May 17, 2013 at 3:55 PM ET
It's taken awhile, but cheap point-and-shoots are beginning to actually disappear from the market because of the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone. Camera manufacturer Olympus has decided to cease production of its budget V series of cameras — will Canon, Sony, and others follow their lead?
The Wall Street Journal reports that Olympus, blaming lower-than-expected demand, will no longer make their budget series of point-and-shoots. The company knows sales will take a big hit, dropping by almost half by its estimates, but the move will allow Olympus to focus on mid-range and high-end cameras like its interchangeable-lens PEN series.
The role of everyday camera belonged firmly to point-and-shoots just a few years ago, but the proliferation of smartphones and improvement of phone cameras has resulted in more people choosing them as their only picture-taking device.
It's no coincidence that digital camera sales, after rising steadily for seven years straight, suddenly plateaued in 2008 — right after everyone started buying iPhones and just before Android hit the market.
And it isn't just smartphones: Interchangeable-lens cameras like DSLRs and mirrorless systems have been growing at a fast clip. Lower prices and easier tools for managing and editing photos may be safely credited for that.
Meanwhile, point-and-shoots continue to sell well, but profits are apparently thin as manufacturers race to the bottom and try to sell for as little as possible. Everyone sees where the market is going, but Olympus is the first to jump ship.
Olympus will still have other point-and-shoot categories like the more specialized Tough series of underwater cameras and the well-regarded premium XZ series. But if you want a camera for under $100, Olympus can't help you any more.
The question is: Will the remaining camera manufacturers scramble to scoop up the customers Olympus left behind, or will they too heed the writing on the wall? In this game of chicken, the winner gets out just in time, and the loser ends up with warehouses packed with millions of unsold devices.
NBC News contacted Olympus for comment, but the company said it will not be able to respond until Monday. This post will be updated when we hear back.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.