of the prosumer segment -- advanced amateurs as well as professionals interested in an easily portable camera that can provide the tools for taking better quality pictures. Additionally, the prosumer segment is willing to spend more money to get the technical abilities they want. Prices can run upwards of $500.
Some of the models have shortcomings. For example, from what I can see in the images of a Samsung TL500, there is no viewfinder, probably to reduce costs. Many advanced photographers want the ability to cradle a camera against their faces and avoid the imperceptible hand shake that occurs when they hold the camera in front of them and watch the display screen. The result is unnoticeable in small format, but can make images look fuzzy when enlarged.
On the whole, though, the camera vendors are taking steps to retain at least some market share and profit, as the more expensive units likely provide greater margin than the doomed low-end models. However, as there is a limit to the number of people willing to spend more money on a camera, expect to see consolidation among vendors and a reduction in the number of brands on the market.