What digital cameras really need: Micro-USB charging

A man walking past advertisements for digital cameras in Tokyo on Oct 27. PHOTO: REUTERS

I was in Scotland for a vacation two weeks ago. Naturally, I took my camera along.

As a camera reviewer, I have the luxury of always having a few cameras lying around. But since I was on vacation, I wanted to carry as few pieces of gear as possible.

I decided to take along the Sonyaa7S II, even though it was bigger and heavier than the other digital compact cameras that were waiting to be reviewed.

One key factor that made me pick the Sony: It can be charged using a micro-USB cable.

This full-frame mirrorless camera does not require a charging dock and power cable. Instead, I can charge it with the same cable I use for my phone and other gadgets.

While charging schemes might seem trivial, I feel they can make a big difference.

Some compact digital cameras still need you to take the battery out from the camera and insert it into a charging dock. This is really a hassle. And I think this might be one reason digital camera sales are going south.

The global camera market has been declining by double-digit percentages each year since 2011, according to figures from Japan's Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA).

Many have attributed this decline to the smartphone because it is a device that you always carry with you. As the adage goes, the best camera is the one that is with you. But it is not only more convenient to use your smartphone to take pictures, it is also easier to charge a smartphone than most cameras.

I believe that even those who use iPhones will carry a battery pack that requires a micro-USB cable for charging. So micro-USB port charging is really the way to go for camera makers.

Many people take along at least a two-port USB charger when they travel (I pack two four-port USB chargers). This is because we usually have at least two USB devices - a smartphone and perhaps a tablet - that we need to charge along the way.

The last thing people want to do is carry another charging dock and power cable.

Moreover, if you lose your camera's charging dock, the camera is likely to be rendered useless during the trip.

Now, if a full-frame inter-changeable lens camera, such as the Sony a7S II, needs only a micro-USB cable to charge, I do not see why the rest of the camera industry cannot follow suit.

All current Casio digital compact cameras and many of Sony's mirrorless and compact cameras, such as the RX100V, already use micro-USB charging. And I know some Samsung mirrorless cameras, such as the NX3300, do so as well.

More camera makers should be jumping on this micro-USB charging bandwagon to make things easier for the consumers and themselves.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'What digital cameras really need: Micro-USB charging'. Print Edition | Subscribe