Camera companies, please simplify your product line! :: Digital Photo Secrets

Camera companies, please simplify your product line!

by David Peterson 14 comments

[opinion] I know it's somewhat of a cultural cliche to talk about how Apple is so different from everyone, but what have I got to lose? I feel inspired to say something. Right now, camera manufacturers don’t know what they are as a brand. They make tons of camera models with confusing names and what seems like very little focus on their products.

Going on name alone, why would you want to purchase the Canon SX40 HS 12.1 instead of the Canon Powershot S100? The ordinary consumer is confused.

“Focus means saying ‘no.’”

One of the first things Steve Jobs did when he got back to Apple was get rid of products. He got rid of all the Macs you’ll never remember, the entire 5200 series, and more. Why? Because going on name alone, the consumer has no idea what the difference between a Performa 5200 and 5400 is, and that’s a problem. There’s simply no need to create a new product if you don’t have to.

What did he replace them with? The iPod. The iMac. The MacBook Pro. The iPhone. Most people, even those who don’t use Apple products, know what these are. Their names warrant no explanation.

I can’t see why no single company has done the same thing in the camera market. Why can’t someone step up to the plate and say, “you know what? This is ridiculous. Nobody knows what an SX40 is. Why don’t we just simplify our product line?”

I dare you to sell just three cameras

Imagine a camera company, a Nikon or a Canon, that only caters to three types of people. They make one really awesome point and shoot model, and they call it the “Pocket.” They make one totally badass entry-level digital SLR and they call it the “Indie”. They make one fully decked out pro model, and guess what they call it? Yep. “The Pro.”

Look at what this does. Look at how easy it is to explain your products to normal people. I say “go get a Canon Pocket camera,” and you know exactly what I mean. You ask me what the camera is good for, and it’s quite obvious. It’s a point-and-shoot. It’s for people who are just getting into photography.

How about instead of putting all of your resources into creating all these different kinds of cameras, you put them into building and perfecting just three cameras? Look at how easy this makes your job. I actually think this is the irony of running a highly successful company like Apple. Because they believe in simplicity, their jobs are actually easier.

A better sensor is no reason to create a totally new product

I know what some of you are going to say right now. It’s the same argument they tried give Steve Jobs when he slashed all of those products. You’ll say there are people out there who can tell the difference between a 5300 and 5600. There are people who want that one camera that’s right in between the semi-pro digital SLR and the somewhat more pro-ish SLR. You’ll say it’s a matter of price range.

Fair enough. A bigger sensor might be a cause to charge more for a camera, but it’s not a reason to create a completely different product with a different name. Apple offers six varieties of iPad, but they don’t call them the iPad G32X or the iPad HQ64AT. It’s just the iPad. You can buy an iPad with 32 GB of storage or one with 3G access. It doesn’t matter. You’re still just buying an iPad.

Why don’t camera makers do that? They could just say, “here’s the Pocket model with the 10MP sensor, but you could get the one with the 12MP sensor too. We’ve got one with wifi and one without wifi.” Was that so hard? You can still offer the same customized camera, but instead of leading people astray, you’re giving them a basic reference point to start with.

I personally would love nothing more than to witness the demise of the X’s and uninspired product names that are really nothing more than meaningless strings of numbers. As a consumer, it makes me feel like the camera companies just minted a prototype and haven’t put much thought into the specific purpose their product serves. Suggest that to me. Give me a simple name.

Do that, and you’ll start selling cameras by the truckload.

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  1. azhar says:

    Why the hell the camera companies are naming the products so ridiculous, your point is absolutely true.

  2. Tony Jupp says:

    You are right about to many choices,when upgrading my desktop and laptop recently swapped to Apple products as choosing another Microsoft based one was to confusing, to much choice!A similar idea for cameras would be great.

  3. l pritchard says:

    be like me have bin using pentax for 35+ years still great cameras

  4. Bruce says:

    Agreed, but I think they camera companies know exactly what they are doing and they purposefully make things confusing. They have their reasons and of course it all boils down to money in the long run.

  5. Laura Lea Evans says:

    Camera simplicity. Both in name and operation. What a concept! I use the Fuji Finepix HS20, having come through the ranks with various other Fuji models over the years, and can state: it's relatively easy. A friend recently sent me an email which didn't display the images but just listed the model numbers of the Fuji cameras, and had I not be somewhat conversant with the brand, I would have been stuck. His assertion that such and such should be my next camera, based on no images, was indeed folly. Like David put it: an iPad is an iPad whether 16 GB or 64 GB. One knows what one will get! Let's hammer it home to camera manufacturers to change tactics and simplify the nomenclature of their models.


  6. Alex says:

    Very good point, David! I couldn't agree more!

    I hope camera makers read this article and THINK SIMPLE.

    God bless you!

    ps: I have an old 5 megapixel Sony "Pocket" still kicking, :)

  7. Noelene says:

    Excellent!! Wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments it would make every photographers life soooo much easier.

  8. Arturo says:


  9. Carolyn Collins says:

    Thanks AGAIN for this excellent article. I DO hope you have sent it to all the major makers.

  10. Cathy says:

    The menagerie of point and shoot cameras is mind boggling. Is it any wonder that people opt to use their cell phone cameras?

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