It was only a matter of time before smartphones started hurting every camera maker in the industry, and according to a new report from Reuters, only the 3 big ones will survive, mostly thanks to their entrenched branding:
"Only those who have a strong brand and are competitive on price will last â€" and only Canon, Nikon and Sony fulfill that criteria"
Everyone else should be wiped out from the market, and according to IDC the compact camera sales will drop by a whooping 40 percent this year. Some companies like Panasonic have already reported such losses for their overall camera sales for the April-September period.
I would go even further and say that unless Nikon and Canon have a strong strategy to enter in the mobile market, either by licensing and selling its camera technology and lenses to smartphone markets, so they can use them in their smartphones, then Sony will be the last one standing, since it's already combining the know-how from the camera division with the smartphone division.
Nikon and Canon are DSLR giants, and I'm sure they'll remain in the camera business for a while longer, but Sony is also attacking them in that market with mirrorless cameras, which made up 36 percent of Japan's interchangeable lens camera shipments in January-October. So Nikon and Canon are getting disrupted at the low-end/compact camera level because of smartphones, but also at the high-end, where they've been slow to adapt to the mirrorless trend and more compact DSLR cameras.
Sony has a lot of potential in cameras, whether it's in smartphones or professional cameras, which is why it was so puzzling Sony hasn't been one of the OEMs with the best smartphone cameras around, at least until the Xperia Z1. They're finally getting more aggressive in mobile camera hardware (although I think they could be even more aggressive), and once Google fixes the camera software issues in Android next year, they shouldn't be held back by bad stock camera software either, and they'll be able to show their true potential.
I do have a slight worry that they will have a conflict of interest and will not want to make smartphone cameras that are "too good" and threaten their DSLR market, but hopefully that won't turn out to be true. It would certainly be the wrong way to go for Sony if they kept their smartphone cameras back on purpose.
As for Canon and Nikon, it would be smart of them to partner up with companies like HTC, Motorola, LG and so on, and give them some of their know-how and technology to make amazing mobile cameras. It may not be an "ideal" solution from their point of view, because they may not want to help smartphones become even better than they are, but I hope they realize that's going to be inevitable, and they might as well try to make some money from it, rather than wait until smartphones are eating most of their sales.