PCR speaks to Rachel Banin, head of the digital imaging division

Interview: Sony – Part 3

PCR: Not so long ago it seemed cameras were sold almost exclusively on the number of megapixels they could handle. What would you say the main drivers in the market are now?

RACHEL BANIN, HEAD OF SONY’S SIGITAL IMAGING DIVISION: Many of the camera markets are quite mature – people have been purchasing digital cameras for some time, but I think people are now expecting much more from their devices, and that continues to drive the market.

So it’s really about people upgrading their devices and looking really good value for money in terms of what that can deliver, so a lot of devices now are capable of quite good quality still and moving images.

We discovered that with the launch of our NEX product in July. It’s an interchangeable lens camera that’s capable if full high definition movie as well as really high quality still image capture.

We’ve tapped into the capabilities of a DSLR and put them into a compact size body. It’s meeting those sorts of needs which are really creating the opportunities for us at the moment in the marketplace.

So like smartphones and tablets, much of the development now is essentially about miniaturisation?

It’s certainly an area where we see a lot of growth opportunity. The market has shown that there’s a huge consumer appetite for this sort of product, and we’ve really been seeing a lot of success with the NEX camera since its launch.

If you look at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got less specialist devices. Like our range of mp4 video capturing Bloggie products. These combine the ability to capture high definition movie content with the convenience of instantly uploading it to the web. It’s an example of a camera offering much more than it used to do.

You have been one of the first to really jump on consumer 3D cameras. How big a factor is this going to be in the camera market going forward?

The 3D options are on the new Cybershot models, but also on the NEX models. The results are really impressive and it gives a great effect. The core drive is getting professional quality features into a compact camera, and 3D is a plus on top of that.

It’s something that gives a ‘wow’. If you’ve got the technology to display it it’s a really great feature to have. It kind of reinforces the sense of the camera being able to do everything.

Are all these new features not bumping up the average retail price of cameras?

In some areas the average price of cameras is increasing year-on-year, but you can see consumers recognising that when they upgrade their equipment in order to have a camera which has either the interchangeable lens, some more creative options, movie shooting, or a high zoom on a compact camera – if they are willing to invest a little more they get a much better camera for their money. The market data is reflecting that. But at the same time they are expecting their own device to do much, much more.

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