Image Quality is a Red Herring

This Photokina interview by the MirrorLessons crew with Olympus’ Setsuya Kataoka touches on a very important factor in the rise of smartphone photography. Setsuya talks about how the traditional camera industry got their value proposition wrong:

We believe that one of the failures of camera manufacturers is that they compared the image quality of smartphones and cameras. But this was not the real comparison point for the smartphone. They have transformed not only the way of taking pictures but also sharing the photos and the so-called digital workflow – they have a better digital workflow. But since we have been continuously communicating “image quality, image quality” we are not able to grasp the actual market needs. This was the failure of camera manufacturers in general. As long as we continue to say that IQ is better, we probably won’t be able to stop current market decline. Therefore we will have to find a way not to compete but to co-exist with the smartphone industry.

They have a better digital workflow. The dedicated camera manufacturers were so busy competing on their industry’s accepted selling points—image quality, speed of operation, focal length coverage—that they were completely blind to the way an always-connected device could transform photography.