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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is the Smartphone the new Camera?


Well, as any of you with even the slightest interest in photography should know the point and shoot market is dying. The compact camera is singing its last song, its light, which once burned bright, is being slowly but surely extinguished. The reasons are many; poorer images, uncompromising zoom, slow shutter speed and most notably, an increasing competition with smart phones.

Smart phones you hear me say? Well yes, and it really shouldn’t be that surprising. With the millions that phone companies spend on research and development, it is no surprise that they manage to squeeze more into these (relatively) tiny devices. But how can a mutli-purpose device like a phone even begin to compete with a standalone camera. The answer is most probably related to the price of a phone relative to a camera. Now people are prepared to spend £500+ on a smart phone where as I doubt most would spend over £150 on a compact. Sales of smart phones also vastly outweigh the sales of compact cameras allowing better technology in a smart phone at a cheaper price. At present it is reaching the point where smart phones could be eclipsing the quality of a standalone compact.

The smart phone market has been steadily improving cameras on its phones slowly but steadily ever since their introduction. At first they were a bit of a gimmick, poor pixelated photos that nobody took very seriously. Then Samsung, Apple and HTC amongst others have been floating around the 8 mega pixel and above mark. Heads started to turn. You could actually use these as a legitimate camera for up close pictures- providing your lighting was good (their aperture is and was way too small for a proper camera really).

Now we have graced the next step; two titans have emerged and their specifications are that of a very good compact camera. They are incredible, slightly unbelievable and the two companies responsible are Sony and Nokia

(Left: Sony Experia X Ultra, Right: Nokia Lumia 1020)

Sony’s new Experia Z Ultra will have a 20 mega pixel camera with full HD 1080 display and video, but its most impressive feature is, it’s waterproof! Unbelievably it looks like the life ending moment of dropping phones in a puddle will be a thing of the past. Very impressive, to be sure, however, the new Nokia 1020 promises to be the daddy of camera phones. It will have a 41 megapixel camera! Picture and video quality of this nature is so far, completely unprecedented in mobile phones. Both mobiles will have a much improved aperture that should allow their cameras to take photos in low light. Gone will be the ridiculous over exposed ‘super flash’ photos from the night out, courtesy of your poor compact and inadequate mobile phone. We might be seeing a change that will instil these as the ‘norm’ for our mobiles. As you can imagine, this will almost certainly make compact cameras completely redundant. Why would you carry around an extra device that is inferior to your own?

That said it might not be just the compact market that is in trouble. The DSLR could take a hit too in the near future. Sony has also announced the release of two standalone adjustable lenses that will be compatible with their new smart phone (connecting and sharing photos by wifi). The QX100 and QX10 lenses have 10 times and 3.6 times optical zoom respectively, allowing the phone to high quality photos through a huge spectrum of ranges. People have hypothesised the addition of lenses to a camera phone for a while, but Sony is the first to see this concept through to reality. At present, these lenses will almost certainly not compete with the picture quality of an SLR, not to mention that their price will be well over £100 pounds each (£170 for the QX100 and £360 for the QX10), on top of an already expensive smart phone. Nonetheless it is still a very impressive statement from Sony.

It is very clear that we have reached the next stage in photography for the smart phone. In the coming few years they will, with almost complete certainty, eradicate the compact camera from photography. The thought-provoking question now is, how will it affect the rest of the camera market?

Featured images:

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Sam is an aspiring writer with an interest in all things digital. He has recently taken up photography as a hobby and has been learning the ins and outs of photography. Currently he is blogging for LensLocker.co.uk  on recent opinions in photography.
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