Compact Creator Cameras 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the camera makers have basically just decided that, while compact cameras are dead, they’ll just reinvent them as interchangeable lens crop-sensor cameras (ILC) and market them for “creators.” 

It’s easy enough to see with cameras such as the Nikon Z30: it’s something like a Coolpix A900 with a lens mount and a screen that articulates the other way. Minimized controls, reliance on the Rear LCD, lens versatility (through interchangeable instead of built-in), not quite shirt pocket size, but effectively jacket pocket sized, and 20mp ;~). 

Canon’s whole M lineup was a bit like the Nikon 1 lineup (and came a year later): they didn’t want it to compete with the DSLRs so they had some cripple bits embedded, and to a large degree they were a bit like PowerShots with larger image sensors and an interchangeable lens. 

The problem Canon, Nikon, and Sony had after 2010 was one of volume. To a lesser degree, this was also a lingering Fujifilm and Panasonic problem, as well. All these companies had grown reliant on compact cameras (and low-end ILC) for volume. As smartphones started snacking at the bottom end of the camera market and the rush to buy digital cameras turned into a rush past the dealer doors to the local Apple store, something had to give. What gave was compact cameras. 

And yet, here they are in a different guise sitting at the bottom of the mirrorless lineups again. Even Panasonic has mumbled something about perhaps making those lower-end compact creator cameras again. Lots of luck in your senior year, Panny. (Yes, a politically re-popularized saying many of us first heard in a different context decades ago, but an appropriate one here.)

Let’s face it, the term “creator” has turned into a euphemism for young, money-constrained buyers who like to create stills and videos to document their life. Instead of printing them or putting them in slide shows as their elders once did, today’s compact creator camera created photos and recordings are shared via pixel-limited platforms such as Instagram or TikTok. Given how ephemeral the social network of choice seems to be, those will likely be different platforms in two or three years, which means that the camera makers can’t really design specifically to support even a subset of the various choices, lest they discover that by the time the compact creator camera is ready, the fad among those young has moved to a new social network. 

So the camera makers aren’t really nailing this new incarnation of compact creator cameras. They can’t think and design far enough ahead of the trends to get things totally right. Thus all those young creators are stuck with the same problem all us old fogey have: the compact creator camera doesn’t talk to our processing and output platform of choice. And then there’s the issue that all those social media sharing platforms share a very low bar (2mp max, basically), one that smartphones readily jump over.

Canon and Nikon both have big image cloud platforms of their own. They have no idea why they have them, and it shows. Nikon Image Space has been limping along for years, apparently with no Google Maps routing information to tell them where to go. Of course, it’s not exactly as if your Nikon camera talks directly to Nikon Image Space, so your pixels are also limping along trying to figure out how to get somewhere useful. 

“But we’ll sell you a compact creators camera!” Canikony shouts. “New ones announced daily!"

Meanwhile, look at the financial numbers. Nikon, for instance. Unit volume flat, revenue up 52% and profits up 121% in the last year-to-year quarter. Canon, Fujifilm, and Sony all reported similar results. Basically, it’s fogey cameras doing all the heavy lifting; the creator cameras are just fill. 

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