For traveling “prosumer” photographers or affluent hobbyists, a smartphone just won’t cut it and DSLRs are too bulky. Camera companies are thus targeting these consumers around the globe with lightweight, smaller cameras, and China’s rising number of jetsetters are no exception.
The Hurun Institute reported last year that while more than 90 percent of China’s luxury travelers brought a smartphone with them on trips, more than half also carried a camera that cost more than $3,000. Canon was the most popular brand, and the camera company’s president told China Daily earlier this year that despite the surge of high-quality smartphones in China with top-notch camera capabilities and popular editing apps, he didn’t believe Canon was under threat. In 2012, when demand for high-end DSLRs was on the rise in China, it focused on marketing quality lenses, but now it’s working on making sure its DSLRs have WiFi connectivity to make them more appealing to China’s social media obsessed.
Hasselblad, a high-end Swedish camera company that makes its cameras and accessories by hand in Gothenburg, has a slightly different approach. It celebrated its 75th anniversary this year with a global release of a more affordable camera that’s smaller than the typical DSLR, the X1D, over the summer to make its professional products accessible to more discerning photography enthusiasts. CEO Perry Oosting said China sales in the ultra-professional and prosumer markets “blossomed” with the X1D release, and that both markets are growing at the same pace.
According to Oosting, the high-end photography craze that had the world gawking four years ago continues to swell, especially among the rising middle-class consumers in second- and third-tier cities. Oosting said that while Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou have been its most popular markets, Hasselblad has seen an increase in consumers from Chengdu, Shenyang, Qingdao, Xiamen, Wuhan, and Hangzhou in recent years.
Hasselblad’s X1D medium format camera weighs 725 grams, or about half the size of its counterparts. Priced at around $9,000, which is considerably cheaper than many of Hasselblad’s other products, the camera includes HD video, WiFi, and GPS, intended to make it specifically appeal to travelers. Oosting said likely because of China’s own diverse landscapes, Hasselblad’s China market has the biggest proportion of landscape photographers compared to any other country it works with. These amateur photographers are also part of a group of consumers that are increasingly traveling abroad, and they’re looking for cameras that are easy to transport.
The X1D is also particularly popular in another category of camera use that has boomed in recent years in China: wedding photography.
China boasts a multi-billion dollar wedding industry, one that relies on demand from affluent couples wanting engagement photos taken in exotic settings both at home and abroad. Oosting said that to promote Hasselblad’s medium format cameras in this industry, it has been working with Shanghai-based global ambassador and wedding photographer market leader Sails Chong of NEXT-IMAGE studio, known for his extravagant, magazine-quality wedding shots.
Going forward, Oosting said Hasselblad plans to continue developing a “more branded presence” in China, both physically through events and digitally through social media. For the latter, Hasselblad is currently working on expanding its presence on Weibo and Youku. On the events side, it’s putting effort into seminars and presentations, as well as training courses from well-known photographers around the world.
It’s too soon to know if China will see its squads of DSLR-toting amateur photographers at tourist sites dwindle with the availability of high-quality compact options, but it’s more likely that camera companies that put out accessible products will inspire more aspiring photography enthusiasts to ditch the selfie stick.